Wainwright's Coast to Coast walk
A gourmet guide...

Keld, Yorkshire

In 1972, writer and retired accountant Alfred Wainwright set off from St Bees Head overlooking the Irish Sea, climbed East through the mountanous Lake District, then marched onwards over the Yorkshire Dales and North Yorkshire Moors before literally running out of land 192 miles later at Robin Hood's Bay on the North Sea. Wainwright's path passed through three of the most-loved English National Parks and spanned the entire country from coast to coast.

It was a route Wainwright had been planning for some time. Making no attempt to follow a perfectly straight line, it instead favoured detours to pass through places of great beauty or interest.
Traversing mountains and lakes, valleys and rivers, along with wild moors of heather punctuated by sea cliffs at each end, Wainwright's path crossed, in his own words, "the grandest territory of the North of England".

Walking the Coast to Coast

Wainwright published his coast to coast pictorial guide in 1973 and it has since become the most popular long distance path in England. Passing through a number of conveniently placed small towns and villages, the entire route can be broken down into a series of manageable walks averaging 16 miles a day over 12 days. Including travelling time to and from the walk, it can be fitted neatly within a fortnight break.

Which indeed many people do. They come from all corners of the world to walk the coast to coast: visitors from America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, along with those closer to home, all pilgrims of Wainwright's unofficial but carefully documented path.

The idea of walking across a country from one sea to another greatly appealed to me too, and despite being a relatively inexperienced walker, I reckoned the 12-day breakdown looked just about possible. So, perhaps appropriately, on April Fools Day 2004, my girlfriend and I ceremoniously dipped our boots into the Irish Sea at St Bees and set off.

Over the following 12 days we met many people and learnt lots about the path, picking up tips on how to make it more manageable, not to mention enjoyable. One thing was for certain: there'd be no tents for us. We'd pre-booked pubs or bed and breakfasts at strategic points en-route and where possible selected those offering opportunities to sample some of the UK's better food and drink. What follows then is as much a guide to where to find the tastiest breakfasts and frothiest real ales, as it is to coping with a dozen 16 mile hikes in a row.

The Coast to Coast path: what you'll need
1: Directions
As an unofficial route, you won't find Wainwright's Coast to Coast path marked on the standard UK Ordnance Survey maps, and while some sections are well signposted or follow existing routes, others are bereft of directions. You'll definitely need printed guidance.

The most obvious source of directions is of course from Wainwright himself, who's original Pictorial Guide is now available in a revised edition. This is however a small text-based book with illustrations which work best when accompanied by official maps.

The most detailed UK walking maps are Ordnance Survey's orange-sleeved Explorer series at 1:25,000 scale. While Wainwright's path spans one of the narrowest points in the UK, it still encompasses a minimum of seven OS Explorer maps: heading West to East you'll need OL4, OL5, OL19, OL30, 304, OL26 and OL27, but can skip 303 for the extreme West Coast as OL4 virtually covers the same area. Remember not to rely on these seven maps exclusively though, as Wainwright's path is not marked on any of them.
Hayeswater from The Knott
Perhaps the most ideal solution are Ordnance Survey's OL33 and OL34 Outdoor Leisure maps, dedicated purely to the coast to coast path. Published as a joint venture with Penguin Books, they show the route clearly marked on a series of strip maps at 1:27,777 scale accompanied by descriptive text written by Michael Joseph. Sadly Ordnance Survey withdrew from co-publishing activities in 1999, with stocks of these two maps allowed to run dry until exhausted in March 2004.

At the time of writing, both were still available in some outdoor stores or from Lakeland Books; they're well worth tracking down and recommended to any coast to coaster. Note the map strips are however quite narrow, and while you're unlikely to wander off their limits, those who wish to identify, or indeed navigate by distant landmarks, should supplement them with the appropriate OS Explorer maps. Strip maps from other publishers at less detailed scales are also available.

