England's Coast-to-Coast Walk

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14615A, International

Highlights

  • Hike through three national parks
  • Visit ancient ruins and historical sites
  • Enjoy beautiful scenery and great beer

Includes

  • Local guides and all on-trip transportation
  • All lodging, meals, and tips
  • All admissions as described below

Details

DatesMay 19–Jun 1, 2014
Price$3,945
Deposit$200
Capacity14
StaffGene Goldberg

Trip Overview

The Trip

This is England's most popular walk and has been described as one of the finest walks in the world. Beginning on the coast of the Irish Sea, we will walk through three of England's national parks: the Lake District, renowned for its gorgeous lakes and craggy peaks; the Yorkshire Dales, with its gentle green valleys full of ancient stone walls and old farms, and popularized by the PBS series, All Creatures Great and Small; and the North York Moors, which is secluded and lush with heather, and ends at a picturesque coastline along the North Sea. We will stop in charming old English villages, frequent quaint pubs and tearooms, and explore ancient abbeys, Neolithic monuments, and medieval ruins along the way. Our coast-to-coast walk covers about 90+ miles of the original 190-mile traverse developed by A. W. Wainwright in 1973. A bus will carry our luggage, allowing each of us to carry only a day pack as we walk 6.5 to 12 miles a day.

We expect to have some local ramblers joining us for many of our walks and they will also join us for dinner, giving us insights into the rhythm of life in rural England. Some of the landscapes that we cross will display the aftereffects of lead, coal, and iron mining in past ages.

The following is a tentative description of our day-to-day activities. Inclement weather or poor trail conditions could necessitate changes.

Itinerary

Day 1: Carlisle to St. Bees. Our trip officially begins after breakfast, when we meet to review the day’s activities, address any last minute questions and then go off on a walking history tour of the castle and the town of Carlisle. After lunch, we will leave Carlisle for a one-hour drive to St. Bees, where we will be taken to our accommodations. After checking into our lodgings we will tour the St. Bees Priory and learn about the St. Bees Man, a well-preserved body from the 14th century, before meeting in the evening for dinner.

Day 2: St. Bees to Cleator (9.5 miles). After the traditional dipping of our boots into the Irish Sea, we will begin the ascent and traverse of St. Bees Head, a three-mile-long promontory that ends in cliffs that fall 300 feet to the Irish Sea. On a clear day, you can see the lakeland fells (hills) to the east and the Isle of Man to the west. At the end of today’s walk, we take some time for well-deserved refreshments at a local pub before being transported to our lodgings.

Day 3: Ennerdale Bridge to Stonethwaite (11 miles). This section begins with a walk along the shore of Ennerdale Water, the westernmost lake in the Lake District, to Ennerdale Forest. After a lunch break at Black Sail Youth Hostel, we climb a strenuous 1,000 feet over Honister Pass, which is dominated by the magnificent mountain scenery of Pillar (2,927 feet), Great Gable (2,949 feet), and the rugged Haystacks, where Wainwright chose to have his ashes spread. The path leads down to Honister Quarry, where we will visit one of the oldest slate mines still operating. From there, we will board our waiting bus to our accommodations at Borrowdale, a very picturesque Lakeland valley.

Day 4: Stonethwaite to Grasmere (8.2 miles, gain 1,950 feet). Our second day in the Lake District starts by walking into the secluded side valley of Stonethwaite, which is dominated by Eagle Crag. We will climb over Greenup Edge to the head of Far Easedale, the valley leading back to Grasmere. If the weather is fine after lunch, we may elect to continue up to the summit rocks of Helm Crag, an amazing array of pinnacles and tilted rock slabs. Following our ascent, we’ll descend into the historic village of Grasmere, the birthplace of William Wordsworth. We will overnight in Grasmere.       

Day 5: Grasmere to Glenridding (8.5 miles, gain 1,600 feet). Today our walk will take us around Great Tongue, between Helvellyn Peak (3,118 feet) and St. Sunday Crag, then alongside Grisedale Tarn (lake) before we descend to Glenridding, where we will spend the next two nights.

Day 6: Around Glenridding. (6.6 miles) Deviating from Wainwright's classic route to see the gorgeous Ullswater Lake, we take a boat ride on one of the historic passenger vessels from lakeside Glenridding to Howtown. From there we walk back to Glenridding, following the lakeshore back to our accommodations.

