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Best Sections of England’s Coast to Coast Trail

By Alex Stewart
More by Alex

Choosing the Best Bit of the Coast to Coast

England’s Coast to Coast walk provides a stunning snapshot of the north of the country. Travelling west to east through three national parks, you’ll explore the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors in turn. The route was designed by Alfred Wainwright as a whole to be enjoyed as an evolving journey. It has variety spread over the entire route, and no one section sums up the experience.

But within that epic hike, where are the best sections? Which places and vistas to look forward to when hiking up an incline or traversing a plain stretch of countryside? Below we’ve selected some favourite stages from the epic 190-mile trail that capture the flavour of the different areas you walk through. You might also want to review our guide to the best day walks on the Coast to Coast route.

With an epic route traversing England’s wild north, it may seem impossible to identify the most beautiful bits. But even in the most extraordinary landscapes, certain regions stand out as remarkable. And of course, each of the national parks has a very distinct unique character.

Which Region Has the “Best Sections” on the Coast to Coast?

Near Ennerdale

best sections of England's coast to coast - Lake District Red Pike Hill

Early in the walk, the charming village of Ennerdale Bridge sets the tone for the picture-postcard pretty Lakeland hamlets that you’ll encounter. From its idyllic, unspoilt location spanning the River Ehen you can explore a quiet valley and trek around Ennerdale Water, one of the less-visited and quieter lakes in the region.

At the end of the lake is a wonderful ascent to YHA Black Sail, a superbly isolated bothy that offers brilliant views of some of the surrounding big peaks.

An alternative ascent takes you up a series of steep inclines to the summits of Red Pike, High Stile and Haystacks, Wainwright’s personal favourite. From their heights, hikers bask in breathtaking views of Buttermere to the north and Great Gable and Pillar to the south, if the weather plays ball.

Borrowdale Valley to Grasmere

Dove Cottage Lake District Wordsworth

Dove Cottage, once home to poet William Wordsworth

Beyond here, the Borrowdale Valley enchants and delights visitors, drawn by the romantically scenic hamlets composed of slate-roofed, whitewashed stone farm cottages that seem to fall from a storybook. Amble from Longthwaite to Rosthwaite and Stonethwaite, stopping at a traditional tearoom or country pub to fill up on delicious regional delights.

The section of the Coast to Coast from Borrowdale to Grasmere is a classic Lakeland outing, with the chance to combine a straightforward climb of Lining Crag with a ridge walk before descending to Grasmere. This area was described by the Lake District’s beloved poet William Wordsworth as ‘the fairest place on earth.’

Wordsworth himself lived here at Dove Cottage for almost a decade, and this association has made the village incredibly popular. Nonetheless, it remains full of charm, with masses of history and places to discover, as well as great tearooms and cafes to tarry in.

Grasmere to Patterdale

best sections of England's coast to coast - St Sunday Crag

Hiking St Sunday Crag.

The highlights come thick and fast on the Lake District section of the Coast to Coast, and the short but dramatic hike from Grasmere to Patterdale is another classic.

A climb to Grisedale Tarn delivers great views back over Grasmere, while from the pass, you get more wonderful vistas of another gorgeous valley and the route ahead to Grisedale and Patterdale, perhaps with Ullswater glinting away beyond that.

Depending on your appetite for adventure, you’ve got the choice to add two more literal high points to your hike. A challenging but jaw-dropping ascent of Helvellyn, the third highest peak in England, and a descent of the vertiginous Striding Edge.

Or try a slightly gentler but no less glorious traverse of St Sunday Crag with expansive views over Ullswater and beyond, before reaching the beautiful valley where Patterdale stands. In the village, if you’re lucky, you might even spot some of the rare red squirrels that still live here.

The Pennines

best sections of England's coast to coast - Pennines Peaks

From the market town of Kirkby Stephen, the trail crosses from Cumbria into Yorkshire. On the way to Keld, hikers also cross the Pennines, the ridge of mountains often referred to as the backbone of Great Britain.

Aside from being romantically wild, the Pennines mark the watershed of the Coast to Coast. From the summit at Nine Standards Rigg, all rivers flow eastwards to drain into the North Sea.

The Industrial Revolution has left its deep mark on the flanks of these hills with fascinating local history and ruins to uncover as the trail whips through the landscape. As you traverse the Pennines, you also tackle some epic peat bogs, which will certainly be memorable if not a bit soggy.

