12 reasons you’ll never forget walking the Cumbria Way

Published 3 May 2017

Slate sign on gate saying 'Cumbria Way'

The Cumbria Way is a walking trail through Cumbria. And a walking trail through Cumbria is going to be a good one, isn’t it? A walk through Cumbria’s going to be cracking, isn’t it? Well, isn’t it?

Well yes it is, and for entirely good reasons. And here are 12 ones that I had, that may well be yours too.

1. The cracking town of Ulverston

Abbey Sauce sign on the side of a building in Ulverston

Towns at the end points of walking trails can often just be places you want to get out of as quickly as possible. But that’s not something you should ever do at Ulverston, for this is an old market down that deserves to be savoured. From its fantastic local pubs, delightful shopping streets and its memorial to Laurel and Hardy (Stan Laurel having being been born in the town), Ulverston’s the kind of place you want to linger in. So go on, do so. Make an afternoon of it. You’ll never regret it.

2. Relaxing by the side of lakes

Derwent Water looking splendid on the Cumbria Way

Chances are, when you’re in the Lake District it will rain at some point. But then if it didn’t rain in the Lakes, it simply wouldn’t look so stunning. For the rain makes everywhere look lush and green, and it fills those lakes. Oh, those lakes. And the Cumbria Way goes along the side of two of them: Coniston Water in the south, and the mighty Derwent Water in the north.

Both are stunning, beautiful places and provide many great spots on which to break your journey and relax, perhaps for your picnic lunch or an afternoon snooze. As long as it’s not raining that is.

3. Being awestruck by Tarn Hows

The idyllic Tarn Hows near Coniston

There are many fine places in Cumbria, but I’ll defy you to find one quite as lovely as Tarn Hows. Well, that’s not on a fell top anyway.

Tarn House is an idyllic tarn, sat surrounded by enchanting woodland, and it looks absolutely wonderful. No wonder it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Lake District. And even more impressive is that much of it has been sculptured deliberately by man, having being moulded under the hand of landowner James Garth Marshall in the Victorian era.

It’s a great place, and the Cumbria Way ensures you spend plenty of time there.

4. Enjoying some splendid waterfalls

Colwith Force - a waterfall in the trees

Everyone loves a good waterfall, and the Cumbria Way is blessed with a couple of excellent ones. The noisy, bustle of Skelwith Force near Elterwater is perhaps the best well known, thanks to its location near the roadside.

But even better is nearby Colwith Force, found nestling amongst the trees of a nearby wood. When the path takes you there, it’s a bit like finding hidden treasure; a reward only available to those who put in a little effort.

5. Gasping at some stunning scenery

The glorious Langdale, just one of the many great views on the Cumbria Way

Now the Cumbria Way is not the Lake District Way, for Cumbria is more than the Lake District. However there can be no denying that the finest parts of the trail are those that go through the Lakes. Be it walking past those aforementioned lakes, Tarn Hows, Langstrath or – as pictured here – Langdale, you can be sure that there will be some absolutely breathtaking views to enjoy.

6. Supping a pint in the Old Dungeon Ghyll

I’ll be blunt. The first time I went in the Old Dungeon Ghyll, I didn’t get why it was so popular. The place was rammed, the staff surly and the toilets stank to high heaven.

But since that first visit I have re-appraised. It remains true that the toilets smell disgusting, and that no pub ever should have strip lighting. But it has a certain charm about the place, especially when the crowds have departed and the more hardcore crowd are in.

It’s a great place to while away a few hours having walked those ten miles from Coniston. Just remember to check what time the last bus back to civilisation departs from the stop nearby. It’s a long walk otherwise.

7. Finding the remote and isolated Skidaw House hostel and wanting to stay there

Skiddaw House – one of the most remote youth hostels in the UK

The Lake District is blessed with two gloriously remote youth hostels and one of them is on the Cumbria Way. Skiddaw House is in the middle of nowhere, and has no road access. You have to walk, or maybe cycle.

It’s the ultimate “get-away-from-it-all” destination, and I challenge anyone not to want to walk up to it and dash inside to ask if there’s a bed free. There’s few facilities, but who cares when you can be free of the distractions of the modern world, even if it is just for one night.

8. Stumbling upon an old bobbin mill…

The remains of the Howk Bobbin Mill, Caldbeck

Okay this one, and the next, are a bit of a cheat as they’re not actually on the Cumbria Way, but they’re amazingly close by.

The Howk was one of 100 bobbin mills that once operated in Cumbria, and at one point in our history, half the bobbins in the UK were produced in the area’s mills. Yes, this was a big area for those cylinders that held thread, yarn or twine.

Bobbins were made here from 1857 to 1924, and it had the largest waterwheel in the country.

It’s a reminder that whilst modern Cumbria is best known for tourism, this used to be a area that was once very industrial.

9. …and a nearby hidden gorge

The waterfall at Howk Gorge

And if a former bobbin mill isn’t enough for you, not far by is a fantastic limestone gorge with a glorious waterfall. Certainly well worth the detour. You won’t regret it.

10. Finding yourself perhaps too close to suburbia

There’s nothing like a good tarmac path when you’re on a long walk

There is a time when every walk has to come to an end, and the Cumbria Way does that in a rather dragged out fashion by spending half a day on a tarmac cycle path as it approaches Carlisle.

No, it’s not great. But you’ll remember it.

11. Celebrating your accomplishments outside the mighty Carlisle Cathedral

Carlisle Cathedral

When you get to the end of a walk, you want to celebrate. And you can celebrate in style in Carlisle as you approach its bustling market square. But just off the square is the more peaceful enclave of the cathedral. Even if you’re not religious (and I’m not), there’s something great about cathedrals. That mix of tranquillity and amazing architecture.

All in all, the perfect place to pull up a pew and reflect on the journey you have done.

12. Leaving your boots behind

A pair of hiking boots

Oh, okay, this one may just be me. By the time I arrived in Carlisle, my much beloved hiking boots had, quite simply, passed it.

It’s not that the Cumbria Way destroyed them. They were on their last legs when I set out. But their state had got worse whilst I was on the Cumbria Way. At various points the leather was really coming away, exposing the Gore Tex underneath and letting in water at many an opportunity With a heavy heart, I’d made a decision. This would be their last walk. From Carlisle, I’d be leaving home, but my boots would not be joining me on that journey.

With a small ceremony, I left my old hiking boots in Carlisle, not far from the cathedral. It was a sad moment, but I tell you this… You will never forget that moment when you place a pair of hiking boots in a litter bin.

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