Robert Naylor.

From John O'Groats to Land's End online

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[Transcribers note: Authors 'R.N and J.N.' are Robert Naylor and John Naylor.]

[Illustration: Mr. Robert Naylor FROM A PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN DURING HIS









When Time, who steals our hours away.
Shall steal our pleasures too;
The memory of the past shall stay
And half our joys renew.

As I grow older my thoughts often revert to the past, and like the old
Persian poet, Khosros, when he walked by the churchyard and thought how
many of his friends were numbered with the dead, I am often tempted to
exclaim: "The friends of my youth! where are they?" but there is only
the mocking echo to answer, as if from a far-distant land, "Where are

"One generation passeth away; and another generation cometh," and
enormous changes have taken place in this country during the past
seventy years, which one can only realise by looking back and comparing
the past with the present.

The railways then were gradually replacing the stage-coaches, of which
the people then living had many stories to tell, and the roads which
formerly had mostly been paved with cobble or other stones were being
macadamised; the brooks which ran across the surface of the roads were
being covered with bridges; toll-gates still barred the highways, and
stories of highway robbers were still largely in circulation, those
about Dick Turpin, whose wonderful mare "Black Bess" could jump over the
turnpike gates, being the most prominent, while Robin Hood and Little
John still retained a place in the minds of the people as former heroes
of the roads and forests.

Primitive methods were still being employed in agriculture. Crops were
cut with scythe and sickle, while old scythe-blades fastened at one end
of a wooden bench did duty to cut turnips in slices to feed the cattle,
and farm work generally was largely done by hand.

At harvest time the farmers depended on the services of large numbers of
men who came over from Ireland by boat, landing at Liverpool, whence
they walked across the country in gangs of twenty or more, their first
stage being Warrington, where they stayed a night at Friar's Green, at
that time the Irish quarter of the town. Some of them walked as far as
Lincolnshire, a great corn-growing county, many of them preferring to
walk bare-footed, with their shoes slung across their shoulders. Good
and steady walkers they were too, with a military step and a
four-mile-per-hour record.

The village churches were mostly of the same form in structure and
service as at the conclusion of the Civil War. The old oak pews were
still in use, as were the galleries and the old "three-decker" pulpits,
with sounding-boards overhead. The parish clerk occupied the lower deck
and gave out the hymns therefrom, as well as other notices of a
character not now announced in church. The minister read the lessons and
prayers, in a white surplice, from the second deck, and then, while a
hymn was being sung, he retired to the vestry, from which he again
emerged, attired in a black gown, to preach the sermon from the upper

The church choir was composed of both sexes, but not surpliced, and, if
there was no organ, bassoons, violins, and other instruments of music
supported the singers.

The churches generally were well filled with worshippers, for it was
within a measurable distance from the time when all parishioners were
compelled to attend church. The names of the farms or owners appeared on
the pew doors, while inferior seats, called free seats, were reserved
for the poor. Pews could be bought and sold, and often changed hands;
but the squire had a large pew railed on from the rest, and raised a
little higher than the others, which enabled him to see if all his
tenants were in their appointed places.

The village inns were generally under the shadow of the church steeple,
and, like the churches, were well attended, reminding one of Daniel
Defoe, the clever author of that wonderful book _Robinson Crusoe_, for
he wrote:

Wherever God erects a house of prayer,
The Devil always builds a chapel there;
And 'twill be found upon examination,
The Devil has the largest congregation.

The church services were held morning and afternoon, evening service
being then almost unknown in country places; and between the services
the churchwardens and other officials of the church often adjourned to
the inn to hear the news and to smoke tobacco in long clay pipes named
after them "churchwarden pipes"; many of the company who came from long
distances remained eating and drinking until the time came for afternoon
service, generally held at three o'clock.

The landlords of the inns were men of light and leading, and were
specially selected by the magistrates for the difficult and responsible
positions they had to fill; and as many of them had acted as stewards
or butlers - at the great houses of the neighbourhood, and perhaps had
married the cook or the housekeeper, and as each inn was required by law
to provide at least one spare bedroom, travellers could rely upon being
comfortably housed and well victualled, for each landlord brewed his own
beer and tried to vie with his rival as to which should brew the best.

Education was becoming more appreciated by the poorer people, although
few of them could even write their own names; but when their children
could do so, they thought them wonderfully clever, and educated
sufficiently to carry them through life. Many of them were taken away
from school and sent to work when only ten or eleven years of age!