Swaledale & Reeth

Swaledale Yorkshire

As you emerge from the clinging embrace of the peat bogs, you enter Swaledale. The most northerly dale of Yorkshire’s Dales is often recognised as being one of the loveliest. Moving towards Reeth, wander the narrow streets of quintessential Yorkshire villages tucked amongst mine-scarred valleys and ringed by dry-stone walls.

Pheasant and grouse live amongst the heather, so keep your eyes out for these ground birds on your walk. As this area once saw heavy mining, you might stumble on evidence of historic lead mining activities.

Follow the trickling becks (that’s Northern English for a stream) and walk under the canopy of thick woodlands. There are also lovely stretches of woodland on the walk from Reeth to Richmond, with a couple of attractive villages along the way, bringing your adventure in the Dales to a close.

Ingleby Cross to Clay Bank Top

best sections of England's coast to coast - Yorkshire moors

From the heather-coated heathland to the North Sea cliff tops, the North York Moors is a region sporting a wide variety of terrains. The Coast to Coast route from Ingleby Cross to Clay Bank Top is a great opportunity to immerse yourself in one of Northern England’s most epic wild expanses. 

If the weather is good, Ingleby Cross to Clay Bank Top is a wonderful ramble. Enjoy far-reaching views south to the valleys of Farndale and to Teeside in the north.

For hikers lucky enough to get outdoors on a clear day, you might catch your first glimpse of the North Sea glistening in the distance as it beckons you onwards towards the end of your long distance route.

Blakely Ridge & Esk Valley

Trees Yorkshire

Towards the end of your walk across England, the stroll down from Blakey Ridge to Grosmont is a gentle venture through the bucolic scenery of Northern England.

Stop in for a cheery pint at the remote Lion Inn, the fourth highest inn in Britain and one of the most characterful on the Coast to Coast route.

The route then drops down from Blakey Ridge and the moors to enter the Esk Valley. Here you’ll discover yet more photogenic English villages. Egton Bridge, Glaisdale and Grosmont rival their counterparts in the Lake District for charm and tradition, and you’ll find plenty of reasons to explore or delay your progress.

The last of the three villages, Grosmont, is also on the route of the North York Moors Railway, and it’s worth watching the historic steam locomotives puff and chuff through the village.

Walk the Coast to Coast

These contrasting experiences make it impossible to single out a best bit or section of the Coast to Coast walk. Instead, revel in the whole route, take time to hike through some of England’s finest upland landscapes on tracks and trails that have existed for centuries and make the most of your time to explore the traditional villages and historical sites that punctuate the journey and provide absorbing highlights all the way from seashore to seashore.

Have a look below to find the date that works best for you.

Trip Date Price Availability Book
Walking - England Coast to Coast 23rd Apr - 5th May 2023 £3,49510 place(s) leftBook Now
Walking - England Coast to Coast 28th May - 9th Jun 2023 £3,49510 place(s) leftBook Now
Walking - England Coast to Coast 30th Jul - 11th Aug 2023 £3,49510 place(s) leftBook Now
Walking - England Coast to Coast 3rd Sep - 15th Sep 2023 £3,49510 place(s) leftBook Now

Meet the Author: Alex Stewart

A childhood being marched up hills and highpoints on family holidays has translated to a lifetime love of the outdoors. This led to a career working with tour operators and walking companies that, twinned with a passion for writing, has taken me on adventures all around the world. Over 20 years, I’ve explored and written about walking, trekking, hiking and tramping in places as far apart as New Zealand, Peru and the Swiss Alps, for guidebooks, newspapers, magazines and websites. These days I’m on a mission to prove that the UK offers as much adventure as anything you’ll find overseas. I’ve found a lot of joy in experiencing wild places close to home, sharing stories of the wildlife, history and heritage we have on our doorstep while also introducing my young family in turn to the outdoors. Home-grown adventures include racing coast-to-coast across Scotland and walking and cycling across England. I have trekked the Pembrokeshire and Norfolk coasts, claimed Yorkshire’s three peaks, hiked a number of our national trails, and camped in wild places while bagging Wainwrights and Munros. Friends joke though that, in many ways, alongside the pursuit of the perfect sausage roll, all this activity is really just an excuse to seek out artisan scotch eggs and local craft ales to try…

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