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Daisy Andrews December 9 2021

In 1973, celebrated fellwalker and author Alfred Wainwright created the legendary Coast to Coast.

The route traverses the width of northern England, from St Bees on the Irish Sea to Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea. It’s been ranked as the 2nd best walk in the world, beating the Tour de Mont Blanc and the Inca Trail!

If you’re tempted to take on the challenge of this impressive route, read on to find the answers to the most commonly asked questions about England’s famous Coast to Coast walk.

 

What is the Coast to Coast?

The Coast to Coast is a long-distance walking trail in northern England which is approximately 190 miles long (305 kilometres), passing through three national parks. With landscapes ranging from tranquil lakes to spectacular mountain passes, rugged heather-clad moors to picturesque rolling hills, and finishing with stunning coastal views, this route really does show off the best of British scenery.

An established tradition for those completing the whole trail is to wet their boots in the sea at St Bees and collect a pebble, which is then carried the full length of the trail and deposited on the beach at Robin Hood’s Bay, where they wet their boots with the water of a different sea.

 

When is the best time of year to walk the Coast to Coast?

The constantly changing natural backdrop of the Coast to Coast is beautiful all year round. However, if you are looking to hike in generally more settled and milder weather, we would recommend walking within the months of April to October.

In springtime, the wildflowers along the trail make it a botanist’s heaven, and during August and September, the heather on the North York Moors stretches for miles in a spectacular blaze of purple.

Certain honey-pot locations along the route, such as Grasmere in the Lake District and Robin Hood’s Bay on the Yorkshire coast, are very popular during the school summer holidays, with tourists flocking to enjoy the exciting watersports, quaint shops and excellent restaurants. If you prefer a quieter walking experience, you might like to avoid July and August for the best chance of getting your picnic spot to yourself.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that the days are slightly shorter in April and October, which need to be taken into account if you are planning to complete long walking days. Navigating more remote sections of the trail in waning daylight is certainly not recommended, especially if higher hills have a layer of snow!

 

Is there public transport along the route?

There are local bus services which cover most locations on the Coast to Coast route, however, these vary significantly in their frequency and reliability depending on the area.

We recommend using the Traveline website to find information on public transport routes.

 

Where are the best places to add an additional day?

There are countless locations along the Coast to Coast where we would suggest taking an additional day to rest your tired legs and enjoy your surroundings. Here are a few of our favourites:

 

Grasmere

Grasmere is Cumbria’s most popular village and was once home to William Wordsworth. He described it as “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found,” and it’s easy to see why.

The village has changed somewhat since Wordsworth’s time, however, and is now a bustling hub of activity with gift shops, guest houses and charming tea rooms.

We’d recommend you hire a boat and spend an afternoon gently drifting around the lake, soaking in the relaxing scenery.

 

Patterdale

Patterdale itself is said to be named after St Patrick and enjoys a relatively quiet existence close to the southern shores of Lake Ullswater. The spectacular hills surrounding the lake create a dramatic skyline encompassing the village.

For a peaceful day in the Lake District, why not travel on the Ullswater Steamer and then return via the lakeside trail?

 

Keld

The settlement of Keld is barely more than a hamlet, but it is an idyllic spot and a welcome overnight stop for hikers enjoying the remote surrounding area.

A nearby limestone gorge boasts not one, but four waterfalls to explore: Kisdon Force, East Gill Force, Catrake Force and Wain Wath Force.

 

Richmond

The North Yorkshire market town of Richmond boasts one of England’s best-preserved Norman castles and is a perfect place to break your walk. This higgledy-piggledy town full of winding cobbled streets and wynds has retained much of its traditional character, and is referred to as “the jewel in the heart of North Yorkshire.”

The sweeping Georgian marketplace is one of the largest in England and hosts Saturday markets throughout the year, selling a large variety of fresh food, cheese, flowers and gifts.

 

Robin Hood’s Bay

At the end of the Coast to Coast, walkers are greeted by the welcome sight of cosy Robin Hood’s Bay – an old fishing village nestled cosily on the steep shores of the North Sea.

