Planning a trip on the Coast to Coast

Published 22 October 2010. Last modified 14 April 2014

Follow the green fence like

If you’ve been reading my Coast to Coast posts, there’s a possibility that you’ve been inspired to walk it yourself. Either that or you’ve watched that Julia Bradbury do it on the telly and thought “that looks great!” Or maybe you’ve just picked up the book and decided to have a go.

Whichever way you’ve come to the Coast to Coast doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’ve thought “Yes, I could do that! Sign me up! How do I do it then?” You have, haven’t you?

You have? Great! So what do you need to know to plan your trip walking from one side of the west of England, to the east?

Inside This Guide

  1. What is the walk like?
  2. Planning an itinerary
  3. Finding and booking accommodation
  4. Getting to/from the Coast to Coast
  5. Guide books and maps
  6. Know how to use a map and compass
  7. And finally, and any questions

What is the walk like?

Tackling the route to Patterdale

It has been on TV and was created by a walking superstar, so the Coast to Coast is quite a famous route. And it’s popular. And that means people sometimes think it’s going to be easy – like walking in the park.

It’s not. It’s 190 miles long, and there are some difficult bits, especially in the Lake District. And if the weather is bad, well it can be very difficult indeed. And I’m saying that as an experienced walker who has been up to his knees in bog on the Pennine Way.

I don’t want to put people off doing the Coast to Coast, because it’s a very rewarding route and in many parts it’s nice and easy going. I’ve heard of those who in their 70s and 80s who have done it. So if you’ve done some hill walking you should be fine.

However do not underestimate the Coast to Coast. To do it successfully you will need to be fit, have good walking boots and be very competent with a map and compass. Preferably you’ll have done some long distance walking before too.

That said, what should you expect? Well the Coast to Coast is an amazingly varied route, and no two days are the same. There’s fells, moorland, fields and mining history. In creating the walk Wainwright really went out to make it interesting. It really does seem to cover everything you could ever possibly want in a long distance walk.

If you’d like to know more, you can read about my own Coast to Coast journey, and view an online map of the route.

Planning an itinerary

On a rock

Unless you’re camping, you need to work out your itinerary in advance and get it booked. As the Coast to Coast goes through many small villages, and is a very popular route, accommodation is very limited and booked up early.

The Coast to Coast could be walked all year round, however navigation and conditions can be difficult in poor conditions. As such, it is best walked in the period of May to October.

There are a couple of different possible itineraries and I have listed three: 12 days, 14 days and 15 days. Based on my experience I recommend the 15 day one. The 12 day version includes some very long distances and is recommended only for fit and experienced walkers.

The towns and villages listed in the itinerary below have been selected as they all have facilities – every one has a pub, and most have shops too. Where there are no shops, pubs and B&Bs will be able to provide packed lunches. Locations with a railway station are marked with a *.

