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Coast to Coast

What is Coast to Coast?

The Coast to Coast Walk is a 192-mile (309 km) unofficial and mostly unsignposted long-distance footpath in Northern England. Devised by Alfred Wainwright, it passes through three contrasting national parks: the Lake District National Park, the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and the North York Moors National Park.

Who's idea was it?

The Coast to Coast was described by A. Wainwright in his 1973 book A Coast to Coast Walk. Due to legal restrictions on certain stretches of the path, increased traffic on some of the road sections, and erosion, the exact original route followed by Wainwright is not recommended. Wainwright's book has been revised a number of times in recent years (most recently in 2003) to provide a route that avoids trespass.

What is the route?

The route begins in St. Bees which is approximently 4 miles from Whitehaven town Centre. The most popular route goes from west to east. This is the more popular direction, and the one given in the original and most of the current guides, and is the direction which keeps the prevailing wind and rain at one's back, and the evening sun out of one's eyes. Some walkers do start from the east coast, either because they wish to have the Lake District as the climax of their walk or because they have already walked the route in the conventional direction.


Wainwright's route begins at St Bees in Cumbria, on the Irish Sea. It crosses the West Cumbrian coastal plain and the Lake District, and enters Yorkshire as it crosses the Pennines. It then crosses the Yorkshire Dales, the Vale of York and the North York Moors to reach the North Sea coast at Robin Hood's Bay.

A detailed route: The Lake District:

  • From the small seaside town of St Bees, where there is a "C to C" monument by the lifeboat station, the route follows the cliffs of St Bees Head north for a few miles before turning inland to pass through the villages of Sandwith, Moor Row and Cleator in the West Cumberland Plain. It then climbs its first hill (Dent), and follows its first valley (Nannycatch) before reaching Ennerdale Bridge.

  • The path goes up the valley of Ennerdale along the edge of Ennerdale Water and past the Black Sail Hut youth hostel. It climbs alongside Loft Beck to the fells north of Great Gable, passes the disused slate workings and mountain tramway of Honister, and descends to Rosthwaite in Borrowdale.

  • To leave Borrowdale, the route passes Stonethwaite and follows the stream up to Greenup Edge, before travelling along the Helm Crag ridge and down to Grasmere village.

  • From Grasmere the route ascends to the pass of Grisedale Hause from where Wainwright offers a choice of three routes: via either of the mountains of Helvellyn or St Sunday Crag, or an easier descent along Patterdale valley, the three options reuniting at Patterdalevillage.

  • From Patterdale, a stiff climb leads to Angle Tarn and Kidsty Pike — at 2,560 feet (780 metres) the highest point on the walk. There is then a steep drop to Haweswater from where the route follows the north shore of the lake before leaving the Lake District and visiting Shap Abbey and the village of Shap itself.

Westmorland and The Yorkshire Dales

  • From Shap the route crosses the limestone pavement of the Westmorland limestone plateau to the village ofOrton, and on to Kirkby Stephen.

  • The route climbs to the main west/east watershed of England (which forms the Yorkshire border) on the ridge ofNine Standards Rigg, from where moorland trails and upland streams lead down into Swaledale. To help mitigate the effects of erosion, there are alternative routes at different times of the year. At almost exactly its halfway point, the Coast to Coast crosses the Pennine Way at Keld.

  • After Keld, there is a choice of a high (open and breezy) or low (riverside, with teashops and pubs) routes, both of which lead to Reeth.

  • In lower Swaledale, the route passes Marrick Priory, through wooded hillside to the market town of Richmond.

Vale of Mowbray and North York Moors

  • After Richmond, the route runs close to the River Wiske (but is more direct) across the flat farming land of the Vale of Mowbray to the village of Danby Wiske, and on to Ingleby Cross.

  • The route then climbs to the edge of the North York Moors to join the Cleveland Way as it rises and falls to Clay Bank Top.

  • The route continues on the Cleveland Way, crossing Urra Moor to Bloworth Crossing, where the Cleveland Way turns north and the Coast to Coast continues east to Blakey Ridge and the Lion Inn.

  • Next, the route continues across the moor before descending Glaisdale Rigg to the village of Glaisdale. From there, a woodland path leads to Egton Bridge where the route follows an old toll road to Grosmont.

  • After a climb out of Grosmont, the route crosses Sleights Moor before dropping into Littlebeck Wood (with a hermitage carved out of a single boulder, and the Falling Fosswaterfall). From there the route passes through Low and High Hawsker to the cliff tops of the east coast, where it rejoins the Cleveland Way. The path then follows the coast to the south to the village of Robin Hood's Bay.

"I want to encourage in others the ambition to devise with the aid of maps their own cross-country marathons and not be merely followers of other people's routes: there is no end to the possibilities for originality and initiative."

-A. Wainwright. Founder, C2C.

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