Around Britain: Bellingham

In the Tontine, Peebles, we slept well, though the pillows were too soft. The toiletries provided were rather nice bee potions and lotions, after which we went for a morning stroll by the Tweed, and tried to find a squidgy camping pillow.  Such a thing was not to be found, but I kept with my personal souvenir tradtions and  bought a copper necklace instead. I was struck by the names callants and Gutterbluids, which I had to research later. Callants is a Scottish term for a youth, and there are local Callant associations. Gutterbluid is a term to describe a native of Peebles.
We had breakfast in the Coultham deli – woodland mushrooms on toast, and a poached duck egg with black pudding and pancetta. Gorgeous goodies were available to buy, and I chose some amaretti and pistachietti for later. There was a sickly and overpowering scent from the woman at the next table, who then kept coming closer to us to select a drink from the chill cabinet, and to stand up and complain about some foreign body in her tea. There ought to be a law….

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We bought some cards, a Tweed manbag, Loch Lomond whiskey, and some Peebles pepperies. I enjoyed a ginger ice cream before we set off for Jedburgh. The countryside was beautiful rolling and green, though we encountered a few roadworks along the way. We parked right beside the very substantial remains of the abbey, but our National trust cards wouldn’t cover the £5.50 entrance fee, so we did aimless wandering instead, around the steep streets and little alleyways, closes and wynds. It started to rain, and I bought a puffy gilet before we visited Mary Queen of Scots House, which was free! As was the parking, and wifi throughout the town – they are obviously keen to attract visitors.

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We crossed the border at Carter Bar, and tried to remember when we’d been here before, from the other direction. I always get confused as the border doesn’t run from east to west, so that parts of England can still be north of you. I noticed each town had different coloured bunting – red and blue in Jedburgh, blue and white in Inner?, and red and black somewhere else. Is it a sporting thing?

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We arrived low on fuel at the Cheviot Hotel, Bellingham (not Hexham, Roger, and yes it does matter.) A lovely little village with a quirky hotel, we had a walk around before settling down with the NT book, maps and satnav to see what might be possible over the next few days. Dinner was sea bass with a pea and tomato risotto – individually quite nice, but I didn’t feel it worked as a whole. But the local cheeses afterwards were marvellous.

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The Hotel’s breakfasts are rightly famous and fabulous – fresh fruit and yoghurt with granola, followed by a mountain of smoked salmon and scrambled egg. I managed to pile some salmon into a croissant, and keep that for lunch – Roger did something similar with a sausage and toast. A quick call into Just for Ewe, for darning needles – great little wool and craft shop!

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And off we set to find Hadrians Wall. Last time we’d tried to do this we’d been on the bike, the weather had been awful, and I learned that I’d have to both walk some distance, AND pay for the privilege – not something I wanted to do in damp bike gear and heavy boots. This time we were warm and dry in the car, had plenty of time to spare, had decent shoes on, and our NT membership gave us access to Houseteads Fort. We paused en route to admire Broccolitia Temple, though the access to the Temple to Mithras itself wasn’t very clear. Rog threw his leg over a barbed wire fence, while I braved some recumbent cows.

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We dutifully paid our £4 parking fee, as that gave us the option to park at a number of other Wall sites around, and left an offering to Mithras as well. Fabulous vistas and lots of walkers.

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Housesteads itself was fascinating – a nicely done visitors centre, reached by a steep climb, lots of goodies in the gift shop, though I resisted the mead and the ginger curd, and I was delighted to finally see a chunky bit of yer actual wall! I loved pottering among the substantial remnants of the fort itself, admiring the sheep (they’re ewes to me by now). We enjoyed our picnic lunch, and decided to spend the Afternoon in Hexham.

We found a space right by the Abbey, and got a car parking disk from the shop, which specialised in many Beatrix Potter items, so I got a few Jemima Puddleduck things for my daughter’s impending 21st birthday.

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The church was wonderfully welcoming – a friendly chap in a wheelchair handed out guide leaflets, while a transvestite showed us the crypt. I loved the many little chapels, the new stained glass window, and a well worn staircase.

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We dandered around the cobbled streets, found camping accessories including the essential pillow in Millets, and relaxed in the Wetherspoons near the jail, which was a converted cinema retaining a very art deco feel and decor.

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I’d been planning to have a week off running, but when I discovered that there was a little carved wooden bridge nearby, the next morning I ran. Over lots of lovely wooden bridges, criss-crossing a river with waterfalls dotted along it, and some uneven stone slabs, which slowed me down a bit. So I didn’t get right to the top where bridge #7 is elaborately carved, which means  I’ll have to go back again some time.

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