First described in his 1973 guidebook A Coast-to-Coast Walk, Alfred Wainwright devised a walking route across the north of England that would become one of Britain’s most inspiring long-distance walks. As much as anything, Wainwright’s route was a celebration of both England’s extensive network of public rights of way, permissive paths and access lands and the grand adventures that could be had by linking them together. His intent was not so much to establish a permanent route as it was to encourage others to devise their own long distance walks.
Not only does Wainwright’s Coast-to-Coast route run the breadth of England between the North Sea and Irish Sea, it traverses three of England’s most celebrated national parks, revealing an array of landscapes rich in natural and cultural beauty. Staying true to the spirit of Wainwright’s original intent, our Coast-to-Coast walk incorporates much of the classic route, along with a few variations of our own.
In a departure from the standard way of walking the route, we begin our journey in Whitby, on the east coast of the North Sea, and head west. With the sun at our backs and the gentler terrain to start, we save the most challenging and best for last. Concentrating our time in national parks, we first cross the North York Moors National Park with its high, heathered moorlands and open vista, then the Yorkshire Dales with its lush green valleys, ubiquitous dry stonewalls and old market towns, and finally, what many consider to be the crown jewel of England’s national parks, the Lake Districts with its brooding crags and tarns and romantic lakeside villages.
Visible throughout these serenely beautiful landscapes are tenacious and eternal reminders of those that have walked these paths before us. As we hike 130 miles in 12 days, we’ll pass ancient standing stones and boundary markers, travel old Roman ways and cross 12th century bridges. We’ll explore the ruins of medieval castles and abbeys, and traverse landscapes etched by the various mining industries that thrived at the turn of the century. Words such as fell, beck, dale, force (meaning hill stream, valley, and waterfall) echo back to a time of Norwegian and Danish occupation.
This is one of the best ways to experience northern England, on foot through changing landscapes, stopping in the evenings in villages or small hamlets, staying at old inns and bed and breakfasts, pausing for tea in the afternoon, enjoying a pint at the end of the day at a local pub.
Day 1: Rendezvous at the Manchester, England Airport. Group transfer to our hotel in Goathland, 10 miles inland from Whitby and the North Sea. Goathland is considered to be one of the most picturesque towns in the North Yorkshire moors, with its wonderful stone houses bordered by a broad, grassy commons. Welcome dinner.
Day 2: We begin our hike in Whitby, a wonderful old seaside resort. After dipping our boots in the sea we will head west following the Eskdale Way as it parallels the River Esk. Once an old monk’s way between the Abbey at Whitby and the Chapel in Grosmont, the route still bears the flagstones laid to protect the monks’ habits from the mud. We will end our day back in the village of Goathland.
Day 3: From Goathland, we begin the day hiking a short section of the Wheeldale Roman Road, one of the best-preserved Roman roads in England. Heading out across the heather-covered expanses of Wheeldale Moor, White Moor and Shunner Howe, we’ll pass the standing stone of Blue Man-i-th-Moss ending our day in the old mining town of Rosedale Abbey.
Day 4: Today we cross the High Blakey, Farndale, and Urra moors. Here we encounter the Cleveland Hills, where our route parallels two other well known British walks, the Cleveland Way and the Lyke Wake Walk. After crossing Clay Bank Top, also known as Hagg’s Gate, we’ll reach the curious stone outcroppings of The Wainstones, before descending into Great Broughton.
Day 5: Hiking along the impressive Broughton and Kirby banks, our trail will rise to the crest Cringle Moor, with its views of the surrounding Cleveland hills. Continuing along an undulating escarpment, we cross Carlton Moor, a popular area for the sport of gliding, and then Live Moor, before descending through the Clain and Arncliffe Woods and ending our day in the village of Osmotherly.
Day 6: We begin the day with a transfer by van across the Vale of Mowbray to Richmond. Still possessing an air of quaint antiquity, Richmond is dominated by an 11th century Norman cliff-top castle, and boasts a large cobbled marketplace, with the ancient church of Holy Trinity as its centerpiece. A mixture of stone and brick buildings spreads down the hillside in a maze of narrow streets. We will have a chance to look around this lovely town before beginning our walk.
