The Coast to Coast in an unofficial route, originally described by Alfred Wainwright in his 1973 book ‘A Coast to Coast Walk’. The book has been revised numerous times with updates to the recommended route.
Much like it says on the tin, it starts on the western coast of England and crosses Cumbria to the eastern coast. The Coast to Coast encompasses two coasts/seas, three national parks and 320 kilometres of footpath to create a perfect snapshot of Northern England.
Wainwright outlined the route as 12 main stages, each handily ending at a settlement with overnight accommodation nearby. Most coast-to-coasters complete the route over the course of two weeks’ trekking but, Wainwright explicitly says that he did not intend people to stick to these daily stages or exact route.
For example, splitting two or three more of the longer stages reduces the daily average to around 18 to 22 kilometres for the most part, with more time to “stand and stare” – an activity much approved of by Wainwright.
This long-distance walk winds through picturesque villages, rolling hills, immaculate farmland and looks out at the Pennine mountains, Lake District and rugged North Yorkshire Moors.
Despite being one of the most popular long-distance footpaths in the UK, it does not have National Trail status. However, this does not stop visitors flocking to complete the trail and in 2004 it was named as the second-best walk in the world according to a survey of experts.
To do it in true, traditional style, Wainwright recommends that walkers dip their booted feet in the Irish Sea at St Bees and, at the end of the walk, in the North Sea at Robin Hood’s Bay and interact with Coast to Coast comrades en route.
The route can also be cycled , with a route developed by Sustrans – a charitable organisation aiming to develop sustainable transport networks in the U.K – about ten years ago.
- Dramatic upland scenery of the English Lake District and Yorkshire Dales
- Pass through some of England’s best villages, such as Grasmere
- Extremely varied route, with no two days the same – walking through fells, moorland, fields and seeing mining history.
- Starting on one coast and sea and traversing the country to the other coast and different sea.
The Coast to Coast walk starts in St. Bees and finishes in Robin Hood’s Bay. Because the route takes you from one side of the UK to the other, the best way to arrive and depart is by public transport.
St Bees is on the Cumbrian Coast Line, with trains running from Carlisle and Lancaster – the latter of which is a scenic trip – and both towns have excellent rail links with the rest of the country. London Euston is a 3.5 hour direct service.
Unfortunately, small Robin Hood’s Bay no longer has a railway station, but there is an bus service to Whitby or Scarborough.
Although a little further away, Scarborough has better onward transport links with a three-hour train down to London several times a day.
At almost 300 kilometres in length, this long-distance trail is not to be taken lightly.
Unless you’re super fit, we would recommend allowing at least 15 days to complete the entire Coast to Coast walk.
his allows you be walking around 15 to 20 kilometres each day and maybe even throw in a couple of rest days. If you’re new to walking or would just like to take it a bit easier, you can also break up the walk into two very manageable 8-11 day chunks.
Feeling competitive? In 1991, the route was run in 39 hours and 36 minutes and 52 seconds by Mike Hartley – now there’s a challenge.
Grade and difficulty of the walk
This route is typically graded anywhere between moderate to strenuous depending on which itinerary you choose and your levels of fitness and experience.
The route is a mixture of paths, tracks and minor roads – so low technicality and low altitude but after rain, some of the paths can become very muddy and boggy and will slow progress..
The toughest part is from Patterdale, where a stiff climb leads to Angle Tarn and Kidsty Pike at 780 metres (the highest point on the walk) – which will take your breath away in every sense of the word.
At points there are different options that you can choose to follow depending on the weather and your ability, for example after Keld (in the Dales), there is a choice of two routes, high (open and breezy), or low (riverside, with teashops and pubs)
Break the route up into chunks and take up to 15 to 17 days (if you have time) and it is far more manageable.
If you’ve done some hill walking, especially in Scotland or the Lake District, which provide similar terrain and gradients then you will be fine.
However the Coast to Coast trail should not be underestimated, particularly if you are walking its full length. Along with base fitness, you should have good walking boots and be competent with a map and compass.
No permits are needed for this route and no fees are paid anywhere along the path.
Guided or self-guided
The route can be attempted alone of in a guided group, with plenty of tours/ guided walks available online.
For more flexibility in timings and the ability to choose which towns you stop off in, consider going self-guided. Despite its notoriety, the Coast to Coast is a completely unofficial route, which means that signposting is variable.
The Wainwright Society has way-marked much of the route, with additional signs erected by previous walkers, but these alone are not enough to get you from A to B.
