This classic route was originated and described by the celebrated A.Wainwright, author of a well-known series of mountain-walking guide books on the English Lake District.
The route is 190 miles long, which works out at an average of 14.5 miles per day. Shorter days occur early in the tour, where steep gradients and rough going are encountered during the crossing of several high passes in the Lake District. The days get longer towards the end of the tour, with 24 miles, mostly on level ground, between Richmond and Osmotherley being followed by a day of 21 miles over the Cleveland Hills and North York Moors.
As well as providing a challenge, the route is renowned for its variety of beautiful scenery. Particular highlights include the idyllic lakeland valley of Borrowdale, the historic cobbled streets and market square of Richmond, and the marvellous heather-covered plateaux of the North York Moors. For a sustained walking tour such as this, with often rough going underfoot, steep gradients and long days, a good standard of fitness is required before starting. Boots should be broken-in and feet accustomed to wearing them during the period just before the tour.
Stage 1: St. Bees to Ennerdale 14 miles
The Coast to Coast trail starts with a day of varied scenery. The first three miles are along the red cliffs of St. Bees Head a nature reserve for sea birds. The route then strikes in land across farmland and a former coal mining area. (around Cleator) There are fine all round views from the summit of Dent before you descend to Ennerdale Bridge at the edge of the Lake District National Park.
Stage 2: Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite
Today there is nowhere en route to obtain lunch or any other refreshments until you arrive in Borrowdale almost at the end of the day. So you should be equipped with a picnic lunch before leaving: either a packed lunch from your hotel or picnic materials from the village grocery shop which is open daily from 07.30 (from 08.00 on Sundays). The shop also usually has a small selection of prepared rolls and sandwiches. The best place for a picnic in fair weather is shortly after the steep ascent of Loft Beck (milepost 24). Where the gradient eases above Loft Beck there is a grassy slope with good views of Ennerdale and Buttermere. In poor weather it is more comfortable to picnic on lower ground either by Black Sail Hut (mile 23) or further on by the youth hostel at Honister Hause (mile 25.5).
Stage 3: Borrowdale (Rosthwaite) to Patterdale
Many, indeed most Coast-to-Coast walkers will opt to divide this stage between two short but still quite full days, with an overnight break at Grasmere. If you do it in two stages you will be in Grasmere around lunchtime. Borrowdale to Grasmere (milepost 38). There is nowhere to buy food and drink en-route, so you should buy lunch before leaving Borrowdale, either a packed lunch from your accommodation or picnic materials from the Rosthwaite general stores, which also sells prepackaged sandwiches. The shop is open daily from 08.30 am. In good weather the picnic spot with the best view is the highest point of the day at Greenup Edge (mile 32). However you will probably be well past there by lunchtime, so in good weather we suggest Calf Crag (mile 33.5), while in poor weather the first sheltered spot that you will reach is on the low-level Far Easedale alternative (also mile 33.5).Grasmere (milepost 38) to Patterdale (milepost 46.5).This is a short day you have time to walk into the centre of Grasmere village to shop for a picnic, or to visit Wordsworth's one time home and museum at Dove Cottage, Town End (1km from Grasmere). There is nowhere to get refreshments (and no phone) before Patterdale, so obtain picnic materials before setting out. Picnic near Grisedale Tarn (milepost 42, possibly near the 'Brothers' Parting Stone').
Stage 4: Patterdale (milepost 46.5) to Shap (milepost
62-63) 15.5 miles
Most Coast-to-Coast walkers, having spent two days on Wainwright's 'Stage 3' between Borrowdale and Patterdale, find the day from Patterdale to Shap one of the longest and hardest of the whole crossing. It is 16 miles and includes the largest daily ascent and descent of the tour, reaching 770m at Kidsty Pike. The 4-mile walk along Haweswater lake can be also quite tiring. In contrast the last 4 miles of the walk to Shap, along grassy riverbanks, through parkland and across pastures are easy going. There is no pub or cafe en route until you reach your overnight stop either at Shap (mileposts 62 to 63) or, for those who prefer a shorter day, at one of the twin hamlets of Bampton and Bampton Grange (each is 1.5 miles from the route at milepost 58.5). Depending on the weather and cloud conditions and the speed of your progress, possible picnic spots include, the 'Straights of Riggindale', a high saddle at 2500 feet on the High Street ridge offering fine views of the surrounding lakes and mountains, and the peaceful shores of Haweswater lake. Swimming in the lake is not allowed as it is a drinking water supply. There is a public phone box on the trail at milepost 58.
