Hiking Experiences of England's Coast to Coast Trail

Setting off on the Coast to Coast from St Bees | John Millen
Setting off on the Coast to Coast from St Bees | John Millen

Experiences of Hiking England's Coast to Coast

Prolific UTracks Traveller Ken shares his insights on walking the Coast to Coast on a self guided tour 

 
If you're interested in walking one of England's premier walks, look no further than the Coast to Coast. This splendid hike begins in the seaside village of St Bees and continues over the Lake District National Park, the Pennine Hills, Yorkshire Dales, and North York Moors National Park before ending in Robin's Hood Bay. It's also known as Wainwright's Way after the renowned walker and writer created the long distance trail in 1973.
 
In this article, UTracks Traveller Ken Harris describes what hiking the Coast to Coast trail in England is like. He walked the trail in June 2019.
 
Above Swaledale, walking in England
 
 

How would you describe the walking on the Coast to Coast trail?


The Coast to Coast is a mix of walking on mountain trails, country lanes and everything in between. 

The first few days in the Lakes District takes you along off-road trails which in some parts are not well signposted. Map reading is essential here and if bad weather is present, then the high passes become dangerous as visibility can be as low as 20 metres (from my own experience on the trail). In these situations, it is best to stick with other walkers on the trail to help identify the trail and markers.
 
Hikers above Grizedale Tarn in the Lake District |  <i>John Millen</i>
 
Fortunately, I was on the self guided tour with UTracks and had been given a combination of maps and route book which makes most of the walk easily identifiable. The Coast to Coast trail, after leaving the Lake District, becomes a combination of road and field walking with a more gently undulating landscape (but still challenging). 
 
The Dales and the Moors combine to test you in different ways, and if rain is about, then the “bogs” become very interesting. Ensure good boots and also keep your gaiters handy. 
 
As you get closer to the eastern coast, the landscape flattens but the days become longer. The Coast to Coast explores the Lakes, Dales and Moors so it gives you a good mix of the three landscapes. Plus endless photographic opportunities. 
 

How did you prepare for the Coast to Coast self guided tour?


Besides walking the GHT (Great Himalaya Trail across Nepal) the year before, my preparation was walking 5 days a week (8 to 10 km) to get into the routine of multi-day walking.

Coast to Coast hikers descending into Borrowdale |  <i>John Millen</i>
 

What was the English landscape you walked through like?


The Coast to Coast covers the Lake District (steep and hilly at times), the Dales (a gentler landscape) and the Moors (the “bogs”). 
 
Each has its own beauty and I found the Moors held the greater attraction for me. 
 
Other parts of the trail in the Dales were quite pleasant and I thoroughly enjoyed walking from village to village. Little villages like Orton and Mukey were a pleasant surprise along Wainwright's Way. 
 
Walk through English farmland on the Coast to Coast Trail |  <i>John Millen</i>

 

What was the overall trip highlight on the Coast to Coast?


Besides being able to say you walked from the Irish Sea to the North Sea across England, I guess it was a mixture of highlights. 
 
The wonderful landscapes of the Lakes, Dales and Moors; the quaint villages along the way; the mixture of accommodation from hotels to B&Bs, and the big English breakfasts each day. But also the people you meet along the way, from locals to other walkers, and hearing the tales each of them brings to the Coast to Coast.
 

 

What was your favourite food on the Coast to Coast walking tour?


Scrambled eggs with real smoked salmon. Any time of the day I would be very keen to eat that. Or a Full English Breakfast.
 
Hearty breakfast to get you going on the Coast to Coast |  <i>Jac Lofts</i>
 

Did you have a favourite accommodation on the Coast to Coast tour?


Quite a few places were on my list, like the Ivy Cottage B&B in Reeth, Cordilleras House in Richmond, Thorntree B&B in Ennerdale Bridge and the Brampton Grange Hotel. But the Forge Lodge at Chop Gate had the perfect breakfast.
 
B&B's are a welcome sight at the end of a long days walk |  <i>Jac Lofts</i>
 

What surprised you the most about Wainwright's Way?


It was a lot harder than I imagined. The signposting in the Lake District was not as good as it could be (they are concerned it could detract from the beauty of the area). 

The fact that the Coast to Coast is better known by overseas visitors than the locals. I was often asked the question by the locals: what trail are you walking? Every overseas visitor would always reply: this is the “Coast to Coast”.
 
Happy hikers at the end of the Coast to Coast Trail in Robin Hood's Bay |  <i>John Millen</i>
 

What aspect of the Coast to Coast trip did you find the most challenging?


A couple of days in the Lake District with low visibility due to bad weather meant that you had to be on your a-game to ensure you were on the correct path.
 
Grasmere Bridge provides a picturesque rest stop on the Coast to Coast Trail |  <i>John Millen</i>
 

Any advice for other travellers thinking about hiking the Coast to Coast trail?

 
 
  • It is a great walk, but it is also challenging. Take your time to enjoy it.
 
  • If visibility is low – enjoy the day but don’t risk yourself by taking on a trail that might be hard to identify.
 
  • It’s not all walking from village to village, but some days are hard work. Although all the efforts are incredibly rewarding.
 
  • Make sure you have a good breakfast and carry some snacks – some days, lunch is a while away.
 
  • Boots are essential, for both the Lake District and the “bog” in the Moors.
 
  • Stop and explore each village – some places are real gems.
 
  • Don’t read the notes too far ahead, as it can confuse you. I found that checking the next day’s notes the night before helped me focus on each day only.
 
Taking a rest on the Coast to Coast |  <i>Jac Lofts</i>
 
Click here to view all of the Coast to Coast walks offered by UTracks. You can explore the Coast to Coast your way with self guided trips, small group tours with an experienced guide; rambler walks for extra days on the trail; and the Cyclist's Coast to Coast.
 
Or if you're after a different walk in England, click here to view UTracks' leading range of hikes and walks.
 
Were you inspired to walk the challenging Coast to Coast trail? Let us know in the comments.
 
 
England, Coast to Coast, Wainwright's Way, Hiking, Rambling, Walking, Cycling

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