The 6 Trigs Circular

Stuck at home during the Covid-19 Lockdown I decided there had to be challenges I’d not done before right on my doorstep. Staring at an OS map it occurred to me my home in Marsden was surrounded by Trig points at some pretty good locations – and so the 6 Trigs circular was born!

The 6 Trigs Circular – 39 km /24 miles

Starting in Marsden village, the joy of this route is that it is possible to do as much or as little of it as you like. The route circles the Marsden area on mostly well marked trails with some good alternative paths to shorten the route.

The only exception to this is perhaps Black Hill – the route I took to get off the hill is the Old Pennine Way which is not very good, and I would definitely say avoid in bad weather as it would be easy to get lost.

While the route is mostly on good tracks and trails, definitely take a map if you don’t know the area well, as you could get easily caught out in poor weather.

If you want to see the route on OS Maps and download a GPX file here’s the link and here’s a zipped GPX file.

Route Description

Heading from Marsden cross the A62 and take the Kirklees Way path up the Wessenden Valley. The route here takes you past Butterley, Blackley and Wessenden Reservoirs as you head up the valley on the track.

As the track passes Wessenden Lodge it narrows and become a path. From here it then winds into Sike Clough and then Layzing Clough. Just before crossing the bridge at Layzing Clough you will see a faint path in the grass that heads uphill, and as you head further uphill this becomes more worn and easier to follow. While not an official footpath you’re on access land here so able to walk on this moorland. Follow the path as it heads uphill towards the visible Ravens Rocks.

Here you need to cross the fence and continue to follow the path, which eventually becomes a worn vehicle track, towards West Nab trig pillar.

From here you can see down into Holmfirth, Huddersfield and beyond.

From West Nab trig pillar head down hill and onto Wessenden Head Road.

Looking back up to West Nab from the road.

Watch the traffic as you follow the road, to reach the A635 Greenfield Road. Cross over here (definitely watch for speeding cars) and follow the paved Pennine Way path up to Black Hill summit.

This section is very easy to follow as its paved pretty much all the way, but as the sign says avoid this section after heavy rain as one of the rivers which you cross can be impossible if it is spate.

As you head uphill here you feel like you’re heading towards Holme Moss radio mast which is in the distant, but eventually the path steepens and leads you across the plateau to Black Hill trig pillar. Black Hill summit at 582m lies on the border of Kirklees in Yorkshire and High Peak in Derbyshire.

Looking towards Black Hill summit
The summit cairn
The summit Cairn on Black Hill

You can see from the height of the Trig Pillar (around a metre above the surrounding ground) there has been significant erosion of the moorland since it was erected in 1945. At the time the Pennine Way was created the route up to the summit involved wading through peat bogs, which had been stripped bare both through erosion from walkers but also pollution from the surrounding mills which had killed off vegetation.

Thanks to the construction of a paved path and moorland restoration work Black Hill is now grassy again. If you want to see the history of the landscape this is a great article.

From the summit of Black Hill head Northwest on a small worn grass path, which eventually becomes more visible as it wanders down the hill. The is the old Pennine Way path – if you’re not confident with a compass I would double back the way you came from the summit trig.

The path reaches the flattening plateau and around the spot height marked on the map as 506m (but frankly, good luck to you if you can ascertain the spot on the landscape) it crosses a few river beds and then totally vanishes. In poor weather you would have to have a compass, experience and faith. In good visibility you can just about make out wooden posts which guide the way across the moorland.

Time to follow your compass!

There’s a new fence line to cross just after the most northerly of the fords at Dean Head Moss. From here keep following the posts and/or compass to eventually pick up the end of the old fence line which is marked on the map. From here follow the path (black dotted line on the map not the green right of way which isn’t on the ground) to reach the road. Phew, thats your only actual trick navigation section!

Here cross back over the A635 and head left along the road to continue to the small car park to follow the path (thankfully paved).

There’s been three moorland fires already this year so to avoid the devastation we had in 2019 the Fire Service are out monitoring the use of the moors.

To reach the third trig on this route requires an out-and-back dog leg, which perhaps lends itself to being cut from the route for anyone wishing to shorten it.

Looking at the map it would seem like the route is a wander across a pathless moorland to reach the Broadstone Hill trig pillar. However, as anyone in the South Pennines knows, if you see a perfectly straight waterway marked on a map it’s an old waterway conduit and as such is highly likely to have a path running alongside it. As it happens this one does and is well worn thanks to it being used by the gamekeepers to access the grouse butts nearby.

The start of the conduit is picked up at a point where there is a wooden sign.

From here it is 3 km to reach the trig pillar. When you get to where the conduit starts to head down hill there is a sheep fold marking where the path turns off to reach the trig itself. See, you’re never the first person to think a route to a trig pillar is possible.

From here you can see across Saddleworth and into Manchester.

As I turned around to head back along the conduit it started to drizzle. Not proper rain but just enough to make my run along the route feel like it was perhaps not going to be completed. As I reached the paved path again I was wondering if it was sensible to bail off when I reached the Standedge trail path.

Once back on the paved path I headed north towards Black Moss Reservoir and towards Marsden, joining up with the Pennine Way path again just after the reservoir.

On reaching the Standedge Trail I convinced myself I could at least do one more trig point and perhaps bail off later on, so continued on towards the A62 at Standedge. This is another point on the route to watch out for traffic.

It would be so easy to bail off and head for Marsden here!

Here you continue along the Pennine Way to reach the Millstone Edge trig pillar overlooking Castleshaw and Delph.

The route here is rocky as it passes the Dinner Stone and continues on. When you reach the stone way marker continue on the Pennine Way, across the moors towards Haigh Gutter.

Once at Haigh Gutter it’s possible to drop down the path into Marsden if you wish to cut the route short.

At this point there’s another out-and-back leg to reach the White Hill Trig point, just outside of Yorkshire in Lancashire. Crossing the A640 continue to follow the Pennine Way for 1.5km to reach the trig pillar.

At White Hill you’ve also crossed the border into Lancashire.

Once you’ve doubled back to the A640 there’s no other way to reach Cupwith without a long slog along the road. By this point of running the route I was trotting rather than running and grateful for little traffic. This isn’t a super busy road but as its over the moors traffic does tend to speed along.

looking down to March Haigh reservoir

Unfortunately its about 3.5km along the road to reach Cupwith, passing Buckstones Edge along the way. Once you’ve passed the carpark at Buckstones the road has a better verge.

