Coast To Coast Walk – Part 1 St Bees, Cumbria To Keld, Yorkshire Dales
In May 2003, together with one of my walking friends and our two wives, I set off from St Bees in Cumbria to walk the first part of Wainwright’s Coast To Coast Walk. We decided not to backpack but used the services of the Packhorse company to transport our luggage.
Alfred Wainwright, the well known author and fell walker, devised the Coast To Coast Walk to cross three National Parks. Starting at St Bees in Cumbria the walk passes through The Lake District, The Yorkshire Dales and The North York Moors National Parks before finishing at Robin Hood’s Bay in North Yorkshire. The total mileage for the Coast To Coast Walk is reckoned to be 192 miles but owing to a diversion due to accommodation problems we actually walked 195 miles. The first stage to Keld was 102 miles. The Coast To Coast Walk is surprisingly well waymarked, at least in the western section.
Day 1 – St Bees to Ennerdale Bridge (14.2 miles) After staying at the Queens Hotelin St Bees the evening prior to the start of the walk, we were well rested and ready for the off the following day.
The Coast To Coast Walk started at the beach and went over the red cliffs of St Bees Head for the next 3 miles. Then it was mainly flat walking to Sanwith and Cleator, where unable to find a welcoming pub, we had lunch by the River Ehen. Next was a climb to the summit of Dent at 1131 ft where the views were excellent and finally the descent to Ennerdale Bridge via the valley of Uldale.
Unfortunately we were unable to secure accommodation at the Shepherd’s Armsin Ennerdale Bridge and had to settle for nearby farmhouse accommodation which wasn’t great. We did spend the evening in the Shepherds though and the food and ales were excellent.
Day 2 – Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite (14.3 miles) This was a great days hiking on the Coast To Coast walk, first along the shores of Ennerdale Water, then the climb up to the 2000 ft Red Pike on the High Style range.
With fantastic views from Red Pike along Buttermere and Crummock Water, we sat and had lunch in the blazing sun. We then followed the ridge across High Style 2648 ft, and High Crag 2441 ft, before descending to Scarth Gap. After Scarth Gap it was up and along Haystacks 1958 ft, then onwards to Honister Pass and Seatoller in the beautiful Borrowdale Valley.
We walked to Longthwaite and our billet for the night at the YHA. An evenings walk to dine and drink in Rosthwaite rounded off a first memorable day on this Coast To Coast Walk, that included walking 4 mountains in perfect conditions with tremendous views throughout the trek. We were all impressed with the YHA at Longthwaite where they even baked their own bread.
Day 3 – Rosthwaite to Ambleside (14.7 miles) Due to the fact that all the accommodation was fully booked in Grasmere, we had to divert from the normal Coast To Coast Walk route to Ambleside which added a few miles on to the journey.
After an excellent breakfast at the YHA we were on the road again passing through Rosthwaite on our way to Ambleside. Along Stonethwaite Beck to the junction at Greenup Edge, then on to Helm Crag with it’s sloping summit rock formation called ‘The Howitzer’. From Helm Crag we dropped down into Grasmere for a tasty snack then headed past the lake to Loughrigg Terrace and onward to Loughrigg Fell before the descent to Ambleside.
After booking in and showering at the YHA’s massive building at the edge of Windermere, we dined at a nearby restaurant, had a few drinks and returned to the YHA for an early night.
Day 4 – Ambleside to Patterdale (10 miles) An early start saw us taking the path out of Ambleside running above Stock Ghyll.
Further on, after some initial gentle walking, came the aptly named – ‘The Struggle’, up to the Kirkstone Pass. Of course it would have been rude not to call in at the Kirkstone Inn for refreshments, so we didn’t disappoint on that one.
We watched with interest a large group of Japanese tourists taking photographs of a telephone box out side the pub. They then snapped the interior of the pub, without purchasing anything, much to the disgust of the bar lady. We then moved on.
The path alongside the A592 road and Kirkstone Beck brought us past Smithy Brow, Barker Brow, Brothers Water and Low Wood before arriving at Patterdale, our venue for the evening. We stayed at the White Lion Innfor the night.
Day 5 – Patterdale to Shap (16 miles) This was to be another day of climbing with Kidsty Pike at 2559 ft the highest point on the Coast To Coast Walk.
We were leaving the Lake District behind today and the long climb started, passing Boredale Hause, Angletarn Pikes, Angle Tarn and Satura Crag before reaching The Knott at 2425 ft. Next was a short southerly turn on the Straights of Riggindale, where we enjoyed a well deserved lunch, then north east and east to Kidsty Pike 2559 ft.
Downhill next to the shores of Haweswater and a 4 mile walk along it’s banks to Burnbanks and then another 4 miles of fairly level walking to Shap.
We were staying at the Greyhound in Shap and naturally it was at the far end of the village, so another mile later and we had finished for the day. We had the best meal of the week here and afterwards quaffed copious amounts of Bombay Sapphire and tonic.
Day 6 – Shap to Kirkby Stephen (20 miles) This was to be the second longest days walking on the entire route of the Coast To Coast Walk.
The day started with a short walk over fields to cross the M6 motorway bridge and then on into flat limestone country. Behind was the beauty of the Lake District and from now on the landscape would be quite different.
Oddendale was the first village we passed, then shortly afterwards we walked the course of the Roman Road and over Crosby Ravensworth Fell, Orton Scar and the village of Orton.
After Orton it was a 4 mile walk on a quiet tarmac road passing by the village of Raisbeck to Sunbiggin Tarn which it has to said was a disappointment. We eventually reached delightful countryside at Smardale Bridge, proceeding over Smardale Fell and onwards to Kirkby Stephen.
All in all a good days walking and after a day of quiet countryside it was the busy Kirkby Stephen where we would spend the night. The venue was the Black Bull Hotel on the main thoroughfare, Market Street. We dined and then later drank with fellow coast to coasters who we had met on the five previous days walks, an excellent way to finish the day.
Day 7 – Kirkby Stephen to Keld (12.8 miles) Today was the final day in a great weeks hiking on the Coast To Coast Walk and the first day in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
We crossed Frank’s Bridge over the River Eden to start today’s walk, then on past the lovely little village of Hartley. On past Hartley Quarries and the long climb over Hartley Fell to Nine Standards Rigg.
The nine large cairns have now increased in number, some smaller than the originals. It is a remote spot with a good viewpoint, although today was not the best of days with visibility spoilt by dark clouds. The path continued past the trig point at 2178 ft and on to White Mossy Hill half a mile away.
Next followed the worst part of the days walk, a descent over marshy ground with no distinct path. Coast to coasters were spotted all across the landscape picking their way through the swampy terrain. This was probably the worst section of the entire Coast To Coast Walk.
The path then headed east for Whitsun Dale a mile and a half away. We crossed over the bridge by the isolated farm at Ravenseat and onward to meet the River Swale. The waterfalls of Wain Wath Force, Currack Force and Catrake Force were the last highlights before we arrived at Keld.
There was once a pub at Keld but that had closed before our trip and the YHA has since closed as well. With limited overnight accommodation available we were collect by our transport for the journey home. It proved to be an excellent weeks hiking on the Coast To Coast Walk, with the traverse of the Lake District, as we expected, the best part of the week.
Coast To Coast Walk Part 2