Friday 12th – Sunday 14th March 2015, Uldale, Howgills

'And now for something completely different' was the famous refrain from the Monty Python TV series. Having enjoyed the luxuries of the location in Shropshire for our last trip, have we gone from the sublime to the ridiculous? The Temperance Movement was quite a powerful organisation in Victorian England warning against the evil of the demon drink. It was particularly strong in Northern England where many a town had a purpose built temperance hall or a converted building in which to hold meetings.

The Cross Keys Temperance Inn is a 400 year old building in an isolated position on the road between Sedbergh and Kirkby Stephen. It is a National Trust property and was undoubtedly acquired because of its tee-total history.To this day alcoholic beverages are not allowed to be sold on the premises. This may or may not be welcome news for Andy, Bernie, Yvonne and Dave who are staying there.

Barely two miles away as the crow flies can be found the Tarn Outdoor Centre. This is a recently converted 17th century barn on a farmstead at the mouth of Uldale. It has a well equipped kitchen, dining room, lounge and drying room. The bedrooms contain 28 bunkbeds (2x8 and 4x3 beds) split evenly over the two floors. The smaller rooms have bunks sleeping two at the bottom and one at the top which will be allocated to Shotlets et al. Their website has photos of these bunkbeds. Bedding is provided however.

The position of the Centre is marked as 'Tarn' on the Howgills OS Explorer Map (GR 719975). Use of a sat nav will get you lost as the postcode covers a large empty rural area. But it is very close to the A683. Most people will be driving up the M6. Come off at Junc 37 for the A684 to Sedburgh Once in Sedbergh follow the A683 to Kirkby Stephen. Four miles from Sedburgh pass the Cross Keys on your left. Just over one mile later you will reach a junction with a minor road coming in from the right on a sharp left hand bend at Rawthey Bridge. (A small car park on the left precedes it). Turn right up this minor road sign posted Uldale & Fell End. This road steepens quickly as it goes around a left hand bend and levels off onto unenclosed moorland. 400 yards later (just before a junction with another minor road going to Uldale on the right and a bridleway track on the left) turn back right sharply on yourself on a gravel track and a wooden sign with TARN written in yellow letters. Follow this track through the fog and rain for another 400 yards to reach the Centre and park near the wooden stabling block.

The morning may dawn bright and sunny under a cloudless sky with stunning views across Ravenstonedale to the Howgills in the west and across Uldale to Wild Boar Fell and Baugh Fell in the east and south respectively. Mallerstang Edge with Wild Boar Fell and Swarth Fell can be accessed directly from the Centre, and will be the target for many. However, a word of warning. There appears to be a very enticing footpath going up Uldale and crossing the watershed into the delightful Grisedale. Having crossed Blea Gill Bridge avoid going to a gate seen high up a field when going to Whin Still Bridge. At this time of year the section of path between Whin Stone Gill Bridge and the watershed will be a boggy morass with several vague and possible routes all looking better than the one you are on. Once into Grisedale things improve rapidly. Descending Uldale is a much better proposition. Cautley Spout waterfall is a short easy stroll for Shotlets et al with refreshments at the Cross Keys.

The expectation is that famililes will be eating at the Centre. Tables have to be reserved at the Cross Keys for those who wish to eat there. Meals are slightly more expensive than normal pub fayre and start from £14. Soft drinks are sold, but obviously not alcohol. Diners, however, are allowed to bring their own wine. There is no corkage payable and the Cross Keys will provide wine glasses for free. Please have a look at their website and contact Julian within the next 10 days so that he can reserve places.

This Centre is already fully booked with additional folk staying at the Cross Keys. Local B&B's may still be available for late bookers.

Friday 12th – Sunday 14th June 2015, Grassington, Yorkshire Dales

This time last year Upper Wharfedale was busily festooning itself with yellow bikes, bunting, scarecrows etc. A flock of sheep at nearby Kettlewell even got into the act, although they didn't know what all the fuss was about. Nor did a lot of other people, but on the day tens of thousands of others did as cycle buffs, tour groupies and crowds of the curious descended into the the area, waited in good humour for hours before super fit men clad in lycra flashed past in seconds on very expensive pushbikes. The Tour de Yorkshire (aka Tour de France) had arrived. And then it was all over.

Grassington regards itself as the capital of Upper Wharfedale. It has now returned back to its normal tourist orientated existence offering facilities for most people. A recent addition is the Grassington Bunkbarn converted to a high standard from a traditional building on the outskirts of the village. It has a well equipped lounge, kitchen, drying room and 34 beds ( 2x12 beds, 1x6 beds, and 1x4 beds used as an en-suite disabled/leaders room). There is a bar-b-que area outside.The bunkbarn is very well illustrated on its web site, so check it out. NB. Bring sleeping bags.