Turn off the road at the first lay-by where there is a gate and the trig is visible. From here take the worn grassy path to reach Cupwith trig pillar. Number 6!

From here the route back to Marsden is to drop down to the Kirklees Way/Colne Valley Circular path next to Cupwith reservoir. While slightly longer I’d head on the North side of the reservoir to avoid a bog where the drainage ditch on the south side ends.

From here follow the Colne Valley Circular path downhill, where it joins the old Huck Hill Lane and circles between properties to drop you on the road near Marsden station. From here you can stroll/ hobble down to one of the many pubs or cafes to refuel.

6 Trigs!

Deviations/ Escape routes

Along the route there are many options for shortening the route if you so wish. The two trigs of White Hill and Broadstone Hill for example could easily be missed out.

The Standedge Trail after Black Moss Reservoir can be used to head back downhill to the village, as can the path from Haigh Gutter and the A640.

There’s loads of fantastic paths to why not explore them all, just make sure you have a map!

Of course there’s one more….

Yes I missed a trig pillar out. The observant of you will note that very close to Marsden there is also the trig pillar of Krives just East of Deer Hill Reservoir. I opted to miss this one out knowing that is in in the middle of quite difficult to access fields and I decided didn’t qualify as it wasn’t on ‘moorland’ terrain…..

Perhaps there’s a more urban version to do, which sends me out towards Huddersfield but I suspect that might include a lot of wading in undergrowth!

Tackling the Colne Valley Circular

I first walked the Colne Valley Circular when I moved to Kirklees 11 years ago. All I recall of that time was the mud, failing to find the route properly above Slaithwaite and more mud.

Trapped at home over Easter I decided to run the route one afternoon and figure out if it really was as bad as I remembered.

The Route

Firstly, if you’re keen to walk (or indeed run) the Colne Valley Way you absolutely must have a map. This is a route which is NOT well signposted and at various points it actually feels like you’re being prevented from progress. Persevere though, as the route has some hidden treasures along the way.

If you want a GPX of the route download this zip file.

The Colne Valley Circular is 13 miles long. I began from my home in Marsden, a perfect place to start as there’s a great selection of cafe’s and pubs to eat at when you finish.

Heading out of Marsden you walk through the derelict Crowther’s Mill and up the steep steps at Butterley Dam. If you want to know more about the history of Marsden I highly recommend a visit to the Marsden History Group webpage and Huddersfield Exposed for history of the reservoir.

From here head up the road slightly and pick up the path heading up to the farms and continue up the hillside. From here the route circles the hillside, dropping down briefly to a little bridge and back up to pass old quarries and past the Piper Stones before reaching Meltham Road.

From Meltham road the path drops down and passes another fantastic bench before it turns to cross fields and follows old lanes, passing farms and houses above Slaithwaite. Take note of the map as its not always clear when you reach farms which way the path continues to take you across the fields ahead.

There’s some fantastic benches along the route, and my favourite is the one closest to my house with possibly the best view of Marsden.

As it reaches Varley Road at Slaithwaite you also reach possibly the muddiest section of the route, at Kitchen Clough. Here the route drops down below the road and heads into the first field on your left. You’ll never spot the hidden stile here, and the sign ahead makes it look like you should go ahead. Don’t – you really do have to head left and into the boggy field. Yes the broken fence is the exit from the bog to cross the river. Good luck.

From here stick to the right side of the field as you’re heading for the house above to exit the field and onto the road. Its again not obvious.

Continue across fields, passing Heywoods Farm and on towards Linthwaite. When you reach houses make sure you turn left to head downhill towards the road.

Crossing the road you drop down the lane to the mill, through the yard (past the Bat Tower) and pick up the Huddersfield Narrow Canal to follow it towards Golcar.

The route crosses the road near the Titanic Mill, at continues along the canal before crossing it, and heading up through the woodland on an old track. Here you emerge in Golcar and head continuously uphill, passing through one of the many ginnels on the Golcar Lily ginnel trail.

At this point I confess to no longer running along the route as it is quite a steep continuous climb from the canal to the high point on the Colne Valley circular at Golcar. As you reach the end of the lanes and into the edge of Heath House Wood, I had to wonder why the route didn’t follow the steep drop down into the woodland and back up again (a nice alternative) but instead did a huge dog-leg around the top of the Clough. Perhaps I was tired in the sunshine.

Whilst it does feel like a dog-leg, it provides a good view across the valley to Golcar. Follow the path across the fields and right at the lane towards the Golcar Lily pub (a good stop for food or drink).

Following the roads you eventually drop downhill to Crimble Clough, (where the path isn’t obvious to access at the houses); drop into the Clough and back up again into the fields to Highfield Farm.

Its best to follow the road around Heath farm to access the route, which then crosses fields to head to Wilberlee.

At Wilberlee the route follows the lane downhill and round to Intake Road, before crossing through the farm and fields towards Merry Dale. Keep straight ahead along here, as its not always obvious where the route goes, especially in some of the fields.

Merry Dale is a lovely little valley; a cobbled lane takes you down into the woodland before it rises back out again on a stony track.

From the top of the track I would personally continue straight up to the road to end up near the Rose and Crown pub (another good stop), as the route across the fields towards Wham farm is not only not clear, but barred at one point by a temporary fence.

I’m inclined to think its down to the renovations at the farm to create expensive houses which has lead to the path no longer being attractive to homeowners there….

Eventually the road runs out and you pick up the path across Slaithwaite Moor. Where the path meets the Kirklees Way and heads downhill to Marsden, there’s another fantastic bench – you’ll have to go and check this one out as by that point I forgot I was taking pictures of them!

In winter the route downhill can be muddy but dries out quickly in the sun and sections have been paved in the last 10 years.

As you head downhill through the farm, you pass what I think is the only finger post which marks the CVC.

If you’ve headed out along the route I’d love to know your favourite bits and those you found a nightmare to navigate!

Running Hadrian’s Wall

Firstly, I’m not an ultra runner and have only run a marathon distance once. So it was with this knowledge that I cautiously planned to run Hadrian’s Wall Long Distance Path. I set myself the challenge to complete the route over 4 days (and one evening) and while that is easy for walking, I wanted to be able to run as much of the route as possible which would make it a challenge.

