OK, so many moons ago during ďthe troublesĒ in Northern Ireland the US would at times ďloanĒ US Marine units of a certain type to help with certain types of duties when the British Royal Marines were low staffed and for joint training and operations etc. We also did a lot of stuff with the 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group, which at the time was called, Comacchio Group Royal Marines. Long story short I ended up stationed in the UK for about two years out of the 8 years I served. The way our duty worked was we were in training for one cycle, on duty for the next cycle and at liberty for one cycle, then we would repeat that. During the liberty portion of our rotations we could pretty much do whatever we wanted to do, and it ended up being a lot of time off. My roommate was quite a bit older than I was and could rent a car on RAF bases in the area for cheap and he, another buddy from our fire team and myself would travel all over the UK in search of fun things to do. We did everything from hike Brecon Beacons and hike the Lake District to hike much of the Scottish Highlands, to see the short castles in Wales to horse back ride to go rafting in Scotland to go surfing in Cornwall. None of us drank or did drugs and none of us were interested in night clubs etc. so we traveled all over the England, Wales, Scotland and its northern Isles, Ireland, and France just exploring and having fun. We went other places in Europe too, but we flew to those places.
So that was how one off cycle we ended up going to see Hadrianís wall and then on up into Scotland to go see Eilean Donan, which is the castle from the movie The Highlander of which my roommate was a huge fan, myself and the other guy not so much but seeing a castle of any kind and Hadrianís wall sounded good to us in spite of us not caring much for that movie so we all chipped in for car rental money and gas and headed out.
Somewhere along the A1 it was nearing evening so we decided instead of going north to Newcastle upon Tyne and then west, that we would cut through the North Pennines AONB as it looked quicker on our map then going up then over.
About halfway across the North Pennines AONB we ran into super dense fog. So dense we had to open the car door to be able to see the yellow line to make sure we were staying on the road. Visibility was maybe 5 Ė 10 feet at best. As we looked to the left, we could actually see below the fog into a steep valley below us and we came suddenly on a left hand turn down into said valley. We decided to drop down into the valley below the fog and see if when we came out of the valley we would be beyond the fog because at the rate we were going we were never going to get to Hadrianís wall let alone all the way up into the west coast of Scotland.
We took the left turn and followed this road down into the middle of the valley where low and behold there was a single street light and below it was an ancient petrol station with no name but the lights were on inside and there was an absolute relic of a dried up old woman watching television. We were running low on gas, so we decided to stop and get directions, fuel and see if there was anything to eat.
We go inside and there is nothing on any shelves except three snickers candy bars and three cokes in the display fridge. My roommate fueled the car and myself and our other buddy bought the six items left in the store and talked to the old woman about the show she was watching on TV. My buddy wrote down the name of the show because it was really funny so we could watch it when we got back to base. We chatted with the old lady for quite a while and she told us all sorts of things about the history of the valley and the castle that was in it etc. You could see this rather large castle in the moonlight not very far from the gas station. She then gave us directions to how to get back up to the road we came off of on the far side of the valley which she told us would be free of fog and that there was a pub at the cross roads that rented rooms for the night if we ever were looking for a place to stay. We wrote that info down too and thanked her and then hopped in the car and took off. I turned around as we left, and I am not joking when I say the gas station its light and everything else just disappeared. I told my roommate and he said we must have come over a rise or around a corner we didnít feel etc., and I took his version for good because it left me more than a tad weirded out to see something just blink out of existence like that. By this time it was about 3am in the morning and sure enough we came to the cross road, the pub and so on just like she had said with no fog and got back on the road and continued on up to Hadrianís wall later that morning and then on up to Scotland that afternoon and evening.
On our way back we decided to go the same way but in daylight to see what scenery we had missed, perhaps get a look at the castle and give the old woman some more business by buying more gas because we had already purchased the only six things she had left in the store part of the station.
We get back to that pub in daylight and for the life of us we canít find the stupid road down into that valley. We can find the pub itself but the cross roads is gone. Not gated off, just simply not there. We went into the pub and asked the owner how to get down to the gas station by the castle. He looked at us like we were completely bonkers. He said there is no road down into that valley other than an ancient cart road that has fences, and such built across it and the only castle down there was a ruin that hardly had two bricks on top of one another nothing like the full one we could see in the moonlight. He asked if we were having a laugh at his expense and we said no and told him the whole story of that night. He said he still wasnít sure if were teasing him or not but there was no old lady who ran a petrol station down there and there were no 24 hour petrol stations anywhere close by anyway that would have been open and the show we had said the lady was watching hadnít aired even in syndication in the UK in 30 years, but that the candy bars were recent because Snickers bars were called Marathon bars or something like that until just a few years prior. He said we must have been somewhere else not that valley. So we double checked our notes and the address of his pub at the no longer existent crossroads and it was exactly what we had wrote down and we could see down into the valley now that it was daylight and it looked exactly like what we had driven through, but there was literally no road, none at all. We spent the night there at the pub and looked again the next day but I am not kidding you, nothing of what we had seen existed.
All three of us remember it the same way and my one buddy kept the notebook where he had written the info and my roommate will get super angry to this day if you try and get him to talk about it because it makes him feel so uncomfortable having experienced that exactly the same as the other two of us did but it didnít actually exist. It creeps him out so much he will get fist swinging mad if you force the issue with him. My other buddy thinks we went through some sort of spiritual experience that was not of this world. Me, I have no idea. I simply canít explain it to this day. I know it happened, but I have zero explanations that would make any kind of sense to my mind as to how it happened or what it was all about.
Anything worth doing, is worth doing well.