WHEN the going gets tough on a long walk, there’s nothing nicer than discovering a welcoming watering hole, says Tim Wellock

The Northern Echo:

TACKLING the 192-mile Coast-to-Coast walk would be unthinkable for most ordinary mortals without the promise of rest, recuperation and refreshment stops.

Sure, we devoured packed lunches on a grassy bank, a crumbling stone wall overlooking Haweswater, and even in a sink hole to shelter from the gale in the limestone country near Shap But the greatest joy, not to say relief, was in stumbling on places like the Poets Cafe Bar at the Lancrigg Hotel outside Grasmere. Even though we resembled drowned rats, they were happy for us to ensconce ourselves, still wearing boots, in the soothing warmth of the cosy bar with a pot of tea and cakes.

We found it only because it was 200 yards from our overnight accommodation at Thorney How, where we arrived too early to gain admittance. Otherwise this former youth hostel was another splendid find.

While Lancrigg was all the more enjoyable for being unscheduled, one pit stop was definitely planned, being unmissable both by virtue of being bang en route and too quaint to resist. Little wonder that walkers make special pilgrimages to Black Sail youth hostel, either to sleep in one of the two bunk rooms (male and female) or take advantage of the kitchen/dining area. Being just past halfway on the second leg of the coast-to-coast at the top of Ennerdale, it provided the perfect lunch stop for us. Although the cloud was low, blotting out High Stile and Haystacks above the hostel and Pillar on the other side of the valley, it could not detract from the blissfully peaceful setting.

Pit stops east of the Pennines were generally on our “possibles” list, which was just as well as, being October, most were closed. This was disappointing in the case of Ravenseat Farm in the wilds at the top of Swaledale after we had slogged through the peat bogs in a near-hurricane on Hartley Fell. There was a board advertising cream teas prominently displayed on the approach road, but farmer's wife Amanda was unable to offer us a cuppa. Known as the Shepherdess following her television appearances, she is a busy lady as in addition to her sheep she has a flock of nine children.

Another board which whetted our tastebuds to no avail was just before the dreaded crossing of the A19. It advertised Rounton Coffee Roasters' cafe at the old Joiner's Shop in Ingleby Cross, offering delights which will have to be sampled another day after checking that it will be open.

In contrast, when we happened upon Elaine's Country Kitchen on a farm between Reeth and Marske, Elaine bustled out to greet us as we approached, then sat to chat while we partook of beverages and scones. She had done the coast-to-coast herself, in 12 days compared with our 13, and told us she often sees people running it, including one who went by at 1am. She had also had a visit a week earlier from former England cricket captain Graham Gooch, doing the walk with three pals.

The shop and cafe on the beach near the starting point at St Bees is always open, as is Lord Stones Cafe, once a favourite haunt of motor-cyclists. This proved a surprisingly large and well-appointed bolthole tucked away at Carlton Bank Top on the edge of the North York Moors. It provided welcome respite from another very strong wind.

For most, the really important fuelling stops on the coast-to-coast will be the pubs, and perceptions of their excellence are bound to be influenced by the level of relief they provide after a hard day's walking. We were impressed by the homeliness of the community-run Fox and Hounds at the end of the first leg at Ennerdale Bridge, and the general feelgood factor at Grasmere's Tweedies Bar, where we couldn't fault our choice of Hawkshead Bitter from the dozen real ales.

Having opted to stay in Glenridding rather than Patterdale at the head of Ullswater, we also dragged our weary limbs to the cosy Traveller's Rest before dining at the Rambler's Bar at the Inn on the Lake. The name was misleading as it's more of a modern restaurant, but the food was the best of our five nights in the Lakes, marginally ahead of that at the Langstrath Country Inn.

We spent the night in this Stonethwaite pub at the top of Borrowdale and rated it highly on all fronts. We would also have stayed at the outstanding Lion Inn on the North York Moors had we possessed the foresight to book well in advance. We had also added a mile to Alfred Wainwright's official route so we could finish our longest (25-mile) day at Osmotherley's candle-lit Golden Lion, which proved a wonderfully soothing lioness ahead of the real king of the swingers on Blakey Ridge.

The Lion Inn is a sturdy pub of solid stone throughout its various cosy bars and, despite standing alone in the back of beyond it is apparently always busy. The coast-to-coast either side of it is a slog, the approach being five miles along the trackbed of the old Rosedale Ironstone Railway, while the getaway is two miles along moorland roads.

Blessed with good weather, the views down Farndale are doubtless lovely, but we did not have that advantage and were supremely grateful to flop into the pub at 4.30 on a Saturday. No late afternoon lull here: the place was buzzing and as we settled to our Timothy Taylor's Boltmaker, it wasn't difficult to see why.

We heard good reports of the refurbished Greyhound at Shap, but after our 20 miles from Glenridding we were not inclined to walk the extra mile to the southern end of the village from the Hermitage. A house dating from 1691, this bed and breakfast provided the highlight of our accommodation. There may be little other reason to stay in Shap, but if you ever attempt the coast-to-coast, be sure to book in there.