Books were both scarce and dear, the family Bible being, of course, the
principal one. Scarcely a home throughout the land but possessed one of
these family heirlooms, on whose fly-leaf were recorded the births and
deaths of the family sometimes for several successive generations, as it
was no uncommon occurrence for occupiers of houses to be the descendants
of people of the same name who had lived in them for hundreds of years,
and that fact accounted for traditions being handed down from one
generation to another.

Where there was a village library, the books were chiefly of a religious
character; but books of travel and adventure, both by land and sea, were
also much in evidence, and _Robinson Crusoe, Captain Cook's Three
Voyages round the World_, and the _Adventures of Mungo Park in Africa_
were often read by young people. The story of Dick Whittington was
another ideal, and one could well understand the village boys who lived
near the great road routes, when they saw the well-appointed coaches
passing on their way up to London, being filled with a desire to see
that great city, whose streets the immortal Dick had pictured to himself
as being paved with gold, and to wish to emulate his wanderings, and
especially when there was a possibility of becoming the lord mayor.

The bulk of the travelling in the country was done on foot or horseback,
as the light-wheeled vehicles so common in later times had not yet come
into vogue. The roads were still far from safe, and many tragedies were
enacted in lonely places, and in cases of murder the culprit, when
caught, was often hanged or gibbeted near the spot where the crime was
committed, and many gallows trees were still to be seen on the sides of
the highways on which murderers had met with their well-deserved fate.
No smart service of police existed; the parish constables were often
farmers or men engaged in other occupations, and as telegraphy was
practically unknown, the offenders often escaped.

The Duke of Wellington and many of his heroes were still living, and
the tales of fathers and grandfathers were chiefly of a warlike nature;
many of them related to the Peninsula War and Waterloo, as well as
Trafalgar, and boys were thus inspired with a warlike and adventurous
spirit and a desire to see the wonders beyond the seas.

It was in conditions such as these that the writer first lived and moved
and had his being, and his early aspirations were to walk to London, and
to go to sea; but it was many years before his boyish aspirations were
realised. They came at length, however, but not exactly in the form he
had anticipated, for in 1862 he sailed from Liverpool to London, and in
1870 he took the opportunity of walking back from London to Lancashire
in company with his brother. We walked by a circuitous route, commencing
in an easterly direction, and after being on the road for a fortnight,
or twelve walking days, as we did not walk on Sundays, we covered the
distance of 306 miles at an average of twenty-five miles per day.

We had many adventures, pleasant and otherwise, on that journey, but on
the whole we were so delighted with our walk that, when, in the
following year, the question arose. "Where shall we walk this year?" we
unanimously decided to walk from John o' Groat's to Land's End, or, as
my brother described it, "from the top of the map to the bottom."

It was a big undertaking, especially as we had resolved not to journey
by the shortest route, but to walk from one great object of interest to
another, and to see and learn as much as possible of the country we
passed through on our way. We were to walk the whole of the distance
between the north-eastern extremity of Scotland and the south-western
extremity of England, and not to cross a ferry or accept or take a ride
in any kind of conveyance whatever. We were also to abstain from all
intoxicating drink, not to smoke cigars or tobacco, and to walk so that
at the end of the journey we should have maintained an average of
twenty-five miles per day, except Sunday, on which day we were to attend
two religious services, as followers of and believers in Sir Matthew
Hale's Golden Maxim:

A Sabbath well spent brings a week of content
And Health for the toils of to-morrow;
But a Sabbath profaned, WHATE'ER MAY BE GAINED.
Is a certain forerunner of Sorrow.

With the experience gained in our walk the previous year, we decided to
reduce our equipment to the lowest possible limit, as every ounce had to
be carried personally, and it became a question not of how much luggage
we should take, but of how little; even maps were voted off as
encumbrances, and in place of these we resolved to rely upon our own
judgment, and the result of local inquiries, as we travelled from one
great object of interest to another, but as these were often widely
apart, as might be supposed, our route developed into one of a somewhat
haphazard and zigzag character, and very far from the straight line.

We each purchased a strong, black leather handbag, which could either be
carried by hand or suspended over the shoulder at the end of a stick,
and in these we packed our personal and general luggage; in addition we
carried a set of overalls, including leggings, and armed ourselves with
stout oaken sticks, or cudgels, specially selected by our local fencing
master. They were heavily ferruled by the village blacksmith, for,
although we were men of peace, we thought it advisable to provide
against what were known as single-stick encounters, which were then by
no means uncommon, and as curved handles would have been unsuitable in
the event of our having to use them either for defensive or offensive
purposes, ours were selected with naturally formed knobs at the upper

Then there were our boots, which of course were a matter of the first
importance, as they had to stand the strain and wear and tear of a long
journey, and must be easy fitting and comfortable, with thick soles to
protect our feet from the loose stones which were so plentiful on the
roads, and made so that they could be laced tightly to keep out the
water either when raining or when lying in pools on the roads, for there
were no steam-rollers on the roads in those days.

