Sunday, 21 December 2014

Blind Jack of Knaresborough and Christmas Greetings.

Well.....Christmas shopping or a day out in Knaresborough? It was a no brainer really.

Lots of places have their home grown characters who they use to bring in the visitors. Grasmere has Wordsworth, Stratford obviously has Shakespeare, The South Lakes have dear old Beatrix who does Knaresborough have?

Blind Jack...that's who!

Titter ye not.

Jack Metcalfe was blind from the age of six due to smallpox; he had an eventful life which was well documented by his own account just before his death. In the period 1765 to 1792 he built about 180 miles of turnpike road, mainly in the north of England. He was given fiddle lessons as a way of making provision for him to earn a living later in life and became an accomplished fiddler and made this his livelihood in his early adult years. In 1732, aged 15, he became fiddler at the Queen's Head, a tavern in Harrogate. He also had an affinity for horses and added to his living with some horse trading. Though blind, he took up swimming and diving, fighting cocks, playing cards, riding and even hunting. He knew his local area so well he was paid to work as a guide to visitors. He also became involved in the Jacobite rebellion of 1745! 
His headstone erected in the churchyard of All Saints Church, Spofforth, bears this epitaph:
"Here lies John Metcalf, one whose infant sight
Felt the dark pressure of an endless night;
Yet such the fervour of his dauntless mind,
His limbs full strung, his spirits unconfined,
That, long ere yet life’s bolder years began,
The sightless efforts mark’d th’ aspiring man;
Nor mark’d in vain—high deeds his manhood dared,
And commerce, travel, both his ardour shared.
’Twas his a guide’s unerring aid to lend—
O’er trackless wastes to bid new roads extend;
And, when rebellion reared her giant size,
’Twas his to burn with patriot enterprise;
For parting wife and babes, one pang to feel,
Then welcome danger for his country’s weal.
Reader, like him, exert thy utmost talent given!
Reader, like him, adore the bounteous hand of Heaven."

As a further tribute to the great man, I visited the local Ale House on the Town Square which is named after him and very nice it was as well. Then I took a walk to the Castle and down the Castle steps to the River Nidd which is usually a hive of activity with it's many cafes but today was dead quiet. I soon regretted having walked down the steps to the river as the only way back up to the town centre is via the Gallon Steps which are steep to say the least!

A detour to the quaint old station was then followed by a few minutes in St John The Baptist Church. It had a Christmas Tree Festival on and various things around the Church had been decorated by local schoolchildren for Christmas, it had a very feelgood factor about it.

The forecasted drizzle had crept in so I made my way back to the car having had a very enjoyable time. Thank you Knaresborough.

I've just realised I have reached my blogging century!! Thank you to every one who had read and commented on my posts, it is greatly appreciated.

Also a Merry Christmas to everyone, I hope it's a good one all round :)

The Crystal Buddha


Blind Jack

Farrah's Sweet and toffee shop

Blind Jack's Ale House

Through The Ages

Watermill Weir

Knaresborough from the Castle

Castle ruins

River Nidd


Castle Steps

River Nidd


Gallon Steps

Gallon Steps

Gallon Steps

Christmas Time

Wall Plaque

Railway Station bench

Railway Station

Water Bag Bank

The Angels of the Forest

Saint John The Baptist Church

Saint John The Baptist Church

Top Man

A Merry Christmas To All

Friday, 12 December 2014


One of the most interesting and entertaining walks in the Dales; The circuit of Janet's Foss, Goredale Scar and then across to Malham Cove. Limestone scenery at it's best.

I suppose I really picked the wrong time of year to do this walk. The woods approaching the Foss should  be done when the wild garlic is in bloom because then the smell is absolutely divine. It's still a lovely walk and the Foss, even though I could hear it, is hidden until nearly the last minute.

Then it was out into open countryside before the claustrophobic walk in to Gordale Scar. As expected, this was the busiest part of the walk but by normal standards, it was still fairly quiet. Two lads were attempting to climb the waterfall  to the hanging valley above but the going was just too slippy so they turned back. A robin came out to greet me but flew off when it realised I had no food for it (it did pose for some nice photos though) and a lovely mongrel dog brought me his stick to throw as his owners were more interested in the Scar than him!

