Big countryside this, long valleys and high rounded hills with an emptiness that I don’t usually associate with the UK. Some sheep farming and the rest forestry, which looks pretty unattractive when half the valley has been stripped. Straight roads and some impressive corkscrews, for the delight of motorbikers. Note the bikers shivering in Hawick though, they unlike me in a hired Corsa, were getting everything from the weather: sunshine, hail, sleet and just grey.
Hermitage Castle - “Guardhouse of the bloodiest valley in Britain” - was a particular interest to see as it was the northern stronghold of the Dacre family of Cumberland in the fourteenth century. This was the time of the Reivers: robbers and bandits preying in “The Debatable Lands” north of Carlisle. So Hermitage Castle - and its bloody battles - are the part of the medieval history of Cumberland and so, Cumbria. Hermitage Castle keep is an impressive building and a novel design with two large arches. The shell of the building survives, meaning although it changed hands many times, it was never sacked. The location is tactical too, it commands a bend of the river named Hermitage Water, just above the small town of Newcastleton. Maybe it’s a bit fanciful as there’s not a direct metaphor but the fells stripped of trees is reminiscent of the bloody battles of this area of the past.