As a belt and braces approach we took the pair of coast to coast maps and seven Explorer OS maps listed above. We also used a handheld GPS unit for walking statistics which proved invaluable for monitoring our pace. Particularly revealing were our actual moving times compared to the total duration of each walk which I've listed for each day - I guess those photo-taking opportunities add-up.
Towards Ennerdale Bridge 2: Accommodation

The coast to coast path can be completed relatively comfortably in 12 days, although some walkers may prefer to take more or less time. Either way you'll need places to stay and those who prefer not to carry accommodation on their backs are catered by a number of bed and breakfasts, pubs with rooms or small hotels exist en-route. As the most popular long distance path in England though, many accommodation options in the popular stopovers become booked-up early, especially over national holidays, so try and book at least four weeks in advance.

Several websites detail the various accommodation options for the Coast to Coast path; one of the best is Coast 2 Coast, which includes contact details and walker's reviews. Most places can be contacted by email and having worked out our stopover points, we booked a room at each. Unless otherwise stated, the prices quoted are for an en-suite double room with double occupation and breakfast, and were correct at the time of writing in Summer 2004.
Lighthouse near St Bees Head
3: A helping hand

A number of companies offer a baggage service to transfer your luggage from one stopover to the next, thereby allowing you to hike with a day-pack alone. Hardcore walkers may be appalled at the concept, but most come round to the idea after needlessly lugging two weeks of supplies through the hilly Lake District. It's honestly quite magical to find your bags waiting for you on arrival at your next stopover.

Typically you're looking at about £5 per bag, per stopover, or a flat fee of around £65 for the entire coast to coast path. Some companies place restrictions on the weight of each bag, but you may still be able to double up with another walker to save money; we squeezed everything we needed into a single 65 litre rucksack.

Those who fancy an off-season walk though beware: most baggage services operate on a strict season, and even starting one week before Easter limited our options to just one company. Thankfully it also turned out to be one of the best.

Coast to Coast holidays, founded by local lad Peter after completing the route himself, dutifully collected and delivered our bag without a hitch every single day, even to the more obscure or remote B&B stopovers. Our numerous Landladies were also full of praise for Peter who personally drives the entire 192 mile route every day. Our bag consistently beat us to every stopover, which is more than can be said for those belonging to several walkers we met using other companies. It was the best £65 we've spent for a long time.

4: Waterproof clothing

Approximately one third of Wainwright's path passes through the Lake District, one of the wettest regions of the UK. Unpredictable weather can see glorious sunshine switch to hailstorms in an instant at any time of year. Only one thing's for certain: it will rain heavily at some point while you're there, so ensure you're carrying waterproofs even if setting off under a blue sky. While the highest point on the route is a relatively modest 2560 feet, be warned it can get chilly up in the hills.

Getting to St Bees Head

We reckoned the easiest way to get to and from the walk would be by public transport, so as London-dwellers, caught the train from Euston to St Bees Head, changing at Carlisle; the Intercity section took four hours, followed by a further 90 minutes on a local train. Booking almost two months in advance through The Trainline website secured a great deal on this leg; just £16 each.
Arriving at St Bees in early evening, we checked in at Fairladies Barn, a large stone building about ten minutes walk up the main street from the station. While originally built in the 17th Century, Fairladies was converted in the 1980s into the guest house and several self-contained flats, all of which were recently refurbished; there are ten rooms in total.

After a friendly welcome, albeit without the freshly-made tea and cake we later became accustomed to, we were shown to a smart double with decent-sized modern en-suite bathroom costing £45.
Fairladies Barn
St Bees has the choice of three pubs, with tradition or at least a certain inevitability demanding sinking a couple at the Coast to Coast bar. Located in the Manor House Hotel, the actual bar area isn't particularly attractive and can also get quite smoky, but enjoys a decent menu with plenty of fish and daily specials, along with an eating area at one end.