In buying our boots we did not both adopt the same plan. I made a
special journey to Manchester, and bought the strongest and most
expensive I could find there; while my brother gave his order to an old
cobbler, a particular friend of his, and a man of great experience, who
knew when he had hold of a good piece of leather, and to whom he had
explained his requirements. These boots were not nearly so smart looking
as mine and did not cost as much money, but when I went with him for the
boots, and heard the old gentleman say that he had fastened a piece of
leather on his last so as to provide a corresponding hole inside the
boot to receive the ball of the foot, I knew that my brother would have
more room for his feet to expand in his boots than I had in mine. We
were often asked afterwards, by people who did not walk much, how many
pairs of boots we had worn out during our long journey, and when we
replied only one each, they seemed rather incredulous until we explained
that it was the soles that wore out first, but I had to confess that my
boots were being soled the second time when my brother's were only being
soled the first time, and that I wore three soles out against his two.
Of course both pairs of boots were quite done at the conclusion of our

Changes of clothing we were obliged to have sent on to us to some
railway station, to be afterwards arranged, and soiled clothes were to
be returned in the same box. This seemed a very simple arrangement, but
it did not work satisfactorily, as railways were few and there was no
parcel-post in those days, and then we were always so far from our base
that we were obliged to fix ourselves to call at places we did not
particularly want to see and to miss others that we would much rather
have visited. Another objection was that we nearly always arrived at
these stations at inconvenient times for changing suits of clothes, and
as we were obliged to do this quickly, as we had no time to make a long
stay, we had to resort to some amusing devices.

We ought to have begun our journey much earlier in the year. One thing
after another, however, prevented us making a start, and it was not
until the close of some festivities on the evening of September 6th,
1871, that we were able to bid farewell to "Home, sweet home" and to
journey through what was to us an unknown country, and without any
definite idea of the distance we were about to travel or the length of
time we should be away.


Sept. 7. Warrington to Glasgow by train - Arrived too late to catch
the boat on the Caledonian Canal for Iverness - Trained to Aberdeen.

Sept. 8. A day in the "Granite City" - Boarded the s.s. _St. Magnus_
intending to land at Wick - Decided to remain on board.

Sept. 9. Landed for a short time at Kirkwall in the Orkney
Islands - During the night encountered a storm in the North Sea.

Sept. 10. _(Sunday)_. Arrived at Lerwick in the Shetland Islands at 2

Sept. 11. Visited Bressay Island and the Holm of Noss - Returned to
_St. Magnus_ at night.

Sept. 12. Landed again at Kirkwall - Explored Cathedral - Walked across
the Mainland of the Orkneys to Stromness, visiting the underground
house at Maeshowe and the Standing Stones at Stenness on our way.

Sept. 13. Visited the Quarries where Hugh Miller made his wonderful
geological researches - Explored coast scenery, including the Black

Sept. 14. Crossed the Pentland Firth in a sloop - Unfavourable wind
prevented us sailing past the Old Man of Hoy, so went by way of Lang
Hope and Scrabster Roads, passing Dunnet Head on our way to Thurso,
where we landed and stopped for the night.

Sept. 15. Travelled six miles by the Wick coach and walked the
remaining fifteen miles to John o' Groat's - Lodged at the "Huna Inn."

Sept. 16. Gathered some wonderful shells on the beach and explored
coast scenery at Duncansbay.

Sept. 17. _(Sunday)_. Visited a distant kirk with the landlord and
his wife and listened to a wonderful sermon.


¶ Indicates the day's journey. ¶¶ Indicates where Sunday was spent.

FIRST WEEK'S JOURNEY - Sept. 18 to 24.

"Huna Inn" - Canisbay - Bucholie Castle - Keiss - Girnigoe - Sinclair - Noss
Head - Wick - or ¶ Wick Harbour - Mid Clyth - Lybster - Dunbeath ¶
Berriedale - Braemore - Maidens Paps Mountain - Lord Galloway's
Hunting-box - Ord of Caithness - Helmsdale ¶ Loth - Brora - Dunrobin
Castle - Golspie ¶ The Mound - Loch Buidhee - Bonar Bridge - Dornoch
Firth - Half-way House [Aultnamain Inn] ¶ Novar - Cromarty
Firth - Dingwall - Muir of Ord - Beauly - Bogroy Inn - Inverness ¶¶ pp.

SECOND WEEK'S JOURNEY - Sept. 25 to Oct. 1.

