Coast to Coast Walk
While The Coast To Coast Walk is not one of Britain's official National Trails it is one of the most popular long distance paths in the country.
Located in the North of England, the Coast to Coast Walk runs from St Bees on the Cumbria's Western coast, across the country to Robin Hood's Bay on North Yorkshire's Eastern Coast.
It's often referred to as Wainright's Coast to Coast Walk or Wainright's Way as it was originally described and defined by the highly regarded travel writer, Alfred Wainright.
The Coast to Coast Walk crosses through three national parks, those being:
It has amongst the most spectacular scenery of any of Britain's long distance paths. While the walking is not as demanding as, say the Pennine Way, the Coast to Coast Walk is to be treated with respect - it does have some very challenging sections, especially those in the west. As such you should always take sensible mountain precautions when setting out on the route, should be properly skilled, fit and properly equipped, while also in possession of up to date weather forecasts. You should also have good maps, a compass and be able to use them both. While the trail is reasonably well marked most of the time, some of the sections are not and will rely on you finding your own way.
The Coast to Coast Walk is 190 miles long and were you to cover the entire trail in one go, it's estimated it would take you something like 12 to 14 days to complete. There are some high sections and there are some tricky ascents to negotiate, but there tend to be alternative routes available to avoid the worst of these if you don't fancy the challenge.
As with most long distance paths, the Coast to Coast Walk tends to get split up into smaller sub sections which people often tackle as mini-walks, or which they use to plan anything from a day in the hills to a long weekend. According to Wainright, the route splits into 12 sections, though as the going is tough on many of them, you may want to consider splitting the more arduous ones up where feasible. The 12 'official' sections are touched on below in order to give you an idea of what's in store on each.
Because of the popularity of the area, the section endpoints are often (but not always) well catered for by local services, however you should book in advance if planning to stay over in the hotels, pubs, Bed and Breakfasts or campsites.
The start of the Coast to Coast Walk.
Things to do near St Bees
St Bees - Ennerdale Bridge
It's traditional to start the Coast to Coast Walk by dipping a toe in the Irish sea at St Bees Beach. Toe suitably wet, you then make your way off along the cliffs before passing through some industrial ground on your way out of St Bees. Before long you're starting your first climb up onto Dent Fell from where you will be afforded great views of the coast you have left behind and the hills and mountains of the Lake District National Park which lie ahead of you. After dropping down through a forested section into the Nannycatch valley, the route takes you along the road and into Ennerdale Bridge.
Ennerdale Bridge- Rosthwaite
This section of the Coast to Coast Walk sees you skirting Ennerdale Water before you arrive in more serious hiking territory. Shortly after crossing the River Liza, there are alternate routes on offer: The one over Red Pike which offers a fairly strenuous climb but rewards with tremendous views, weather allowing; Or, a low level route along the valley floor.
It's not all flat going on this section though with Long Beck and Honister Pass to be negotiated before your arrival at Rosthwaite.
Rosthwaite - Patterdale
This is arguably the toughest section of the Coast to Coast Walk. Indeed, many people choose to spend a night in Grasmere to break it up into more manageable chunks. The route will see you climbing into traditional Lake District mountain terrain. Some of these climbs are very demanding, but again, there tend to be alternative paths for when fitness, determination or weather suggest discretion is the better part of valour.
As you'd expect, the views from the peaks and ridges are spectacular and go some way to making the climbs worth while.
The climbing starts fairly early on when you ascend Lining Crag, skirting past Eagle Crag on the way. From here you have a choice of descents towards Grasmere - one runs down Far Easdale Gill, the other via Helm Crag affords better view, but should be carefully weighed up before being taken.
The route doesn't actually go into Grasmere, rather it branches off towards Grisedale Tarn, with an ascent of Grisedale Hause required on the way. From here, the route splits again with the higher option running up over Deepdale Hause and St Sunday Crag, the lower making its way down the very picturesque valley of Grisedale Beck and into Patterdale, where both routes terminate.
Patterdale - Shap
This section of the Coast to Coast Walk sees you leaving the Lake District National Park, shortly before you get into Shap. There's more climbing and are more great views on this section. The trail is tricky to find in places, so you need to be in possession of a good map and compass and to be able to use them properly when up in the hills. You start with an ascent of Boredale Hause before heading for Angle Tarn, skirting round the Angle Tarn Pikes on the way. You skirt another peak, this time the Knott as you head down Riggendale and on towards the 2,260ft Kidsty Pike. After crossing that summit, you follow shore of the Haweswater Reservoir towards Shap Abbey, which marks your leaving of the Lake District National Park. Shortly thereafter you come into Shap and the end of this section.