12 Day Itinerary
Day From To Distance Notes
Miles Km
1 St Bees * Ennerdale Bridge 14 22½
2 Ennerdale Bridge Rosthwaite 14 22½
3 Rosthwaite Patterdale 17 27¼
4 Patterdale Shap 15 24
5 Shap Kirkby Stephen * 20 32
6 Kirkby Stephen * Keld 11 17¾
7 Keld Reeth 10½ 17
8 Reeth Richmond 15 24 [1]
9 Richmond Ingleby Arncliffe 23 37 [1]
10 Ingleby Arncliffe Clay Bank Top 11 17¾ [2]
11 Clay Bank Top Glaisdale 18 29
12 Glaisdale Robin Hood’s Bay 19 30½
14 Day Itinerary
Day From To Distance Notes
Miles Km
1 St Bees * Ennerdale Bridge 14 22½
2 Ennerdale Bridge Rosthwaite 14 22½
3 Rosthwaite Patterdale 17 27¼
4 Patterdale Bampton 11½ 18½
5 Bampton Orton 11½ 18½
6 Orton Kirkby Stephen * 12½ 20
7 Kirkby Stephen * Keld 11 17¾
8 Keld Reeth 10½ 17
9 Reeth Richmond 15 24 [1]
10 Richmond Ingleby Arncliffe 23 37 [1]
11 Ingleby Arncliffe Clay Bank Top 11 17¾ [2]
12 Clay Bank Top Lion Inn 9 14½
13 Lion Inn Grosmont * 12½ 20
14 Grosmont * Robin Hood’s Bay 15½ 25
15 Day Itinerary
Day From To Distance Notes
Miles Km
1 St Bees * Ennerdale Bridge 14 22½
2 Ennerdale Bridge Rosthwaite 14 22½
3 Rosthwaite Grasmere 9 14½
4 Grasmere Patterdale 8 13
5 Patterdale Bampton 11½ 18½
6 Bampton Orton 11½ 18½
7 Orton Kirkby Stephen * 12½ 20
8 Kirkby Stephen * Keld 11 17¾
9 Keld Reeth 10½ 17
10 Reeth Richmond 15 24 [1]
11 Richmond Ingleby Arncliffe 23 37 [1]
12 Ingleby Arncliffe Clay Bank Top 11 17¾ [2]
13 Clay Bank Top Lion Inn 9 14½
14 Lion Inn Grosmont * 12½ 20
15 Grosmont * Robin Hood’s Bay 15½ 25
  1. As a big town, Richmond is an obvious place to stay overnight. However doing so means a 23 mile slog the next day. To avoid this, from Richmond continue walking the 4½ miles to Brompton-on-Swale. Then either stay overnight in Brompton or catch the regular bus to Richmond and return on it the next morning. The next day you will be seriously thankful you did.
  2. Clay Bank Top is simply a road pass and there are no buildings here. Accommodation can be found in nearby Great Broughton (2½ miles north up the road) and at Chop Gate (2 miles south.) The road is busy but if you ask nicely and in advance, B&Bs and pubs may pick you up and drop you off.

Breaking the walk up for several trips

If you haven’t got time to do it all in one go, you can break the Coast to Coast up in a few ways.

The most sensible place to split the route is half way at Kirkby Stephen which is on the Settle to Carlisle railway link.

Alternatively you can do it into three sections by breaking at Shap and Richmond. Neither have a railway station, however local bus routes connect both with railway stations. Buses run from Shap to Penrith, and from Richmond to Darlington, both of which are served by mainline services.

Due to limited public transport services on other parts of the trail, there are no other easy ways to split the Coast to Coast up.

Rest Days

Walking 12-15 days consecutively may sound a lot, although if you keep your daily mileage reasonable, you’ll find it easier than you may think. However you may want to plan in some places where you can have a day off.

If you’re going to take a day off hiking, then you might as well do it at a place where there’s plenty to do. The following suggestions are all worth considering:

Finding and booking accommodation

Black Sail YHA

The Coast to Coast is very busy and in the Lake District in particular, it can be very hard to find accommodation. Advance booking is pretty much essential if you’re walking in the summer.

Doreen Whitehead has been publishing an accommodation guide for the route for over 15 years and it is updated annually, and a print copy is available for £5. A free online version is also available.

Whilst Doreen’s guide provides excellent coverage, it is not exhaustive and you may need to search online for alternatives.

Hostels and bunkhouses

With one exception, all of the hostels on the Coast to Coast sit firmly in the Lake District. The hostels on or near the route are:

Camping

Many people who walk the Coast to Coast do so with a tent and the trail is very well served for campers. There’s some campsites, but many pubs and farms offer space for walkers to pitch up and there’s a few camping barns too. Doreen’s accommodation guide (noted above) includes information on camping.

There’s no legal right to wild camp in England, although it is tolerated in some areas, especially in the Lake District which has a plethora of excellent wild camping spots. However unless you’re an experienced wild camper, we’d recommend staying on proper facilities.

Getting to/from the Coast to Coast

Arriving at St Bees Railway Station

Because the route takes you from one side of the UK to the other, the most sensible way to arrive and depart is by public transport. St Bees in Cumbria is on the Cumbrian Coast Line which is a bit slow although rather nice – trains run from Carlisle or Lancaster – the route Lancaster route is, I’m told, the most scenic. Both Carlisle and Lancaster have excellent rail links with the rest of the country.

Robin Hood’s Bay no longer has a railway station, however there’s hourly buses to Whitby or Scarborough operated by Arriva North East. Whitby is nearer although there are more trains from Scarborough and the bus journey is not much longer. Scarborough trains go via York, which also has excellent rail links.

