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Blog #3- July 13th 2024

(UPDATED!)

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Tales from the Trail

"Tha’z not dunn Pennine way proper Y’know, if thee’’s not bin in' t' the Tan hill forra Pint!"

(The  One where we discover that there are Three Compulsory Pubs on the Pennine Way!)

It is almost 60 years since the first walkers, eager to tread where few had trod before, embarked upon Great Britain’s first long-distance path, the Pennine Way! In its early days the walk had to be planned meticulously because the few hostelries that were on the pathway were often full. Back then, there were no couriers transporting-your luggage from one B&B to the next. Everything had to be carried with you.  Your tent, food, the whole kit and caboodle! It soon became a common sight throughout the dale, to see groups of hikers bedecked in brightly coloured cagoules trudging along, struggling under the weight of impossibly large rucksacks.  In latter years as the walk became increasingly popular, more accommodation sprung up along the route-negating the need to carry your lodgings upon your back. Though purists argue that that was all part of the authentic PW experience, alongside cooking on a primus stove and camping wild under the stars. A pretty picture. But the weather atop the mountainous ridge the pathway ran, often had ways of persuading even-the most ardent of purists to reconsider their options!

One of the first groups of hikers, roughly halfway along the newly opened trail, were relieved when finally, the welcome sight of Great Britain’s highest pub, the Tan Hill Inn, appeared from out of the swirling mist. That morning, they had set off from the Green Dragon at Hardraw in high spirits and brilliant sunshine, but it wasn’t long after re-joining the path at Hawes, that the sky darkened, and as they climbed higher into cloud a persistent rain began to pour. It was now late in the day and what poor visibility that they had was rapidly deteriorating. Nightfall had begun, cladding the moor, in a shroud of impenetrable gloomy murk. So, mustering final reserves of energy, they upped their pace and determinedly strode towards this beacon of hospitality shining bright in the darkness of a wild inhospitable land!

As they approached the boggy trail underfoot merged into a firmer gravely path that led them across a narrow tarmac road. Carefully negotiating it’s crumbling potholes, they clambered up a couple of uneven limestone slabs, hastily fashioned into-makeshift steps and stood before a solid white wooden studded door. The first hiker, a gangly youth sporting a wispy novice beard, keen to get under shelter, fumbled with the latch, until clacking upwards it lifted, and the sound of animated conversation and laughter drifted out into the damp night air. Leaning on the stiff door, it creaked open just enough for him to step into the porch, there he pushed the glass windowed inner door wide open and he and his weary companions piled in over the threshold and on to a well-scrubbed flagstone floor.

A merry throng of ruddy faced farmers were stood at the bar, while the landlady, a young attractive dark-haired woman, pulled pints of frothing ale for most of those gathered, though a couple of the more senior gentlemen amongst them were nursing small tumblers of whisky. They barely glanced at the group of walkers, because the craic from the dale had turned into a rather amusing and somewhat saucy tale and the punch line was imminent! Some puffed on pipes, whilst one drew excitedly upon a rather fine-looking cigar, while the teller of the tale balanced a thinly rolled cigarette in the corner of his mouth as he drew his stories threads towards its conclusion.

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At the far end of the bar a tall grey stone fireplace brought a warm dancing glow to the room, casting flickering shadows cavorting across its thick sturdy walls. From within this hearth blackened from centuries of use, a small blaze crackled and spat, sending a thin spiralling plume of smoke rapidly upwards into the depths of the chimney breast. At each spluttering outburst, delicate wispy tendrils of smoke were released to waft free of the grate, coiling around the stools and chair legs, and upwards out of the hearth to merge into the tobaccoey haze that already hung still and heavy in the low-ceilinged room.

It was at this moment the hikers entered, and on their tails, from out of nowhere, rode a gale. With both inner and outer doors open, this spritely breeze took its chance and followed the hikers inside whereupon it noisily circled the bar, blowing out candles, scattering newspapers and causing disarray. Howling like some phantasmic vacuum cleaner it sucked up the murky miasma in one gust, and as quickly as it had arrived, it departed, slamming both doors behind with a resounding crash. The bar was left in silence, but the atmosphere was now fresher and less heavy on the chest! One bright eyed farmer, slowly retrieving his flat cap from the floor gave the first hiker a stern look before exclaiming

…Waz tha born in a barn lad!?