If you’re going to complete this route I recommend West to East as the wind will be behind you encouraging you on. For some reason more people seemed to walk it the other way. Its definitely possible to de entirely on public transport, as Carlisle and Newcastle are on main line stations, with good buses and metro service at either end to get you to the start/finish.

Finally, get yourself the Hadrian’s Wall Passport from either the Fort in Newcastle or Carlisle Tourist information, so you can collect your route stamps along the way. Its a nice memento of your journey!

Bowness on Solway to Carlisle – 15 miles

Having caught the train to Carlisle I dropped some stuff off at my hotel for the night and caught the bus to Bowness on Solway for an evening run of this part of the route. I had toyed with the idea of not bothering with this bit and doing Carlisle to Newcastle only, but the completer in me had to do the whole thing. The bus was £6.90 and was only 40 minutes, I had no excuse really. It was even sunny!

To be honest though, anyone who decides to start or finish at Carlisle still acceptably completes the route in my opinion. On getting off the bus in Bowness I trotted happily along the coastal path before the route winds on farm tracks into Glasson and then Drumburgh before hitting the long section of road all the way into Burgh by Sands. This would have been a dull section to walk but wasn’t much joy having to run.

From here there is another farm track into Beaumont before I discovered the disappointment of a path diversion resulting in more road. It was a beautiful sunny evening though so I tried not to complain.

Eventually I was able to pick up the path at Kirkandrew-on-Eden to reach the river and a lovely track into Carlisle. With all that road running my left leg was already starting to be unhappy as I reached Carlisle quite hungry. Despite the whinging to myself it was a beautiful evening of running in the sunshine.

Carlisle to Greenhead – 20 miles

I set off optimistic about the route today. I was finally going to see sections of Hadrian’s Wall and pass through open countryside. However, I’d barely left Carlisle before my knee started to scream so the pace was slow and tedious all day, though I ran as much as possible. The expectation of being able to run most of the route and actually having to stop and stretch every 4km, I felt disappointed and beaten.

The route heads out of Carlisle by following the river and country lanes towards the M6 and beyond. Upon reaching Crosby on Eden it heads briefly North to reach the remains of the Wall. Passing by the Wall’s Milecastles and following it’s ditch, the route starts to become hilly as it reaches the village of Oldwall and Newtown.

The miles of fields were a joy to run through and for every village the route passes through there is a house selling drinks and snacks or honesty boxes of snacks. I couldn’t resist the honesty fridges selling lollies!

The long slog uphill to Hare Hill felt hard work in the heat and with a sore knee, but the top marked a change to run on the flat for a while. I had a quick break at Birdoswald Roman Fort in order to collect my Hadrian’s Wall passport stamp before heading downhill to the river.

Marked on the map as a Roman bridge there is actually a large metal bridge over the river now but it’s still worth a visit for the impressive foundations of the former Roman bridge and the long section of wall.

From here it was a few miles more through Gilsland and into Greenhead where I finished running for the day. Of course I had booked accommodation slightly off the route and so had to stroll down to Blenkinsopp Castle for the night. Despite complaining to myself for not booking somewhere on the route, it turned out to be well worth the extra distance it as it was a lovely spot. A gorgeous pub with friendly hosts and a lovely room with my own patio! It felt like luxury on a sunny evening!

Greenhead to Chollerford – 17 miles

I woke stiff and feeling like the day was going to be a tough challenge. Having spoke to my partner that morning for moral support, he pointed out that I was running almost back to back marathons so I was bound to be tired and sore. Ok, I wasn’t doing marathon distances but it did make me realise that what I was doing was a challenge for someone who’d never done back to back long runs before.

I started the day with a trudge up the hill to get back onto the route at Greenhead. The running felt comfortable for a while and the views were amazing. This section of the route is pretty hilly as Hadrian’s Wall and the Long Distance Path follow the Great Whin Sill fault line. This long layer of dolerite rock surfaces in this area, forming a long crag and creating a natural boundary that made building Hadrian’s Wall here logical. (The Geological Society have a really interesting page about the Great Whin Sill – follow this link). At least the uphills gave me an excuse to slow down and walk for a short section.

This has to be my favourite section of the route, much of it I have walked before when completing the Pennine Way over 5 years ago. Passing turrets, Milecastles and old Roman Forts the route occasionally breaks for small country lanes before heading uphill again to wide views and more milecastles. The best views are from above Highshield and Hotbank crags.

I stopped briefly for a drink and to get my stamp at Housesteads Roman Fort, one of the biggest forts along the Wall. From here the was one more hill and Trig point before heading downhill towards the road. Here I met the Long Distance Walkers Association Hadrian Hundred participants. A string of walkers heading towards me, with the expected jokes that I was heading the wrong way, the stalwarts with their heads down marching and not expecting to see anyone walking towards them and endless smiling faces happy to say hi. I was pleased when I met the last of them at Brocolitia Roman Fort and the little temple of Mithras.

Here the weather also turned and the end of the day was marked by cloudy skies and cold winds. The remains of the Wall also start to become less visible and marked more by ditches in the landscape. So it was a pleasure to reach Chesters Roman Fort and finish for the day.

I stayed in Acomb at the Queen’s Arms Hotel which was a hidden delight in this quite little village.

Chollerford to Newburn Bridge – 17 miles

I woke to rain and the prospect of standing around waiting for a bus to take me back up to Chollerford. Thankfully by the time I disembarked from the bus it had stopped raining heavily and turned to drizzle.

This section of the route hadn’t inspire me when I looked at the map and saw that for most of the way the path followed the road. I had expected it to be just the other side of a fence in a field and fairly uninteresting. I was really surprised to find it winds through small woodlands, and fields bounded by amazing hawthorn hedges and wild flowers. However, this section does have the highest quantity of stiles, in some place 5 within 50 metres!

Reaching Whittle Dene reservoirs felt like a significant marker as the Path continues on a from here to the A69 and eventually heads South to Heddon-on-the-Wall and the River Tyne.

Of course I’d chosen not to stay on the route but the other side of the river near Ryton, in what turned out to be the quirkiest B&B I’ve ever stayed in. If you’re ever in the area and want to stay somewhere reasonably priced with a four post bed, slip bath and a hall of buddhas, armour and Chinese cats then Hedgefield House is the place for you. It was a lovely place for my last night.