Alternatively if you have a car, the Coast to Coast Packhorse runs daily minibuses from Kirkby Stephen and they have car parking facilities at there. Some B&Bs may also allow you leave your car there for a fee.

Guide Books and Maps

Welcome to Yorkshire. Now pick your path

The popularity of the Coast to Coast means that there’s a huge number of guide books, in several languages. The following are our recommendations.

The obvious book to mention when talking about the Coast to Coast is the original A Coast To Coast Walk by Wainwright himself. It’s the book that started it all off and we carried a copy with us at all times. It’s full of history and information as well as detail of the route, set out in Wainwright’s handwritten style complete with his line drawings and occasional doodles.

The Second Edition of the book was updated by Chris Jesty, and published in 2010.

Although Wainwright wrote his pictorial guide in such a way that you can navigate using it, you’ll probably want to plot your route out on a map as well. We tended to use Wainwright in the evenings to see what we’d done, and it does make a great memento of the trip.

Most people prefer to use a more modern guide book for day to day navigating and the popularity of the route means that there are many.

Based on previous experience we recommend Aurum Press’s The Coast to Coast Walk (Recreational Path Guide) by Martin Wainwright (who is no relation).

The Aurum guides are clear and interesting reads, and always include Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 scale mapping. They also show a good area around the route, just in case you get lost.

If you prefer just to use maps, then there are two options. Firstly, there is the A-Z Adventure Series Coast to Coast Map book.

The excellent A-Z Adventure Series includes Ordnance Survey mapping for the whole route (at the 1:25,000 Explorer scale), as well as an index to help you find places. The book is a similar size to a map and will fit neatly in a map case, and is a lot easier to fold in wind! It has a small, compact size.

Alternatively you might want to consider Harvey’s two maps of the route. These are traditional paper maps, with Harvey’s own mapping at a scale of 1:40,000, so are less detailed than the A-Z maps.

There’s two covering the route, split in to East and West.

Finally, if you’d prefer to take a stack of Ordnance Survey maps with you (and it will be quite a stack), you will need the following:

On a lighter note, if you’ve got a Kindle, you can get a copy of A Coast to Coast Journal, by Catherine Redfern. It explores the Coast to Coast in cartoon form, complete with guides of what to do with walking poles! Oh and it stars me too.

Want to watch the Coast to Coast and see what it’s like from the comfort of your living room? Well you can. In 2009 Julia Bradbury walked the whole trail and had a camera crew with her as she did it. On her way she sees the sights and talks to those with a connection to the route.

Originally broadcast on BBC Four, Wainwright Walks: Coast to Coast is available on DVD.

And finally, in 1990 Wainwright himself was persuaded to star in a TV series about his own creation. Presented by Eric Robson, Wainwright's Coast to Coast Walk was released on DVD in 2004, giving you insights to the trail from its creator.

Know how to use a map and a compass

Homemade footpath sign

As the Coast to Coast is a completely unofficial route, waymarking is variable. The Wainwright Society has waymarked much of the route, and some community groups and individuals have placed their own signs to help the walkers. However the Coast to Coast is not a trail that you can navigate using just waymarks alone.

As such you will need a guide book with good quality maps in it (such as the Aurum guide book detailed above), or you will need maps. You’ll also need to know how to use a compass.

The importance of this cannot be underestimated. Whilst we were walking the Coast to Coast we saw some people who were woefully unprepared. Don’t be the man we saw who was navigating through the Lakes with a laminated A5 card that showed next to nothing other than a wiggly line with some place names. Had there not been other people around, chances are that he would have got very lost. There’s not a year that goes by when local mountain rescue teams don’t have to rescue lost Coast to Coast walkers.

Make sure you have a good map and compass, and know how to use them. So if you, or one of your party doesn’t know how to use a map and compass together, I’d learn. Better still, make sure everyone in the party knows. You will need those skills.

There are several online guides like How To Use A Compass, and you may also find training courses in your area – many YHA hostels host such events.

Knowing how to use a map and compass together will really help you and will (hopefully!) stop you getting lost. And if you do get lost, you’ll stand a chance of finding your way again.

