Walking Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Path 2017

Review of our Coast to Coast walk, June-July 2017

14 days walking 207 miles (versus the official 192)

 

General Points

 

We sought to book accommodation in inns, but apart from the amazing Osmotherley pub, and the cramped B&B at Robin Hood’s Bay, we found we got more space and hospitality in the B&B’s. Some B&B’s offered evening meals (in villages). Elsewhere (towns) it is wise to book a meal somewhere in advance, and B&B’s may advise. Most offered packed lunches.

 

We organised baggage transfer and car parking and accommodation through Sherpa Van who did well. There are similar organisations such as Coast to Coast Packhorse. Booking in October for June, we gained accommodation on the route. In some places other people had to rely on their host giving them a lift to and from the trail. Booking early is wise.

 

 

Our Route

 

Night before the walk, we stayed at

The Old Brewery in Richmond: good, extensive breakfast timed for early start.

Ate at excellent Italian restaurant Alessandro’s.

 

Day 1, Sunday 25th June 2017, Sherpa Van minibus to St Bees.

 

St Bees to:

 

1 Ennerdale Bridge 15 miles, easy walk, starting along the coast.

Fox & Hounds Inn great.

 

(Day) 2 (Ennerdale Bridge to) Rosthwaite 16 miles. Hard work (11 hours walking) with great views, because we chose to go high in clear sunny weather: Red Pike (755m) and Haystacks.

Walking down from Honister Pass are footpaths to the left so don’t have to walk all on road.

Royal Oak Inn really welcoming for walkers: we arrived just in time for evening meal.

 

3 Grasmere 10 miles. Tough as rained all day and on Greenup Edge in low cloud.

Navigation tested by boggy ground in cloud and continuous rain.

I don’t think there is an alternative low route we could have chosen.

Chestnut Villa B&B very welcoming with washing and drying facilities.

Pubs nearby for evening meal and in this village with many shops and pubs.

 

4 Patterdale 9 miles, easy walk with some climbing to Grisedale Tarn (pretty). Glad of a shorter day. Option of climbing St Sunday Crag or Helvellyn & Striding Edge but no point in low cloud. St Sunday Crag highly recommended by Wainwright.

Some people walk Rosthwaite to Patterdale in one go but this would tough in bad weather.

White Lion Hotel: good to have B,B&EM in one place in centre of pretty village.

One useful shop.

 

5 Bampton Grange 15 miles. Some up and down initially then flat. We chose not to take the advertised route over the theoretically highest point of the walk (Kidsty Pike 780m) because cloud base was 300m. Alternative route mentioned in passing in Wainwright’s guide book but not in Trailblazer, so worked this out ourselves on OS map, being to travel up 2/3 of Ullswater then cut across moor on easy and visible footpaths to Bampton. This was a pretty walk, and notable for change of scenery as we left the Lake District. We’d chosen to stay in Bampton which is off the main route to shorten that day’s walk to Shap as encouraged by the guide book. (So by also staying in Orton tomorrow, we’d split the two days from Patterdale to Kirkby Stephen into three.) If we’d done the main route over Kidsty Pike we may have regretted this. However with our alternative low route Bampton is on the way to Shap so this was a good choice.

Crown & Mitre Inn: the friendliest pub we stayed in – very hospitable.

They don’t do packed lunches but food available in Shap so not a problem.

 

6 Orton 13 miles, easy and interesting walk. Co-op and Abbey Tea Room in Shap half way.

Orton is v. pretty, worth detour, has chocolate factory and shop and The George Inn for EM.

Combe Leigh – self catering house with washing machine and breakfast in fridge – which felt like a nice change. Owner lives next door. No packed lunch available for purchase, but enough breakfast food to make bacon butties for lunch.

 

7 Kirkby Stephen 13 miles easy walk

Fletcher House B&B exceptionally welcoming. Lots of restaurants in town. After arriving, we sought to book a table in pub restaurants, which were already full perhaps preferring their residents and it was the weekend. In time to book good Indian at Mango Tree.

 

8 Keld 13 miles, hilly, this is the half way point of the walk. Lovely village, waterfalls.

Strikingly beautiful moorland walk over Pennine watershed Nine Standards Rigg (662m).

There are three different routes signposted for different times of year and one is good for poor weather (and can just walk on the road too). Navigation can be challenging. The worst boggy bits were paved over in April 2017, an expensive project we much appreciated!

Cream Tea at Ravenseat Farm, home of author and renowned shepherdess Amanda Owen.

Butt House, exceptionally welcoming B,B & EM & bar. Clothes washing available.

 

9 Reeth 14 miles, a long and largely flat day where we followed the alternative low route along the River Swale judging this to be prettiest (not sharing Wainwright’s interest in ruinous mines!) and also the only real “Dales” day of the walk. We modified that so we followed the river all the way and not the suggested climb after Gunnerside. We detoured to pretty Muker where there is a wool shop and cafés, and sat on village green in Gunnerside for lunch (also pub). All lovely. Reeth is pretty too.

