Food and lodging
Prices have gone up since we made this trip in 1994, but pubs remain a great bargain when compared to hotels. Our accommodations didn’t always include a private bath but came with a full English breakfast that provided plenty of fuel for a good morning of hiking. Pub lunches, accompanied by a well-earned beer, were equally satisfying and a good bargain. Forget all you’ve heard about how bad English pub food is⎯that began to change more than 10 years ago. The meals we had were always solid and sometimes outstanding. We split our dinners between pubs and restaurants.
Finding your way
Ordnance Survey maps are scaled 1-1/4 inches to 1 mile. These topographic maps list all public right-of-ways, and note whether they are roads, footpaths or bridleways. They show landmarks such as footbridges, phone booths, lighthouses, radio towers and picnic tables. They tell you if a town has a pub, a hotel or a caravan park. They even point out ancient tumuli, historic buildings and Roman castles.
Most important, these maps reassure you that a walking tour is manageable. If there isn’t a town over the next rise, there will be a farm. Main roads are never far. We could have planned to walk farther each day, but always left ourselves time to get sidetracked (or even lost). As a result, we were able to explore each new town after we found our bed for the night.
The British Travel Bookshop sells books on Britain as well as Ordnance Survey and other maps (551 Fifth Ave., 7th Floor, New York, NY 10176; phone 212-490-6688 New York, 800-448-3039 elsewhere).
Because we intended to stay in small pubs that usually have only one family room, we made reservations. We simply wrote letters, and the publicans wrote back. In one case, we phoned. A friend of ours who visited Ireland found many hotels had fax machines, so he faxed his reservations. A growing number of pubs take bookings via the Internet. We made our choices based on descriptions in CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide and The Good Pub Guide, written by Alisdair Aird. Tour books list other accommodations, and larger towns such Lyme Regis have a variety of small hotels and guest houses. These are a little more expensive to stay in and often are booked in advance in the summer by Britons on holiday.
We used our backpacks as second pieces of luggage when we flew to London, then jammed them full of essentials for our trip to the country. Our London hotel stored our other luggage for the week for about $20. Hiking boots are essential, as is rain gear. Although we had lovely weather throughout, long pants are a must. Otherwise, high grass, thorns and thistles will take their toll on your legs. Also recommended: insect repellent, a compass, gloves (for barbed wire fences), hats, sun block, Band-Aids, Swiss Army knife, and water bottles or canteens.
Stan Hieronymus and Daria Labinsky are authors of The Beer Lover's Guide to the USA (St. Martin's Griffin).