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.
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:
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 (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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.