The young hiker, dripping, sodden from the dank clinging mist, stood there awkwardly in the silence, not really knowing what to do next. but then the old boy tapped his squat clay pipe on the side of the bar and-emptying its burnt contents into an ashtray looked once again towards the young hiker, this time offering a friendly smile and refilling his pipe said…

Now git y’sen a pint young un, an gaa an’ sit by fire, yoo’lewk fair nithered an frozz t’ beyan! *

These early Pennine wayers having just completed the 16 ½ miles from Hawes in squally April weather, went no further that evening.  There was much more moor, before the next place of refuge. But that could wait until morning, tonight, fortunately they had booked ahead, and beds awaited them.

That was of course after a hearty meal and a most convivial evening of tall tales, laughter, song and perhaps a little too much ale in the warm friendly company of the good folk of the dales!

There can’t be many folks on the Pennine way that would walk past the Tan Hill inn without entering. Bearing in mind back then, there were limited amounts of watering holes enroute, particularly at higher elevations. To pass by without refreshing and replenishing would have been foolish.

 Fortunately, the vast majority of Pennine Wayers were and are still of the opinion that it would be extremely rude not to go in and quaff back a pint of ale or two (purely in the interests of rehydration of course!) In fact, most made sure that this was where they were going to set up tent for the evening or if they were lucky, sleep in one of the few rooms that were available back then.

Now, walking the Pennine Way is gruelling enough, but then there are always those who like to push the limits of sufferance and endurance to even higher levels. So, what do they do? Yes, unbelievably, they run it instead!  The sections they run can tend to differ to those that are walked, and our pub is not always a scheduled stop, and so, yes, they do actually run past the pub!  I know, how could they! 

There was once a bemused Shepherd who could not understand how folk could pass by such an iconic pub in such a lonely setting without stopping for a pint of local ale. So, he took it upon himself to sit beside a small cairn beyond the stile, northwards and yell out after those that did saying

Thaz not done Pennine way proper Y’know if thee’’s not bin in tan hill forra Pint

Whether he successfully got anyone to turn back or just scare them off we do not know. But over the years his words have resonated with walkers on the route and has perpetuated the myth that part of the route  actually enters the highest pub in Britain

 There are of course many pubs along the Pennine Ways 268-mile route that merit’ a-must visit status,’ All fine establishments, that are indeed a must purely because they are fine examples of great British pubs and perhaps their appearance en route coincides with your end of day on the trai

But there are three pubs on the route that you have to visit because Pennine way’ folklore’ dictates, you do, and if you don’t, then you haven’t really done the whole route

 

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The first is the Old Nags head in Edale, the starting point, where traditionally you should have a ‘ceremonial’ half a pint of ale before embarking upon your odyssey. 

The third ‘have to visit’ establishment and where your second half of that auspicious pint should be enjoyed, is on completion at the official finish in the bar of the Border hotel in Kirk Yetholm.  

And yes, the second of those three ‘have to visit’ watering holes along the trail is the ‘Tan Hill Inn. ‘Purist Pennine ‘wayers’ believe that the route-runs through the front door, right up to the bar before looping round the brass plaque inset into the flagstones,,,,, back out the front door, heading left towards to the stile that brings you back onto the moorland track north. Fortunately for us, it is far too much of a temptation for folk not to pass by without popping in for a pint and a bite to eat!

A certain Mr. Wainwright drank, ate and slept here on more than one occasion when writing his book on the Pennine way. So, some believe if that is what old ‘AW’ did and wrote about, then it’s literally ‘gospel’ and must be adhered to! Then again, there are those that say that you should visit every pub on, and close to the route for at least a couple of pints before continuing on your way, but that is perhaps not the wisest of advice to heed!

