Nat and Bryde had come from Haltwhistle the previous day, so led the way for us. After merging with a footpath for a mile or so we hit a small road into town. By town I mean hundreds of small cafes, none of which served pancakes. I’m not sure why, but I had a desperate craving for pancakes and spent a good twenty minutes dashing about looking for the elusive breakfast puddings. We also stopped at the Co-Op, where we saw “Billy Piper” again; she was walking past just as Robert compared her to the eponymous celebrity.
We took a small cycle route out of town, and after climbing a steep hill and following a B-road for three quarters of a mile, we found an old train line and followed it straight to Alston. It was very nearly level the entire way. This old line was at no point an old track (we would discover a few days later that these are illegal to walk on), it had long ago been renovated into a pleasant footpath.
We went over a picturesque viaduct, but some inconsiderate person owned a house on the far side, so we had to take a long detour around it that took us to the base of the viaduct and back up to the level of the old track. Not much further along was an old station that had been converted into some charming little houses, platforms still mostly intact.
The last mile was on painful, irregular stones. Alongside the sharp gravel path was a small working train track. The conductor on the empty steam-engine shouted something to us; I was grumbling too much to hear him, however. On reflection it was probably a welcome to England’s highest altitude town, at which we had just arrived.
After finding the hostel and laughing at Euan’s attempt to make dinner (cinnamon pasta) we settled at a small pub and enjoyed a pint of Theakstons as chart-toppers from our childhood were played in chronological order to us. A good head-start for tomorrow’s rest day (sadly Nat and Bryde are due to depart).