England’s Coast to Coast walk is a legendary long-distance trail winding across the country from the Irish Sea to the North Sea coast. Travelling through some of England’s finest landscapes, the Coast to Coast showcases much of what makes the north of England such an incredible destination for a hiking holiday.
Along the way, the Coast to Coast route passes through Cumbria’s Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the Yorkshire Moors. English hospitality in each of these northern counties is renowned, and you’ll be assured of a warm welcome while hiking the trail. After an exciting day out on the trail, the twin institutions of the tea room and the pub provide plenty of opportunities to refuel and swap stories with other Coast-to-Coasters.
With average daily walking distances of 12 miles (19km) on Wainwright’s iconic Coast to Coast route, you’ll certainly work up an appetite as you tackle the 11 stages of the walk. The traditional hearty cuisine you’ll encounter along the trail is the ideal fuel. Much like the landscapes you’re walking through, these deliciously hearty dishes are rugged and bold. Local recipes have endured and been refined, taking inspiration from seasonal produce and the natural bounty available close at hand.
The Lake District’s fells and Yorkshire’s dales, moors and shores are fertile ground for some of England’s finest local produce. From Grasmere gingerbread, Herdwick hogget and sticky toffee pudding to curd tart, game and Yorkshire pudding, we’ve rounded up the tastiest dishes, best ingredients, and artisan treats to look out for along the route of the Coast to Coast walk.
Whether it’s part of a generous full English breakfast or served with mashed potato and slathered in gravy as an evening meal, the region’s famous banger is the quintessential food to eat in the Lakes. The Cumberland sausage is the UK’s only protected sausage recipe, and as such a true Cumberland sausage can only be produced in Cumbria. Traditionally it is sold and served as a long, coiled sausage. There are local interpretations to try, but they will all have a high pork content and spicy notes. Unlike most other sausages, the pork is chopped rather than minced and then flavoured with spices such as ginger, pepper and nutmeg. What could be better to perk you up after a tough walk on the fells than Cumberland sausage?
‘Herdies’ are Cumbria’s native sheep, and you’ll spot these hardy animals roaming the fells, foraging among the heather and wild grasses. Although eaten as lamb, sometimes the animals are left to mature to a point where aged between one and two years, they’re referred to as hogget.
The meat is then a delicious cross between tender lamb and full flavoured mutton. It is cooked much like lamb, by roasting a leg or shoulder as a centrepiece of a splendid meal.
The origin of the sticky toffee pudding is controversially argued over, but history has it that Francis Coulson devised this decadent dessert in the 1970s while working at the Sharrow Bay Hotel on the shores of Ullswater.
His original recipe for ‘icky sticky toffee pudding’ was carefully guarded by hotel staff, who had to sign an agreement not to disclose it. Sadly, the original hotel recently closed its doors. Luckily, you’ll still find various versions of this date sponge liberally dressed with toffee sauce on your walk through the Lake District; try it with cream, ice cream or custard. It’s always delicious.
If you’re looking to take one away with you, the Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding Company has perfected the recipe and has off-the-shelf versions available.
This Cumbrian delicacy likely owes its origin to the importation of rum from the West Indies into Whitehaven, Workington and Maryport ports during the 18th century. How it came to be incorporated with butter is a mystery though various legends attempt to solve it, involving either drunken sailors, pirates or farmer’s wives.
The resulting rum-flavoured, when sweetened with dark Muscovado sugar and nutmeg, is a delectable treat though, fantastic on toast, oatcakes, crackers and scones. It combines well with mince pies and Christmas pudding, or when warmed, with ice cream. The Grasmere Gingerbread Shop makes up a batch fresh every day if you’re tempted.
Although Kendal isn’t on the Coast to Coast walk, you’ll certainly encounter this sweet Cumbrian snack while in northern England. Made using another top-secret recipe, it’s literally a chocolate-bar-sized block of sugar flavoured with peppermint oil. Created by mistake in 1869, it’s sometimes referred to as the world’s oldest energy bar.
The high energy content means that Kendal mint cakes are a staple for hikers and climbers, particularly since it was popularised by mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary on his summit of Mount Everest in 1953. The manufacturer Romney’s in Kendal has been in business for more than 100 years, and although they now produce brown, white, extra-strong and chocolate-covered versions of the much-loved mint cake, the original version remains the best.
The picture-perfect Lake District village of Orton sits just off the official Coast to Coast route. Step into Kennedy’s Chocolate Factory, and you might think that you were in a Parisian chocolatière.
Handmade luxury chocolates have been produced here since 1991, and there’s a fantastic range of more than 100 chocolate varieties to choose from. So many chocolates, so little time! Indulge your sweet tooth in tasting a number of flavours at this magical chocolate shop or bring a box of treats to accompany you on the rest of your Coast to Coast hike.
