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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Clay Bank Top to Blakey Ridge is a great opportunity to immerse yourself in one of Northern England’s most epic wild expanses.
If the weather is good, it is a wonderful ramble with expansive views. Enjoy the rollercoaster hills and the fascinating disused Rosedale Ironstone Railway.
Finish your walk with a stop at the remote Lion Inn, the fourth-highest inn in Britain and one of the most characterful on the Coast to Coast route.
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.
The route drops down from Blakey Ridge and the moors to enter the Esk Valley. Here you’ll discover yet more photogenic English villages. 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.
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.
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