The Cumbria Way is 70 miles (112km) long footpath from Ulverston to Carlisle. It passes through the Langdale and Borrowdale valleys and the towns of Coniston and Keswick. It is a primarily low-level long distance footpath but does contain a few high-level exposed sections.
We walked the Cumbria Way in 2018 with our children aged 6 and 7. This was going to be the longest walk the children had done. So we decided to reduce the mileage and walk from Gawthwaite to Caldbeck. I have since walked the Caldbeck to Carlisle stretch on my own, so I’ve included that as well.
Recommended reading: Cicerone’s The Cumbria Way and Harvey Cumbria Way XT40 Map.
Tents: Terra Nova Competition 1 for our two children and Nordisk Telemark 2 for my wife and me.
We left our car in the Caldbeck car park and got a taxi to Gawthwaite. It rained all morning but as soon as we started walking it stopped. Lucky..
After leaving Gawthwaite, we soon had good views of our intended route and the Lake District mountains.
The paths were good, just a bit wet and muddy in places because of the earlier rain.
Having driven from Norfolk and then had another hour or so in the taxi, time was getting on. We found a lovely spot by Beacon Tarn to camp. It wasn’t perfectly flat but it was pretty dry considering the amount of rain earlier. There looked to be another good camping spot the other end of the tarn but there was another couple camped there. We like solitude!
Out children enjoyed playing by the tarn while we made dinner.
We woke to a really clear and sunny morning. We had breakfast, packed up and got away fairly quickly because it was a bit chilly. The route took us to Coniston Water, where we followed a lovely path along the shoreline. We arrived at a really nice pub in Coniston village just in time for lunch and a pint.
It was an interesting walk from Coniston to Tarn Hows, one of the prettiest Tarns in Cumbria. It can get extremely busy here but it wasn’t too bad today. We were lucky to have the sun out and see it at its best.
From Tarn Hows the route takes you to the stunning Great Langdale valley. We didn’t get to see too much of it though. It was getting late and we were struggling to find a suitable camping spot for our tents. We were also hungry and keen to get to the pub for a meal.
Wainwrights’ Inn at Chapel Stile turned out to be worth the walk! It was busy though and we did have to wait. After a great meal we left the pub and walked the length of the valley in the dark with our head torches on. The children thought this was a great adventure, although a lady we were talking to in the pub was horrified by our plan! We finally found a good camping spot at Mickleden, tucked out of the wind.
It was a steep climb out of the valley to Stake Pass. Then we enjoyed a lovely walk over the top and down the valley beside the Langstrath Beck to Rosthwaite.
At Rosthwaite the official route goes low level around the western side of the Derwent Water, but we’ve done that a few times before. So instead of carrying on through Borrowdale, we chose to make our own route up, and go around the eastern side of the Derwent water to Keswick. At Rosthwaite we climbed north east to Watendlath. From there we followed the Watendlath Beck down the valley to camp.
It was a little tricky to find a suitable, unobtrusive spot here as the path from Watendlath is popular. We finally chose a relatively flat spot tucked away in the trees.
We woke to cows walking around in the woods very near to our tents, so we didn’t take long packing up.
A little further down the valley, we crossed the bridge and headed towards the road. We followed this briefly, then left it again at Ashness Bridge Our route climbed up to Falcon Crag and Lady’s Rake, on a nice path that doesn’t even appear on my Landranger map.
This route gave us amazing views of the mountains around us, including Cat Bells on the opposite side of Derwent Water. We descended into Keswick for lunch and rejoined the proper Cumbria Way. The route initially follows the main path up Skiddaw, so it can be busy. The Cumbria Way then leaves the Skiddaw route before the main climb and heads around to Skiddaw House, a very remote Youth Hostel.
We found a great camp spot for our tents, right by the river just before getting to Skiddaw House.We stopped fairly early because it was a long walk down this valley and there aren’t many places to camp. This gave us time to cook dinner and the children time to play hide and seek in the heather, before it got dark. We all appreciated this down time.
The day started off cool and cloudy. It was a long walk down the valley before a stiff climb up a smaller valley to Lingy Hut. The children found this section quite challenging, and the poor weather didn’t help.
Lingy Hut is a great place to get out of the wind and rain for a rest (or even stay the night).
It was cold and cloudy whilst climbing over High Pike.
The paths down from High Pike are a bit misleading and I needed my GPS to come off it in the right place.
It was then a steady descent down through fields and a short stretch on quiet roads to Caldbeck and our car. A wonderful October half-term adventure!
I came back this way on my Lands End to John O’Groats and 3 Peaks walk in March 2019. I spent the night in Lingy Hut and walked all the way to Carlisle.
Caldbeck is a pretty village with a cafe and pub if needed.
Caldbeck to Carlisle
After Caldbeck, the Cumbria Way follows the river Caldew all the way to Carlisle. Initially the path climbs through the woods with some good views.
The route then drops down to follow the river more closely, on nice grassy paths.
As you get closer to Carlisle the paths have been surfaced.
The Cumbria Way is a lovely walk on mostly good quality, well-signed paths. It’s interesting and would make a good first long distance walk. It does have some remote sections but there’s nothing too difficult (as long as you’ve got a map, compass and suitable clothing). I was able to wild camp all the way but it was sometimes a little difficult to find somewhere suitable.
I could not think of doing any of my long distance walks without my waterproof phone, which I use for navigation and safety. Read my review of the GPS and mapping here and My Ulefone Amor 3W phone review.
My Cumbria Way alternative over Scafell Pike
How I plan a successful long distance walk
My other walks with children: Boudicca Way, Isle of Wight coast path, Weavers Way and South West Coast path
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