The wall: Carlisle to Bowness on Solway – June 24

Today’s walk: 14.5 miles / 23 km in 6 hours

Today was our last day of walking, and also our longest, at least in terms of distance. We’ve had longer days timewise when we were going up and down the crags, but this was the farthest distance on the map. We’re solidly in the flat coastal plains here, barely even a low hill to climb today.

Today was also the best weather of our trip. After a couple little sprinkles in the morning, the sun came out and shone down strong. It was warm and dry for the rest of the day, which made for a welcome change. Instead of being cold and wet from rain we were hot and wet from sweat, but it was nice to see the sun.

There are virtually no visible wall remains between Carlisle, where we started today, and the termination of the wall in Bowness-on-Solway where we ended. In fact, it is possible that the wall was not built in stone along the whole of this length. Parts may have been turf or wooden palisade, but the other works such as watchtowers and roads allow us to track the line of the frontier.

The trail took us out of Carlisle along the River Eden.

The river Eden, downriver from Carlisle

We were very quickly in the countryside, tromping over pastures and fields again and through pretty little villages.

One of the many little villages we passed through

The most complex stile we saw, and the only one of its kind on the trail

We stopped in one village about half-way along the route, Burgh-by-Sands, to have a drink and a little lunch in the local pub.

The Greyhound Inn in Burgh-by-Sands

Walking through the village, I was reminded of Bermuda: the tiny but immaculately kept gardens, the colorful plaster on the houses, and the sound of the sea coming from not far away.

After Burgh-by-Sands a long stretch of the walk crossed a broad tidal flat. The very low slope of the ground meant that when the tide was out it was way out. We seem to have arrived at low tide and the water was almost out of sight.

The salt flats

A herd of cattle was grazing on the salt flats, although some of them seemed to prefer the higher berm at the landward edge.

Cattle on the berm just above the flats

From the flats we could look north across the Solway Firth at the southern hills of Scotland, East back at the Pennines, and south at the Cumbrian Hills.

The trail took a few jogs inland across some fields where the modern roads offer no convenient way of keeping on the wall line, but we ended up on the shore again, making our way finally to our destination, the village of Bowness-on-Solway.

More tidal flats, at low tide, near Bowness

We paused at the edge of town to help another pair of walkers get a picture of themselves arriving, and they returned the favor for us.

We made it!

Bowness is a charming little village, one winding street full of houses built cheek-by-jowl in typically British fashion. Our B&B was in an old converted Methodist chapel and our hostess was a chatty, cheerful woman full of welcome.

The brown stone building in the middle is where we stayed. The owners live in the white house next door

There is only one pub in town for dinner, and it happens that their cook is on vacation this week. Our hosts, however, have made arrangements so that their guests can get dinner. We went at the appointed time and had a very good dinner and dessert. It was clearly a locals’ place, with a crowd of people chattering away around the bar with the ease long familiarity.

The King's Arms in Bowness-on-Solway

Bowness was a very pleasant place to end our walking trip. We got the bus into Carlisle the next day, mostly retracing our previous day’s walking. We schlepped our luggage along to the local historical museum which had a new Roman exhibit opening that very day. We enjoyed the exhibit, then got ourselves to the train station to get a train back up to Edinburgh, where our vacation began. We stayed overnight in Edinburgh, going back to where we had dinner our first night to have our last dinner in Britain. The following morning we were up very early (too early to get breakfast, sadly) to catch the bus to the airport. We flew home again by way of Dublin and got back to our regular lives.

This walking project has been on our minds for the past six months, since I first proposed it and we began walking ourselves into shape for it. It has taken a lot of planning and effort, but it was well worth it. We are both glad that we did it. I don’t think we will ever want to walk the whole wall again, but there are parts that I may well want to visit again someday.

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