The Coast to Coast Walk has become the UK’s most iconic long-distance walking route, traversing some of the most beautiful terrain England has to offer. The Coast to Coast hike takes you from the Irish Sea at St Bees to the North Sea at Robin Hood’s Bay, a distance of 192 miles (309 km). The walk takes you through 3 major national park areas – the famous Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales, and the North York Moors, keeping to the higher ground where possible and avoiding the urban areas. There’s an option to walk the East or West sections separately if you’re pressed for time.
The varied landscapes that you encounter on this journey are truly epic, from windswept crags and fells of the Lake District to the upland tarns and waterfalls of the moors and dales and of course Sea cliffs at St Bees. The walk meanders from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay near Whitby, traversing the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales, the North York Moors and all manner of peaty bogs, rock-strewn hills, rivers, quarries, meadows, trails, tracks, farms and derelict mines along the way.
Each day ends at a village with overnight accommodation in a pub, a quaint Bed and Breakfast or in a character filled English lodge. However, your welcome will always be the same, warm, humorous and very Yorkshire. Not to mention the added delight of the camaraderie between walkers that’s infectious as you traverse the stunning Coast to Coast track.
The Coast to Coast Walk is best enjoyed in stages, and the most captivating ones are as follows:
The walk begins at the small seaside town of St. Bees in Cumbria where there is a monument to mark the beginning of the trail. St Bees is a town located 4-hour train journey away from London. After pocketing a pebble and dipping your booted feet in the sea (A tradition encouraged by Alfred Wainwright), a delightful day of walking quiet country lanes, high cliffs and distant views of the Ennerdale Lake awaits. Ennerdale Water is the park’s most westerly lake—and one of its most remote.
This stage of the walk is 24 kilometers (15 miles) long.
The Coast to Coast walk was initially described by Alfred Wainwright in his 1973 book bearing the same title. He was an established fellwalker (mountain walker/hiker), guidebook author and illustrator. The manual, which is one of his 40 literary works, has since been revised several times most recently in 2017. The updates cover recommended routes, alternative routes due to erosion and poor weather, public footpaths, minor roads, and tracks.
Wainwright’s book describes the Coast to Coast walk in 12 stages. With each step ending at a settlement with at least overnight accommodation nearby. However, Wainwright did not intend people to follow his route or his stages explicitly.
He encouraged other fellwalkers to create and discover their own stages and routes:
“I want to encourage in others the ambition to devise with the aid of maps their own cross-country marathons and not be mere followers of other people’s routes: there is no end to the possibilities for originality and initiative.”
According to Wainwright, one should periodically stop and stare at the surrounding from time to time to enjoy the magnificence and beauty of the surrounding views. A survey of experts in 2004 named the walk as the second-best walk in the world.
Although the Coast to Coast Walk is one of the most popular of all the long-distance walks in the UK, it lacks the National Trail status.
FLORA & FAUNA
Due to overgrazing and harvesting of wood for shipbuilding, large sections of the fell area were left bare. This attribute has led to the Lakeland area, having some of the most daunting walking routes. However, afforestation efforts have resulted in rows of a carefully planted conifer forest.
As you walk the coast to coast, you will traverse through rough terrain, moors, and valleys. You will also come across pasture lands, not forgetting the jaded rocks of the coastal areas. Wind-sculpted millstone grit, glass-like lakes, and gentle streams make this walk one that truly helps one to appreciate nature.
During the coast to coast walk, you will come across hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, and pubs that are family-run offering genuine Yorkshire hospitality. Most accommodation properties provide a vast English breakfast of cereal, eggs, bacon, broiled tomatoes, beans, toast, and marmalade. This bill of fare is the most common breakfast presented by every establishment.
Food along the walk is relatively affordable, and most of the bed and breakfasts provide tasty ready meals.
Here’s a few tips on how you can travel to and from the start and end of your Coast to Coast walk.
England is famous for its rain and the lush green of its countryside. The Gulf Stream ensures mild, maritime-influenced weather which provides rainfall throughout the year. The Lake District with the lakes and mountains is prone to sudden weather changes and moisture which experienced walker’s advice people to prepare adequately.
By being along some of the remote and harshest regions, the climate and weather significantly differ as one walks further from St Bees and moves closer to Robin Hood Bay.