Shap - Kirkby Stephen
Compared to the last section, this is less taxing, but it's still a long section to complete. After a quick encounter with development as you cross over the M6, the moorlands beckon with easy walking to Oddendale. The next village en-route is Orton, though the trail itself doesn't actually enter the village. On the way there, there are a couple of interesting points to take in, those being the Oddendale Stone Circle, and the cairn erected to mark Robin Hood's grave.
After skirting past Orton, the trail takes you on towards Newbiggin on Lune via Sunbiggin Tarn which twitchers will be especially interested in, it being a protected breeding ground for birds. Hereafter the route climbs Smardale Fell making for Lime Kiln Hill and then on into Kirkby Stephen.
Kirkby Stephen - Keld
This section sees the Coast to Coast Walk pass into the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Just before you do, you need pass over Hartley Fell and on to climb the 1,918ft Nine Standards Rigg, which you'll have spied from Lime Kiln Hill the day before. The Nine Standards themselves are tall conical cairns arrayed in a line atop the hill. There are great views to be had from here, but it's a not a place to be in bad weather. There's an alternative lower route via Lamps Moss which comes out at Ney Gill, your next target after the None Standards.
From here, you're heading for Ravenseat and then on to Keld, the halfway point for this walk, and a stop off on the mighty Pennine Way.
Keld - Reeth
This is one of two shortest sections on the Coast to Coast Walk. Your destination for the day is the popular, pretty little town of Reeth who's good collection of amenities will be a refreshing change from the remote and relatively undeveloped places of the past section. The walking is through old lead mining country via the upper reaches of the Swaledale valley. The sometimes gritty reminders of this industrial past can be substituted for quintessentially picturesque dales scenery by taking the lower route through the valley following the River Swale.
Reeth - Richmond
An easy day's walking on this equal-shortest section of the Coast to Coast Walk. There's beautiful scenery and interesting little nooks and crannies virtually the whole way. Ascending the stone path to Steps Wood from Marrick Priory, the scene can be quite idyllic. After passing through Marrick Village itself, you make for Marske and on towards Applegarth Scar, before passing through woods and down into Richmond.
Richmond is a good place to explore after the short, easy walking of the last section. It's a busy market town, proud of its heritage. There are museums to visit, unspoiled old streets and houses and the impressive ruin of Richmond Castle, which dates back to Norman times.
Richmond - Ingleby Cross
This section is not one of the highlights of the Coast to Coast Walk. Pleasant enough early on there are woods and views to enjoy as you leave Richmond, but after you pass through Catterick, the trail becomes less engaging, involving much road walking and the crossing of much relatively dull arable farmland. The walking is easy though, and the sight of the North York Moors National Park in the distance will spur you on in the latter stages.
Ingleby Cross - Clay Bank Top
The Coast to Coast Walk enters the North York Moors National Park as you leave Ingleby Cross and with it comes a change to more interesting scenery and tougher walking more akin to the rest of the trail sections. There are various ascents and descents to be made, and wide open moors to cross.
The ascents start early as you climb Beacon Hill before crossing onto Scarth Wood Moor. Much of this route is shared by the Cleveland Way National Trail, with walkers on this long distance path joining you 'til the end of the section. There are points of respite from the open walking, notably the Lord Stones Cafe on Carlton Moor.
Clay Bank Top - Glaisdale
Starting with a climb onto Urra Moor, after that it's mostly easy walking on this section of the Coast to Coast Walk. Much of it follows the disused Rosedale Ironstone Railway, a remnant from the area's mining past. There are great views to be had, weather permitting.
Nestling atop the North York Moors, the Lion Inn pub at Blakey is one of the highest in Britain and is held to be well worth a visit. Thereafter, more great views are in store as you make your way past 'Fat Betty' and on towards Glaisdale and the end of this section.
Glaisdale - Robin Hood's Bay
The final section of the Coast to Coast Walk sees more varied countryside than before, ranging from high moorland to picturesque glades with rivers and waterfalls to coastal cliffs as you near Robin Hood's Bay. There's lots to see on the route too, starting with Beggar's Bridge, before your chance to take in the age of steam at Grosmont's North Yorkshire Moors Railway station.
After Littlebeck, the scenery changes from moorland to wooded seclusion as you follow the May Beck river. It's here you see the Falling Foss waterfall, well worth a photo or two. Norcliffe's the next highlight as it presents the first good views of the striking east coast, whose clifftop take you to Robin Hood's Bay and the end of the Coast to Coast Walk.
Just as you started with a ceremonial dip of your toe in the Irish Sea at St Bees, be sure to make you way to the beach and dip the same toe in the North Sea to properly round out your adventure!
You can continue reading about other National Trails and Long Distance Walks using the links at the bottom of the page.