An account of the trail in
northern England, starting in St. Bees on the Irish Sea and ending
in Robin Hood's Bay on the North Sea.
The beginning of the Coast to Coast Path is
marked by a sign at St. Bees, on the Irish Sea along Cumbrian
Coast of England.
The path ends 190 miles later
on the North Sea at Robin Hood's Bay, just outside the Bay Hotel.
the matriarch of Wainwright's Coast to Coast Path, was remembering
growing up in Keld in the 1940s. Her husband, Ernest, lived at
Ravenseat, almost a mile up the path toward Kirkby Stephen, and
had to walk to school, rain or shine, sometimes arriving wet
and cold and staying that way all day long.
It was the
during the wartime years, and she had the good fortune to
live closer to school, but had to walk there most days herself.
She was living with her grandparents, and her grandfather drove
an old Morris. She rattles off the license number.
it rained, he would sometimes drive me to school," she
said, "but it had to be really chuckin' it down."
owns Butt House bed and breakfast in Keld, the mid-point
in the Coast to Coast Path. If you get the chance to stay there
on your journey, take it. Her meal of salmon, new potatoes and
several other vegetables, followed by homemade apple pie, was
the best I had during three weeks in England.
Her stories about her life were the
best dessert, though. Mrs. Whitehead compiles the "Bed &
Breakfast Accommodation Guide," which lists places to stay
on the 190-mile path. She was encouraged to maintain the guide
by the late Alfred Wainwright himself, who originated the path
in the 1970s.
designed the walk after traversing the Pennine Way, determined
to plan a route with "kinder terrain."
"It would have to be in the northern
counties of England, with which I was already familiar and personally
preferred to other parts of the country," he wrote. "Secondly,
I wanted the starting point and finishing point to be exactly
defined and not a source of doubt; the obvious choices were the
high-tide levels of the two seas bordering the north of England,
the Irish Sea and the North Sea. By laying a ruler across the
map, the route almost chose itself."
The walk has
been somewhat modified from the original, but it still begins
in St. Bees on the Irish Sea and ends in Robin Hood's Bay on
the North Sea. In between lie three national parks of distinct
individual beauty: the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales, and
the North York Moors.
I chose to
walk the path in 13 sections over a 15-day span, spending
a rest day in Kirkby Stephen and another in Richmond. There are
alternative routes, many of them over high ground, that add miles
and lots of elevation for those who choose them. I took several
of these alternative routes when the weather was clear enough
to make them safe and enjoyable.
I chose also to have my luggage transferred
between bed and breakfasts by the Sherpa Van Project, which left
me free to carry only a 15-pound day pack with essentials such
as rain gear, food and water, and camera equipment. Many walkers
backpack the route; some also camp along the way. But to my way
of thinking, there's nothing quite like walking into a town at
the end of a long day, having hot shower at a bed and breakfast,
and retiring to a good pub for the evening.
one of the hallmarks of the Coast to Coast Path is the camaraderie
that develops among walkers. On my journey, I forged friendships
with four British hikers, a couple from Newcastle, another from
Melbourne, Australia, and another from Amsterdam. Oh, yes, and
there was the group of Americans on a guided tour backed up by
a transport team, and two women from Sydney, Australia, who doggedly
made their way across, and two men from New Zealand. Others,
We crossed paths many times along the
way, met in pubs at night, sometimes stayed in the same bed and
breakfasts, and grew to be fast friends. Our celebration dinner
at the Victorian Inn in Robin Hood's Bay on the evening that
we finished the path was memorable indeed, made more so by the
On the Web
pages linked to this one, you'll find recollections from
each of the 13 walking days, along with about 100 photographs.
I won't endeavor to describe the route in detail, as that's best
done in the various published guides and maps.
Last updated 12/11/2010