The days are short at this time of year but I still took the path across to The Cove as no visit to Malham is complete without seeing it's amazing limestone pavement and sheer cliffs. Bad hips and bad knees make the walk across the pavement and back down the hundred steps quite uncomfortable so I walked back to Malham village via the lane. A thoroughly enjoyable day!

Malham Blacksmith

Village Stores

GR Malham

Packhorse Bridge, Malham

Path to Janet's Foss

Path to Janet's Foss

Gordale Beck

Path to Janet's Foss

Old Hay Collector

Gordale Beck

Gordale Beck

Wishing Tree

Gordale Beck

Janet's Foss



Gordale Scar

Gordale Scar

Patiently waiting.

Gordale Scar

Malham Cove

Friendly Robin

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Coigach Adventure

This was the last full day of my summer break in the Highlands. The forecast was good but I woke early to see thick, low mist on Loch Maree. So I did what anyone else would have done, I pulled up the quilt and nodded back off for an hour. The next time I woke and looked out, there was just a bit of brightness in the clouds which was reflected in the Loch. Slowly but surely the cloud started to lift and break and by breakfast time it was almost clear, just leaving just a few wisps of cloud on the distant hills on the far side of the Loch. This promised to be one hell of a day.

A hearty breakfast was eaten and photos of the Loch were taken and then I was heading north again on the Wester Ross Coastal Trail. I had travelled north on this road three times and each time the weather had left a lot to be desired. In fact one year I turned round at Ullapool! Three times I had driven on this road and never even seen the foot of Scotlands most dramatic mountain, An Teallach. Today I saw it from top to bottom and what an impressive sight it was. Even Ullapool looked mildly attractive today.

My route took me to all the best things that the Highlands has to offer. The hills; Cul Mor and Cul Beag, Stac Polliadh, Suilven, Canisp and Quinag. The coast with the large sandy beach at Achnahaird and the old fishing villages of Achiltibuie, Dornie and then lastly to Altandhu with its stunning view over The Summer Isles. This part of the Highlands can be picture postcard pretty one moment and wilderness the next even in sunny weather.

I eventually arrived at my farthest point of the day; Lochinver and I was feeling absolutely shattered but elated at the same time. Thankfully there was a catering wagon which at the time I thought served the best cappuccinos I'd ever experienced but maybe this could have been put down to my tiredness. It never takes me long to recover though and I was soon on my way back down but this time, thankfully, it was on A roads all the way. The roads up there are a godsend, you can travel for mile after mile on good quality roads and not come across any traffic.

My way back took me past Loch Assynt and Ardvreck Castle. The castle dates back to about 1490 when the lands were owned by the Macleods of Assynt. It was attacked and captured by the Mackenzies in 1672 and in 1726 they replaced it with the more modern Calda House which burned down in 1737. Before the Mackenzies were able to rebuild the house, their estates had been seized by the Crown for their support of the losing side in the 1745 uprising. It has remained a ruin ever since.

I stopped off in Ullapool for a fish butty at it's "world famous" chippy but to be honest I wasn't very impressed with it. I had a short walk around the town before setting off for Gairloch. Every mile of this road is a joy. I broke my journey at Gruiniard Bay where I had been the previous day.

A walk to the harbour in Gairloch, a pint in the Old Inn and then it was down the road and back to The Loch Maree Hotel for a couple more pints.

A long day out but a day which I'll remember for a long time. I don't ever expect to get weather like that in the North West Highlands again. In fact I now wonder if I will have enough motivation to travel this far again knowing that I will never be able to better this day. If I do, I promise I will blog it!

Low cloud on Loch Maree

Cloud lifting, Loch Maree

Cloud lifting, Loch Maree

Cloud lifting, Loch Maree

An Teallach

The hills of Coigash

The hills of Coigash

Loch Osgaig


The Summer Isles



Hills of Coigash

Loch Assynt

Ardvreck Castle


Dundonnell River

Wester Ross Coastal Trail

Loch Maree from Poolewe

Gairloch Harbour


It must have been over twenty years since I was last in Cartmel and as you'd expect from this sleepy corner of Cumbria, the place hadn&#...