Tomnahurich - Loch Ness - Caledonian Canal - Drumnadrochit ¶ Urquhart
Castle - Invermoriston - Glenmoriston - Fort Augustus - Invergarry ¶
Glengarry - Well of the Heads - Loggan Bridge - Loch Lochy - Spean
Bridge - Fort William ¶ Inverlochy Castle - Ben Nevis - Fort William ¶
Loch Linnhe - Loch Leven - Devil's Stair - Pass of Glencoe - Clachaig Inn
¶ Glencoe Village - Ballachulish - Kingshouse - Inveroran - Loch
Tulla - Bridge of Orchy - Glen Orchy ¶ Dalmally ¶¶ pp. 77-111

THIRD WEEK'S JOURNEY - Oct. 2 to Oct. 8.

Loch Awe - Cruachan Mountain - Glen Aray - Inverary
Castle - Inverary - Loch Fyne - Cairndow Inn ¶ Glen Kinglas - Loch
Restil - Rest and be Thankful - Glen Croe - Ben Arthur - Loch
Long - Arrochar - Tarbet - Loch Lomond - Luss - Helensburgh ¶ The
Clyde - Dumbarton - Renton - Alexandria - Balloch - Kilmaronock - Drymen ¶
Buchlyvie - Kippen - Gargunnock - Windings of the Forth - Stirling ¶
Wallace Monument - Cambuskenneth - St.
Ninians - Bannockburn - Carron - Falkirk ¶
Laurieston - Polmont - Linlithgow - Edinburgh ¶¶ pp. 112-157

FOURTH WEEK'S JOURNEY - Oct. 9 to Oct. 15.

Craigmillar - Rosslyn - Glencorse - Penicuik - Edleston - Cringletie - Peebles
¶ River Tweed - Horsburgh - Innerleithen - Traquair - Elibank
Castle - Galashiels - Abbotsford - Melrose - Lilliesleaf ¶ Teviot
Dale - Hassendean - Minto - Hawick - Goldielands Tower - Branxholm
Tower - Teviothead - Caerlanrig - Mosspaul Inn - Langholm - Gilnockie
Tower - Canonbie Colliery ¶ River Esk - "Cross Keys Inn" - Scotch
Dyke - Longtown ¶ Solway Moss - River Sark - Springfield - Gretna
Green - Todhills - Kingstown - Carlisle - Wigton - Aspatria ¶
Maryport - Cockermouth - Bassenthwaite Lake - Portinscale - Keswick ¶¶ pp.

FIFTH WEEK'S JOURNEY - Oct 16 to Oct. 22.

Falls of Lodore - Derwentwater - Bowder Stone - Borrowdale - Green
Nip - Wythburn - Grasmere ¶
Rydal - Ambleside - Windermere - Hawkshead - Coniston - Ulverston ¶
Dalton-in-Furness - Furness Abbey - Barrow Monument - Haverthwaite ¶
Newby Bridge - Cartmel Fell - Kendal ¶ Kirkby Lonsdale - Devil's
Bridge - Ingleton - Giggleswick - Settle - Malham ¶ Malham Cove - Gordale
Scar - Kilnsey - River Wharfe - Grassington - Greenhow - Pateley Bridge ¶¶
pp. 233-277

SIXTH WEEK'S JOURNEY - Oct. 23 to Oct. 29.

Brimham Rocks - Fountains Abbey - Ripon - Boroughbridge - Devil's
Arrows - Aldeborough ¶ Marston Moor - River Ouse - York ¶
Tadcaster - Towton Field - Sherburn-in-Elmet - River
Aire - Ferrybridge - Pontefract ¶ Robin Hood's Well - Doncaster ¶
Conisborough - Rotherham ¶ Attercliffe
Common - Sheffield - Norton - Hathersage - Little John's Grave - Castleton
¶¶ pp. 278-339

SEVENTH WEEK'S JOURNEY - Oct. 30 to Nov. 5.

Castleton - Tideswell - Miller's Dale - Flagg
Moor - Newhaven - Tissington - Ashbourne ¶ River
Dove - Mayfield - Ellastone - Alton Towers - Uttoxeter - Bagot's
Wood - Needwood Forest - Abbots Bromley - Handsacre ¶
Lichfield - Tamworth - Atherstone - Watling Street - Nuneaton ¶ Watling
Street - High Cross - Lutterworth - River Swift - Fosse
Way - Brinklow - Coventry ¶ Kenilworth - Leamington - Stoneleigh
Abbey - Warwick - Stratford-on-Avon - Charlecote Park - Kineton - Edge
Hill ¶ Banbury - Woodstock - Oxford ¶¶ pp. 340-450

EIGHTH WEEK'S JOURNEY - Nov. 6 to Nov. 12.