Newburn Bridge to Wallsend – 11 miles

This section of the route is entirely on tarmac as it follows a cycle track and winds through housing and along roads. As a walk it could be a bit dull as Hadrian’s Wall itself has disappeared but it makes a nice run into Newcastle. Eventually it meets the River Tyne again and leads you into the City itself. Running in the rain with a very sore leg I was definitely pleased to see the Tyne Bridges and feel like I was making progress.

As the route leaves the city centre of Newcastle it continues to follow the River, though in places its not well sign posted and I did find myself running through an industrial estate before I eventually found the path again. Its quite unremarkable as much of this area is industrial, being once the site of Tar Works which have left its mark on the river’s water quality, and now being the site of large international oil and gas and steel companies part of the Port of Tyne.

Hadrian’s Wall itself takes a direct line through the City of Newcastle but I think the choice to make the Long Distance Path follow the River Tyne is a good one. The route at this point might be lacking in history but the Tyne does have woodland along its edge and is much prettier than walking through housing.

Reaching Wallsend felt amazing. The Fort has a fantastic museum and cafe so if you’re finishing your journey here its worth a stop and a look around before you jump on the Metro back into the City – and of course get your last stamp in your passport. It was lovely that the staff were excited to hear about how I’d got on and what I thought of the route.

I would definitely recommend the Hadrian’s Wall Path, either as a running adventure or even as a first long distance path adventure. It is easy to break down into manageable distances with lots of places to stay along the route. It’s also super easy to do by public transport, which can’t be said for all long distance paths.

Walking the St Cuthbert’s Way

Opened in 1996 St Cuthbert’s Way is usually tackledin 4 – 6 days and to be honest that’s a really good idea. Over the course of three very long days Sharon, Ted and I tackled the route and discovered that pilgrimages don’t always have to be religious.

The route

The St Cuthbert’s Way winds for 100km from the market town of Melrose in the Scottish Borders, to Lindisfarne Island on the North Sea coast. It crosses through the Cheviot hills in the Northumberland National Park, takes in Roman roads and endless woodlands, riverbanks and open moorland. 

The route starts in Melrose, where St Cuthbert started his religious life in 650AD and ends in on Holy Island, at Lindisfarne Priory, his eventual resting place.

scw_main_map-600x190@2x

Planning your walk

There’s a plethora of companies willing to sherpa your bags around and book you accommodation, but its not difficult to sort out yourself. The official route website provides fantastic links to accommodation along the route, but popular accommodation search engines are also useful. Decide how far you want to walk each day and plan your accommodation accordingly.

Starting in Melrose we found accommodation easily as there is a range of pubs and B&Bs available, with plenty taking dogs. Ideal places to stay, depending on how many days you wish to complete the route in would be: St Boswells, Harestanes, Morebattle, Town Yetholm, Hethpool, Wooler, Fenwick and Beal.

Depending on your fitness its possibly to carry your own kit and not have your baggage transported. We packed light with little spare clothing, and bought food en-route in the variety of local shops. Sharon even managed to carry food for Ted and we both carried knitting for the evenings (albeit we never actually did any!)

The real planning challenge with this route is dealing with how you get from the start and finish. We decided to drive to Melrose and leave our car. When we finished we caught the bus back from Beal, via Berwick upon Tweed to Melrose. This is straight forward but takes about 2 hours depending if you make the bus connections (we didn’t and had to have lunch in Berwick!) Bus timetables can be searched for via traveline.

It’s important to carry maps, although the route is very well sign posted with way markers, so we didn’t struggle to find our way. As a rough guide the Scottish section of the walk is really dog friendly, with all of the fences cross through gates. Once in England Ted had to clamber or be picked up over stiles.

Day 1: Melrose to Morebattle 40km (25miles)

Melrose is a lovely market town and worth a visit in its own right. We arrived on Thursday evening and only saw the Abbey in the dark so we intended to spend some time there when we returned.

The route starts from the town centre and heads immediately uphill to the Eildon Hills. These hills would be a significant feature of our first day as despite our progress along the route they remained visible for most of the day. This is the high point of this section.

Crossing through Bowden and into St Boswells the route follow the path of Bowden Burn till it reaches the River Tweed. In hindsight St Boswells would have been a good place to get lunch as there’s a range of lovely cafes and bookshops. But we were on a mission to walk 25 miles so pressed on.

From here the route winds along the River Tweed till it reaches Maxton and meets the Dere Street Roman Road.

Dere Street was a surprise. I expected a surfaced track, perhaps suitable for bikes but this section of the Roman Road is given over to woodland and is a beautiful walk between fields and trees. Eventually the route meets woodland and Harestanes Visitors Centre. We had planned to get a (very) late lunch here. The cafe is advertised as open till 5pm, but stops serving food at 4pm – worth noting if, like us, you arrive late. We luckily managed to get left-over sandwiches from the fridge and had to keep dreaming of soup.

From Harestanes we continued on. If like us you stop at the visitors centre it does mean circling back around through the woodland north of the Monteviot House and Gardens in order to get back on to the river.

Here you cross a suspension bridge and follow the river before getting back on Dere Street Roman Road – here it is a stony track. Continuing to follow the route along through woodland and fields we continued on, the miles slowly making our feet tired. Despite the late hour the walk through the rapeseed fields and woodland was magical, with deer and badgers appearing in the dusk.

The route eventually ends up on country lanes as it leads to Morebattle, and passes the impressive Cessford Castle, a huge ruined tower.

We had called ahead to the Temple Hall Hotel to pre-order food and they obliged by providing hot pizza when we arrived.

Day 2: Morebattle to Wooler 32km (20miles)

After a great breakfast and a visit to the community shop to find lunch we left Morebattle a little later than intended. The route starts by walking along the lanes before heading uphill to Grubbit Law. Its worth noting that on the map it looks like you need to ford a river to head uphill but there is in fact a wooden bridge just beyond the ford, making crossing easy.

It was a hot day and while not high it was a pleasure to be done with uphill and walk along the top of the fell to Wideopen Hill summit. The summit at 368m is the highest point on the route and is marked as the halfway point on the St Cuthbert’s Way. It definitely provides fantastic views across the Borders.

Once in Kirk Yetholm we enjoyed the shade and had lunch where the route joins the end of the Pennine Way. It was interesting to find myself back here, having completed the Pennine Way in 2004 and not expected to find myself in the tiny village of Kirk Yetholm again.