Mains including red snapper and baked organic trout started at £7, and ale drinkers could enjoy a pint of Old Speckled Hen. As with many eating opportunities on route though, the kitchens closed at 9pm, so make sure you place your order in time. We retired as the pub quiz kicked-off feeling quite satisfied.
Day 1: St Bees Head to Ennerdale Bridge
15.5 miles, 6 hours 30 minutes (5 hours 15 minutes walking)
Nicki dipping her toes

Breakfast at Fairladies was good and filling, although as it would transpire, one of the least tasty we'd enjoy on the trip. Failing to be inspired by the limited range of sandwiches on offer at the local post office the night before, we requested the £3.50 packed lunch.

The start of Wainwright's walk can be unsurprisingly found at the beach, about a mile and a half from St Bees high street. Wainwright apparently encouraged all who embark on this venture to dip their toes into the Sea at each end, and who were we to argue; fortunately etiquette allows you to keep your boots on. Some coast-to-coasters also carry a pebble from St Bees to the beach at Robin Hood's Bay. Hurling yourself into the Sea at both beginning and end, as performed by one Australian we met, is purely optional.

Rather than heading inland immediately, Wainwright's route loops round the edge of the cliffs, allowing you to enjoy a mile or two of coastal path. As Whitehaven emerges in the distance, the route swings Eastward along uneventful lanes and small roads; one treat could have been the allegedly excellent pie shop in Cleator, but sadly all were sold when we passed through.

Gordon dipping his toes
Pie shop, Cleator
St Bees Coastline
Following a fairly steep climb during which Sellafield Nuclear Power Station looms on the distant coast, the path descends through plantations and into an attractive valley on its way to Ennerdale Bridge. Determined walkers could press on a further nine miles to the legendary Black Sail Hut Youth Hostel, but with few rooms this requires advanced booking, not to mention a 23 mile march from St Bees.
Shepherd Arms Hotel
The small village of Ennerdale Bridge is home to the highly regarded Shepherd Arms Hotel. We stayed in Room 1, a clean double with tea and coffee facilities, TV and a tiny en-suite with shower costing £65. In line with other pubs we've stayed at, don't expect fresh tea and cake to be presented on arrival; you'll need a decent B&B for that.
The pub itself is a real treat: five handpumps serve up Timothy Taylor Landlord, Coniston Bluebird and Jennings' Lakeland, along with two guest ales. The food is also excellent, especially the Spinach and Wensleydale Tart at £5.95 and the Steak and Ale Pie, packed with decent quality meat for £7.95. The atmosphere and interior is a perfect example of an old English country pub and while the landlady seemed highly-strung during our stay, we'd highly recommend eating and drinking here.
Day 2: Ennerdale Bridge to Stonethwaite
15.5 miles, 7 hours and 15 minutes, (5 hours 30 minutes walking)
Breakfast at The Shepherd Arms lived up to the same high standards as dinner the night before, although packed lunches were a tad expensive at £5.75; they did include a nice piece of cake though.

After escaping rain on day one, the heavens opened as we trudged round the perimeter of Ennerdale Water, the most Westerly of the lakes. The route then passed through severely-thinned plantations before reaching one of the most remote Youth Hostels in the country, Black Sail Hut. It's in a beautiful spot and highly recommended by those who manage to book a room; apparently Thursday's curry night.
Ennerdale Water
Distant Buttermere from Seavy Knott
After scrambling up Seavy Knott and following a cairn-marked route, a dismantled tramway leads the path down to a quarry museum. It's then pretty straightforward on to Rosthwaite where most people stop for the night.

We were however drawn to nearby Stonethwaite, staying at Gillecoombe Bed and Breakfast, where landlady Rachel greeted us with fresh tea and biscuits.