Three miles after leaving Richmond, we enter the Yorkshire Dales National Park. From here the walk to Reeth is one of variety. The landscape of limestone escarpments, rich meadows, and “leafy becks” serves as a backdrop for the two lovely villages and priory we will pass along the way. We will end our day in Reeth, once the center of extensive mining activity and now a pleasant, thriving village.
Day 7: Today we’ll have a wonderful riverside walk along the River Swale. Meandering beside the river’s edge and then turning up through rich green pastures, our route will take us to the village of Gunnerside and then on to the village of Thwaite, where we will spend the night.
Day 8: Today we depart from the classic Wainwright route to take a more southerly route to the beautiful valley of Wensleydale. Leaving Thwaite, we join the another well-known long distance footpath, “The Pennine Way,” and begin our climb up the north side of Great Shunner Fell. After reaching the summit at 2,363 feet, we’ll have a long, gradual descent into Wensleydale. Here we will be staying at the Stone House Hotel, a fine Edwardian country house set amidst old English gardens, offering expansive views of the Valley.
Day 9: Rest day. The day can be spent exploring the nearby market town of Hawes or relaxing in this wonderful Edwardian hotel.
Day 10: From the Stone Manor House, we will transfer to the town of Orton for our hike to Haweswater Reservoir. Leaving Orton, we join the course of an ancient Roman road, following it over open rolling terrain and past remains of mysterious stone circles. Hiking through the village of Shap, we will continue on through a well-preserved and protected countryside of lakes and high fells. We will stop to visit the remains of Shap Abbey before continuing on to the Haweswater Reservoir and our hotel.
Day 11: We are now entering what some consider the finest section of the Coast-to-Coast route, the Lake District. Leaving the Haweswater Hotel, our hike continues along the reservoir, passing several falling “becks,” or streams, before beginning our climb up Kidsty Peak (2,600′), the highest point of the route. The downhill path leads easily along a four-mile stretch. We’ll skirt the high lake of Angle Tarn on our way to the pass at Boredale Hause, and then descend to Glenridding, our stopping place for the night.
Day 12: This is Wordsworth country, an area of classic English beauty, for decades attracting artists and poets. Our route takes us up the valley of Grisedale along Grisedale Beck, pass the lake of Grisedale Tarn and then over Grisedale Hause (pass). Just before Grisedale Tarn is a plaque commemorating the “Brother’s Parting.” This is where Wordsworth bid his brother, John, a memorial goodbye in 1800. His brother was lost at sea in 1805.
Grasmere, set in its valley, is apparent from the pass and from here it’s about three miles down into the village. Grasmere is a lovely, though popular, village. One of its best known sites is Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage, where he lived from 1799 to 1808.
Day 13: Today will be a long and challenging day, beginning with a transfer to the end of Great Lansdale Valley. Following the valley to its terminus, we then begin our climb up to Rossett Pike (1,980′). From here we descend slightly to Angle Tarn and climb again to the pass at Esk Hause (2,500′). Our descent takes us past Sparkling Tarn and Sty Head, then just beneath the buttresses of Great Gable, Kirk Fell, and the highest fell in England, Scafell Pike (3,209’), ending at Wasdale Head.
Day 14: Leaving Wasdale Head we hike up over Eskdale Moor. After passing Burnmoor Tarn, which lies between Eskdale Fell and Illgill Head, we will descend to the little hamlet of Boot. Here we can stop for lunch at the pub before heading up along the spine of Muncaster Fell. Descending through the grounds of Muncaster Castle, with its impressive rhododendron groves, we will have our first glimpse of the Irish Sea. On our way to Ravenglass we will pass the ruins of a Roman settlement before arriving at the shores of the Irish Sea. Dipping our boots in the sea will officially mark the end of our journey. From Ravenglass we will start to make our way back toward the Manchester area, stoping for the night near the village of Settle on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales.
Day 15: Transfer to Manchester Airport, arriving mid-morning.
Group transfers to and from the Manchester Airport, all accommodations, with private baths when available, all breakfasts (full English), all dinners, all group transfers on buses and vans as described in the itinerary, luggage transfer, great hiking, guides, great memories.
