Day One - Saltaire to Skipton, 17.9 miles.

Plus 1 mile from hotel to start.
Plus 1 mile back to Mike (aka Fatman)'s car.
Total ascent 805m.

How did it come to this? I'm staring at my pint but have no hope of finishing it.

I woke up this morning relieved that no stag / hen incidents had occurred last night (not in the hotel anyway, there were strange noises coming from the garden though). However my back was really painful, despite the bed being pretty firm. I staggered down to breakfast to sympathetic looks; I'm not convinced anyone there would have believed I was about to begin a long distance walk. Breakfast was rubbish, they seemed to have forgotten to drain the water from the poached egg, so my bacon was floating in it. I headed back up to my room to straighten myself out and strode semi-confidently out of the hotel.

I did some serious lingering in Saltaire, a fascinating place, and stood listening to the quite intricate 10 o'clock church bells (a recording maybe?). "What a bloody racket", said a passing pedestrian. He had a point, they were extremely loud. I set off.

The first few miles were lovely, through a wooded valley, then I was on open moorland and heading for Ilkley. In fact I was on Ilkley Moor itself, which prompted the first song of the walk to pop into my head, the classic but fairly predictable 'On Ilkley Moor bar tat'. I soon realised that they were the only words I knew. I reached the Twelve Apostles, a stone circle which was disappointing due to the tallest stone being about 2 foot 6. If you've seen 'This is spinal tap' you'll understand. There was also a family sitting right in the middle of it (dwarfing the stones) so I didn't even get a photo. It did though start me singing "I'm still standing" by Elton John.

The first waymarker!

At the 8 mile mark I met Fatman (aka Mike) and his dog Woody at the White Wells cafe, which is also an ancient spa / spring type thing with healing powers. I opted for a filter coffee instead. The next in a dreadful set of landmarks was the Swastika Stone. Apparently it had a Neolithic swastika carved on it once but it had worn away, so someone had kindly produced a smaller replica next to it. It looked nothing at all like a swastika, unless maybe you asked a teletubby to draw one.

The swastika stone replica - if only Hitler had seen it, imagine the flags!

Despite these dubious tourist attractions the walking itself was great, overlooking Ilkley throughout. The weather all day had also been stunning, though it looked quite gloomy further north. If I was being reeeeeaaaalllly picky I'd have preferred it a couple of degrees cooler and about 30% less humid, but I shouldn't complain about such a beautiful day (though I suppose I just did).

Mike (aka Fatman) and Woody, looking northish.

We soon dropped down into Addingham, a very pretty village with an obsession with Le Tour De France which had passed through recently. We took on some water but it was at this point that things got tough. A long ascent out of the village by road, followed by a gruelling, dead straight climb on a track, about 3 miles in total, was really hard work with no breeze at all. Thankfully when the path levelled the views opened out and we could see Skipton a couple of miles ahead. The end of the walk was great with a lovely descent through woodland.

The lovely descent through woodland.

The result of a major (Times?) survey had Skipton in first place as the best place to live in England. It is indeed a lovely market town, though the barmaid in the pub by the bus station didn't seem as happy as I assumed everybody would be. She did not look at all impressed with my request for a pint of milk (something I started last year after seeing a TV programme about its powers of recovery!). In the end we compromised and she gave half a pint of milk, a pint of beer and a "you're weird" look.

We took the bus back to Ilkley, where Fatman (aka Mike) had left his car as far uphill as physically possible from the station. We then drove back to his place in Otley. It was good to see the family again. His son Kieran is a fine looking boy, and bears no resemblance to his father.

After a shower and a couple of beers we all went for a delicious but enormous curry washed down with a couple more pints. At this point I was shattered and we should have just gone home with the others, but I fancied a pint of bitter in one of Otley's 22 pubs, which later resulted in my staring at my pint in the Cock Inn knowing that anything I drank wasn't going anywhere, it was just going to sit on top of the curry. Bed beckoned.

-- Posted from Kev's iPhone

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