Fresh tea and a miscellaneous treat on arrival became something we very much looked forward to at subsequent B&Bs and one sorely missed when staying at pubs. It sounds silly but makes all the difference at the end of a long day. Rachel's B&B cost £60 for two.
Langstraff Hotel
Gillecoombe B&B
Rachel booked us into the nearby Langstraff Hotel in Stonethwaite for which we were eternally grateful. Possibly the best meal of the trip, the Langstraff has a wonderful olde-style pub with four real ale pumps serving Jennings, Black Sheep and Hawkshead; it's also totally smoke-free. While there's a separate restaurant area we ate in the bar, enjoying superb locally caught Borrowdale Trout at £8.95 and a fantastic minted lamb at £10.95. The gorgeous sticky toffee pudding rounded off an excellent meal in a wonderful spot; even the music was good.
Day 3: Stonethwaite to Patterdale
14.7 miles, 7 hours and 45 minutes, (6 hours walking)
Beyond Stonethwaite Rachel prepared a lovely breakfast, but sadly didn't offer packed lunches, instead recommending the local shop in Rosthwaite. We doubled-back to Rosthwaite but found the shop bereft of anything you'd want to eat. So we left empty-handed, intending to stop for lunch at Grasmere, about halfway along the day's route. By the time we found our bearings atop a boggy plateau though, it became clear we'd never make it to Patterdale via Grasmere.
A quick check of the map revealed a short-cut across boggy Wyth Burn which met the official path at Grisedale Tarn, shaving four miles off the total, but forcing us to gobble our emergency rations. We later discovered many walkers split this section over two days with a stop in Grasmere, and would highly recommend this strategy to anyone planning a route.

Grisedale Tarn may be around six or seven miles from Patterdale, but its high viewpoint presents tantalising views of Ullswater and your final destination for the day; it's an enjoyable downhill stroll all the way through classic Lakes scenery.

We'd booked into Grisedale Lodge, located in a lovely spot with views of Ullswater out the back. Landlady Joan didn't make fresh drinks on arrival, but the room (with tiny en-suite shower / toilet) included tea and coffee facilities along with a number of bourbon biscuits we ravenously devoured. Our room cost £48 for the night.

With ferocious appetites we then headed to the White Lion Inn, a reasonable pub with equally reasonable pub fayre including half a roast chicken with chips for £6.95; it certainly tasted pretty good, but then we'd not eaten properly since breakfast. Opposite the pub was local shop selling tasty home-made cakes - a nice treat for your next day's walk.
Grisedale Lodge
Day 4: Patterdale to Shap
16.8 miles, 8 hours (6 hours 30 minutes walking)
Angle Tarn Breakfast at Grisedale was great with decent portions and freshly ground coffee; packed lunches were also good value at £3 each.

The first half of the day's walk had two options depending on weather: either head up and over the hills, or take a lengthy detour round the edge of Ullswater.

As the final day in the lakes, not to mention one with the highest point en-route, we opted for the hilly former.
We made the right choice. Despite blustery conditions and intermittent hail, the views snatched during brief patches of sunshine were fantastic.

Crossing 2560 foot Kidsty Pike, we enjoyed spectacular 360 degree-views of snow-dappled peaks soaring above lakes and tiny villages.

As the path descended to Haweswater Reservoir though, rolling green fields beckoned. This is the destiny of every coast-to-coaster as they head East into the Yorkshire Dales.

While there's a certain sadness leaving the hills, there's plenty of beautiful scenery to come. Also offering some early compensation during the final approach to Shap is an attractive old Abbey.
High Street from Kidsty Pike
Down from Kidsty Pike
Haweswater Reservoir
Tempted by its four-diamond AA rating, we'd booked into a small hotel called Brookfield, but were disappointed to find it at the opposite end of Shap to the path's point of entry. It's literally the last building on a long and uninspiring main road, but as it transpired, worth the extra distance.
Brookfield Hotel
Landlady Margaret clearly recognised worn-out walkers when she saw them and before we knew it removed our waterproofs, boots and socks, put a wash on, then sat us down in the lounge with fresh tea and lovely home-made shortbread and almond cakes.

