The Coast to Coast Walk

…otherwise known as the C2C.

C2C-2011-006This and the Pennine Way are probably the two best-known long-distance trails in Britain, attracting a great many walkers from all over the world. Wainwright devised the C2C after having found the Pennine Way to be – as many have –  a dispiriting slog. In contrast, the C2C is a delight, passing through three national parks, showing off England at its most picturesque and having well-defined start and end points, giving a real sense of having reached an objective.

Despite being one of the most heavily walked trails in Britain, the C2C is not an official Long Distance Path (LDP). Waymarking is patchy, and completely absent in the Lake District national park, so you need to be able to navigate. And because of its popularity you also need to book your overnight accommodation early; I booked mine in December/January for the end of May and had a couple of frights when I found some places/dates were already full. There are bottlenecks on the trail with limited accommodation – most notably Keld, and Blakey on the North Yorkshire moors. However, Stumblers’ Luck prevailed and I had every stopover secured in good time. Timing also helped; during the first week I often found myself the only guest at the B&Bs and occasionally got free ‘upgrades’!

Go Left to Right!

AW was spot-on when he recommended going West to East to keep the weather at your back. When I did it, we had howling westerlies for a fortnight – Amber warnings; horizontal hail etc – and I simply wouldn’t have made it pushing against that lot all day, every day.

So I travelled to St Bees by rail, via Newcastle and Carlisle, arriving early afternoon. St Bees has nothing to detain you – trust me – so this gave me the opportunity of a half-day walk to my first stopover at Moor Row, to check that the feet were behaving properly and that the pack was correctly adjusted.

Travel light

I strongly recommend that you carry the minimum weight possible on this trek. I opted to B&B all the way, so no tent, sleeping bag etc, and ruthlessly cut my pack weight down to the bare minimum.

Some people use baggage transfer services and just carry a day pack. But however you travel, pack plenty of water.


The stopover points are well defined, so how you plan the walk is really a matter of whether you merge or split the stages. This is how I did it:





St Bees Moor Row 8 A short warm-up! Some walkers start early from St Bees and stopover at Ennerdale, then pass Black Sail to reach Rosthwaite on Day 2
Moor Row Black Sail Youth Hostel 16 Village shop in Cleator. Decent pub in Ennerdale. Black Sail is a landmark on the C2C. Note that you can’t camp outside the hostel.
Black Sail Stonethwaite 6 Be sure to take the path up Loft Beck – read the map! Take care on the loose scree descending through Honister Pass. Cafe at the Slate Mine. Reward yourself with dinner at the excellent Langstrath Inn in Stonethwaite.
Stonethwaite Patterdale 14 Via Grasmere. Some walkers split this leg at Grasmere to allow time for shopping/sightseeing.
Patterdale Shap 15 Over Kidsty Pike, the highest point on the C2C. Pub food in Shap.
Shap Orton 8 A short day to recover from the Lake District. Pub and shop in Orton. Some walkers press right on to Kirkby Stephen in one leg
Orton Kirkby Stephen 14 Typical rolling English countryside. Shops and pubs in KS.
Kirkby Stephen Keld 11 Via Nine Standards Rigg. Very limited accommodation at Keld, so get this booked up first
Keld Reeth 10 Choice of going over the high moorland or following the river valley, according to the weather and your preference. The high route may be hard to navigate in bad visibility.
Reeth Richmond 10 Yorkshire Dales country
Rest day at Richmond Found Richmond a bit disappointing. Walking shops very poor.
Richmond Danby Wiske 14 Ignore AW’s remarks about the White Swan; this is now a real walkers’ pub – excellent food, beer and accommodation.
Danby Wiske Osmotherly 11 Reasonably level going until final climb up onto the edge of the NY moors. Pub food. Also village shop, but you may be leaving before it opens.
Osmotherly Blakey 19 Unless you fancy tackling 32 miles in one go, you need to secure accommodation at Blakey first. You can either camp or B&B at the Lion Inn. Good pub food and their Full English Breakfasts are HUGE!
Blakey Grosmont 13 On the NY Moors railway; lots to look at here. Cafe, pubs, shop.
Grosmont Robin Hood’s Bay 14 Very pretty village. Good pub grub at the top of the hill; choice of eateries depends on time and day you arrive – ask for advice. As of 2016, the souvenir shop at the bottom seems to have closed; try the pub.
Return home Bus to Scarborough, then rail via York

What you need to know

You must have a good set of maps and be able to navigate. DO NOT just rely on one of the glossy guide books. And DO NOT use Wainwright’s original book. Wads of OS maps are bulky and awkward, so buy the excellent Harveys strip maps; these are detailed, tough and waterproof. The ONLY guidebook you should use is the Trailblazer one, but use this in conjunction with the maps, not as a substitute. Be sure to check online sources for up-to-date information about diversions, accommodation etc.

C2C-2011-016Don’t underestimate the Lake District. You need waterproofs at any time of year and don’t attempt high ground in bad visibility unless you really can navigate. I found a cheap GPS invaluable; low cloud over high ground hides all landmarks, so being able to verify your location can save you a lot of grief.

Especially in warm weather, carry and drink plenty of water. A hydration bladder in your pack will save a lot of stopping and starting, but probably won’t be sufficient without some reserves. I reuse plastic Coke bottles and stow them in the side pockets. Refill at every opportunity.

Don’t take your dog! It simply won’t be able to tackle the distance.

Don’t be put off travelling alone; you’ll meet people on the trail. But if you do go in a group stay together at all costs in poor visibility. If on your own, team up with others to tackle difficult conditions.

Don’t attempt the C2C as your first long-distance walk; one encounters many people tackling it with not the least idea of what they’re in for. In particular, you must be confident that your feet and footwear will go the distance; this is probably the biggest single success/failure factor.

You can glean much from the various C2C forums, but don’t be put off by some of the more colourful accounts. Most of these are self-inflicted problems from people who failed to plan or prepare. If you plan the walk and walk the plan you’ll have an enjoyable trek.

Take your time. It’s not a race. There is much to enjoy along every leg of the journey.

What you need to take

Waterproofs! Getting cold, wet and miserable is the second most common reason for giving up. Most B&Bs on the trail are used to drying out wet gear, but best to not get soaked in the first place! You need:

  • Stormproof lightweight jacket with hood
  • Breathable overtrousers
  • Rain cover for your pack
  • Waterproof pack liner
  • Waterproof map case

Cheap outerwear will either not be waterproof or not be breathable. Equally, stitched map cases are not waterproof. You need a welded one such as the Ortleib.

Food. Even if you’re not camping, you should check where you can pick up trail food en route; some places don’t have shops. Most B&Bs will do you a packed lunch.

Useful Links

The Wainwright Society

The Sherpa Van Project – Trail planner and baggage transfer service

Wikipedia – Excellent information resource

The Coast to Coast in pictures

Disclaimer: This is based on one person’s experience. No warranty is expressed or implied. If you attempt the C2C it is your responsibility to plan your trek on up-to-date information, prepare properly, and conduct your journey appropriately.