Wild Walking UK

Wainwright’s Coast to Coast

Summer 2009

This Coast to Coast Walk is 182-mile long, 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.

It is an unofficial and mostly not signposted. Official starting in St Bees, Cumbria and finishing at Robin Hoods Bay, North Yorkshire. Taking 2-3 weeks to complete and best walked between April and October. It is possible to walk it out side these months if suitably equipped.

I walked it in 2009 with my family. 2 adults and 4 children (aged between 6 and 12 years old).

Even though there were 6 of use, we only carried 2 two man tents. We needed to keep the weight down, because my wife and myself were having to carry a lot of the kids stuff.

We didn’t book any accommodation along the way. We planned on just walked as fare as could each day, then stopping when we felt the kids had had enough. It turned out that they could walk further than us, so we walked it faster than expected. We did 7 wild camps, stayed on 5 camp sites and camped in 1 beer garden.

Much appreciated Pub beer garden camp

It’s recommended that Wainwright’s Coast to Coast route is walked from west (St Bees) to east (Robin Hood’s Bay) due to prevailing winds. However, I like to walk popular routes the ‘wrong way round’, so I’m not walking with people all the time and ending the day in the same places as them. Which can make the pubs and campsites busy. Most people tend to start the walk at a weekend. Another option would be to start mid week when its often quieter.

Heading off from Robin Hood’s Bay

So we started from Robin Hood’s Bay mid-afternoon. We had parked our motorhome on a campsite in Shap (the halfway point) and got a taxi to our start point. This meant that if we had to abandon the walk we would not be too far from our transport – an important safety consideration when walking with children.

The compulsory climb down to dip our toes in the sea was hard, knowing we had to face the steep climb back up again. It was worth it, though! The walk around the coast path was beautiful before heading inland and pitching up at the commercial campsite at Hawsker.

We very nearly didn’t stay here for the night. When I asked the price for our two 2-man hiking tents, the site owner tried to charge me £40, claiming that I would need two pitches. I explained we only needed one (and would still have too much space!) Eventually the owner relented and allowed us to put both tents on one pitch. The children were delighted, as the camp site had a great play area. No-one really wanted to walk any further that day.

Moors inland from Robin Hoods Bay
Lovely valley walk

Leaving Hawsker the next morning, we walked over exposed moors and then through a lovely valley past Falling Foss. We walked on through Littlebeck and stopped at Grosmont to watch the steam trains for a little while.

Grosmont

Yorkshire

Lovely Yorkshire

Then it was back into the Yorkshire moors, where we wild camped for the first time on Wainwright’s route. I was pleasantly surprised by Yorkshire, which is an area that I hadn’t done much walking in. The scenery was beautiful, but it was the friendliness of the people that really stood out for me. For instance, we arrived at a pub in Colburn just after they had stopped serving food. They willingly re-opened the kitchens just for us and served all six of us great meals. They even offered to charge our phones, fill our water bottles and, best of all, offered free camping in their beer garden! Perfect.

First wild camp

I really enjoyed the walking in Yorkshire too, dropping in and out of the valleys and finding old ruins that hinted at the past industry in the area.

Interesting Yorkshire valleys
Forever changing scenery

Towards the end of the Yorkshire Dales we found a remote farm offering ice creams, much to the children’s delight. Even better, they offered us a night’s camping, six massive breakfasts and a pot of tea for £20. Who could refuse?

Motor way crossing towards the end of a 20 mile day
Shap and The Lake District ahead

The Lake District

After this, it was a long, dull 20 miles towards Shap and the start of the Lake District. The walking became rougher and the weather changed too. It rained continuously for at least 24 hours, and the wind buffeted us as we crossed from Borrowdale to Ennerdale. I can still remember shivering in Seatoller bus shelter with the rain blowing horizontally through the valley. We couldn’t see the mountains on the other side at all.

Lovely walk beside Haweswater Reservior
Good weather and walking today in the Lake District
Wet and windy Lake District

As we walked along the lovely path on the southern edge of Ennerdale Water, the rain finally stopped. We found a play area which pleased the children. The sun had finally come out, so we stripped off and laid all our wet clothes out to dry on the play equipment.

St. Bees

St Bees

The walk over Dent and Moor Row was nice. We passed the outskirts of Whitehaven and arrived for a perfect finish in the sunshine at St Bees. Our Wainwright’s Coast to Coast adventure ended with a compulsory play in the sea! All that was left for us to do was get a taxi back to the motorhome waiting for us back in Shap.

We were pretty lucky with the weather on this trip, with mostly warm sunshine and light winds. There was only one day of rain (although boy, did it rain). Wainwright’s Coast to Coast is a great walk with children, providing they are reasonably fit, as the paths are mostly good. There is a reasonable amount of road walking and some hilly sections, but this is balanced with plenty of pubs and campsites to rest and recover. There are also plenty of re-supply opportunities in the towns and villages.

Other walks I’ve completed with children more recently include the Pennine Way, the Weavers’ Way and the Cumbria Way. I’ve also suggested some of the best long walks with children here.

Recommended long distance walks that I’ve done alone: LEJOG+ 3 Peaks, Cape Wrath Trail, TGO Challenge.

Gear Lists.

My 11 wild camping rules.