From here you can easily explore more of Yorkshire’s beautiful coastline. If you have time to extend your holiday, we’d certainly recommend walking to nearby Whitby on the Cleveland Way to explore the ruined Gothic abbey which perches on the cliffs.

 

How long does it take to walk the Coast to Coast?

In May 2021, the 30-year-old record for completing Wainwright’s Coast to Coast was broken by a runner who finished the trail in a jaw-dropping 39 hours, 18 minutes and 33 seconds! I think we can all agree that, while incredibly impressive, this doesn’t sound like a very relaxing undertaking…

Slightly more realistic for those of us who prefer to take our time, we recommend completing the trail over 14 days / 15 nights. This is still a challenging pace and works out at an average of 13.5 miles per day.

Bearing in mind that everyone has a different fitness level, Absolute Escapes offers a range of itineraries ranging from 13 to 17 days. These can be adapted to include any number of rest days along the route.

If you don’t have enough time to walk the whole route, we also offer two shorter itineraries which cover the lakes and mountains in the West section, or the dales and moors in the East section.

 

What’s the toughest section?

As the path winds through the dramatic hills of the Lake District the terrain can be rocky and steep, making it tiring work for your legs. Many walkers actually find it harder on the descent than the ascent!

That being said, when our Senior Travel Specialist, Sine, completed the trail, she actually said this part wasn’t so bad as the breathtaking hilltop views more than made up for the physical exertion. She actually found the long stretches of farmland between the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors to be the most mentally challenging, although this section does of course provide some relief for weary knees.

 

What are the best bits?

It’s hard to pinpoint one best part of the Coast to Coast walk, as the variety of scenery along the trail, the people you will meet, and the sense of achievement you will gain are all part of what makes this an unforgettable experience.

At Absolute Escapes, we think one of the best things about this walk is the contrast between rugged, wild natural landscapes and quaint village hospitality. Each day spent in the fresh air soaking in the stunning views finishes with the camaraderie of recounting your stories to fellow walkers over a pint of beer or a warming meal before a relaxing nights’ sleep. What more could you ask for?

 

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Do I need to pre-book accommodation?

Accommodation on the Coast to Coast can be limited in some of the less populated locations with only one or two B&Bs available. It can also get booked up far in advance in popular locations, so we highly recommend booking well in advance to avoid missing out.

We would be more than happy to assist with the arrangements for your Coast to Coast adventure. We have carefully selected accommodation for the duration of the walk – from quaint B&Bs to larger hotels, there is something for everyone.

All of the accommodation that we reserve has been personally selected by our expert team to ensure it meets our exacting standards. We regularly review our extensive database of accommodation providers along the Coast to Coast and we always try to prioritise accommodation as close to the walking trail as possible.

 

Is there a bag transfer service on the Coast to Coast?

Yes! If you are walking during the period from April – October, you can have your bag transported for you between overnight locations. This wonderful service is included in your Absolute Escapes package, or can be organised independently through Packhorse.

However you plan to walk, it is a blessing to be relieved of your overnight rucksack, leaving you light and free to enjoy the path at your leisure.

 

Can I walk it solo?

Yes, the Coast to Coast can be undertaken by solo walkers. You’re likely to bump into others walking the route, willing to stop for a chat and enjoying their own adventure along the way.

 

How do I get to the start of the Coast to Coast?

The start of the Coast to Coast is at St Bees, which is situated 43 miles South of Carlisle.

There are train services from London Euston to Carlisle, where you can change trains for St. Bees (journey time 5 hours). From Glasgow to St. Bees, change trains at Carlisle (journey time 3 hours 20 minutes).

Carlisle is also accessible by National Express coaches with local buses connecting to St Bees.

The nearest international airport is Manchester Airport, and there are regular trains from Manchester Airport to St Bees via Carlisle (journey time 4 hours).

 

Is it easy to follow?

Surprisingly, the Coast to Coast is not actually classified as a National Trail. This means that there is no official signage along the route. Signposts and waymarkers are increasingly common on the trail, but can still be minimal in places.