From Kirk Yetholm we walked along the road to head up the fell to the Scottish/English Border. Here the division in the countries follows the fell top ridge line, and while marked by a gate and a signpost, you’d be forgiven not realising there’s a border.

Crossing through the gate the landscape of the Northumberland National Park did seem different, as if the requirement to mark access land and the appearance of sheep somehow transformed the feel of the landscape.

We followed the route downhill through fields, a felled woodland and onto a long and tedious farm track guarded by sheep before reaching the quiet village of Hethpool. Ted hadn’t had that many opportunities to bark at sheep so far and so appeared to ignore the yank of the lead to keep him quiet.

From Hethpool the route heads East along the side of Wester Tor before briefly being redirected around the farm at Torleehouse, and heading uphill to grouse moorland and a landscape similar to our own Peak District. The moorland track continues for nearly 5km over Gains Law before finally dropping down towards the market town of Wooler.

We arrived late on Sunday in Wooler and the Black Bull Inn didn’t do food, but thankfully the Milan restaurant next door served food till 10pm so we had time to shower and make ourselves look tidy before we headed out for food.

Day 3: Wooler to Lindisfarne 29km (18 miles)

We managed to leave at 9am from Wooler and headed along the roads on to Weetwood Moor. I confess that I’d looked the map and decided it was entirely possible to miss this uphill and down hill diversion by walking on the road. However it is a lovely stretch of moorland with great views and provides a great aspect to see the Weetwood bridge from. The road is also quite busy and frankly this final day of walking has more than enough tarmac already in my opinion.

From Weetwood Hall the route takes in country lanes and track for around 8km, even when it crosses fields it’s still a stony track. In the hot sunshine this became a bit of a tedious walk with our tired feet. When we reached the woodland we sat in the shade to have lunch, a lovely spot for a break with a view across the fields.

Further on we came to St Cuthbert’s cave. The Cave is an impressive overhanging sandstone rock supported by a single piece of stone, making it look precarious. According to legend, monks carrying St Cuthbert’s body from Lindisfarne took refuge here.

From the top of the hill above the cave the path winds down through fields and the Sheillow woodland before it reaches the village of Fenwick and the busy A1 road.

We continued on from here, taking care to cross the mainline railway and wandering through fields the reach the end of the Lindisfarne Causeway. The traditional route follows the posts across the sands to reach Holy Island. We did follow them as we had a few hours before the tide started to come in, however the sand is really estuary mud and so is very sticky and unpleasant in places. Ted’s feet were also sore on the sand so we bailed off to walk the rest of the way on the causeway.

We’d luckily arranged a lift back from the lovely Fred at Brockmill Farmhouse where we were staying for the night, so we had an hour to have food in the Crown and Anchor before we had to leave and beat the incoming tide.

Reaching the priory, the end of the route, felt like a great place to end a tough 3 day walk, and we were pleased to arrive in Holy Island at the end of the day when it was quiet.

Finding our pilgrimage

Walking the St Cuthbert’s Way turned out to be a pilgrimage for us both after all, even if it wasn’t a religious one. It was a journey which tested our ability to walk long distances to reach our destination and provided opportunities for us to explore a new landscape, cross boundaries and see Roman and Christian history.

I’d definitely recommend this route – the variety of terrain as it winds through the Scottish Borders into Northumberland makes it worthwhile.

Chunks of the Cleveland Way

I rarely go to the beach. Even abroad I’m not that bothered but certainly in the UK I wouldn’t go – its not that the coast isn’t beautiful but it doesn’t drive my need for adventure in the same way as a hike through fields or up mountains would.

However, I’ve been dog sitting for a friend and thought a trip to the beach would be a nice change. Via a hill I’ve not been up before, of course! Which provided a great chance to do chunks of the Cleveland Way national trail a 110 mile route around the North and East edge of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park.

First stop was Roseberry Topping just outside Middlesborough. It is only 320m high but is still a steep climb. Caused by a geological fault and a mining collapse it is a distinctive hillside and a major landmark on the trail. It is also very popular being so close to Middlesborough. Which Ted thought was fantastic as there was lots of other dogs to say hello to.

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From there we headed to Saltburn-by-the-Sea to wander along the beach to the imposing Saltburn Scar cliffs and back along the Cleveland Way through the Victorian gardens where a band was playing. Ted loved the beach but embarrassed me with his little dog syndrome, fighting other dogs whilst we were listening to the band.

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From there we headed down to Whitby for a long walk along the beach from Sandsend into town, which at least knackered Ted out. On the way back we followed the Cleveland Way National Trail back to Sandsend.

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GR20 – days 11-13 – the end is in sight!

The last 3 days of the GR20 seemed to whizz by. That said it was still a mental challenge; the weather was scorching hot and become hotter as we lost altitude each day, my ankle started to complain about walking and we were starting to play the food game too early in the morning (what do you hope we’re getting for dinner tonight? I really hope its a huge salad with cheese and a massive chocolate dessert. No I really fancy ice cream, a huge bowl with chocolate sauce – you get the picture).

Day 11 – Cozzano to Crocce 8 hrs 45

Distance 17km approx and 1230m ascent and 315m descent

The ascent out of Cozzano village was brutal and we’d had to wait til 8am before we could leave as one group member wasn’t well enough to join us for the day and transport needed to be organised. So it was scorching hot as we tackled the track through the woodland out of Cozzano. My ankle was already not happy and while I’d been using poles up to today just to get down hill safely, now I was using them uphill too.

I have to be honest it seemed a bit unnecessary to have to regain over 1000m ascent back up to the GR20 path, just for a night at Cozzano. But we did, but not before we’d battled through waist high undergrowth and said hello to more wild pigs. So when we got onto the ridge we were pleased for a break, thankfully the path across the top is easy to follow.

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Actually we didn’t stay on the GR20 for long as we were staying at a private refuge at Crocce. So when we reached the plateau at Bocca di L’Agnonu we stopped for a long lunch in the shade just near the water source and then followed the path by the river (another stop to cool feet) before heading for the refuge at Matalza for a cold drink. The terrain across the plateau is nothing like the rocky terrain in the north and if you do only half of the route you are certainly missing out on the stark contrast between the rocky mountains surrounded by pine woodlands in the north and the pastures and pinnacles in the South.

