It’s the classic. A 300km, multi-day trek across northern England, taking in three national parks and some of Britain’s best walking. Here’s how to do it
Wainwright’s Coast to Coast is at the top of most walkers’ bucket list, and rightly so. The route crosses some of England’s juiciest landscapes, starting at St Bees Head in Cumbria before crossing the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors, before ending at Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea some192 miles later.
Devised in 1973 by fell walker extraordinaire Alfred Wainwright, the fortnight-long route has become an institution, topping best walk polls and propping up bookshelves year after year.
Twelve days, 192 miles, and views like this… we like Wainwright’s style | Drew Rawcliffee – Fotolia.com
But how do you actually go about doing it? East to west? B&B or camp? Baggage support or solo? Here’s the lowdown:
First things first, choose your direction: east to west or west to east? Wainwright’s original route is designed to be crossed from the west, quite simply because it means you’ll have your back to the prevailing weather and the afternoon sun out of your eyes.
But the east to west route has its advantages too. By starting with the challenging but not devilishly-hilly North York Moors, it gives you a chance to ease yourself in and find your walking feet, whereas the traditional route throws you straight into the fells of the Lake District, with the 1100ft hill of Dent on your first day.
Harvey offers maps of both directions, which can be ordered from harveymaps.co.uk
TO CAMP OR NOT TO CAMP?
We like to think anyone reading this will pick a tent over a roof any night of the week. It’s cheaper, and adds to the experience.
But when you’re talking a 12-day plus slog across the country, hostels, bunkhouses and B&Bs start to sound ever so slightly more tempting, especially if you’re planning on carrying your own pack.
If you do opt for the cushy option, get booking the moment you know your dates; accommodation in remote spots can be hard to come by.
Postcard-worthy views from start to finish |Gail Johnson – Fotolia.com
Twelve days’ worth of gear, including essentials like first aid kits, waterproofs and food, mean big packs, especially if you’re bringing your camping gear. There are, however, companies who’ll pick up your luggage each morning and drop it at your next port of call.
Try sherpavan.com, with prices starting at £7 a day (they also offer a bus service to and from your parked car).
THE COAST TO COAST IN NUMBERS
3 – the number of national parks the route crosses
12 – the number of day-long sections Wainwright’s original route involves
24 – the longest section of the walk, in miles
2560 – the height (in feet) of Kidsty Pike, the highest point of the walk
40 – the fastest time, to the nearest hour, that the crossing has been completed in