This epic English trek is one of the most well known long-distance walking trails in the world, and walking the Coast to Coast Path is one of the best ways to explore the country’s three most celebrated national parks. The Path is actually a collection of adjoined trails that facilitate this overland odyssey of 293km long, and it was put on the map by the celebrated fellwalker, travel writer and artist, Alfred Wainwright, in his 1973 book A Coast to Coast Walk. Wainwright wanted to create an alternative to the Pennine Way, England’s first national trail and, although the route has been celebrated by walkers for fifty years, it still hasn’t become an official national trail. Something that is to be remedied by 2025, which is great news for keeping the trail protected for future generations.
Coast to Coast Path route
Traditionally walked west to east, and following in Wainwright’s wise footsteps, the Coast to Coast Path leads you between the sandy stretches of St. Bees on the Irish Sea on the Cumbrian Coast and Robin Hood’s Bay at the foot of the North York Moors National Park, on the North Sea. This is just one of three national parks that you explore along the way, the others being the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales. Although this is in no way just ‘a walk in the park’, you don’t need to be Bear Grylls to take on the challenge. Walk the complete Coast to Coast Path gently in 16 days, or break it up into a west and east section, staying in charming hotels and inns along the way, while having your luggage transferred for you. The east segment takes nine days to complete and the west eight days, both still going west to east in direction, as you have the wind in your back going that way.
“It was a great feeling, getting up each morning, loading up on breakfast and then setting forth across the country. The weather – even in June/July was real hit or miss, but you expect that in the UK and especially in the Lake District. The western and eastern portions were particularly spectacular…one of the great pleasures was rolling into the accommodation – or a pub! – every night, and catching up again with folks I met on the trail. I was a solo walker, and never felt lonely or isolated. So – undoubtedly one to put in the “Lifetime Achievements” book.” – Allen, Melbourne, Australia
What are the highlights of walking the Coast to Coast Path?
Lake District National Park
England’s largest national park at over 2,362km², its lakes, tarns and peaks are a thing of poetry, art and music. While walking the Coast to Coast Path, you cover some of the Lake District’s most iconic landmarks and idyllic landscapes, starting with Ennerdale Water and then on into Borrowdale, with the mountains of Red Pike and High Stile visible on clear days. You spend the night in both Patterdale and Grasmere, traditional villages of the area, the former approached via Grisedale, with some superb views, and the latter named after one of the park’s lakes. Grasmere is also the resting place of William Wordsworth and you can visit his grave in the local churchyard. Also, don’t miss buying some Grasmere Gingerbread here, perfect to keep in your backpack for energy on the last stage in the national park. This takes you up to Kidsty Pike (780m), the highest point of the Coast to Coast Path.
Yorkshire Dales National Park
Following quickly after the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales National Park is a land of limestone cragginess, dramatic dales, waterfall trails and ancient woodland. You touch on the edges of the Yorkshire Dales when walking the Coast to Coast Path west section on the last day, walking from the tiny traditional village of Shap to Kirkby Stephen, which is on the edge of the national park. When you walk the complete Coast to Coast or east section, you continue on into Swaledale, carved out by the River Swale. This area is lined with charming villages and towns such as Keld and Richmond, walks that take you up to exquisite elevations such as Nine Standards Rigg, which is followed by a descent to the lowest inland point on the Path at Danby Wiske.
North York Moors National Park
The vast, open spaces of the North York Moors are famously captured in the work of the Brontë sisters, although the coastal areas of the park were also favourites of Lewis Carroll and Bram Stoker. The landscapes and seascapes are as varied and great as the authors who were inspired by them, as you will see on the complete Coast to Coast or east section. If you are doing the complete Path, you enter North York Moors National Park on day 13, ascending to expanses of heather-covered moorland, contrasting with the distinctive rocky crags called Wainstones, prominent sandstone rocks that are a feature of the Moors.
You can really feel the wide open spaces in the North York Moors, especially on your first night, where you stay at the wonderfully remote Lion Inn. This was originally a 16th-century hunting lodge, and is the third highest pub in England. You may be lucky to spot the famous North York Moors Steam Railway as you arrive into Grosmont, and you will definitely see the sea as you hike the last section through Falling Foss Woods to High Hawsker, with Robin Hood’s Bay glimmering in the distance.
The pebble tradition
There’s a tradition with the Coast to Coast Path, whereby you wet your feet at St. Bee’s beach in the west when you start, and pick up a pebble. Then, when you get to Robin Hood’s Bay, you drop the pebble into the sea as you take a final paddle.
“194 miles through three national parks, carrying only a daypack and with a cozy bed each night. Perfection! Support and logistics ran smoothly; maps and guides made navigation easy.” – Wishfrog from California
Can I access the Coast to Coast Path by train?
You can access the Coast to Coast Path by train, with a train station in St. Bees on the west coast, which is served by regular trains from Carlisle and Barrow-in-Furness. When you finish in Robin Hood’s Bay, you can take the X93 bus to Whitby, where there is also a train station. Whitby is a wonderful, historic and atmospheric fishing town and so it’s worth extending your stay here. If you choose to only do the east or west section, there is a train station in Kirkby Stephen where these segments begin and end respectively.
Can I do the Coast to Coast Path as a solo traveller?
All of our Coast to Coast Path holidays are available for solo travellers, and we have many adventurous individuals who have tackled it, with the comfort of knowing their bags will be waiting for them at the next stop, and that there is a partner on the ground to support them if they need it. However, a supplement is charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared.
“Oh, how can I put into words the joys of a walk over country such as this; the scenes that delight the eyes, the blessed peace of mind, the sheer exuberance which fills your soul as you tread the firm turf? This is something to be lived, not read about.” – Alfred Wainwright
Can you cycle the Coast to Coast Path?
We do offer a six day self-guided Coast to Coast cycling holiday, also known as the C2C (or Sea to Sea) cycling route. This is slightly different to the Coast to Coast Path for walkers, but follows nearby and similarly magnificent landscapes. Starting in the west, at the harbour of Whitehaven, and finishing at Tynemouth on England’s east coast, you cycle a total of 220km through the Lake District, Pennines and Yorkshire Dales, with many picture postcard rural towns and villages en route. There are some hills to contend with but also some of the country’s finest views, and you can now rent an e-bike on these tours to help carry some of the strain. Similar to the Coast to Coast Path, tradition has it that you dip your back wheel in the Irish Sea on day one and your front wheel in the North Sea on the last day.
We hope this blog has inspired you to find out more about walking the Coast to Coast Path and, if so, please don’t hesitate to contact our adventure specialists for more details. You may also enjoy our blogs on other long-distance trails, such as the Lycian Way Trail, Camino de Santiago routes, Tour du Mont Blanc, the Via Dinarica, GR routes in France, and the Fishermen’s Trail in Portugal.