Stage 5: Shap (milepost 62) to Kirkby Stephen (milepost
83) 21 miles
This is another longish stage, although much less hilly than Stage 4, and those who start the day at Bampton or Bampton Grange will probably get little further today than Orton. There is isolated farmhouse accommodation on the route between Orton and Kirkby Stephen, and also some accommodation a mile or so off the route at the hamlets of Newbiggin-on-Lune (milepost 77) and Ravenstonedale (milepost 79). The scenery of limestone escarpments, moorland, pasture and scattered farmsteads is quite different from any other stage of the walk. If you plan to walk from Shap to Kirkby Stephen in one day it is advisable to omit the detour to Orton, in spite of the attractions of that pretty village with its pub serving bar meals and its chocolate factory. The detour adds another 1.5 miles. Apart from Orton there is nowhere else serving refreshments between Shap and Kirkby Stephen. The unfenced land in the vicinity of Sunbiggin Tarn (milepost 74) with its abundant black-headed gulls and other birdlife is a pleasant spot for a picnic at about the half-way point.
Stage 6: Kirkby Stephen (milepost 83) to Keld (milepost 95) or
Thwaite. 12 miles
This walk goes over some high and rather boggy ground with patchy waymarking so in conditions of low cloud or heavy rain it may be advisable to walk the tarmac B6270 road via Nateby and over the watershed all the way to Keld. This road carries little traffic at any time. If you take the 'normal' route over Nine Standards Rigg be prepared for substantial seasonal diversions which are not shown or referred to on the published maps and books. These diversions are due to a combination of two factors: excessive erosion of the path on the original Wainwright route and the presence of grouse-shooting butts close to the public footpath in Ney Gill. The various diversions and periods during which Coast-to-Coast walkers are asked to follow them over Nine Standards Rigg are indicated on notice boards at Hartley Fell (milepost 87) up-to-date information should be sought from the Tourist Information Office in Kirkby Stephen. There is no shop or place of refreshment between Kirkby Stephen and Keld so carry a picnic with you. There is a supermarket open daily in Kirkby Stephen; Sunday opening somewhat later. A good place for a picnic on the Ney Gill route is at Coldbergh Edge during the descent from Nine Standards, On summer Sundays (and possibly at other times) there is a small cafe serving teas, cakes and ice creams in Keld. This could be very nice if you are continuing to Thwaite or Muker. There is also a phone kiosk by the Youth Hostel in Keld.
Stage 7: Keld (milepost 95) or Thwaite to Reeth (milepost
106.5) 11.5 miles
The original Wainwright route keeps to the high ground, passing the evocative remains of former lead mining operations on at the head of the Gunnerside Gill and at Old Gang Mine. If the cloud is low you need some ability with map and compass, so in wet or cloudy conditions we advise taking the low level route following the River Swale. Many walkers prefer this very pretty valley alternative whatever the weather. Note even starting from Thwaite or Muker it is possible to rejoin the high level route at Crackpot Hall (milepost 96) by a scenic path without retracing your steps to Keld. An interesting spot for lunch on the high level route is by the old mine buildings at Blakethwaite on the Gunnerside Gill (milepost 99). There is no phone on the high level route between Keld and Reeth. There is no shop in Keld, but if you are staying at Thwaite you can shop for a picnic at Muker. Also at Muker is the famous Swaledale Woollens shop, a visit to which you may find worth some of your time (and money). There are pubs along the valley route (at Gunnerside and Low Row) where you can stop for lunch.