It all happened in a bit of a blur, albeit one most welcome. Our room was also pleasant with TV, en-suite shower and toilet costing £50.
Margaret recommended nearby Greyhound Hotel for dinner and who were we to argue? The 70's interior may have been uninspiring, but the bar boasted no fewer than eight real ale taps and an excellent menu packed with local produce, including lamb from Shap Abbey, previously voted Cumbrian Farmer of the Year. While much of the food was presented as traditional pub fayre, it was clearly of a very high standard; the grilled Allerdale goats cheese starter at £4.75 was gorgeous.
Day 5: Shap to Kirkby Stephen
19.27 miles, 8 hours 15 minutes (6 hours 30 minutes walking)

Margaret's breakfast and packed lunches lived up to the high expectations set by her excellent home-made cakes. The icing on the cake though was discovering our trek to the outskirts of Shap wasn't in vain, as rather than double-backing into town, the path could be picked up right from our doorstep.

It's a strange start to the day though, as your first task is to cross the M6 motorway. Strange because having peacefully walked from one small village to the next, it comes somewhat as a shock to the system to suddenly be confronted by six lanes of thundering vehicles. Before long though you're back in the wilderness again and after a long but fairly easy hike, the small town of Kirkby Stephen emerged over the horizon.

We'd booked-into Lockholme B&B, and after showing us to our high-ceilinged en-suite room costing £46, landlady Mary made us fresh tea and appropriately, given it was Easter weekend, a plate of hot cross buns. Through the window we could see the famous Nine Standards in the far distance, a taste of tomorrow's walk.

Hills en-route to Kirkby Stephen
Viaduct near Kirkby Stephen
Lockholme B&B
Mary recommended dinner at the nearby Croglin Castle Hotel, which like the previous night's choice served surprisingly decent food in stark contrast to its drab interior. Despite being "out of mash" by 8pm, the Cumbrian Sausages with Black Pudding (£6.95) were very tasty, as was the Grilled Red Bream on crushed potatoes (£8.85); both were beaten though by an amazing bread and butter pudding with rum custard for a mere £3.45. Sadly there was little in the way of real ale when we visited, but the food was worth the trip.
Day 6: Kirkby Stephen to Keld
11.65 miles, 6 hours (4 hours 30 minutes walking)
Breakfast at Lockholme was very good with plenty of fresh ingredients, including farmer's eggs and decent coffee. Mary doesn't offer packed lunches though as the stroll into town to pick up the path passes several sandwich shops; we bought three good sandwiches and a pair of cakes for £5.50 from The Bread Shop.
Nine Standards

At just over eleven and a half miles, this was our shortest day so far, but one which proved quite a challenge none-the-less. After walking steadily uphill for about 3.5 miles you find yourself in seriously boggy territory on the approach to Nine Standards, the group of tall cairns perched atop a 2000 foot moor. Indeed the path across the moor is closed outside of Summer to avoid erosion, and as mud seeps into your boots with each sloppy step, it's easy to see why. Even beyond Nine Standards though, the final eight miles to Keld were very boggy and slow going.

Keld is a very small village with a population some claimed to be as little as eleven. Certainly there's not a great deal of accommodation, and no restaurants to speak of; strange considering it lies at the crossroads of The Coast to Coast and Pennine Way and thereby plays host to thousands of tired and hungry walkers.

With Keld's limited resources inevitably booked-up, we'd arranged to stay at Frith Lodge, a farmhouse about one mile distant. Surrounded by rolling moors, Frith Lodge certainly looks and feels the part, and it's a real pleasure to spend a night in what feels like a truly remote spot.

Close-up of Cairns at Nine Standards
We sat down with our hosts, Betty and David for tea and delicious home-made scones, then were shown to our room. The bathroom's shared and the water slightly peaty, but the views from the window absolutely make up for it.

It's pretty good value too: £29 each got us bed and breakfast with eggs from their own hens, along with a decent three course dinner, which culminated in an awesome home-made marmalade sponge pudding.