The route from Matalza to the Bergerie de Crocce is a wide track suitable for vehicles and so was easy to follow.

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While Crocce is a private refuge it is clean and in a great location and even has hot showers which was a novelty for such a remote place. We had great views of the sunset as we relaxed with beers and later that night when nature called I had fantastic views of the stars and milky way.

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Day 12 – To Bavella 9 hrs 35

Distance 13km approx and 1140m ascent and 1470m descent

After a false start this morning when our guide left his mobile behind and realised half an hour into the walk and had a mad sprint back for it, we had a relatively easy ascent up to Monte Alcudina from Crocce, reaching the peak from the south west direction rather than non the GR20 path. The sun was already hot and the views amazing.

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The descent down to the refuge d’Asinau across steep rock and boulders shattered morale as much as knees as we lost 600m in a short distance, so a drink was needed when we reached the hut at 11am.

From there we continued to descend the steep path to the river where we stopped to cool feet and have lunch. Eventually the path becomes easier to walk as it winds through the woodland, that is until we reached the junction with the ‘alpine’ path.

Once again, we took the higher level option rather than staying on the main GR20 route which headed through the woodland all the way to Bavella. The ascent of the alpine route was steep and not really what any of us fancied in the afternoon heat as legs were tiring. But it was worth it when we got to the top. The path zigzags up the hillside towards to towering Pinnacles of Bavella.

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The path eventually heads right around the rock towers and we stopped on the small plateau top for a break at the foot of Punta di u Pargulu. From the plateau the path then starts to descend down a boulder path.

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Once we reached the tree line we had one final chain to use to ascend a rock slab and then continue our descent down to Bavella.

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We stayed in the Gite below the restaurant at Bavella which in all honesty was a very small room for 5 people and despite the location (next to a road and in a popular spot for short walks) it was not one of the better places we’d stayed. However it was a bed and a hot shower and the food at the restaurant was plentiful and good. As you reach the road there is a large statue of the Notre Dame des Neiges.

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Day 13 – last day to Conca!!  9 hours 15

Distance 19km with 700m ascent and 1670m descent

We started our last day heading for the village of Conca at the end of the GR20 in a good mood and not at all bothered for once that we were off walking at 7.30am.

The route initially follows the track past the refuge at Bavella and through the woodland, and while it heads uphill it is an easy path to walk. In fact the path was easy all the way to the refuge di Paliri.

The path remains easy to walk for much of the day, although don’t be fooled that you are heading downhill all the way to Conca. There is in fact three ascents today and in the scorching heat we didn’t appreciate them.

The views however were amazing, but with little shade as we walked through the ankle high scrub either side of the narrow path it was hard to appreciate it properly. We stopped at the river to cool and have lunch and enjoy the shade before a steep ascent to squeeze through the rock gap at Bocca di u Sorta.

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Eventually the path starts a gradual but endless descent down to Conca which lies at an altitude of 250m. Even though the path is easier to walk than some encountered the descent is still tough on the knees. We were very glad to reach Conca even if we had walk through the village to the campsite to meet our minibus and had to rush our ice cream to start our 3 hour drive to Bastia for the night.

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I thoroughly recommend the GR20 but would seriously advice reading the Cicerone guide to the route properly before heading off (unlike me who just looked at the pictures!) as the route is very challenging. I’ve done a lot of scrambling and long distance trails and I found this easily the toughest walk I’ve ever done. I also recommend walking poles to save your knees!

Days 9-10

Day 7-8

Day 5-6

Day 4

Days 1-3

GR20

GR20 – day 9 and 10 – and then it rained

We knew once leaving Vizzavona that the days would be longer and have to be at a faster pace, but that the walking would still be tricky with huge ascents (and descents) and just as much rock.

But, having slept well at the gite, (well except for the unfortuate one who got bitten by bed bugs!) we didn’t expect to wake to the deluge that faced us. So the next two days were to be a challenge not just for the terrain but also for finding the will to boost morale when faced with being soaked to the skin and blow to bits in the wind. Being British at least prepared half of the group for the weather!

Day 9 – Vizzavona to Col de Verde 4 hours

Distance 30km with 1320m ascent and 955m descent

This section combined two days worth of walking into one day. Ok, so the astute among you will have realised that its not possible to walk 30km in 4 hours. You’re right. Unfortunately it rained so heavy right from the start of the day that by the time reached the refuge at the half way point at Capanelle we could go no further. At least we’d walked one days worth of walking in 4 hours on the easy forest tracks and paths. In the rain even the ascent up to Bocca Palmento didn’t seem important, its not like we had a view. When we reached Capanelle at 10.30am it was already full of GR20’ers that had made the same decision as us; to sit for a while, have a few hot chocolates and coffees and wait to see if it was going to stop raining.

It didn’t.

And the reports from walkers having arrived by vehicle to Capenelle from Verde reported that two rivers that the path crosses were in spate making them impossible to cross and the two we’d already crossed to get to Capanelle hadn’t exactly been fun.

There is an alternative, higher route, but in the rain this wasn’t really an option either as the wet rock slabs wouldn’t have been safe.

So deciding that it was ok to miss a bit of the route only on the grounds of atrocious weather and that it would have been a boring march through the woodlands anyway, we caught a minibus down to the gite at Verde.

Wet weather and being totally soaked to my skin despite waterproofs also meant that I took only these pictures all day. Salamanders are common in the woodland in the south and were all over the path in the heavy rain. The gorgeous dog belonged to the refuge and had been wandering (as refuge dogs do) between Vizzavona and Capanelle – so we briefly had an extra member of the group as we brought him back to Capanelle. The refuge at Capanelle services a ski station so food and drink are easy to get hold of, good job as we were there a few hours waiting for a lift!

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I should add that the gite at Col de Verde was just what we wanted for the night, a shared hut to ourselves and a lovely little restaurant with a roaring fire to dry our boots and amazing food.

Day 10 – to Cozzano 8 hrs 45

Distance 19km with 1345m total ascent and 1905m descent

Another day, more cloud. At least the rain had stopped.

We left the gite at Verde at 7.30am having had a very good breakfast (bread and jam – but by now we had standards of what was good and bad) and our boots dry from being left under the fire grate overnight. Perfect. We were walking a bit more than a leg today as we were descending all the way down to the valley into the village of Cozzano.

