The Coast to Coast National Trail

Published 12 October 2016

A rather crude, hand made sign for the Coast to Coast
With an official nature, the Coast to Coast often has less than official signposts

The Coast to Coast is one of the most popular walking routes in this country. It’s been phenomenally successful; far more so than perhaps its creator ever intended. There’s a reason Wainwright called his book ‘A Coast To Coast Walk’. It was a suggestion; he wanted to persuade people to come up with their own walk.

Most of us don’t do that though. See, the thing is that coming up with your own route’s a bit tricky if you don’t know the area; don’t know the sights. If I wanted to do my own ‘Coast to Coast’ across the north of England, I could, but it would take a huge amount of research to know where best to go. My local knowledge isn’t that good, and I confess I’d set off with a nagging feeling that I’d somehow managed to pick a route at random that would see me walk down endless alleyways, past giant dung heaps, and visiting the world’s worst country pubs.

Okay, okay, I’d make a good stab at going through the Lakes, and I’d probably make sure I headed through the Eden Valley and up to High Cup Nick near Dufton, but to the east of that, who knows?

And hey, when it came down to it, could I come up with something better than what Wainwright did do. The Coast to Coast is an incredibly varied and interesting walk. There’s fells, limestone pavements, wild moorland, coal mining and coasts. It’s no wonder that thousands of people walk it every year, with people coming from across the globe to do it. Or that it regularly comes up as one of the best walks in the world.

Yet despite its popularity, despite the fact that it attracts so many walkers, the Coast to Coast is completely unofficial. That was the way Wainwright originally wanted it. But then he probably didn’t imagine that 46 years after his pictorial guide was first published, it would be so popular.

Because it’s unofficial, the Coast to Coast appears on no maps, and there’s no trail officers to manage it and look after it. Until recently there was barely any waymarking. Instead it’s left to the book’s publishers to update the route as necessary, and rangers in the local authorities and national parks, to do what they can with the money they have.

There’s been a few attempts to make the Coast to Coast an official ‘National Trail’ and the latest, it seems, kicked off in April (Rambling Man – latest with the NEWS!), spurred by Richmond MP Rishi Sunak, and supported by the Wainwright Society. According to the Wainwright Society’s article on the campaign launch, it’s hoped to make the case for the route to be upgraded after 2020 when the English Coast Path should be completed.

The road to National Trail status isn’t guaranteed. But the Coast to Coast has a strong case, and I for one hope the campaign bears fruit. The Coast to Coast is a major walking trail, and it’s contribution both to British walking, and to the local economies of the places it visits, mean that it deserves more love, attention, and cash, from officialdom.

Update: In August 2022 it was announced that the Coast to Coast will become the UK’s latest National Trail, with an aim of officially “opening” the route in 2025.


Mrs Lara Joyce

1 April 2017 at 10:28 pm

I am planning to walk the coast to coast route with my husband in July for my 50th. We are experienced walkers but haven’t walked long distances since having kids. We have the Wainwright coast to coast book which sets out 7 days of walking. Is this a tough pace??

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

3 April 2017 at 9:46 am

Yes, seven days is extremely tough. You would basically be walking nearly 30 miles a day, which is roughly double what most people are capable of. I’d recommend 15. I have a detailed guide on planning a walk on the Coast to Coast with lots more information.

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