Air fare, lunches, optional/individual transfers between inns or individual excursions, items not on set dinner menus, beverages, insurance, tips to guides, items of a personal nature.
Singles: If you wish to have your own room there is a single supplement charge of $600. Please let us know if you would like a single at the time of registration. If you are traveling alone and would like to share a room, we will match you with a roommate. If there is no one with whom you can share there is a forced single charge of $300 .
This hike has luggage transfer each day. You will only need to carry a small day pack with the clothing and accessories you will need for the day.
While this trip includes luggage transfer, it is not vehicle supported. Participants should be in physical condition appropriate to the strenuousness of this hike. It is, however, possible to skip a day of hiking and take a taxi to the next hotel. This extra cost is not included in the price of the trip.
Accommodations and Facilities
Most evenings will be spent in small villages or hamlets. For the most part, these are not typical tourist destinations and therefore have limited choices of accommodations. Our accommodations will run the gamut between small, simple bed and breakfasts to very comfortable country inns. All rooms will be double occupancy with private bathrooms when possible. Breakfasts and dinners are served at the hotels or nearby restaurants or pubs. Lunches are picnic-style along the trail, with the occasional stop at a pub or tea room.
It is easiest to fly to Manchester, England. However, there are frequent trains from London; just be sure to allow for extra travel time.
Manchester airport at 11:00 am on Day 1 for a group transfer to our hotel near Whitby.
Group transfer to the Manchester airport. We will arrive at the airport about 10:00 am.
Who Would Like this Hike
Unlike our trips in the Alps, this trip involves more distance than it does elevation gain and loss, yet each day provides good solid hiking and ends at comfortable accommodations. Each of the three National Parks this route travels through has its own unique landscape and ecosystem, heightening the sense of traveling by foot, and the small villages en route retain a feeling of timelessness. If you’ve ever felt the urge to shout “Heathcliff” across the moors, have a cup of tea in the afternoon, a pint at the pub at the end of a long day’s walk, and experience the endless variety of footpaths and stiles that England has to offer, you really should join us.
What Makes this Trip Different
While typically the Coast-to-Coast is hiked from west to east, we hike it from east to west. Many consider the Lake District to be jewel of England’s national parks, offering some of the the best and most challenging hiking. We like leaving the best for last, working up to the most strenuous days in the Lake District National Park.
We also deviate somewhat from the Wainwright route, opting to spend more time in the National Parks. We bypass Kirkby Stephen, instead spending a day on the Pennine Way, crossing over from Swaledale over to Wensleydale and visiting the old market town of Hawes in heart of James Herroit country. And instead of ending at St. Bee’s Head, we remain in the Lake District National Park, visiting the most remote corner of the park, Wasedale Head, and ending our walk in Ravensglass.
If you would like register, would like to receive more information including a detailed itinerary (including elevation gains, loss and distance) and/or request a list of past participants please contact us and specify which trip.
Any hiking trip in the mountains requires a certain amount of effort and proper fitness training will enhance your enjoyment. In the mountains, time and elevation gain or loss as opposed to distance, tend to be the determining factors when defining hiking grades or level of difficulty. We have done our best to grade our trips consistently, please contact us for further clarification. We are happy to offer names of past participants.
Easy: Hike 3 to 4 hours daily carrying a day pack on generally gentle terrain. Distances from 4 to 8 miles. Elevation gain and loss 500' to 1,500'.
Moderate: Hike an average of 4 to 5 hours daily on varied terrain. Distances from 5 to 9 miles. Elevation gains and losses generally 1,500' to 2,500' or about 2 hours.
Strenuous: Hike 5 to 7 hours daily on varied terrain, with consistent ascents and descents of 2 to 3 or more hours generally 2,500' - 3,500'. Distances from 6 to 11 miles. There are some sections that include steep uphill and downhills.
Strenuous Plus: 5 to 8 hours partly on rocky, challenging terrain with consistent steep ascents and descents of 2 to 3 or more hours generally 3,000'-5,000'. Distances from 6 to 15 miles. Though each day is not strenuous plus there are some sections that may include rough terrain and open and exposed trails.