To those who tackle a long walk on the most sweltering of summer days but find themselves out of water and starting to feel worryingly dehydrated, the sudden appearance of a pub in the distance can shimmer like a desert oasis.
It happened to me while doing the Three Peaks in scorching heat. At the time I wasn’t familiar with the geography of the Yorkshire Dales, and as we descended from Whernside we somehow found an extra gear after another walker had pointed out a pub nestling beneath Ingleborough.
In our eagerness for liquid refreshment we virtually stumbled over the threshold of the Old Hill Inn at Chapel-le-Dale. I doubt that an ice-cold pint of lemonade and lime has ever tasted better.
Remote watering holes like these used to dot the landscape of the Dales, North York Moors and the Pennines. They were usually farmhouses close to old trading routes, where the farmers had found that serving ale made them more money than herding sheep.
Sadly, precious few isolated inns now remain, but here is my guide to those I consider to be the best ones.
To appreciate them fully you must slog for at least 10 miles through a heatwave in order to work up the mother of all thirsts.
The Old Hill Inn, a few miles up the Hawes road from Ingleton, is at the top of my list simply because it is where I have most often taken refuge on hot days. Although not as off-the beaten-track as others, its situation is a blessing for parched Three Peakers.
It could also be a curse, so soft drinks are essential if the walk is to be completed. The inn’s most famous visitor was Winston Churchill, but as a grouse shooter rather than walker.
Two other inns are legendary havens for long-distance walkers. Tan Hill, at 1,732 feet above sea level, is the UK’s highest pub and a four-mile slog along the Pennine Way from the nearest village.
The other is The Lion Inn, which stands against the skyline of Blakey Ridge between Farndale and Rosedale in the North York Moors. Everyone who does the 182-mile Coast to Coast walk from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay has to pass the door and if it didn’t exist many exhausted walkers might give up at this point.
Another favourite is the Pack Horse at Widdop, almost 1,000ft up on the Yorkshire-Lancashire border. This is Pennine terrain
at its bleakest, even on a baking hot day when the original four-stone fireplace is less attractive than in winter.
The pub dates from the early 1600s and acted as a sort of service station for trans-Pennine pack horse trains in the way
that Hartshead Moor now caters for modern travellers on the M62.
Finally, the Strines Inn on the eastern edge of the Peak District National Park is the oldest of these remote inns, being a former manor house dating from 1275. These days it is much appreciated by footsore hikers on the nearby Sheffield Country Walk, a 50-plus mile route around the outskirts of the city.