And finally, and any questions

Blakethwaite Lead Mine

Hopefully now you’re now raring at the bit ready to go so there’s little to do other than offer you some sage advice. Take some good, comfortable, well broken in boots and some good breathable waterproofs – it’s often wet in the Lake District especially.

And where it’s wet, wet boots inevitably follow. A tip which many walkers don’t seem to know about boots wet inside is when you take them off, fill them with balls of newspaper. The newspaper soaks up the water from inside the boot, thus drying them out. It works a lot faster than letting them air dry. Try checking and replacing the newspaper after a few hours to help.

On a related wetness note, if there’s one thing you should pack, it’s waterproofing wax for your boots. Waterproofing on hiking boots does wear off (something people often don’t realise) and we had problems with boots getting soaked inside because of it even though both pairs were relatively new (that said, they had gone in many bogs and things…)

At the outdoor shop at Kirkby Stephen the owner recommended Nikwax Waterproofing Wax for Leather. From experience it works very well, and you can apply it even to soaked boots. I tend to slap it on every few days just to make sure – it does work, and maintains the boot’s breathability if the boot is lined with something like Gore-Tex. If you don’t have leather boots, consult your local outdoor shop as similar products exist for other boot types.

Still it doesn’t always rain. Take your suncream and insect bite cream as well and you’ll be covered for all occassions! And if you are thinking of doing it, why not let me know in the comments box below? Also don’t hesitate to ask any questions too.

Your Comments

Kaye Ferguson

14 June 2011 at 7:57 pm

My friend and I are walking ( hopefuly) the C2C in July/ August 2011, we have been in training for months but as we live on the south coast we have only been able to do the Southdown Hills, I do hope it will have been enough, time will tell, wish us luck
Kaye

Andrew Bowden

1 July 2011 at 5:06 pm

Sorry for the delay in replying but I’ve been away. Walking!

There’s a few larger fells at the beginning but nothing too serious (there’s various options in the Lake District, so you can always take the easier ones) but after that it’s generally good going.

I do a lot of my training on the South Downs myself, and I was fine!

William Hardcastle

4 October 2011 at 10:21 pm

Hi I completed the c2c last months over 14 days with two rests in- between I was hoping to attempted it next febuary over ten days or less . Do you think it would be possible ?

Andrew Bowden

4 October 2011 at 10:38 pm

Well 10 days would be an average 19 miles each day. If you’re happy doing that I’d say it’s doable. The only concern I’d have is the possible weather conditions – if the snow is out you’ll struggle!

Andy Hagerty

9 January 2013 at 1:45 pm

Hi

My partner and I did the C2C in 2008 (crikey how time flies). For the hell of it we decided to do it east to west.
Plus points.
1. You are starting off easily, leaving the harder (but best) bits till last. By the time you get to the Lakes you will be far fitter than when you start.
2. You meet plenty of people coming towards you. You can stop for a chat, but are not stuck with them all day.
3. Walkers coming towards you pass on info/tips about the path ahead.
Minus points
1. You will be walking into the wind/weather, however we did not find this a problem, as the weather was good to us.

Andrew Bowden

9 January 2013 at 2:35 pm

I spoke to someone once who had walked part of the West Highland Way from north to south, and described to me how he once looked up and saw about 300 people all heading towards him, and sighed as he knew he’d have to say “hi” to each one of them!

Must have been a very busy day, but I guess it depends how social a walker you are. If you travel in either direction, there’s so many people that you’ll end up talking to people a lot! It just depends what kind of conversations you want.

That said, only on the Pennine Way have I ended up sat in a pub dinning room eating a meal with a couple I’d only met a few hours earlier!

Vanetta de Frece

11 March 2013 at 10:10 pm

Would anyone have any suggestions for myself & my mother we have 9 days and would like to do the C2C starting at St Bees & finishing at Robin hoods bay but obviously missing some sections out! we are fit enough to walk about 15 miles each day, and would catch a bus or train to cover some of the route if this is possible! Any suggestions PLEASE?

Andrew Bowden

11 March 2013 at 10:45 pm

Hi Vanetta. Got to be honest, I personally think what you want to do will be very difficult – if impossible – using buses or trains. The bus and train routes just don’t tend to follow the Coast to Coast route, and when they do there’s not actually that many buses in a day. Certainly on the western section in the Lakes (where I know the public transport situation best) it’s extremely difficult.