Buck Inn was fine, and seemed to be the best pub in the village. Shops & Post Office too.

 

10 Brompton-on-Swale 17 miles easy walk with dramatic entry to Richmond.

We followed the guidebook’s advice in walking beyond Richmond to lengthen today and shorten tomorrow. This is probably wise advice but Brompton is an uninviting place and maybe we should have stayed in Richmond and the following day stayed at Ingleby (Blue Bell pub) instead of Osmotherley which was a bit of a detour, but would need to book early for the Blue Bell because of its strategic location.

Refreshments were available at Marske Church and we had lunch in a Richmond café. Farmer’s Arms Inn at Brompton-on-Swale: uninspiring, but nothing there has good reviews!

 

11 Osmotherley 21 miles of flat and less interesting Vale of York (Vale of Mowbray),

except for the climb into woodland after Ingleby.

Various random homes and churches offered refreshments on the way, which was fun, including Ingleby. We had packed lunch on the green by the pub at Danby Wiske, approximately half way. Some people use this as an overnight stop.

Wainwright and more recent guides have given up on recommending footpaths in places because of their poor condition, so more road walking than is desirable.

Needed patience to wait for gap in traffic to cross A19 dual carriageway.

Footbridge seems essential but council haven’t done it yet.

Golden Lion pub plush and recommended for “fine dining” which was a treat!

 

12 Clay Bank Top 12 miles. Super hilly walk over Cleveland Hills with fine views.

There is no accommodation at Clay Bank Top. The hotel gave us a lift, we phoned from the dramatic Wain Stones where there is good reception.

Buck Inn at Chop Gate: hospitable walkers’ inn with German flavour.

 

13 Glaisdale 18 miles easy walking after an initial climb.

Green Howe excellent B,B & EM on the way in to this pretty and interesting village.

May have been better to walk on to Grosmont, to shorten the last day.

 

Day 14 Robin Hood’s Bay 21 miles varied terrain pretty woodland and moor.

Another 11 hour day, but we had quite a few stops!

Navigational challenges on boggy open moorland approaching Middle Rigg (Graystone Hills).

Dramatic arrival at North Sea and into Robin Hood’s Bay.

North Yorks Steam Railway at Grosmont: worth arriving at times when trains do! Café.

Pretty waterfall and café for lunch stop at Littlebeck.

West Royd Guest House hospitable, conveniently located at top of village, but a bit cramped. We ate at the good restaurant next door (Wayfarer Bistro) which is also a B&B.

 

Sunday 9th July 2017, rest day in Robin Hood’s Bay which was a great choice as this is a pretty and fascinating village. We could also have caught the bus to Whitby.

Then, late afternoon, Sherpa Van minibus to Richmond and this final night stayed at

The Black Lion Inn which was fine. Good pub food there although we had booked into the excellent French Restaurant Rustique nearby.

 

 

Equipment

 

A guidebook is essential. We used Trailblazer by Stedman revised 2016 as it was the most up to date. We noticed most people were using these. The hand drawn maps complement Ordnance Survey. The guide book will give more advice on equipment etc.

 

Maps of the route, e.g. the two from Harvey, are highly desirable as well, to give a sense of direction and an overview and but they are not detailed enough for navigation on this path.

Ordnance Survey (OS) Explorer (paper) maps are essential for the Lake District (OL4 & OL5) and also useful for Nine Standards Rigg (OL19), to assist with navigation and at times to find alternative routes, as is proficiency in navigating with these and a compass. In places paths are boggy or indistinct, cloud can descend, and rocky paths in the Lake District surprise people who are not familiar with the area with their difficulty.

 

(Wainwright in his introduction makes clear that the task is to travel from coast to coast, and his path is a recommendation, so his route can be varied without any sense of guilt!)

 

A Smartphone with GPS, with waterproof case and with OS maps loaded is useful to help with location at times of difficulty. OS now give free downloads if you buy the paper map. There is also an OS App that will give you your Grid Reference, which is also useful for emergencies or with paper maps.

 

Good walking boots and waterproofs including waterproof trousers. Warm gloves. Woolly hat. Sun hat. Sunglasses. Sun cream. Waterproof cases for maps and guide books.

 

According to the kind of walking one is accustomed to, training to build up to the chosen walking distances and to build up to the amount of climbing involved is wise.

 

 

Conclusion

 

This was a challenging walk, because of varied terrain and the need to reach a destination daily regardless of the weather. However we enjoy a great sense of achievement having completed it, having kept going and not been stopped by injury, and the scenery is stunning. Although the lengths of walk towards the end seemed long to us, and I query stopping in different places, the choices worked well for us.

 

July 2017.

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