It goes without saying that you don’t have to come into the-bar of the highest and-one of the most iconic pubs in Great Britain to be considered a bonafide ‘completist of one of Great Britain’s longest walking trails, but I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t if you’re here. The thing is if you didn’t, by the time you crossed the border into Scotland and the end approaches it may have begun to niggle you a little that perhaps you should have. Everybody else you have met has and regards that little stroll up to the bar as a section of the route. So maybe you should’ve done it! If you haven’t, it’s probably best that you go back and do it. Not to appease a myth, but just to prevent any niggles that may linger and nag away at you throughout the rest of your life. Anyway, besides that, we would love to see you and here how your Pennine way experience went? and whether you have a cup of coffee or a pint of our finest ale, you will be more than welcome!

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Blog #2- July 4, 2024

I Owe You One!

(The One when our MP pops in for a coffee!)

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Today, while our American friends celebrate their Independence we here in the United Kingdom have been voting in a general election, which is not a cause of celebration for most!  The Tan Hill inn is though, the perfect place to be during all that electioneering hullabaloo and somewhere peaceful to ride out the storm until it all dies down. Anyway, because at the end of the day as they say

‘no matter who you vote for the government always get in!’

Where politics is concerned, the ‘Blog from the Top’ must act impartially and remain neutral. We can categorically confirm that we will never touch upon such a volatile topic of conversation and nor shall we do so today….

However, it is worth noting that the Tan Hill Inn, the highest pub in the land, sits just inside the constituency for the member of Parliament, who holds the highest office in the land. The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak. (Well at the time of writing anyway!)

Now understandably Mr. Sunak is an exceptionally busy man and a isolated little pub on the fringes of his constituency probably do not feature much in his thoughts. It is hardly the place to come to to pick up votes, let alone have a spin out for a pint on a lazy afternoon or perhaps… even a coffee!

No, Mr. Sunak has not been seen up here at all recently. Well it is a bit of a track from his constituency home and he’s not there very often either, so you are unlikely to come across the prime minister having a quiet pint beside the fire after a busy week in Westminster. In fact, I don’t think he’s been up here since his first visit in which he seemed  to be quite taken by the place …..

Which reminds me

… long ago on a dreary mid week morning in-2015 the newly appointed MP for the constituency of Richmond (Yorks) Rishi Sunak, along with one of his aids, arrived at the Tan Hill Inn. The pub was almost empty as it was still quite early but he took a seat at the table that has the wolf and whistle pub sign behind it. He made the mistake of enquiring why there was a pub sign with a ravenous wolf on it hanging on the wall. The only member of staff who was on duty at the time  had been tending the fire then launched into a well rehersed spiel about the film ‘ An American Werewolf in London and how this pub had became associated with the movie  as it was often mistaken for the pub in the film etcetera et cetera. Our newly elected MP sat there attentively listening while  sipping politely on whatever it was, we sold us coffee back then. and asked a few more questions about the pub and the area in general. He sat there a little longer before leaving the bar to go and freshen up. Whilst he was out of the room, his aid came up to the bar to pay for the coffees but the card that was offered to settle the tab was one we did not use at the time. He began to fumble in his pockets for stray coins. Mr Sunak came back into the room and warmed himself by the fireside, noticing his aid was struggling to find cash he came up to the bar and offered to pay himself but the bar-steward as a gesture of goodwill (or more than likely just wanted to get on with his jobs) graciously let him have the coffee on the house. The future Prime Minister thanked the bar steward and shook his hand and as he left through the door, he turned round once more and said, said ‘I owe you one!’

…. And I haven’t seen sight nor sound of him since but I haven’t Forgotten Rishi!

 

Blog #1 - July 3rd, 2024

The Blog on the Top of the Hill!

(The One when we tell you, that our Blog is a little different to the rest and well worth a read!)

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Introduction - What's it all About?

Welcome to our Blog from the Top, an informal conversational forum of commentary, stories and often (though not always intentionally) wry observations on everything and anything to do with Tan Hill’,

Covering many topics, your first glance, may find us eulogising over an amazing Thursday night ‘Acoustic Buskers session, or on another read, the blog could be all about the latest mouthwatering dish our head chef has lovingly prepared, or  yet another homage to our giant Yorkshire puddings. You’ll read blogs where we’ll be found extolling the virtues of a particular local beer, or in words of great reverence, waxing lyrical over the subtle nuances of a fine malt whisky.  However, outstanding live music, delicious meals, real ales and exquisite spirits, is not all we explore here, oh no!

