Coast to Coast Introduction – Walking Wainright’s Walk

Published 22 August 2010

There are ways to begin a long distance walk. Things that must be done. It’s compulsory. It’s written in the rules.

First you must stride purposefully to the starting point. You must fill your lungs with a deep breath. You must have a photograph taken next to the sign, monument or obelisk that marks the beginning of the trail. And you must proclaim loudly and clearly to all who will listen… “And so it begins!”

Of course it’s best to do all that whilst there is no one else watching. And preferably whilst not wearing waterproof trousers that are three sizes too small for you.

I scored a win on the first one…

It had all started so well. The day before we’d set off from Lancaster on a packed one carriage train plodding along the Cumbrian coastline. Catherine had bagged a prime lot at a table in the middle of the carriage and on the left hand side, meaning we’d get a great view (meanwhile I’d been getting the teas in – well a two hour train journey with no buffet facility? You just have to…) despite being on a hopelessly overcrowded train.

“It’s always two carriages this train in the winter, yet as soon as the tourists turn up, they take one off!” declared one local woman on her way back home with shopping bags groaning on the luggage rack above her head whilst we were busy admiring the view of the Irish Sea.

It was as if she thought there was some mad maniac at the heart of Northern Rail cackling “Tourists? Tourists! I’ll make them suffer… SUFFER YOU HEAR ME!”. Although that said… just where exactly did the other carriage go?

At Barrow-in-Furness the packed train almost completely emptied before instantly refilling with commuters heading home. Then we passed Sellafield – that mighty palace to nuclear energy – and before we knew it, we were at our destination. The small, unassuming village of St Bees.

But St Bees holds a special place in the heart of the true long distance walker, for it is the place that one Alfred Wainwright decided to start what is perhaps his masterpiece: “A Coast To Coast Walk”.

A walk of nearly two hundred miles across the north of England from St Bees on the west, through Cumbria and North Yorkshire all the way to Robin Hood’s Bay on the eastern coast.

It was a walk Catherine had always wanted to do. So we decided to do it. We planned our itinerary to split it over 14 days, booked accommodation and waited, oh how we waited, for the off.

And now it was here. Soon we’d be setting off. Soon we’d be on our way. We’d arrived, had a good night’s sleep and were ready to begin.

There was just one problem. It had been raining all night, and was still going as we got ready to set off. We dutifully prepared to don our waterproofs in our B&B room when disaster struck.

My nice, shiny new(ish) breathable waterproof trousers seemed to have gone AWOL, replaced instead by an old, redundant, non-breathable and rather small pair of Catherine’s.

Left with no option but to squeeze in, I walked the mile and a half from our B&B to the beach, the tightness of the trousers frankly leaving very little to the imagination.


Mark Donkin

11 October 2018 at 6:13 pm

Andrew, My wife and I are planning on walking this route. We do a fair bit of walking in Cumbria, but always avoid any walks with any level of “exposure” to heights, since SWMBO gets a bit nervous. For example Striding Edge would be an absolute no go!

What’s the C2C like in this regard? Any exposed / scary sections?

Cheers – Mark

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

11 October 2018 at 10:26 pm

Hi Mark – on the Coast to Coast, there’s no particularly exposed or scary sections by default. Wainwright kept the main route to good solid paths. There are a few optional routes in the Lake District that will take those following them to higher points. Not sure if any of them are particularly scary, but the main route is always safe and easy to follow.

Mark Donkin

12 October 2018 at 6:06 pm


That’s great – Thanks for the advice.

Cheers – Mark

Paul monks

3 January 2019 at 9:14 am

Hi Andrew
I’m planning my C2C for end of July and would like to rough camp as much as possible. Any thoughts and recommendations on this.

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

3 January 2019 at 9:27 am

Hi Paul – having not tried wild camping on the Coast to Coast, I can’t really say much myself. You’ll find plenty of spots in the Lake District, but beyond that I’m not sure. And you may have fun locating water.

Neil Parmenter

22 September 2019 at 9:23 am

Hi Andrew. We are about to get the train this morning… Walk-in starts tomorrow. The serious planning just began…
Loved the waterproof trousers line. Made me lol. So much like all of our planning for all of our trips… Will be following you posts as we progress 👌

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