Binsey at last

Wainwrights: Binsey

Date walked: 04/01/2020

This was quite a different kind of trip, because I had persuaded scdtigger to come and climb my last hill with me, and she had brought Clarabel, or possibly vice versa - Clarabel is a small purple car, but a definite personality in our occasional Northumberland adventures!

We'd all been down the A702, but never together - it's a lovely road past a succession of hills, but the cloud was sitting over the tops of them. I had just set out regardless, because this was the day set aside for finishing; L had read that the northern English forecast was better, so we went on in hope.

It was a long way to go for quite a quick hill, so we'd both had a look at the map for places to stop on the way to add to the adventure, without coming up with very much - although since we both agree our favourite adventure was the one where we found a Mysterious Arch beside the road with unintelligible writing on it, we're not actually very demanding.

(Other memorable occasions include the time we went through a ford that was deeper than it looked and Clarabel nearly suffered from fishes in her engine, a trip to Kielder down roads so small that I had to get out and open gates, meeting a 'Warning: Tanks' sign, and visiting some men who kept a pet train - the last three of those happening on various birthday weekends of mine, when I get to choose any plausible route home!)

In the end we stopped at Gretna Green on a whim, and had fun playing with a maze, although we missed out on some of the tricks by not being brave enough to go in separate entrances in case we never met up again.

Gretna Green maze

After a new border crossing (the Gretna B7076), we skirted Carlisle on a succession of roundabouts which weren't even on my map and headed on, turning onto minor roads at Mealsgate.

I was keen not to just march up and down again, so had plotted out a rough loop starting at High Ireby, which would let us also visit the fort at Caermote. Getting to High Ireby was an adventure in itself, as Ireby shot us through with no particular sign of a turning - the road just suddenly got narrower. We did better in Ruthwaite, despite an unhelpful sign, and reached High Ireby, which was a narrow loop without much sign of a parking spot, and finally left Clarabel by the gate to Ireby Grange, with a green trailer for company.

Green trailer

There was just a glimpse of a view on the other side of the valley - a nice pattern of green fields, and the road winding up behind Uldale

Low level view

The 'private path' marked on Wainwright's map seems to have got more private since then, so we walked round to the Binsey Lodge junction by the road, which soon passes the steps of the ruined Ireby Grange in the woods, then a fancy arch over a stream, with a lot of ambitious moss.

Waterfall and moss

The views were pretty, if limited - we liked this very straight road leading off into the landscape.

The road leads ever...

Until now we had been in Cumbrian farmland, but near the corner we suddenly got a Lakeland view, or the bottom half of a Lakeland view - Bassenthwaite Lake, and low north-western hills behind.

Bassenthwaite Lake

We had been walking round the foot of Binsey all the time, but it wasn't particularly exciting to look at. At the junction there were suddenly people again - five or so cars parked, and a bunch of people heading up ahead of us, and a broad trodden path, muddy in places.

Binsey path

It's never really steep, but it's quite a featureless climb - turning round to look for a view made a break, but although there was a nice patchwork of brown and green, the hills stayed in hiding.

The view back

The slope easing off and changing from bracken to heather did at least make a change, but it was getting more obvious that even the top of this tiny hill was in the cloud - the cloud seemed to be getting lower, really, filling more of the valley.


The path was muddier again, possibly because it was easier for water to lie on the flatter ground - not so nice, but quite suddenly a peaked top appeared ahead.

Pointy top

It's surprisingly distinct, this last little top - no doubt about where the highest point is, and it has a cairn and a trig point and a shelter, just to make sure you know.

Binsey summit

I'd been hunting through a selection of miniatures in a shop the day before, and settled on one called 'Journey' - not so much the end, as a point on. The things did not want to stay on the trig point for the wind, but I just managed the photo, and then we huddled into the shelter and drank a very small amount of whisky without blowing away ourselves.


L had laughed at Wainwright's description of the hill as 'detached and solitary', saying that that made it very suitable for me - but of course his main praise of the hill is as a viewpoint, which was utterly untrue for us - not much of this hill, never mind the other hills, or Scotland. I wasn't at all sure how I'd feel at the end, but I didn't really feel much of anything, except cold.

We made a short steep descent down the side of the tiny ridge to rejoin the main path, only to find that a path led more gently off the end of it anyway.

Summit ridge

This side of the hill definitely had more shape to it, even looming from the mist - more like a Lake District hill, now that we'd turned our back on it.

Interesting shapes

We even suddenly had a view again, although we could never figure out whether we could see Scotland in the haze towards the Solway or not - probably higher ground had got in the way again.

A glimpse of view

There were two possible ways out - a more official one which would have brought us to a right of way but left us on the main road, and one which Wainwright had sketched in the beginning of, labelled 'Caermote', which was more direct but a bit illicit. It turned out to be clear on the ground, however, and there was a good footpath-style gate, so we went on across a field of sheep.

I'm not really sure what happened at this stage - we picked one path, seemed to be heading too straight for the road, and cut across to the right onto one which seemed to be more distinct - there was quite a lot of field, and a variety of paths.

By the time we came in sight of the wall again we had decided just to turn back along it - we've seen Roman remains before, notably at Chew Green, and it although it wasn't raining yet, it was getting determinedly darker. But although the wall had turned up where I expected it, it didn't seem quite right - the lack of any visible sign of a bridleway wasn't particularly unexpected, but the wall seemed to point at a house that shouldn't be there.

The only other wall we could have come to led back up towards where we'd come from, which should be quite recognisable, but I was particularly worried about losing L - I've lost myself plenty of times, although I prefer not to do it with the light failing in winter - and she was worrying about me getting stressed, so we stopped and reconsidered both the map and the GPS in her phone, which came to the same conclusion - that we were headed along the wrong wall, but that we might as well keep on doing it until we met another wall that we could follow down to a track.

Apart from wet boggy patch at the start of a stream this wasn't too difficult a plan - we had to climb the wall, but there was a gap below the fence on top of it, and it was solid and not too high - but the rain decided to help by coming in sideways, and although there was a small path through the next field we were glad to meet the track.

Finding the path

We were actually quite close to the start now, and rejoined Clarabel before too much longer - it was still light, but we knew we'd be heading up the road in the dark, so didn't plan to stop anywhere except a service station - and eventually the Steading at Hillend for dinner and beer.

And that was that...

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Location: Edinburgh
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Place: Tarbert Loch Fyne

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