You will see ‘Coast to Coast’ signs (often shortened to ‘C to C’ or ‘C2C’) throughout your walk. However, don’t expect to see any such signs in the Lake District National Park – there you will need to keep a close eye on your map and follow the instructions in the guidebook to keep you going in the right direction.

The route underfoot is generally evident the whole way, following good quality, well-established paths and tracks.

 

Can I bring my dog?

It is certainly possible to walk the Coast to Coast with your canine companion, but be aware that there are lots of stiles. In Cumbria many of these have helpful dog-friendly designs, however, this is not the case in all areas of the walk.

You’ll also need to keep your dog on a lead when walking through farmyards and fields containing livestock.

Unfortunately, Absolute Escapes aren’t currently able to accept bookings for dogs on the Coast to Coast due to a lack of suitable dog-friendly accommodation. We do offer many other walking trails where you can happily bring your dog along – check out our full list of dog-friendly walking holidays.

 

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Can I walk it in reverse?

It is possible to walk the Coast to Coast route in either direction, although the vast majority of hikers walk from west to east. This is the direction in which Wainwright originally designed the route, as he recommended walking with the prevailing wind at your back. It also gets some of the hardest walking (over the peaks of the Lake District) out of the way in the first half of the walk.

As this is the most popular direction to complete the walk, some bag transfer companies only offer the route in this direction. Following Wainwright’s example, Absolute Escapes offer the Coast to Coast from west to east.

 

What footwear should I bring?

The majority of the path follows well-maintained paths and tracks, however, there are definitely sections that are more rough and rocky and prone to becoming boggy and wet underfoot. For this reason, we’d recommend you bring a pair of comfortable, waterproof, well worn-in walking boots.

If you need some inspiration, you may wish you might be interested in reading our blog post on the best eco-friendly hiking gear. Absolute Escapes also provide a suggested kit list in our information packs.

 

What are the tastiest things to eat and drink along the way?

Whether it’s a full English breakfast to set you up for the day ahead, or a treat in your rucksack to give a burst of energy or a reward after a long day, one of our favourite parts of a walking holiday is enjoying the food along the way. As you traverse the Coast to Coast, there are plenty of local delicacies to satisfy your appetite!

In Grasmere we highly recommend a visit to the Grasmere Gingerbread Shop, humbly describing itself as “quite simply the best gingerbread in the world.” Their award-winning gingerbread recipe was invented in 1854 and the spicy-sweet scent still wafts through the village streets over 150 years later.

In Cumbria, where the walk begins, you may be lucky enough to be served a Cumberland sausage as part of your breakfast. It’s traditionally sold in a large spiral and served in long curved pieces, and has a delicious peppery flavour.

Another Cumbrian treat which has long sustained weary hikers is Kendal Mint Cake – a worthy addition to any picnic. It’s a sugar-based sweet with peppermint flavour (more like a minty version of the traditional Scottish tablet than actual cake) and a great source of energy.

It was even carried on the first documented successful summit of Mount Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Sirdar Tenzing!

As you wander through the Yorkshire countryside, it would be a real shame to miss the opportunity to try a locally-brewed Yorkshire ale. With over 160 independent breweries in Yorkshire, there’s plenty to choose from! A popular choice is Theakston, and a pint of their iconic Old Peculiar by the fire is sure to warm you up.

Inspired by the smuggling history of Robin Hood’s Bay, Baytown produces locally crafted beers, spirits and ciders with imaginative names such as Smugglers’ Haul, Petticoat’s Deceit and Revenue’s Revenge. A great way to celebrate completing the walk or a memorable souvenir, these can be bought from the local post office.

 

How can I book a walking holiday on the Coast to Coast?

Absolute Escapes have been arranging unforgettable walking holidays on the Coast to Coast for years, and we’ve refined it to the perfect formula. For more information, check out our website or send us an enquiry – we’ll do the rest!

If you have any questions about the trail which we haven’t covered in this blog, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can call our knowledgeable team on +44 (0)131 610 1210 or email enquiries@absoluteescapes.com.

Daisy Andrews

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