April 8, 2011 – Twice Brewed to Gilsland – 9½ miles
We awake to still-wet bathtub laundry. With hope but not much optimism, we arrange our wet socks on the radiators and head downstairs for breakfast and lively conversation. We return to find them still sodden, and after 20 fruitless minutes with a blow-dryer, our host takes pity. He opens his tumble dryer to us, his teapot to the baggage man, and then drives us to our starting point (at an “award-winning” car-park, whatever that means), jabbering jovially all the way. We say goodbye three or four times and climb the first ascent; today we cross the Winshield Crags, the highest point of the trail.
Pro tip: this is called a kissing gate.
This is still the remote part of the trail, so the outlines of the milecastles and turrets are clearly visible.
At this point, we noticed that this milecastle is numbered 42 out of 80. We’re more than halfway done!
Today we take elevensies at a picnic area near an old quarry.
This was once a grand fort. Now it has sheep gamboling around it, prancing through its gates and on the crumbling remains of its walls.
This is called “King Arthur’s turret.” It’s easy to see how legends could spring up in a place like this.
We stopped at the Roman Army Museum for lunch and a break. The exhibits here are about the army itself rather than the archaeology, and it’s well done. We were advised to take in the 3D film, which is a sort of year-in-the-life of a Roman legionaire, and the museum thoughtfully provides hipstery shades.
A short while later, we came upon Thirlwall Castle, which was a farmhouse when it was built in the 1100s, but it was fortified into a castle in 1330 to protect the family from the reivers (and you thought that word was invented by Joss Whedon!). We arrive just as the light becomes awesome, and drop everything to take some pictures.
This railroad crossing has a sign reading “Beware of Trains!” Becky and I tell many a scary story about the Reiver Steamie of Northumberland. WoOOooOO!
More lambs; more grins.
Just past Milecastle 48, we reached the village of Gilsland. A short, exhausted tromp across the river and up the hill leads us to the Brookside Villa, which is the most civilized lodging we encountered on this trip. We enjoy hot showers and an amazing dinner, send our laundry away, and settle in for a restful sleep.