Therefore all trekkers should take a guide book with good quality maps in it or a dedicated map of the area and a compass is also an important piece of kit to have on hand. Harveys publish two dedicated strip maps at 1:40,000 scale.
Even though it can be busy, you can’t rely on following those walking ahead of you – particularly in bad weather and low visibility. Every year local mountain rescue teams have to rescue lost Coast to Coast walkers.
As with so many British trails, the Coast to Coast could technically be walked all year round, but would be less enjoyable in winter months and navigation can be difficult in poor conditions.
We’d recommend going between May and October to get the most out of your walk.
The Coast to Coast has a number of variations over the course of its route, with the option of going up or down in various places – particularly in the Lake District leg.
All Wainwright’s variations can be found online but most people would break the route up roughly as follows.
St Bees to Ennerdale Bridge – 22.5km
Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite – 22.5km
Rosthwaite to Grasmere – 14.5km
Grasmere to Patterdale – 13km
Patterdale to Bampton – 18.5km
Bampton to Orton – 18.5km
Orton to Kirkby Stephen – 20km
Kirkby Stephen to Keld – 17.5km
Keld to Reeth – 17km
Reeth to Richmond – 24km
Richmond to Ingleby Arncliffe – 37km
Ingleby Arncliffe to Clay Bank Top – 17.5km
Clay Bank Top to Lion Inn – 14.5km
Lion Inn to Grosmont – 20km
Grosmont to Robin Hood’s Bay – 25km
If you don’t have time (or energy) to do it all in one go, you can break the Coast to Coast up in a few ways.
The most logical place to split the route is at the halfway point of Kirkby Stephen, which falls on the Settle to Carlisle railway link.
You can also do it in three sections by breaking at Shap and Richmond, which have local bus routes connecting them to railway stations.
Much of the route is not accessible by road, so make sure you plan ahead if you are coming onto or off of the path somewhere other than mentioned here.
In the itinerary listed above, all of the towns are good stop-off points they all have facilities including pubs and shops of sorts. Where there are no shops, your accommodation will usually provide packed lunches.
Hostels and bunkhouses are available for those on a limited budget with numerous YHAs and similar options along the route. If the weather looks to be ok, camping is also an option. Although there is no legal right to wild camp in England, although it is tolerated in most areas, especially in the Lake District which has a range of excellent wild camping spots.
If you’re not camping, you should plan your itinerary and then book well in advance. As the Coast to Coast is so popular and goes through primarily small villages, accommodation is limited and books up early.
Baggage transfer options are available to and from most accommodation points along the way but double check ahead of time.
Some of the most popular providers are C2C Packhorse, Sherpa Van and Brigantes – all of whom will collect your baggage each morning and deliver it to your next destination.
For anyone that is planning to stagger their walk with a handful of rest days, it is worth doing so at one of the following places where there are things to do and see.
Close to the beginning of the route is the cute village of Grasmere, where you can peruse the shops, stroll in the nearby hills or maybe buy some locally made gingerbread. About half way through is the little town of Kirkby Stephen, which sits in Eden Valley. As well as craft shops and cafes, there’s also a bike hire shop.
Moving further along the route still is Richmond, which is the biggest town along the route and is bustling with people throughout the warmer months. As a result, it’s a great place to stop off to break up the more quiet walking days and you can check out the castle or other historical points of interest.
Virtually at the end of the trail is Grosmont – lying just a few miles out from Robin Hood’s Bay – which offers up the North York Moors Railway. You can wander the town and then climb aboard the steam train then get off and walk through moorland and forest.
If you’re not planning to stop off then instead tag on a day at the end to rest up in Robin Hood’s Bay, which is a small fishing village and bay with great views out over the ocean.
Otherwise catch a train down to Scarborough, the nearest large city and visit the aquarium, Rotunda Museum, Scarborough Castle or feed up on the delicious fish and chips.
From here there are also bigger and more plentiful transport links to the rest of the country for your return journey home.
|Skills Required||Hiking, Walking|
St Bees, Saint Bees, Cumbria, UK
(on the Irish Sea)
Robin Hood's Bay, Whitby, UK
(on the North Sea coast)
|Length of route||293 Km|
|Average time to complete||14 - 17 Days|
|Possible to complete sub-sections||Yes|
|Highest point||780 metres|
|Equipment needed||Poles if preferred, Trekking gear, walking boots|
|Countries visited||England, UK|