Day 7: Sunbiggin Tarn to Kirkby Stephen (8 miles). The day starts with a bus ride to shorten what would otherwise be a 22-mile walk! The hills in this area are gentler and our route less rocky than in the Lake District. After crossing near Rayseat Pike and the lower slopes of Crosby Garret Fell, we will see the site of the prehistoric village of Severals in the valley of Smardale, and the lime kilns on Smardale Fell. We'll continue walking to the old market town of Kirkby Stephen, where we will stay the night.

Day 8: Kirkby Stephen to Keld (12 miles). We will begin the 1,570-foot climb to Nine Standards Rigg, large cairns dating back to at least pre-18th century. Two important milestones are reached in this section of the walk: we enter Yorkshire Dales National Park, and we cross the watershed of the Pennines at the highest point of the fell -- 2,178 feet. We will descend to Keld for the night.  

Day 9: Keld to Gunnerside (8.5 miles). We will follow the course of the River Swale along the valley floor. From Keld we will cross the river by a footbridge near East Gill Force (waterfall) and climb to the ruins of Crackpot Hall (a former lead mining area), then down to the path along the river. There are many old mines in this area, dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries, and there is evidence that the Romans extracted lead in this region. Then we walk to the trail's end at Gunnerside.  There we meet our bus and ride on to our lodgings in Richmond.

Day 10: Today is a well deserved rest day in Richmond, North Yorkshire. This is a large, historic town with an impressive castle and classic Georgian architecture. A walking tour is planned in the morning for those who wish to join. The rest of the day is free to explore the many attractions, parks, and gardens, or to just wander along the River Swale.  We stay at the same lodgings in Richmond tonight.           

Day 11: Swainby to Clay Bank Top (9 miles). Before our hike begins, our bus will take us for a tour at Mount Grace Priory, a ruined Carthusian monastery dating from 1398. We are now in the North York Moors National Park. Wainwright described the moors as "unenclosed, uninhabited, remote from industry and noise and free from traffic -- a magnificent territory for the walker." We will pass the Wainstones on Hasty Bank, and then descend to Clay Bank Top, where we will be met by bus and taken to nearby Great Broughton for a night's stay.

Day 12: Clay Bank Top to Lion Inn at Blakey (8.75 miles). As we leave Clay Bank Top, the ground will rise steadily across Urra Moor, the highest point of the North York Moors. There are beautiful views of Bransdale, Farndale (famous for its daffodils in spring), and Rosedale. We will eat lunch along the way.  Our destination is the venerable Lion Inn at Blakey, which dates back to 1553. The bus will then take us to the North Sea town of Whitby where we will stay our last two nights.

Day 13: Whitby to Robin Hood's Bay (6.5 miles). Leaving Whitby, we’ll pass the dramatic Whitby Abbey, which inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula. From there we’ll continue along the coast on the Cleveland Way a few miles until we rejoin the Coast-to-Coast track. Today’s walk will take us along the cliff tops overlooking the North Sea and drop us into the picturesque smugglers village of Robin Hood’s Bay, where we will ceremoniously and triumphantly dip our feet in the North Sea, enjoy a walk through the charming and historic village, and have lunch at a seaside pub. After lunch we will visit Whitby Abbey, founded in 657, and the town of Whitby. Following today’s activities, we will gather for our farewell dinner.

Day 14: Whitby to York. Our bus will depart at 9 a.m. for York, a journey of about two hours. We will say goodbye here, after accomplishing a remarkable feat. The trip ends at the York Train Station at approximately 11 a.m.

Photos

Details

Getting There

This trip begins and ends in two different cities. Getting to our starting point of Carlisle is the responsibility of each participant. You can fly into London's Heathrow or Gatwick airport, go to London, and take a train north to Carlisle. It is also possible to fly to Glasgow, Edinburgh, or Manchester and take a train to Carlisle. Participants are encouraged to arrive at least a few days before our official start time to get through the almost unavoidable jet lag. Many take advantage of this extra time to visit historic Hadrian's Wall, which is just a short bus ride out of Carlisle.

Our trip officially ends when we are dropped off at the York train station before noon. There trains can take you to London or other destinations. If your schedule allows, it would be worth your time to tour the walled city of York and visit its old church (minster) and famous museums. The York Railway Museum, the largest in the world, is a special treat.

