I spent much of my youth traipsing around the moors of northern England behind my father, complaining loudly about being made to walk up hill and down dale come rain or shine. Half terms would be spent in guest houses or draughty village hotels, while my friends would all be staying in London, going to the cinema or playing football or, in later years, failing to talk to girls at parties. And still dad and I soldiered on, him wiping his glasses to look at the view, and breaking up bits of Kendal Mint Cake to keep his remarkably stroppy son from walking off a cliff face just to spite him. Back then, I could keep a strop on for hours. Dad didn’t seem to mind. He had the delights of the Lake District, or the Pennines, to keep him cheery.
Related: Get a real taste of the Lake District from the rustic Wild Boar
I don’t know when it was that I started to enjoy walking – possibly around the time my dad decided it was okay for me to be rewarded after a day’s hard trekking with a pint. It certainly knocked Kendal Mint Cake into a cocked hat. I’m happy to say that it happened in time for me to have had many years of enjoyable walking with my dad who, even today, in his 84th year, still loves a daily walk. And now I have begun to inflict walks upon my kids in turn. And so the wheel comes full circle. Kids are still stroppy, too.
If you agree that walking is one of life’s great pleasures, you’ve probably already discovered Julia Bradbury’s charming series, Best Walks with a View. The show consists, as you might reasonably imagine, of Bradbury going on some delightfully picturesque rambles which, thankfully, are sufficiently easy that you don’t need to be a whippet-like athlete with calves of steel to complete.
This walk includes High Cup Nick, which Bradbury refers to as “One of Britain’s best kept secrets”, and by ‘eck, she’s not wrong. It is a fabulously dramatic glacial valley, with sides so steep and craggy it is known as “The Grand Canyon of the North” (a slightly misleading title in that it implies the real Grand Canyon is in the South of England, which the denizens of Arizona might dispute).
The great Alfred Wainwright called High Cup Nick “a natural wonder, an unforgettable sight”. So it is extraordinary how little it is visited. Just a matter of miles to the south, the Lake District is visited by 6 million tourists every year. It’s a matter of time before they have a Starbucks at the top of Scafell Pike. But High Cup Nick, reckons Bradbury, has fewer than 6,000 visitors annually.
Related: Visit the Lake District on a short break with Saga
Along the way, as ever, Bradbury meets a cast of local characters, including a chap who holds the record for running the Pennine Way (all 268 miles of it) in two days, 17 hours and 20 minutes. Non-stop. I’m going to stop whingeing about going to the gym.
The walk starts in the picturesque village of Dufton which, a quick perusal of their website reveals, has a pub (including a guest cottage), several B&Bs, and a caravan and camping park. It makes a fine base for walking.
For those in search of a few more creature comforts, the historic market town of Appleby is only five minutes’ drive away. It’s a great place for long walks up into the Pennines, or just gentle strolls along the river Eden. The town has a historic medieval high street, a castle, and plenty of places to eat, drink and sleep.
Related: Find a cottage to rent in Appleby
I wonder how the kids would take it if I cancelled Legoland and booked us in for a walking weekend instead…
Best Walks with a View with Julia Bradbury – Cumbria: The High Cup Walk is on ITV at 8pm, Friday, March 11, 2016