Carlisle to Gretna – 13.1 miles (632.8 miles)

My 2 rest days went by in a flash. It was good to see the family again, enjoy some home-cooked food and get all my clothes properly washed. My feet appreciated the break too. However, it was anything but a holiday. I spent most of my time sourcing and booking up my accommodation for the remainder of the walk. My intended route north from Glasgow follows, first, the West Highland Way to Fort William, then, the Great Glen Way to Inverness. Both walks go right through the heart of Scotland’s major tourist areas giving walkers serious competition for hotels and B&Bs at this time of year. But enough of the logistics, back to the walk.

Carlisle Cathedral

My son, Peter, stayed with us overnight so we could both take an early enough train to Carlisle to start again where I left off on Sunday. To leave Carlisle northwards you have to cross the River Eden. My planned route was to follow Hadrian’s Wall Path, leaving it at the railway bridge and crossing the river on a footbridge which was marked on the Ordnance Survey map. I wasn’t completely confident that this was a genuine crossing. We found no evidence of any footbridge when we got there, so my wariness was proved right.

Our target on the other side was National Cycle Route 7 (NCR7). We moved down river to the next bridge on my map. This was a solid stone structure, but, on reaching it, we discovered it closed off and barricaded. Running out of bridges, we now had to continue along the meandering south bank of the River Eden to the A689. At last, after being forced off route, we managed to get to the other side of the river.

Crossing the River Esk, not far from the Anglo-Scottish border.

Our woes continued once we rejoined NCR7. It followed a very busy B road to pass close to Cargo and Cargo Rigg taking us to Rockcliffe. There was no walkway and sometimes very little grass verge. Because an industrial estate and a waste recycling centre were situated along one side, the road was busy with heavy lorries. It was a dangerous place for walkers to be but there was no alternative.

Ominous clouds, but no rain.

Things got easier once we entered Rockcliffe where we stopped to have a seat and eat our sandwiches. We continued with roadwalking all the way to Gretna. Luckily the roads were a lot quieter for the remainder of the day. We got stopped at a level crossing on the railway line then shadowed the M6 until just before Gretna.

A trainspotter?

After crossing another river, the River Esk, I finally left England and returned to Scotland at Sark Bridge, on the outskirts of Gretna, where the border is the smaller, River Sark. The weather, although overcast and threatening rain, stayed dry until we reached the safety of our hotel. At 13 miles, it wasn’t the longest walk I’ve done, but, possibly because of the break in routine, I felt pretty tired at the end of the day, as did Peter.

“If I were a crow, it would only be 360 miles to John o’Groats!”
England conquered… onward to Scotland!
Over 600 miles – that deserves a pint… or even an Irn Bru!