Accommodations and Food

We will be using a variety of comfortable hotels, bed & breakfasts, farmhouses, and inns. Rooms will be double occupancy. Based on availability, single-room supplements may be available for an additional cost. Please discuss this with the leader before signing up for the trip. The trip price includes all meals. Breakfasts will be hearty, with choices ranging from full English egg-and-meat breakfasts to continental fare. Our midday meal may be a box lunch, a pub lunch, or food purchased at local markets. Dinners will be provided at our larger accommodations or at nearby pubs or restaurants. Traditional English cooking can be challenging for strict vegetarians; nonetheless, we will do our best to negotiate suitable meals for those with dietary restrictions. Please let the leader know what your desires are.

Trip Difficulty

The word "walk" is British for "trek." Don’t let this mislead you into thinking this is a stroll -- it is most definitely a long, sometimes hard, hike.

This trip is designed for experienced hikers currently involved in regular hiking activities -- not just walking. The route will vary in difficulty with walking distances of up to 12 miles and elevation gains up to 2,500 feet. All walks will be on trails or paths that could be on steep, very rocky or boggy terrain. Agility is needed to negotiate rocky trails, traverse small streams, and climb stepladder stiles over stone walls without difficulty.

Some rain is to be expected and can make any walk more challenging. Our luggage is shuttled to our accommodations each day; however, each participant must carry a day pack with lunch, drinking water, raingear, a warm sweater, and any other items needed during the day.

Participants should be accustomed to walking at a pace of 2+ miles per hour on level ground and be able to walk up steep grades at a slower pace without undue fatigue. Our walking is not difficult or rushed for a fit hiker; however, for safety reasons it is important that everyone be prepared to keep a similar pace. Please call or email the leader if you have any questions regarding your abilities before signing up for the trip. Your enjoyment of this trip will depend on your preparation and general fitness level. Regular hiking is the only activity that will totally prepare your legs, feet, and ankles for this trip.

Equipment and Clothing

It can rain a lot in England! Even if it is not raining, some areas are very wet and boggy, so Gore-Tex boots or equivalent are a must. A two-piece waterproof rain suit, again Gore-Tex or equivalent, is also necessary to keep warm and dry. The leader will make other suggestions about clothing in more detailed letters, listing what you may need for daytime and nighttime activities. If you have trekking poles, please bring them as they will be very useful.

References

  • Wainwright, A., A Coast to Coast Walk. The classic itinerary for this walk. Be sure to get a revised updated edition. This book is a must for anyone who wants to enjoy the walk to the fullest. Its 168+ pocket-sized pages are jammed full of valuable information, sketches of the area, and minutely detailed descriptions of the walk. Getting to know Wainwright, through his witty and thoughtful commentary, is a delight.

Other guidebooks that are excellent supplements to Wainwright's classic:

  • Stedmank, Henry, Coast to Coast Path.
  • Hannon, Paul, Coast to Coast Walk.
  • Marsh, Terry, A Northern Coast to Coast Walk.

Conservation

The Sierra Club is an environmentally focused entity. We are concerned about conservation and sustainability of resources both locally and globally. Our work is accomplished by volunteers, aided by a salaried staff, encouraging grassroots involvement. Our outings seek to empower participants toward understanding environmentally parallel concerns at home and abroad.

England has been heavily populated for hundreds of years and most of the land is utilized for human endeavor. England’s national parks are typically designated around scenic areas that are largely in private hands. This designation helps control development and non-conforming uses.

The environmental topics on this outing include urban sprawl, intensive farming, motorways, and the demand for vacation facilities that place heavy pressure upon open space and wildlife habitat. We will take this opportunity to meet with local conservationists and naturalists to explore these and other issues of local and global interest.

Staff

Leader:

Gene has been leading Sierra Club outings since 1990 in places such as the Rockies, Europe, New Zealand, and Bhutan. Leading is Gene's second career, one that he enjoys immensely. He is excited to be able to share with you his love of the outdoors and travel. He has a laid-back leadership style and a droll sense of humor. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his wife Gail and dogs Whisky and Bailey. Visit his website at http://genesoutings.camprecipes.com/ for more information about the other trips he leads, as well as some of his photos from around the world.

Co-Leader:

Born in the UK, Deirdre Butler grew up hiking and horseback riding in Dartmoor National Park, southern England. She lived and worked in northern England for a number of years and is excited to be returning to her old "stomping grounds" and sharing her love of the English countryside with you. Before taking early retirement, Deirdre worked in the medical industry and has traveled extensively throughout Asia and the Far East. Since 2001 Deirdre has been leading outings for Sierra Club in her home state of Colorado and is a certified Wilderness First Responder.

Trainee:

Rebecca Dameron

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