The day started with a swift walk through the woodland and up to the ridge. Again the track is very easy to walk along through the woodland and despite walking uphill it doesn’t seem an effort as there’s no rocks to scramble over. We reached the refuge di Prati at 9,45am and stopped for a hot drink. Already the wind was enough to chill us and we could see the mist sat along the ridge we were heading towards. At least we’d managed to get a great view of the sea, it was certainly the last view we’d have that day!

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After a hot french (weak) tea at Prati we headed up on to the ridge and into the cloud. The Brits among us found it funny that our Corsican guide was so concerned about the weather and us being safe, frankly mist was what we’re used to, so it wasn’t an issue at all.

So as we walked along the ridge, crossing from left to right along the way, it did start to feel like we were walking in circles. There’s some scrambling along the route, but nothing challenging.

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We reached Bocca di Laparo and had lunch sat in the trees. From here we took the route down to Cozzano and our gite for the night, a lovely place with home grown vegetables and hot showers. I’ll be honest, the Cozzano gite is a great place to stop, but for the massive descent required to get there, snaking through the woodland on dusty forest tracks, and then tomorrows massive ascent back up to the route – it seemed a bit unnecessary when there were refuges we could have stopped at along the route.

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Day 7+8

Day 5+6

Day 4

Day 1-3

GR20

The GR20 – days 7 and 8 – half way at last

As our trip was planned as 13 days of walking, we technically passed half way on our way to Petra Piana in terms of time, but there was still a long way to go.

The town of Vizzavona marks the halfway point in the GR20 due to easy access by road. Therefore it also marks the point where a significant number of people drop out, largely those undertaking the challenge without a guide. Its just to easy to stay in a hotel in Vizzavona and decide that the beach is a better choice for the rest of your trip.

We however did not have that luxury, or any luxury at all as it happens…… from cramped tents and rubbish food at Petra Piana to bed bugs for one of us at Vizzavona. But we have to get there first…..

Day 7 – Manganu to Petra Piana 8hrs 15

Distance 10km with 980m total ascent and 740m descent

We left Manganu at 7am and immediately headed uphill. The path is steep and bouldery but not really challenging and there’s even a lovely flat plateau half way up with our first sign of mud on the route.

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The route heads for the large notch you can see in the first photo and as it gets nearer to the top it becomes scree and boulders. Its worth the effort though as this is Brecche du Capitellu, the highest point on the GR20 at an altitude of 2225m.

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Across the other side of the Brecche there is an amazing view which called for a second breakfast stop, which of course was shared by lizards. From here we could see Lac de Capitellu and Lac du Melu below and then onwards to the rest of the GR20 beyond. The route continues on, scrambling over boulders and rock slabs to circle around below Punta a e Porta’s rockface.

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To reach the rocky notch which is the next col to cross, we had to scramble down a steep gully which has a chain added and then back up the other side.

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From the other side there is a yellow flash marked on the rock which indicates a diversion route down to Corte, a popular stopping place for some groups. However, we continued to follow the white and red markers of the main route, which crosses a ridge and ascends up to Bocca a Soglia before the descent down to the refuge at Petra Piana.

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By the time we reached Petra Piana the cloud had descended and the temperature had dropped, which certainly added to the disappointment at finding the area surrounding the refuge was a sea of tents all very close together. Ear plugs were a definite must to get through the night!

Petra Piana is also the only refuge on the whole route where as a vegetarian I really struggled to eat well. The rest of the refuges we stayed at were generally fine at providing an alternative evening meal (the same food minus the meat). Petra Piana however, outright refused to do an alternative, so the two of us who were vegetarians were extremely grateful to a lovely french couple who gave us pasta and sauce so we had food for the night. So be warned, the guardian of Petra Piana is not friendly to non meat eaters! We also had to sit outside the very tiny refuge building to eat, and in the mist it was very cold and therefore a quickly eaten meal and an early night.

Day 8 – To Vizzavona 10 hrs

Distance 19km approx with 1060m ascent and 1980m descent (!)

It was dark when we awoke at Petra Piana, neither of us had slept well in our cramped tent and we were keen just to get moving and warm up as it had been a cold night. Breakfast was the usual bread and jam but thankfully we were able to sit in the tiny refuge kitchen to eat.

We set off walking at 6am as not only were we taking the higher level route across the ridge, but we were also carrying on to Vizzavona, making this a day of 2 legs of the route condensed into one. The higher level route is shorter and actually involves less climbing so if you’re going to combine two days into one this is an excellent spot to do it.

The higher level route is an alternative path to the main GR20 and while I’d booked this particular trekking company for it being the only one which did the whole length of the route, it was certainly worth taking the ridge route for this section as the views were fantastic and much better than any woodland would provide.

From Petra Piana we followed the yellow paint markers up to Bocca Manganellu, and along the way to the ridge we saw the sun rise and the view across the ridge we where to walk along.

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The ridge is easy to walk with little scrambling and little exposure, although it was quite windy. We stopped briefly along the ridge for second breakfast out of the wind and to admire the view and the rest of the route we’d be taking.

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The ridge is a fantastic walk and provides the first point on the route where you can see the sea on both sides of the island. Taking this route also provides an opportunity to bag the peak of Punta di I Pinza Corbini at 2021m.

The path descends gradually to the point where it meets the main GR20 route, just above refuge l’Onda which took us about 4 and half hours. We didn’t head down to the refuge but picked up the main route and headed upwards for our strenuous ascent of the day to skirt around Punta Muratello.

It seemed straight forward as we headed from l’Onda up the ridge, but the path is steep and winds through juniper and shrubs and eventually becomes rocky and scrambly as it turns left and heads up through bare rock to the pass. Along the way you pass a memorial to a fallen mountaineer.

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As the path descends down the other side there is a lot of bare rock but nothing which really requires scrambling – and by this point we had perfected walking like Charlie Chaplin down the slabs.

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The path continues down to follow the river where we crossed a bridge, before heading through the woodland on an easy path to the road.

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We stayed at the Gite Monte d’Oro just by the roadside in Vizzavona, another lovely place were we had rooms between three of us, with private bathrooms. The food was also amazing and a lovely bar for drinks and our nightly pint of Pietra beer. Unfortinately the only man in our group was the victim of bed bugs at Vizzavona but thankfully this was the last time any of us were so unfortunate.

