“You were made to soar, to crash to earth, then to rise and soar again.” – Alfred Wainwright
Oh, a wise man was Alfred Wainwright … he had the brilliance and initiative to create an amazing long-distance walk from coast to coast, aptly named Wainwright’s Coast to Coast. Approximately 190 miles long, this has to be one of the most varied, challenging, and interesting of them all. A man of passion when it came to the outdoors, Alfred knew the fells and valleys better than anyone. The walk takes you through the National Parks of the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and North Yorkshire Moors, with each and every part offering more diversity and contrast of the environment surrounding you.
I went on a short trip to experience the Lake District part of this walk and what an adventure it was!
Consisting of 4 days of walking, I started at the official point in St. Bees with its beautiful pebble beach. Just hearing the rushing sound of the water against the pebbles was pleasing and comforting. Although I wasn’t completing the walk, I decided to stick to the tradition of collecting a pebble and dipping my feet in the Irish Sea. The idea is to then deliver your pebble on ending in Robin Hood’s Bay and again dip your feet into the North Sea.
The path itself was immediately impressive with an initial walk along the red sandstone cliffs and a nature reserve for seabirds. The sea was sparkling in the sunlight, and we were completely blessed with the best conditions we could have hoped for.
On making our way around the cliffs we were faced with the picturesque Whitehaven. If you’re lucky you will see Ireland, the Isle of Man and Scotland in the distance. We headed inland towards the villages of Sandwith, Moor Row and Cleator with flat and comfortable walking. Then came the challenge of the day – Dent Fell. With a huge cairn to mark it and a stunning view, the summit is a greatly rewarding achievement. However, the challenge of the descent was almost tougher than the ascent! At the bottom of the valley we were relieved and happy to be walking the remaining few miles to Ennerdale Bridge.
No sooner had we left Ennerdale Bridge we were faced with the incredible Ennerdale water, which is a really pleasant walk for a while, and it then becomes increasingly tricky. Robin Hood’s Chair was an interesting and fun obstacle, and after leaving the water’s edge we headed towards Ennerdale Forest and onto Black Sail Hostel which is in the most beautiful location I think I’ve ever seen! Remote and romantically set in Ennerdale Valley, I was speechless!
It seemed an ideal place to take a well-earned break and then head onwards and upwards for some serious scrambling. The climb up the side of Loft Beck and on to Honister Hause (which is about 1900 ft) gives way to the most amazing panoramic views!
We hit another steep descent into Honister Quarries – England’s last working slate mine. What an interesting place and what remarkable things you can do with slate! We then trekked on to Rosthwaite which is a lovely, quaint part of Borrowdale.
This was a tough day with some challenging navigation, however, it was very rewarding and we had the opportunity of crossing over with the Cumbria Way. Some parts were boggy, with steady climbing and a hard push up to Lining Crag – another breathtaking spot.
The day again consisted of outstanding scenery, open valleys and plenty of sunshine as we descended into charming Grasmere. This is a place not to be missed even though the path takes you on the outskirts. I would highly recommend making a short detour to visit this beautiful and charming village. Grasmere is probably Cumbria’s most popular village (thanks to William Wordsworth) and is set in an idyllic spot – boasting incredible panoramic views – it really is difficult to leave.
Our final day of walking with the sun still shining down on us was a short one, but with lots of climbing to do and a stunning waterfall to greet us.
Grisedale Tarn was as high as we made it (although you could choose to go higher) and still offered fantastic views and scenery. We then descended into Grisedale Valley and into the village of Patterdale.
Some of the appeal of this walk, as with many others, is that you can choose to take the high road or the low road. It is diverse and offers a choice to the walker which is always welcome, and the advantage is whatever you decide, there will be no disappointment in what you encounter.
In a nutshell: Blessed with the most incredibly warm and sunny days, wonderful sights, and friendly people, this was indeed one of my most enjoyable and memorable walks to date. As well as the natural beauty and pleasant walking, the accommodation, pubs and restaurants were second to none. I would highly recommend taking on this walk for so many reasons. It is varied, challenging, stunning and rewarding!
Book your long-distance walk on the Coast to Coast and you will be in for a treat!
P.S. Don’t have time to walk the entire 190 miles? We offer five different itineraries for the Coast to Coast, including two shorter sections taking in the Lakes & Mountains in the west, and the Dales & Moors in the east.