Oxford - Sunningwell - Abingdon - Vale of White Horse - Wantage - Icknield
Way - Segsbury Camp - West Shefford - Hungerford ¶ Marlborough
Downs - Miston - Salisbury Plain - Stonehenge - Amesbury - Old
Sarum - Salisbury ¶ Wilton - Compton
Chamberlain - Shaftesbury - Blackmoor Vale - Sturminster ¶ Blackmoor
Vale - Cerne Abbas - Charminster - Dorchester - Bridport ¶ The Chesil
Bank - Chideoak - Charmouth - Lyme Regis - Axminster - Honiton - Exeter ¶
Exminster - Star Cross - Dawlish - Teignmouth - Torquay ¶¶ pp. 451-545

NINTH WEEK'S JOURNEY - Nov. 13 to Nov. 18.

Torbay - Cockington - Compton Castle - Marldon - Berry Pomeroy - River
Dart - Totnes - Sharpham - Dittisham - Dartmouth - Totnes ¶
Dartmoor - River Erme - Ivybridge - Plymouth ¶ Devonport - St.
Budeaux - Tamerton Foliot - Buckland
Abbey - Walkhampton - Merridale - River Tavy - Tavistock - Hingston
Downs - Callington - St. Ive - Liskeard ¶ St. Neot - Restormel
Castle - Lostwithiel - River Fowey - St. Blazey - St. Austell - Truro ¶
Perranarworthal - Penryn - Helston - The Lizard - St. Breage - Perran
Downs - Marazion - St. Michael's Mount - Penzance ¶ Newlyn - St.
Paul - Mousehole - St. Buryan - Treryn - Logan Rock - St.
Levan - Tol-Peden-Penwith - Sennen - Land's End - Penzance ¶¶ pp. 546-652

HOMEWARD BOUND - Nov. 20 and 21 pp. 653-658



_Thursday, September 7th._

It was one o'clock in the morning when we started on the three-mile walk
to Warrington, where we were to join the 2.18 a.m. train for Glasgow,
and it was nearly ten o'clock when we reached that town, the train being
one hour and twenty minutes late. This delay caused us to be too late
for the steamboat by which we intended to continue our journey further
north, and we were greatly disappointed in having thus early in our
journey to abandon the pleasant and interesting sail down the River
Clyde and on through the Caledonian Canal. We were, therefore, compelled
to alter our route, so we adjourned to the Victoria Temperance Hotel for
breakfast, where we were advised to travel to Aberdeen by train, and
thence by steamboat to Wick, the nearest available point to John o'

We had just time to inspect Sir Walter Scott's monument that adorned the
Square at Glasgow, and then we left by the 12.35 train for Aberdeen. It
was a long journey, and it was half-past eight o'clock at night before
we reached our destination, but the weariness of travelling had been
whiled away by pleasant company and delightful scenery.

We had travelled continuously for about 360 miles, and we were both
sleepy and tired as we entered Forsyth's Hotel to stay the night.

_Friday, September 8th._

After a good night's rest, followed by a good breakfast, we went out to
inquire the time our boat would leave, and, finding it was not due away
until evening, we returned to the hotel and refreshed ourselves with a
bath, and then went for a walk to see the town of Aberdeen, which is
mostly built of the famous Aberdeen granite. The citizens were quite
proud of their Union Street, the main thoroughfare, as well they might
be, for though at first sight we thought it had rather a sombre
appearance, yet when the sky cleared and the sun shone out on the golden
letters that adorned the buildings we altered our opinion, for then we
saw the "Granite City" at its best.

We spent the time rambling along the beach, and, as pleasure seekers
generally do, passed the day comfortably, looking at anything and
everything that came in our way. By no means sea-faring men, having
mainly been accustomed to village life, we had some misgivings when we
boarded the s.s. _St. Magnus_ at eight o'clock in the evening, and our
sensations during the night were such as are common to what the sailors
call "land-lubbers." We were fortunate, however, in forming the
acquaintance of a lively young Scot, who was also bound for Wick, and
who cheered us during the night by giving us copious selections from
Scotland's favourite bard, of whom he was greatly enamoured. We heard
more of "Rabbie Burns" that night than we had ever heard before, for our
friend seemed able to recite his poetry by the yard and to sing some of
it also, and he kept us awake by occasionally asking us to join in the
choruses. Some of the sentiments of Burns expressed ideals that seem a

Online LibraryRobert NaylorFrom John O'Groats to Land's End → online text (page 1 of 66)