Unlike our previous trip this location is very easy to find. First of all, drive into the middle of Grassington with all its shops and pubs going uphill past the cobbled square to reach a junction of 7 little roads and alleys. A very large impressive stone building with mullioned windows ( former Town Hall) is on the opposite corner. Continue past this into Moor Lane which carries on uphill quickly into a landscape of small fields. Within half a mile of leaving the Town Hall watch out for signs for Royal Oak and/or Kent Furniture Ltd on the left. Turn left down the drive to the bunkbarn. Two or three cars can be parked outside the front door, the others along the side of the workshop building. If for some reason you have missed the place and continue up Moor Lane and the tarmac deteriorates to a stone track then you are lost. As would be any left over yellow sheep from last year!

Fri 23rd- Sun 25th Oct 2015 Rydal Hall, Rydal, Lake District

For many people the 'Lion and Lamb' is the name of their favourite pub, but for our own Julian it's his nemesis on his very slow journey ticking off all the Wainwright summits in the Lake District. Helm Crag is a modest peaklet overlooking Grasmere. The trig point is at 398m but the true summit is a short distance away at 405m. To reach this however, people need to remove hands from their pockets and enjoy a short entertaining scramble along the rocky ridge to attain the 'Lion and Lamb' which are the big blocks of rocks on the summit. Alternatively, an equally enjoyable route starts below its base and uses a broad crack direct to the top. Julian unfortunately has an aversion for such things, and unless somehow a cherry picker, scaffolding or extendable ladders can be brought to the task, this particular Wainwright may remain unobtainable. This is particularly galling for Julian as in the past he has watched fearless children moving nimbly onto the Lion and Lamb.

Less than a mile away from the touristy village of Grasmere and its Wordsworth connections is the hamlet of Rydal. This has the very convenient Glen Rothay Hotel with its Badger bar (selling decent beer and food), church and Rydal Hall which is now a Christian Centre. Within its grounds is the Youth Centre, which SHOT members of a certain vintage will recall, is the place where a young Steve Millard ill-advisedly tried a Tarzan trick on the roof beam, dislocated his shoulder once again and ended up in Kendal Hospital. Aaah, the vagaries of youth. The Youth Centre has been recently refurbished. It has a large common room (with a challenging roof beam), fully equipped kitchen, drying room and accommodation for 29 people (1x10, 1x9, 1x6 and 1x4 beds). NB Bring sleeping bags.This trip was fully booked up by all those people who attended the last trip to the Howgills in March so any extra people will have to find places to stay in Grasmere or Ambleside which shouldn't be too difficult.

Rydal is very easy to find as it is one mile from both Grasmere and Ambleside i.e. between the two on the A591. Follow this road north of Ambleside and within one mile cross a small stone bridge, a minor road junction on the left, and approx 200 yards later turn right before the church. If you reach the Glen Rothay Hotel you have missed the turn. After a very short distance turn right into the grounds of the Rydal Hall Estate through a wrought iron gate. The Youth Centre is situated behind the Hall and should be clearly signposted.

Apart from the aforementioned Lion and Lamb, which I am sure some people will delight in doing, the classic Fairfield Horseshoe also starts from Rydal. Opportunities are extensive virtually in all directions for decent exertions, whilst Loughrigg Fell and low-level walks around nearby rivers.

Fri 11th- Mon 14th Dec 2015 Belfast, Northern Ireland

Belfast – tourist town – who’d have thought it? But with the peace has come a major transformation – arts, heritage, culture, great food and drink. Belfast is a city that has reinvented itself with impressive optimism.
From the handsome Crown Liquor Saloon opposite the hotel with its beautiful ornate tiles, stained glass and wood-panelled booths. It was then, and still is, one of the loveliest pubs in Belfast. Today it is in the care of the National Trust and is an unmissable part of a visit to Belfast to reminders of days gone West Belfast and its murals Belfast has something for all.
Must see are the Titanic Exhibition completed in 2012, this state-of-the-art visitor attraction is designed to represent four gigantic ships hulls, each bow rising 90ft, the exact height of the original Titanic. It contains nine galleries that take visitors from bustling 1900s Belfast to the building, launch, fit-out and fateful maiden voyage.and its historic construction site. Nearby are the unmissable Samson and Goliath cranes in the Titanic quarter.
For the more adventerous the North Antrim coast is a short trip and holds the unmissable Giants causeway and Bushmills distillery amongst its amazing scenery.