Day 137: Bowness-on-Solway to Rockcliffe

Distance: 22.80 miles

Ascent: 1197 feet

Weather: Sunny

Accommodation: Castletown House, Rockcliffe


I set off from Bowness on Solway which is in fact where Hadrian’s Wall finished and is where the modern day Hadrians Wall Path starts. There is no sign of the wall around this western end, but the path is very clearly signposted. In fact, over 11,000 people walk this 85 mile trail each year mainly people from abroad and I met a couple of American and Canadian couples on route.

I set off initially on the Hadrians Wall path and though I passed Port Carlisle early there was an elderly gentleman just walking home who had created a distance sign post for walkers to have their picture taken and unlike at Lands End this didn’t seem commercial, so I stopped and he set it up for my picture. We quickly changed the Mental Health FO to Mental Health F when we realised there could be slight connotations to the first one.

I continued on, actually not on the Hadrians Wall Path as the quiet road was closer to the coast, before rejoining it on the long straight tidal (only occasionally covered) road to Burgh-by-Sands. Here I set off on an interesting route back up to the marsh/flats on a track marked as a path, but then about 100m short of the flats the path seemed to just stop with firstly a barb wire fence then a ditch just wide enough I couldn’t cross, this is the first time on the entire walk that a path has just disappeared. So, I had to climb over a barb wire fence walk across the next field and then found a track onto the marsh.

Here in the middle of the marsh standing out like a sore thumb, is the memorial to King Edward I. He appears to have been a king who liked a war having initiated the 100-year war with the French, and being one of the main catalysts of almost 300 years of war with the scots. He died near this point, on his way north for one last assault on the enemy. A woman walked passed with her dog whilst I was sat having a snack by the memorial and she was quite shocked saying I was the first person she had seen out here in a very long time.

From the memorial I headed across the flats until I joined a track at Old Sandsfield, where after a short diversion inland to cross a stream I was on a lovely path heading down the River Eden. This didn’t feel like a path walked that often, but the little bridges and stiles though rotten in places were still perfectly useable and I was really enjoying this stretch. The path them followed the bottom of a woodland where the going got steadily tougher, becoming more overgrown and with plenty of trees collapsed across the path that I either had to crawl under or climb over. Eventually just shy of Beaumont I bumped into a guy strimming a set of stairs down to the path (in fact just to a fishing spot) and again he seemed surprised to see me, saying he hadn’t even known the path was still open and that I was the first non-local he had seen emerge from this end for a long while.

At this point I could have re-joined the Hadrians Wall Path, but I diverted down to Monkhill to get some food as it was my only option all day, without a longer diversion. There was  a sign saying the footpath was closed that followed the river near Kirkandrews, so I followed the Hadrians Wall Path down to where the A689 and I crossed the River Eden.

From here it was a lovely walk up the other side of the River Eden (thankfully clearer on this side) in the afternoon sun. Just shy of Rockcliffe I happened to bump into Team Scotland of the Eden Project Big Walk who are walking from Morecambe to Dundee, the other groups are heading from Morecambe to the other UK countries.

I would be staying somewhere very nice tonight and slightly by accident. I had seen on google maps last night that there was what I though was a farm estate that I emailed to ask to pitch a tent, but I hadn’t realised that it was a farm attached to Castletown House, an absolutely stunning house. You really couldn’t find anywhere more different to my tent. The owners the Mounsey-Heyshams had very kindly let me stay and also cooked me a lovely dinner.

So, a sunny day and great day.

charles compton