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England’s Coast to Coast: Worthwhile Detours and Extras

5 min read

By Alex Stewart
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Other Things To Do on Wainwright's Iconic Route

For most people, the epic, two-week walk across England on Wainwright’s Coast to Coast trail is enough of a challenge in itself. Because of the distances involved each day and the number of walking stages on a complete 190-plus-mile itinerary, there isn’t usually much appetite or time for taking a detour or trying to add more in. That said, the Lake District was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017 and it’d be a shame not to explore it more fully… We’ve picked the best add-ons to England’s coast to coast; presenting additional fells to climb, lakes to visit and towns to explore so that you can get even more out of your walking holiday and time away.

Fells to Climb

things to do before or after england coast to coast

There are 214 fells throughout the Lake District and Wainwright’s own series of seven beautifully illustrated guides make the perfect starting point for planning a climb or two. Of the fells close to the Coast Coast though, you might consider bagging the following:

Cat Bells

This fell might be small (451m) in comparison to some of its more mountainous neighbours but what it lacks in stature it more than makes up for in terms of location, views and accessibility.

Rising above the town of Keswick and pretty Derwent Water, it’s a shapely mountain in miniature. The route to the top is straightforward and the rewards are immense. Enjoy panoramic views of the Lake District’s fells and valleys stretching out around you, making it the perfect introduction to the national park.

Great Gable

Great Gable (899m), so named for the unmistakable silhouette it makes when seen from Wasdale, towers over the lake.

With access from a number of surrounding valleys, it’s a popular fell walk and a firm favourite with Lakeland walkers. The climb is fairly lengthy but uncomplicated and the views from the top certainly reward the effort. To the northwest, there are brilliant views of Ennerdale and surrounding mountains, including Haystacks, High Stile and Red Crag. Turn south and gaze at the Scafells.

Helvellyn

The third highest mountain in England (950m) has a distinctive shape, its corries and sharp ridges carved by glaciers during the last ice age. Sat just to the north of the official Coast to Coast route, it can be bagged during the walk on an alternative high-level path between Grasmere and Patterdale. Alternatively, climb it from Glenridding on the shores of Ullswater. All the routes to the top require a good degree of fitness and some scrambling. The legendary ridge scrambles on Striding Edge and Swirral Edge will also require some experience, a head for heights and good weather to complete them safely.

Scafell Pike

Claiming the summit of the highest mountain in England (978m) would be a feather in anyone’s cap. Its association with the Three Peaks Challenge has further boosted its popularity and during summer you’ll find lots of walkers tackling the climb. Wainwright identified six routes for ascending Scafell, none of which should be underestimated. The remote and scenic valley of Wasdale lies just to the west and makes a good starting point for a direct assault. Among the alternatives is a popular route from Borrowdale that is longer but less steep. All take you over the rough and exposed ground until you reach the top where you’ll navigate a boulder field where the paths are barely visible.

Lakes to Explore

detours England's coast to coast

Among the fells are the 16 lakes the region takes its name from. Famously there is just one actual lake in the Lake District, Bassenthwaite Lake, with all the others known as meres or waters. Regardless of what you call them though, they make great places to explore and the following are within striking distance of the Coast to Coast path.

Learn more about the 16 lakes of the Lake District here.

Buttermere

Sat magnificently among the northern fells, Buttermere is a relatively small lake, just over a mile in length.

Its attractive location means that it draws a lot of people to its shores for a gentle lakeside ramble, while classic climbs lead to the summits of Red Pike and Haystacks. The latter of which was the favourite place to walk of Alfred Wainwright; his ashes were scattered at Innominate Tarn on the mountain’s slopes.

Grasmere

Grasmere has benefited from its famous associations too – it was described by William Wordsworth as the loveliest spot on earth and was home to the poet for nine years.

Take a walk around the lake, hire a boat or canoe to paddle on it and linger in the village of Grasmere to visit Wordsworth’s one-time home, Dove Cottage, which is now a museum. There are plenty of tearooms and places to try a local ale as well.

Ullswater

The second largest lake in the Lake District is 7.5 miles long although its dog-leg appearance disguises its true size. The Coast to Coast passes close by the southern tip of the lake at Patterdale, although some walkers choose to stop in Glenridding, on the shore. The lake itself is clear and deep, with the deepest sections home to a curious fish called the skelly, a species of char. You can stroll the lakeshore, cruise on its water during summer or set out to explore by hiring a kayak, Canadian canoe or traditional sailing boat. Read our Guide to Ullswater.

Towns to Visit

coast to coast detours

Among the storied landscapes you’ll walk through on the Coast to Coast are countless pretty villages and charming hamlets. In the surrounding area though there are a couple of established Lakeland towns that make worthwhile detours. And away from the Lakes, at the end of your trek you might take time to discover a nearby seaside resort full of history and myth.

Ambleside

Close to the northern tip of Windermere, the largest lake in England, stands this bustling town full of outdoor equipment shops, bookshops, craft shops, cafes and pubs. The long thin lake is the main attraction; steamers and launches operate on it and there’s a large raft of boating activities available.

Away from the lake take a short walk to discover Stock Ghyll Force, a spectacular 70-foot waterfall that used to power local watermills, or look out for the huge range of outdoor activities on offer from abseiling and climbing to bushcraft.

Keswick

The pretty market town of Keswick stands at the northern end of Derwent Water in the shadow of the huge bulk of Skiddaw. The lake is beautifully sited among mountains, which can be reflected in its mirror-still calm. Stroll its shoreline to soak up different panoramas or board one of the Keswick launches to cruise around the four islands that dot the lake, hopping on and off at various landing points. Look out too for opportunities to try sailing and windsurfing. Other outdoor activities available from this adventure mecca include ghyll scrambling, climbing and mountain biking. For something a little gentler, seek out the Keswick Museum & Art Gallery with a local history collection and original manuscripts from the Lake poets, stroll the twice-weekly market or enjoy the bustling atmosphere from the comfort of a tearoom.

Whitby

When you reach the end of the Coast to Coast walk at Robin Hood’s Bay, consider heading just a few miles up the coast to Whitby. On one side of the River Esk stands a cluster of 18th-century fishermen’s cottages, while on the other is a Victorian coastal town. Once home to Captain James Cook who learnt his trade here in the 18th century, it’s part bustling quayside and fishing port, part pretty seaside resort. And overlooking it all on a headland stands the atmospheric ruined abbey that acted as the inspiration and setting for part of Bram Stoker’s Gothic horror story Dracula. Stroll the blustery cliff tops along the Cleveland Way, stretch your legs in the Esk Valley or let the train take the strain and ride on one of the historic steam locomotives of the North York Moors Railway to the pretty villages of Grosmont or Goathland.

Learn more about Bram Stoker and his inspiration found in Ireland here.

Go on Our Coast to Coast

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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