What could be more sumptuous than an afternoon cream tea enjoyed in a spectacular Lake District setting? Cream tea is taken seriously in the Lakes and a steaming pot of tea accompanied by a fresh-baked scone served with plenty of jam and cream or perhaps a home-baked cake is the ideal way to revive yourself after a stunning walk.
Whether you prefer your cream tea traditional or with a twist, the opportunity to pause in a traditional English tearoom while on the Coast to Coast walk is one that shouldn’t be passed up.
Fruit trees might seem like an unlikely local treat, but damsons have grown in the Lake District’s temperate climate since the 17th century. These small plums are particularly successful in the Lyth Valley, to the south of the Coast to Coast path near Windermere.
Famous for a slightly tart flavour that comes from being cross-pollinated with wild sloes, they’re used as an aromatic addition to cheese, jam, wine and gin.
A much older recipe than sticky toffee pudding is for multi-award-winning Grasmere gingerbread; a tasty afternoon teatime treat since 1854. Gingerbread certainly wasn’t invented in the Lake District, but this chewy, spicy bake is actually more of a cake than a biscuit without the typical crunch you’d associate with a gingerbread man.
Sarah Nelson is credited with inventing the recipe, and her one-time church cottage in the village is now the Grasmere Gingerbread Shop. It still exclusively bakes gingerbread every day, faithfully reproducing her sweet, spicy, secret recipe. Grasmere gingerbread is a fun treat for anyone walking the Coast to Coast path.
Probably the most renowned food coming out of Yorkshire is the simple Yorkshire pudding. Made from a batter mix of eggs, flour and milk, these versatile ‘puddings’ come in different shapes and sizes and can be enjoyed at different times.
As well as a classic accompaniment to roast beef, larger versions are served filled to the brim with sausage and mash. Yorkshiremen worth their salt will eat them on their own as a starter drenched in gravy, but you’ll also come across them as a dessert, eaten to round off a meal with jam and cream.
Yorkshire’s dales and moors have in part been shaped by the sheep that have grazed there for hundreds of years and by the management of feathered game populations.
Along the Coast to Coast, look out for locally sourced lamb in restaurants – as well as spring lamb, seek out meat that is a little more mature for a fuller, rounder taste later in the season.
The game hunting season starts in August, and you’ll often see grouse, partridge and pheasant on the menu as well – all make a tasty change when roasted for Sunday lunch.
Whitby and the west coast of Yorkshire are synonymous with good seafood and the English culinary tradition of fish ‘n’ chips, a favourite meal of Alfred Wainwright’s – and many other walkers who followed in his footsteps.
So if you’re craving a plate (or takeaway box) of battered fish, steaming chips, and a side of mushy peas as you finish the Coast to Coast walk, look out for the top-quality chippies in Robin Hood’s Bay.
Though of course, fish is best eaten by the coast, you’ll find fish and chips on most pub menus if you’re keen to try this classic dish before the end of your hike.
Yorkshire is responsible for producing a vast range of cheeses. The most well-known is Wensleydale, the eponymous area of the Yorkshire Dales where it is produced, just south of the quaint stone village of Muker on the Coast to Coast walk. Not only is the place beautiful, but the cheese is heavenly too. Established in 1897 in Hawes, Wensleydale cheese has become one of northern England’s most iconic tastes.
Creamy and crumbly, slices of Wensleydale cheese pair deliciously with crackers, in a sandwich or eaten with a piece of fruit cake in the spirit of the locals.
As you walk through the Yorkshire landscape, it’d be a shame not to stop and sip pints of the locally-brewed beer. There are a plethora of independent breweries in Yorkshire offering everything from traditional bitters to heavily-hopped IPAs.
In North Yorkshire, keep an eye out for pints produced by the Theakston Brewery, home to the hugely popular Old Peculiar Ale, and the Black Sheep Brewery, which produces cask, keg and bottled beers as well as experimental brews. Both are based in Masham, and their beers are widely available.
If ale isn’t to your taste, there are ten vineyards in the county, artisan gin production is popular, and Yorkshire distilled whiskey is being matured in Filey on the coast south of Robin Hood’s Bay.
Yorkshire’s take on a baked cheesecake comes from traditional farming communities in the county. It’s a delicious dessert made with a shortcrust pastry filled with curd cheese, melted butter, eggs and sugar. Some recipes also add dried fruit such as currants, and almost everyone adds spice such as nutmeg. Some bakers add a drop of lemon too. You can try the different variations at traditional Yorkshire tearooms along the route in northern England.