For this blog is not just another forum to promote our product and peddle our wares, and it’s certainly not just about getting ‘bums on seats!’. … Well… of course it is…. a little bit,..  that’s what blogs do and we are a business after all,….But if you read regularly, you will come across some of our more beguiling and quirky posts. This is where we take more of a sideways glance at this lonely old pub on the moor, and begin to reveal that there is so much more to it than merely just a great place to eat, drink and be merry!

What do we mean…?

Well… more often than not this is the kind of blog that will whisk you off your feet and send you scurrying down a rabbit hole to goodness knows where,  as we pursue  an interesting story of old. Or you could find yourself hurtling down the space-time continuum, backwards through countless centuries to emerge into the murky swirling mists of the dark ages and the very earliest days of this old inn. Err…. well not literally, (we don’t have a time machine!) but using our blog as a stage fot what we already know, we can, with a pinch of wild conjecture speculate as to when that very first pint was served here!

Further through history and back to the future we’ll explore the turbulent times the pub has weathered and perhaps ponder on the question of how on earth this pub survived into the 21st century, while so many like it have long since disappeared

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We could tell you of the interesting, eccentric, larger than life characters that have run this Pub, and those who have worked here, the many celebrities who have visited and of course the dry witted good folk of the Dales who have frequented these premises for many centuries and still do.

We’ll share other people’s stories of what the pub means to them, relate gritty tales of endurance and determination on the Pennine Way, and relive amusing recollections of eventful nights of long ago!

In hushed tones, we will speak of our more ethereal residents that are believed to flit between the darker shadows and dimly lit back corridors of this creaking old building. We will delve into the rich folklore of the encircling moors, the scary tall stories of lonely silent figures on the trail, creatures of the mist, and when the moon is full, we will once more revisit the legend of the Tan Hill werewolf!

But as much as we like a creepy yarn, it’s not all about ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night. Of course not.! We’ve got tales of tenacity and fortitude in extreme weather conditions too. Our blizzarding blogs are chilling enough without bringing the supernatural into it.

Not that long ago, we were snowed in with an Oasis tribute act and over 60 of their fans for four nights…. And trust me, when you are ‘going nowhere’ and the snow is banking up the side of the pub., there’s only so many times you can listen to ‘wonderwall’ before it drives you to ‘cigarettes and alcohol ’and you begin to-wish you really were ‘half a world away’.  ‘Whatever’, it is just a memory now, but one that wont quickly ‘fade away’ and one I certainly ‘don’t look back in anger’ on!  ….

Anyway, I digress and appear to have gone off on a tangent, which this blog can do on occasion. Conversations like paths and trails can continue ahead and split, weaving into all sorts of different directions until we don’t know where the topic is going or which path to pursue, so we just have to trust our feet and see where they might lead us to!

The Tan Hill Inn is owned and staffed by a hard-working team who are immensely passionate and proud of their pub and will shout it from the highest rafters for all to hear. Fiercely independent, that robust singularity, an essential aspect of the pubs character is very much reflected in how this blog is voiced! so if we seem to be a little over effusive or even a tad irreverent from time to time,… just put it down to the altitude!

But honestly above all, we want you to find our blogs informative, interesting, amusing and hopefully readable. Our wish is that they will encourage you to come and see the beautiful area that we are set amidst. We will tell you of the stunning walks you should take and the places you should visit and of activities you can go on. We will introduce you to the moorland birds you may see. Oh, and we could write many a blog on lying amongst the heather, gazing up at a myriad of stars twinkling across the Milky Way and if the aurora decides to dance amongst them…well that is just magical!

 Basically we just want you to fall in love with this land as much as we do and if this somewhat ‘enthusiastic’ blog gets you to visit this remarkable old pub for a couple of pints and a bite to eat….well whats the harm in that? we’ve got to make an honest living somehow!

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Established 1840.

The World Famous Tan Hill Inn is Britain’s highest public house at 1,732 feet (528m) above sea level.

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