The Coast to Coast route is renowned for the variety of its beautiful scenery. Particular highlights include the idyllic lakeland valley of Borrowdale, Helvellyn, the historic cobbled streets and market square of Richmond, and the marvellous heather-covered plateaux of the North York Moors.
The route is 190 miles long, which works out at an average of 14.5 miles per day if you are taking 2 weeks to do the walk. 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 walk, 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. For a sustained walking trip such as this, with often rough going underfoot, steep gradients and long days, a good standard of fitness is required before starting.
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 inland 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.
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 or packed lunch before leaving. 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).
Many Coast-to-Coast walkers will opt to divide this stage between two shorter days, with an overnight break at Grasmere. If you do it in two stages you will be in Grasmere (milepost 38) around lunchtime (milepost 38). There is nowhere to buy food and drink en-route, so you should buy lunch before leaving Borrowdale. 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 (also mile 33.5). Grasmere (milepost 38) to Patterdale (milepost 46.5) is a short day, so 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 before Patterdale, so buy picnic materials before setting out. Picnic near Grisedale Tarn (milepost 42), possibly near the 'Brothers' Parting Stone.
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 route. It is almost 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 also be 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 2,500 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.
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.
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. A good place for a picnic on the Ney Gill route is at Coldbergh Edge during the descent from Nine Standards.
The original Wainwright route keeps to the high ground, passing the evocative remains of former lead mining operations 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 that starting from Thwaite or Muker it is possible to re-join 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 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.
This is a short stage and most Coast to Coast walkers will finish it off in a morning. However, we still recommend staying a night in Richmond. There are plenty of places to get lunch and dinner, and lots to see in the town. There is nowhere to obtain refreshments between Reeth and Richmond, and no obvious picnic spot - perhaps the best is below Applegarth Scar (milepost 113). 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.
This is the longest stage of the crossing. The going is a mixture of quiet tarmac lanes, footpaths, often very muddy, and across fields, where the going is slower. So be prepared for lots of mud! Many Coast to Coast walkers 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 walkers diverges at milepost 135 and goes to the pretty village of Osmotherley. There are no shops en route, so go shopping in Richmond before you set off.
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 café at Carlton Bank Top (milepost 148), but otherwise no places for 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.
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 refreshments before Glaisdale. This is the best day for easy walking combined with long views and, in summer, classic moorland covered with purple heather.
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 and a café at Grosmont, and 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 the three miles of magnificent cliff-top footpath overlooking the North Sea as you complete your challenge in Robin Hood’s Bay.
You can get the train to St Bees from Carlisle, which is linked by train from London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and other major UK cities. At the end of the walk you’ll need to take a bus or taxi from Robin Hood’s Bay to Scarborough, where you can catch the train to London and other major cities. Refer to www.nationalrail.co.uk
Sherpa Van runs two daily passenger services: in the mornings between Richmond, Kirkby Stephen, and St Bees and in the afternoon from Robin Hood's Bay to Richmond.
These combined with our secure car parking facilities in St Bees, Kirkby, and Richmond make planning your Coast to Coast walk and avoiding the problems involved in recovering your car at the end of your walk much easier. Here are a few ways to plan your trip.
Car parking costs £4.00 per night and bus journeys are £30.00 pp to St Bees and from Robin Hood's Bay.
Timetable: Sherpa Van Coast to Coast Passenger Bus Service
|7:30am||Richmond to St Bees||£35.00 pp.|
|7:30am||Richmond to Kirkby Stephen||£25.00 pp.|
|8:30am||Kirkby Stephen to St Bees||£25.00 pp.|
|4:30pm||Robin Hood's Bay to Richmond||£35.00 pp.|
Secure car parking is available in St Bees, Kirkby Stephen and Richmond. Please contact the office for details.
If you are flying into London, you’ll need to get the tube or train to London Euston, where you can catch the train to Carlisle, and then on to St Bees by train. There are also trains to Carlisle from Manchester and Birmingham airports without having to travel into the city centres. At the end of the walk, make your way from Robin Hood’s Bay to Scarborough by taxi or bus, where you can catch trains to London, Manchester or Birmingham for access to airports.