However if you were to use taxis instead, it would become a lot easier. My personal suggestion would be to base a plan on the 12 Day itinerary shown above, but skip the Shap to Kirkby Stephen section, and then the two days of Reeth to Ingleby Arncliffe. That gets you down to 9 days.

The reason I’ve picked those is that you’ll be able to find local taxis reasonably easy for those, and they are probably the least interesting sections.

The other option would be just to do half the walk – perhaps the western section – and stop at Kirkby Stephen, perhaps spending an extra day or two in the Lakes. It would certainly be easier as you wouldn’t need to organise taxis.

alison r

1 September 2013 at 8:10 am

Hi, I have a week’s holiday spare and would like to do a week’s walking somewhere in the UK. I live in the UK but at the moment do most of my walking holidays in France – doing the GR 10 across the Pyrenees one week at a time – fantastic!). Anyway I was wondering about doing a week of the Coast to Coast. I would be doing this one on my own which I thought would be OK (not yet done a walking trip on my own, and not that keen on complete solitude, but I guess I would meet lots of people along the way). However, navigation and map reading are not my strong points, and having looked at your site, this seems like a key skill for this walk. Any suggestions about linking in with a group? Many thanks!

Andrew Bowden

1 September 2013 at 9:28 am

Yes, being able to navigate is important. The Coast to Coast is sporadically waymarked. In some areas it is very clearly done, but in others, such as the Lake District in particular, it’s very important. All you need is the cloud to come down and you could easily get lost.

I don’t know if people self-organise groups to walk in, but there are a couple of companies that do guided tours of varying sizes, such as Footpath Holidays and Northwestwalks.

Lynne

15 November 2013 at 8:35 pm

A friend and I walked the C2C in 2011 and are doing it again next summer.
Despite having the trailblazer book and being fairly experienced walkers we got lost a couple of times which severely affected our timings – not to mention the stress caused when night is starting to fall and you’re stuck on a moor!
Are there any well detailed, day by day maps with the route clearly marked available anywhere?
Thank you.

Andrew Bowden

18 November 2013 at 3:56 pm

Hello Lynne – best bet would be an Ordnance Survey map. The Aurum Press guidebook by Martin Wainwright has OS maps in it, and there’s also the A-Z Adventure Series map book for the Coast to Coast, which also uses the OS maps. The A-Z map book covers a wider area around the route, so is more useful.

Links to both further up the page!

Lynne

21 November 2013 at 11:47 am

For anyone who wishes to part walk and part bus ride the length of the C2C, Sherpa now run a bus service across the entire C2C route. You have to book tickets in advance (I don’t know how much it costs as it is not a service I need) and details are on their website. Hope that helps :)

David Marsden

8 January 2014 at 11:55 am

Hi Andrew,

I completed the C2C in March 2013 in atrocious conditions that also made (a lot of) my walk achingly beautiful. I can’t emphasize enough (as you have) how important it is to have ordnance survey maps and a compass. I used the latter many, many times – often when visibility was down to just a few yards and the path hidden by snow. But summer walking is no guarantee of clear, sunny weather, of course. .I met a chap who completed the walk in August 2012 and had non-stop rain for 14 days. Grim.

I’ve only just found your website – good work. I have some reading to do!

Dave

Chris Doherty

1 April 2014 at 10:21 am

Hi, I am attempting to run/walk the c2c in 6days for charity. This has been 18months of hard work and even harder planning. Any other tips you could suggest? P.s I start it this coming Sunday 6th April… (Just found you site)

Andrew Bowden

6 April 2014 at 6:57 am

As I’ve been holiday, this is probably a bit late but good luck. Can’t think of any tips for running it – just be careful with the weather in the Lakes!

marie howe

15 April 2014 at 12:34 pm

hi.,in aug my 10 yr old son and his dad are running the c2c.we need a good route as they want the end of it to be at the lizard.training has already started,and it needs to be 26-30miles long. what is the best books to tell us the distance. thank u

Andrew Bowden

17 April 2014 at 2:21 pm

Hi Marie – this page is about Wainwright’s Coast to Coast in the north of England. I’m presuming from your mention of the Lizard that you’re referring to Cornwall. If so, I’m afraid that’s not a question I can answer.

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