Published 22 October 2010. Last updated 11 March 2013
Coast to Coast
Length: 190 miles, 306km
Time required: 2-3 weeks
Region: North England
Start: St Bees, Cumbria
End: Robin Hoods Bay, North Yorkshire
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 been inspired to walk it yourself.
Whichever way 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?
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 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 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 walk.
Unless you're camping, you need to work out your itinerary in advance because often accommodation is very limited and booked up early.
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.
There are some other places to stop, but not always many. The places 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|
|1||St Bees *||Ennerdale Bridge||14||22½|
|5||Shap||Kirkby Stephen *||20||32|
|6||Kirkby Stephen *||Keld||11||17¾|
|10||Ingleby Arncliffe||Clay Bank Top||11||17¾|||
|11||Clay Bank Top||Glaisdale||18||29|
|12||Glaisdale||Robin Hood's Bay||19||30½|
|14 Day Itinerary|
|1||St Bees *||Ennerdale Bridge||14||22½|
|6||Orton||Kirkby Stephen *||12½||20|
|7||Kirkby Stephen *||Keld||11||17¾|
|11||Ingleby Arncliffe||Clay Bank Top||11||17¾|||
|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|
|1||St Bees *||Ennerdale Bridge||14||22½|
|7||Orton||Kirkby Stephen *||12½||20|
|8||Kirkby Stephen *||Keld||11||17¾|
|12||Ingleby Arncliffe||Clay Bank Top||11||17¾|||
|13||Clay Bank Top||Lion Inn||9||14½|
|14||Lion Inn||Grosmont *||12½||20|
|15||Grosmont *||Robin Hood's Bay||15½||25|
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, but local buses will take you to a nearby town with a rail link.
Due to limited public transport options on the route, these are the main options.
Walking 12-15 days consecutively may sound a lot, although if you keep your daily mileage reasonable, you'll find it easier. However you may want to plan in some places where you can have a day off.
Some places are better for this than others - these are my recommendations:
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.
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, however at time of last update [November 2012] this was still the 2011 version.
Whilst Doreen's guide is good coverage, it doesn't list all accommodation and you may need to search online for alternatives.
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:
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.
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. 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.
There are LOTS of books on the Coast to Coast.
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. Over the years the route has been changed slightly so maps have been amended. The latest update was in 2010.
Although Wainwright wrote it to allow people to navigate off it, if you do, 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 used Aurum Press's The Coast to Coast Walk (Recreational Path Guide) by Martin Wainwright (who is no relation). Aurum use Ordnance Survey maps throughout and show a good area around the route.
And if you'd prefer to take Ordnance Survey maps, you will need the following:
As the Coast to Coast is a completely unofficial route, waymarking is variable. In some areas local councils, community groups and individuals have placed signs to help the walkers. However there is no consistent level of signage and in many areas the route is completely unmarked.
As such you will need a guide book with good quality maps in it (such as the Aurum book detailed above), or you will need a set of maps. You'll also need to know how to use a compass.
The importance of this cannot be underestimated. Whilst we were out on the Coast to Coast we saw some people who seemed woefully unprepared. One bloke had a A5 laminated card of the day's walk that showed next to nothing other than a wiggly line with some place names. He seemed to be relying more on other people knowing where they were going. The day we saw him, we were on a hill covered in cloud, it was raining heavily and there were next to no useful signposts. If he'd taken the wrong path, goodness knows where he would ended up. And if you get lost, I won't be around to help you.
So the most important thing is to 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. You'll need it.
Knowing how to use a map and compass together will really help you and will (hopefully!) stop you getting lost - guide books can only tell you so much in text form.
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.