The number 73/73A Caldbeck Rambler starts and finishes in Carlisle but in between it completes a number of circuits in both directions around Skiddaw and Blencathra. It’s therefore ideal for anyone who wants to walk the northern fells without having to make a circular walk of it but also has the great advantage of stopping close by several excellent rural pubs.
The service connects in Keswick with the 555 bus from Windermere and Ambleside, and its also possible to connect with X4/X5 bus between Penrith and Workington in Keswick, Threlkeld or the Castle Inn. A one day Stagecoach in Cumbria Explorer ticket giving unlimited travel on Stagecoach buses costs £7 for an adult or £14 for a family.
The first bus leaves Carlisle at 8am, arriving Caldbeck 08.32 and reaches Keswick at 09.19. A bit early for sampling any pubs en route but time for a walk first. The last bus leaves Keswick at 16.00, via Bassenthwaite village, calling at Caldbeck at 16.48 and arriving back in Carlisle at 17.20. The bus will also drop off or pick up passengers anywhere on the route where it is safe to stop.
Travelling in a clockwise direction from Keswick, the bus detours into Applethwaite village (a starting point for walks up Skiddaw – Ullock Pike is my favourite route), passes Mirehouse, a historic house and garden with walks down to Bassenthwaite Lake (known affectionately as Bass Lake). Close to the bus stop is the Dodd Wood car park and osprey view point. The bus turns off the main road into Bassenthwaite village, where the Sun Inn has wheelchair access and sells a good range of Jennings beers. The Castle Inn, just by the turning to Ireby, no longer sells real ale. The bus route now takes us to Uldale, where the Snooty Fox usually sells Black Sheep, Theakston’s Best Bitter and ‘Uld’Ale’ which is brewed by Hesket Newmarket. The building, a pub since the 1860s was originally the George and Dragon.
The village of Ireby, once a market town of some importance, is fortunate to have two pubs: the Sun, a comfortable traditional inn once owned by John Peel’s grandfather, sells Jennings Bitter sells food and has a roaring woodburning stove in winter. The Lion was originally the Black Lion; beers are usually from Hesket Newmarket and Derwent. The bus continues round to Caldbeck, home of John Peel and a hive of industrial activity in the 17th and 18th centuries with a number of mills. The Priest’s Mill has a number of craft workshops; a popular walk passes by the village pond and follows the river up the Howk, a limestone gorge with waterfalls and ruined mill buildings. The Oddfellows Arms sells bar meals and serves Jennings beers.
Hesket Newmarket is the home of the eponymous brewery (featured on page 20) and the Old Crown, regional CAMRA Pub of the Year in 2001, which sells only Hesket Newmarket beers. The bus carries on through back o’ Skiddaw country, by narrow lanes and alongside the river Caldew to Mosedale and Mungrisdale where the picturesquely sited Mill Inn sells Jennings, Black Sheep and a guest beer. The village is on the C2C cycle route. From the inn there are walks up Bowscale Fell and Bannerdale Crags; the church of St Kentigern dates back to 1756. Back on the A66, and heading west, the bus passes the White Horse at Scales (Black Sheep, Jennings Bitter) and stops in Threlkeld. The Horse and Farrier is a Jennings house, and the Salutation across the road sells Theakstons, Courage Directors, Black Sheep and a guest beer. Scales and Threlkeld are popular starting points for walks up Blencathra. The number 73/73A is the only bus to the Castlerigg stone circle, which sits in a most picturesque setting. From Castlerigg there is an easy walk back into Keswick, where there is a choice of thirteen real ale pubs, including our Pub of the Season, the Dog and Gun.
The 73 bus runs all year round on Saturday, also on Sundays and bank holidays from the end of May to the end of August, and daily during the school summer holidays – check Traveline 0870 608 2 608 for latest details.