Its certainly easy to see why many GR20’ers decide to finish their trek at the half way point in Vizzavona. For us we had a nice bed for the night and another early start.

The GR20 – days 5 and 6 Onwards to Manganu

After the excitement and hardwork of the Cirque de Solitude we assumed that the hardest part of the route was behind us. In terms of technicality we didn’t come across anything quite as difficult, but the pace was to pick up and the distances lengthen, tricky to maintain over bare rock, loose scree and still scrambling for the majority of the day.

Day 5 – Vallone to Castel di Vergio 8 hour 45

Distance 15km approx with 850m ascent and 870m descent

The pop up tent and thin mattress didn’t provide a good nights sleep on the bare ground at Auberge de Vallone. So I was almost glad breakfast was at 6.30am, and it was a nice surprise to find that this morning’s bread and jam was much nicer than we’d had so far at the refuges.

We set off on the trail at 7.15am heading through the woodland and contouring around the hillside gently ascending. Eventually as we left the trees behind the path steepened to ascend to the high pass of Bocca di Foggaile, thankfully scrambling up rock was limited to near the top.

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At the top of the pass you can see the route onwards. There is a short cut path now descending straight from the pass down to the river below but we stuck to the trail and contoured around the top of the Golo valley to Refuge de Ciottulu (the highest refuge on the GR20) for a well earned drink.

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The route on from the Refuge down the Golo valley is pretty easy walking until it reaches the river, but in the scorching heat we couldn’t resist having lunch by the river and dipping our feet.

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From the river the path becomes rocky and hard on the knees until we eventually reached the woodland and crossed two bridges and reached the Bergeries de Radule where it would have been rude to not stop for another drink, so we stopped.

The path extended onwards through the woodland and the views become limited but there are plenty of opportunities to see the wild pigs common in Corsica. In the woodland the GR20 also crosses the Mare a Mare Nord route (sea to sea north). DSCF6810 DSCF6807

We were all very relieved to reach Castel di Vergio as it is a fantastic hotel with private balconies, white fluffy towels, great views and ice cream!

Day 6 – To Manganu  6hr 45

Distance 17km and 670m ascent and 475m descent

It felt like a treat to lie in a real bed until 6.30am and have a breakfast that wasn’t rushed in 30 minutes. We left Vergio at 8am and headed at a fast pace through the woodland on a really easy track which was virtually flat. An odd walking sensation after days of scrambling over boulders. We reached the Bocca San Pedru in an hour and a half and had great views back to Vergio and the previous day’s walk. DSCF6817 DSCF6820 DSCF6824

The path continues to be easy as it ascends and then descends gradually to the Lac du Ninu and a perfect spot for a very long lunch. As we sunbathed we could almost pretend we were on holiday! Especially with the visiting wild ponies.

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As we continued on, the path remains level through scrubland and woodland until it reaches the Bergerie de Vaccaghja where we stopped for a drink. From here we could see across the valley to Manganu, across the plateau.

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Whilst the route continues to be relatively flat across the valley there is a short ascent to reach the refuge at Manganu. There is dormitory accommodation here but we were staying in tents, which were much more roomy than those at Vallone, with super thick mattresses. Food here was plentiful but similar to the other refuges, this time pasta and soup.

Whilst we had a girly moment having discovered an earwig under the mattresses which had been there a while, that was to be the least of our problems at the site in terms of wildlife. Here’s our visitor who we named Betty. Despite our tents being tucked in the undergrowth this didn’t stop Betty coming to say hi. Thankfully as the sun set she moved on.

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Day 4

Day 1-3

GR20

The GR20 – Day 4 The Cirque de Solitude

Everyone who’s made the effort to read about the GR20 before heading out to Corsica has heard of the infamous Cirque de Solitude, the most technical day on the route.

And while looking down into the bottom of the Cirque from the Col Perdu it certainly feels like you’re staring down a rocky cliff into an abyss, it is certainly achievable if you can hold your nerve.

Day 4 – Asco to Vallone  8 hours 45

Distance 9km approx with 1000m ascent and 1000m descent

We left the lovely hotel as Asco filled with the first decent breakfast in days (and real coffee!) and headed up the track early. We set out at 6.30am to make the most of the day, and to ensure we were in and out of the Cirque before the predicted bad weather arrived. As the route through the Cirque is entirely rock slabs with chains to hold it is not to be attempted in wet or stormy weather.

The path from Asco starts out as a woodland track which heads uphill until it finally becomes bouldery.

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As we got closer to Col Perdu the path becomes more rock slabs and requires hands to ascend.

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When we arrived at Col Perdu just before 10am, a lot of walkers were already en route and had stopped for a break. Spotting that many of these were from large groups our guide insisted we continued into the Cirque right away to get ahead of the bigger groups, which was certainly appreciated.

The descent into the Cirque de Solitude begins as a scree path and quickly becomes steep rock slabs with the flashes of paint marking the route and leading to the sections of chains. Without these chains the route would certainly require rock climbing skills and rope, but with the chains all you really need is a bit of bravery, good footwork, a tight grip and encouragement!

Being a small group we managed to descend the Cirque at a relatively good speed, though its hardly quick scrambling and abseiling down rocks and chains.

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DSCF6729 the bottom of the Cirque – a rocky abyss with no escape routes out

We had a short break at the bottom of the Cirque to collect nerves and have something to eat before we started the ascent back out.

The ascent up the other side was very similar in terms of technicality although there was one short ladder to ascend.

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As the route gets closer to the top of the col it reverts back to bouldery rocks and scree before you appear at the Bocca Minuta where we stopped for a well earned rest. Getting from Col Perdu on one side of the Cirque to Bocca Minuta on the other took us about 3 hours.

The descent down to Vallone is not exactly much quicker as it continues to be a rocky path of boulders and bare rock. So when we reached the Refuge de Tighjettu we had to stop for a well earned hot chocolate.

From here is was only another half hour to reach our refuge for the night at Auberge de Vallone. This was our first night in tents on the GR20. Tent accommodation along the GR20 is variable, tonight we were in pop up style tents which had clearly been up since the start of the season. The mattresses are foam and so were comfortable and aren’t left in the tent so they do get aired. Toilet and washing facilities are limited with only one toilet and one shower to cater for everyone. So we were happy we were off to a hotel the following night.

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Days 1-3

Tackling the GR20