A Guide to Wainwright's Coast to Coast in Cumbria

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The famous Coast to Coast route is a 182 mile (293km) route that winds its way from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hoods Bay on the far side of Yorkshire. Each year, thousands of people tackle the entire route, but no-one said it had to all be done in one go so, instead of racing through in a big sweaty heap, book a cottage (or two) and explore the route at a more leisurely pace. There are plenty of interesting places to discover along the way and these are just a few of our favourites!

St Bees

St Bees in CumbriaJust a short drive from our lovely cottages in Ennerdale is the picturesque town of St Bees and the start of the C2C – you can even have your photo taken by the sign at the start of the walk and pretend to your friends that you did it... For a spectacular view, take a stroll up onto the sea cliffs, the only ones in Cumbria, where there are RSPB information boards to help you pick out the birds and sea life visible from above. When you’re done, cool off with a well earned ice cream from Hartley’s on the sea front; it’s a big hit with locals and visitors alike!

Ennerdale Water

Ennerdale Water in the Lake DistrictIf you’re wanting to escape the crowds, then this is the perfect place to do it. A lap of Ennderdale Water is only around 7.5 miles and is easy going with a maximum height of 10 metres and plenty of places to pause and enjoy a picnic. The lake is SSSI (a Site of Special Scientific Interest) as it’s home to rare Arctic Char. You’re not likely to spot any, though, as they live deep down at the bottom of the lake where the water is nice and cold!

The lake is one of the very few in the Lake District without a road running by it and, because of that, it is generally a lot quieter than the more popular lakes. If it looks vaguely familiar it could be because it featured in the closing scenes of Danny Boyle’s film 28 Days Later! And, for romantic American Democrats, the lake is the spot where a young Bill Clinton proposed to Hillary in 1973. Awwww...

Borrowdale Valley

River in the Borrowdale Valley in the Lake DistrictFrom the first moment visitors arrived in the county, the Borrowdale Valley has captivated and enthralled everyone who sees it. This quiet valley was once a hive of activity; throughout the sixteenth century copper and lead was extensively mined in the local hills. A quick look at an OS map will reveal a number of disused mines and quarries in the area.

It also gave us the expression “black market” thanks to the miners of the locally found graphite who used to steal from the mines and sell to the highest bidder! The George is perhaps the best known of several pubs in nearby Keswick that were popular trading spots.

Then there’s Millican Dalton, the Professor of Adventure, who lived in a nearby cave for nearly 50 years! Millican did what many of us feel like doing at some time or another; at the age of 36 he felt trapped in office life so embarked on a spot of extreme downsizing. He took up residence in his cave in the 1920s and lived a very frugal life and made his way by leading visitors on exciting adventures. He was particularly known for leading women on climbs and even allowing them to take the lead in an era when that really wasn’t the done thing at all! We don’t offer caves but we do have a rather wonderful selection of cosy cottages nearby.

Grasmere

Dove Cottage in Grasmere, the Lake DistrictWe can’t mention Grasmere without mentioning Wordsworth, who lived in and around the village for much of his adult life. His grave, and those of sister Dorothy and many other members of his family, can be found in St Oswald’s Church in the village, and, of course, you can visit Dove Cottage, one of his previous homes. If you want to find a lesser-known memorial to Wordsworth, then take a look at the large water trough right next to the mini roundabout on the A591 at Townend (near Dove Cottage); it’s hard to miss once you know it’s there, but most folks just drive right past.

The Wordsworth trail continues if you follow the track along Little Tongue up to Grizedale Tarn. There you will find Brothers’ Parting Stone, reputedly where William Wordsworth last saw his brother John before John was drowned in a shipwreck off the coast of Dorset. The stone is marked with a few lines from the poem Wordsworth wrote in his honour.

From our pretty cottages in Grasmere village there is also a well marked, and rather wonderful, route up to Easedale Tarn; it’s busy during the day but absolutely perfect for a stroll on a warm summer evening, there are stunning waterfalls to enjoy along the route as well as breathtaking views over the valley.

Patterdale

Patterdale and Ullswater in the Lake DistrictLying close to the shores of Ullswater is Patterdale. The village was named after St Patrick, who is said to have visited in 540 AD and converted a number of people to Christianity. St Patrick’s Well, near the road into Glenridding, once marked the centre of St Patrick’s Day celebrations in the valley.

Nearby Glenridding is another mining area and the walk up out of the village to the Greenside Mines makes for a pleasant walk. It’s fascinating to see how nature is reclaiming the spoil heaps!

More recently, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited the valley in June 2019 and enjoyed a walk from Patterdale up to the hills above Side Farm, which offer stunning views of Ullswater. If they’d had a little more time they could have explored up to Boredale Hause and the possible site of an old chapel standing alongside what was once a busy packhorse route. For accommodation fit for a king (and queen!) check out our selection of local cottages here.

Haweswater

Road near Haweswater in the Lake DistrictHaweswater is one of the most fascinating lakes in the county, even though it’s technically a reservoir! It was flooded in the early part of the 20th century, forever burying the village of Mardale Green. Or maybe not! During times of drought, the water level falls and the old buildings and streets eerily emerge from the depths. Burnbanks, a small collection of white bungalows at the northern end of the lake, was originally built as temporary housing for the dam workers and a special concrete road was laid from the village out to the A6 to bring in building materials for the dam. After falling into disrepair, the village was renovated in 2006 and the road still exists, winding its way out through a series of pretty valleys. 

The best-known historical building nearby is probably Shap Abbey, which is definitely worth going to explore. If you enjoy seeking out the lesser-known, then pay a visit to Keld and the beautiful old chapel there. To get in you need to collect the large iron key that hangs on a nail of the house opposite the church and, once inside, there are plenty of information boards filling you in the surprisingly eventful past of this very pretty little chapel.

You can stay near Haweswater in one of our lovely holiday cottages in the area.

Smardale Gill

Smardale Viaduct in CumbriaJust before the Coast to Coast route disappears over the border into Yorkshire it crosses one of the finest nature reserves in Cumbria. Smardale Gill nature reserve is looked after by Cumbria Wildlife Trust and, as well as being one of the most spectacularly beautiful in the county, it’s also home to some of the rarest plants and animals. 

Scandal Beck, which runs through the reserve, is home to the rare white-clawed crayfish. It’s Britain’s only native freshwater crayfish and is under serious threat from the American signal crayfish, which arrived in our rivers after escaping - or being deliberately released - from a private aquarium.

It’s also home to a wonderful example of mountain hay meadow. There are only 1,000 hectares of mountain hay meadow in the world and the fields along the old railway line are full of typical hay meadow species such as wood cranesbill and melancholy thistle.

Talking of the old railway line, if you wander along the broad, flat track that follows the old rail route you will soon arrive at the centrepiece: Smardale Gill Viaduct. The viaduct is 90 feet (27.43m) high with fourteen arches spanning the valley. The line closed many years ago but, on days when the wind whips between the arches and whistles through the handrails of the old bridge, it sounds for all the world like the ghosts of long departed steam trains are coming back to haunt us!

To explore this wonderful valley take a look at our lovely selection of local cottages.

 

Whether you do decide to hike or bike the whole route, or just explore some of the attractions and beauty along parts of the Coast to Coast route, you can find your perfect holiday cottage with our Cottage Search.

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