Stage 8: Reeth (Milepost 106.5) to Richmond (Milepost
117) 10.5 miles
This is a very short stage and most Coast to Coasters will finish it off in a morning. However we still recommend staying a night in Richmond. There are plenty places to get lunch, and lots to see in the town to while away the afternoon. There is nowhere to obtain refreshments between Reeth and Richmond, and no obvious picnic spot; perhaps the best is below Applegarth Scar (milepost 113). There are public phones in the villages of Marrick (milepost 110) and Marske (milepost 112). There is a bus service from Reeth to Richmond.Apart from the first mile to Grinton Bridge the path stays away from the river, wending its way across fields with fine views across the deep valley of Swaledale.
Stage 9: Richmond (milepost 117) to Ingleby Cross or Osmotherley
This is the longest stage of the crossing. The going is a mixture of quiet tarmac lanes, and footpaths, often very muddy, across the fields, where the going is slower. So be prepared for lots of mud! Many Coast-to-Coasters opt to divide the stage into two, taking an overnight stop at Danby Wiske (milepost 131). Others prefer to press on across the flat farmland of the Vale of Mowbray. Even such energetic individuals will inevitably stop for lunch at Danby Wiske, where the pub serves food well into the afternoon. The traditional Wainwright route goes via Ingleby Cross, but an alternative used by many Sherpa customers diverges at (milepost 135) and goes to the pretty village of Osmotherley. There are no shops en route so go shopping in Richmond.
Stage 10: Ingleby Cross (milepost 140) or Osmotherley to Clay Bank
Top 12 miles
Many walkers extend this stage beyond Clay Bank Top to Blakey Ridge (milepost 161), which is the next place on the Coast-to-Coast route with accommodation. However the first part of the day is strenuous enough for many people, with numerous ascents and descents on the Cleveland Hills. There is a cafe at Carlton Bank Top (milepost 148), but otherwise no place of refreshment. At Clay Bank Top there is no accommodation, but some is available a couple of miles downhill walking away at Great Broughton and Chop Gate.
Stage 11: Clay Bank Top (milepost 152) to Glaisdale/Grosmont (milepost
175) 23 miles
This is a long stage but the going is easy after the first ascent from Clay Bank Top to Urra Moor. Walkers who started the day at Ingleby Cross or Osmotherley will not want to go further than Blakey Ridge (milepost 161) in a day, but from Clay Bank Top to Blakey makes a short and rather easy day. You can stop for lunch at the pub in Blakey before continuing to Glaisdale; there is nowhere else to stay or get refreshment before Glaisdale. There is a public phone in the pub at Blakey. This is the best day for easy walking combined with long views and (in summer) classic moorland covered with purple heather.
Stage 12: Glaisdale/Grosmont (milepost 171) to Robin Hood's Bay (191)
A long stage with two long ascents and many walkers will split it into two either by continuing past Glaisdale to Egton Bridge or Grosmont the day before or by stopping off at Littlebeck or High Hawsker and finishing with a short day into Robin Hood's Bay. There is a shop at Grosmont and a cafe. There are pubs at Grosmont and at High Hawsker. In the unlikely event that you might want to cut out walking altogether today there is a train service from Glaisdale, Egton Bridge and Grosmont to Whitby from where there is a bus service to Robin Hood's Bay. The scenery is more varied than on any other stage of the crossing: the deep wooded valleys of the Esk and the Little Beck, heather moorlands on either side of the Little Beck valley, and to finish off there are three miles of magnificent cliff-top footpath along the coastal cliffs overlooking the North Sea.
Planning your journey if you are bringing a car: www.sherpavan.com/company/svpbus.htm
Arriving via Manchester Airport: If there are four of you, the journey will be cheaper by taxi than by train.
If there are less then four of you there is a train from Manchester Airport to St Bees, you will need to change trains once in Barrow in Furness. To check train times call National Rail Enquiries on: 08457 48 49 50, alternatively you can check the website www.nationalrail.co.uk to help you plan your journey.
At the end of your walk: If there are 3 or 4 of you it is cheaper and quicker to travel by taxi than to take public transport back to your car, or to a main line station. All cars carry up to 4 passengers, or a minibus carries up to 7.