WHEN TO GO
The Coast to Coast could be walked all year round. However, navigation and conditions can be difficult during the winter season. As such, it is best hiked from May to October.
This trek is a strenuous 309 kilometer (192-mile) hike designed for you to take in the most beautiful and historic sections of Alfred Wainwright’s and the UK famous English countryside. This trip is considered as a strenuous activity and is regarded as ideal for experienced hikers in excellent physical condition. However, you can design an itinerary that suits your walking style and expertise. On average, hikes range from 4 to 9 hours on moderate trail conditions, and one should adequately prepare for these conditions.
Besides your enthusiasm and company, some vital necessities are necessary for making the walk a success.
Waterproof Boots and Gear
Hiking boots are essential for this trip, and waterproof boots are a necessity. English weather has a reputation for being unpredictable, and having boots that can withstand the elements is essential. Waterproof gear that will keep you dry is vital during the beginning sections of the walk where rain or ‘heavy drizzle’ may hamper your tour.
Keeping your feet comfortable is essential on the Coast to Coast, especially as the terrain is quite rough and the distances walked in a day are numerous. As you will be out walking over a long period, hiking boots that provide sufficient ankle support is a necessity. Ensure that your shoes are comfortable and well-worn in otherwise the experience may not be a pleasant one.
Using the right socks is as important as using the right pair of boots. Wearing the right pair of good quality walking socks and coating your feet with petroleum jelly will help prevent blisters.
Waterproof wax is as crucial as waterproof boots. Marshes, harsh weather and wear and tear are sure to ruin your shoes. Waterproof wax will help you keep your feet dry for the course of the journey.
If you are booked through Auswalk, the chances are that you have the main bag which has the bulk of your clothes and equipment will be transferred to your accommodation. However, you still require a backpack to carry spare clothing, food, and water. An ideal pack should be 15-30 liters and have a waistband for additional support.
Walking the coast to coast requires having reliable walking poles. There are numerous benefits of arming yourself with one for the trek. Walking poles provide support when going uphill and a brake when going downhill. A walking pole also provides a balance point when crossing ravines and rivers. Having a pair is ideal, but many walkers are generally ok with just one. There are numerous brands of walking poles in the market, and one should seek the advice of knowledgeable mountain hikers before purchasing one.
During the warmer summer months, sunscreen is necessary as most of the walking will be done in open paths resulting in direct risk of sunburns. Besides sunscreen, insect repellant is also required during the summer months. A good sun hat that covers the back of your neck is also essential when attempting the walk during the summer while a waterproof jacket and trousers are highly recommended during the winter, autumn, and spring. A waterproof jacket and pants are also ideal as the weather may prove unpredictable, and it can rain at any time of year.
As every hiker can attest, water is essential when walking. It is vital to carry a water carrier for the length of your journey as it is key to keeping hydrated. Recent advances have seen the hydration system with a reservoir in your pack, and a drinking tube become popular.
It doesn’t hurt to have snacks that will provide you with much-needed energy during the coast to coast walk. Energy bars and snack low on sugar are ideal.
Although the experience of walking the coast to coast is hard to replicate, having a camera to capture your journey will help. A camera will also help you capture the picturesque and breathtaking views of the English countryside.
There is an abundance of breathtaking views along the route. The route provides a look into the old English life of years-gone-by surrounded by awe-inspiring sceneries. One cannot fail to appreciate the oneness with nature, though it remains almost out of touch. The Lake District provides picturesque views of the Ennerdale Water as well as other lakes with the mountains serving as a gargantuan backdrop.
The Innominate Tarn (lake) was Alfred Wainwright’s favorite spot. His wrote of the area “A quiet place, a lonely place, where the water gently laps the gravelly shore and the heather blooms and Pillar and Gable keep unfailing watch.”
The Haystacks are a prehistoric heap of rocks that are also found along the route of the Coast to Coast. The further one walks the coast to coast; the deeper one goes into British history. With the help of a guide, one can get the opportunity to learn of the tumultuous history of Britain that played out in the region.
The walk takes you through sites and settlements occupied by the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and later the Normans. The history is evident by surrounding prehistoric standing stones, ancient ruins of Roman forts, and old terms like gill and fell, which were used by the Vikings. There is also a prehistoric stone fence from the 18th century.
During the rest days, one can also explore the history of the villages and towns around. These communities include;