You know those inns in fantasy novels? The ones with a blazing fire, where travellers discuss their journeys and their lives? Most pubs I’ve visited don’t come close. The only place I’ve had that experience is the Tan Hill Inn, the highest pub in the UK.
The Tan Hill is a decent walk or drive from the nearest town, and famed for being isolated. It has its own snowplough and generator; in March 2013, visitors were stuck there for five days. The pub has survived for centuries as a refuge and is a well-placed stop on the Pennine Way.
Before going, my mental image of the place was the Slaughtered Lamb in the movie American Werewolf in London. Indeed it had been used in a Vodafone advert, with the pub sign from this standing in the corner of the bar. We arrived to a blazing fire, which someone told me was kept going at all times.
In the dining room that night, people gathered. As people played music next door, we talked about about our journeys, what we’d seen and plans for future walks. A couple, a man from Essex woman and his fiancee from Riga, had dropped by and ended up deciding to hold their wedding at the pub. The talk went between tables, as did the dogs. We discussed walking the Pennine Way North to South, running out of water in the Cheviots, and hiking injuries.
In the bedroom was a book called The Ascent of Everest. It seemed appropriate for an Inn with so many hikers. But, flicking through the book I found it was about a different Everest to the one I expected.
Sunset was beautiful – from the window of my room I could see only a couple of lights. Indeed, on the next day’s hike, it was most of the day before the ridge where the pub sits dropped out of sight.
For me, one of the best points in hiking is the brief conversations with other travellers – where are they from, where did they set out from, what have they seen on their way. As we get further north on the Pennine way, accommodation becomes rarer, and the hikers cluster more. There’s something fantastic about drinking a pint with people you’d never meet anywhere other than the country’s highest pub.