There's also a piano in the lounge and both Betty and David looked like they'd be up for a sing-along. There's no website or email contact at the time of writing, so for enquiries call +44 (0) 1748 886489.
Frith Lodge
Frith Lodge room
Day 7: Keld to Reeth
15 miles, 7 hours and 30 minutes (5 hours and 30 minutes walking)
After a decent breakfast we headed into Keld to pick up the path. Betty didn't do packed lunches, but suggested Gunnerside as a suitable mid-point break; after finding a tea room in Keld which sold nice-looking sandwiches though, we stocked-up there instead.

We did however roughly follow the River Swale rather than crossing another boggy moor; there's lovely views from a high path which gradually descends to a pleasant riverside walk pretty much all the way to Reeth.

Reeth is a small town with a grassy common at its centre, surrounded by three pubs and a number of shops; be sure to drop in to the famous Cuckoo Hill View parlour, serving 16 flavours of absolutely delicious Brymor real dairy ice cream, made on a farm at nearby Jervaulx. Grab your chance when you arrive though, as you'll probably have left in the morning long before it opens.
River Swale from hills
After stuffing our faces with scoops of rum and raisin and raspberry cheescake, we checked into 2 Bridge Terrace B&B, located just two or three minutes from the Green. Landlady Jenny immediately upped-the-ante by presenting us not only with homemade fruit cake and freshly ground coffee, but proper leaf-tea. Better still, our small but nicely decorated room boasted the most comfortable bedding and fluffiest towels so far, not to mention fresh flowers and a menu describing what promised to be a pretty special breakfast. Feeling suitably pampered we confidently ordered packed lunches and set out for dinner. 2 Bridge Terrace B&B
The Kings Arms on the green certainly looked the part of the country pub, but sadly virtually every ale tap was out during our visit. So we nipped next-door to the Black Bull, which while not as attractive, at least had plenty of Black Sheep on tap. The food was average pub fayre, although my rabbit in white wine sauce at £6.95 was pretty good.
Day 8: Reeth to Richmond
10.67 miles, 4 hours (3 hours 30 minutes walking)
Richmond Breakfast at 2 Bridge Terrace was everything we'd hoped for and more: eggs from Jenny's own hens, freshly baked bread from a local bakery, a choice of home-made marmalades, freshly ground coffee, leaf tea, seriously tasty muesli, and organic produce used where possible.

This is what you want from a B&B. No, dammit, this is what you want every day of your life. Thanks Jenny, yours was without a doubt the best bed and breakfast we've ever stayed at, and almost unbelievably at just £19 per person (albeit for a non-en-suite), one of the cheapest too.
Room at Restaurant on the Green The ten miles to Richmond are simple and fast-going, although the path follows a surprisingly busy road during the first section. After walking up and over Applegarth Scar, the various spires of Richmond appear and before you know it, you've arrived in the medieval town.

Many people are fond of Richmond, and there's certainly plenty to like from the impressive old castle to a lively river, but equally there's the trappings of many small English towns, such as countless kebab and burger outlets along with bored-looking kids wandering round at night. Personally I wasn't that keen.
Our stop for the night though was very nice: The Restaurant On The Green has two large en-suite rooms, with our £60 one more resembling a studio apartment. The small but atmospheric restaurant itself is only open to non-guests at weekends, but Francophile chef-owner Alan seemed more than happy to cater exclusively for us. Feeling suitably special having a personal chef for the night, we enjoyed a good French-bistro-style meal for two with wine for £48.

Having scouted the town earlier, we felt confident this was the best choice for dinner, although anyone keen for something spicier could seek solace from the presence of both Thai and Indian restaurants; rarities on the Coast-to-Coast route dominated by traditional pub-fayre.
Day 9: Richmond to Danby Wiske
13.72 miles, 5 hours (4 hours 15 minutes walking)
Day 9 is traditionally a long and uninspiring 23 mile march to Ingleby Cross along virtually flat fields, riverbanks and plenty of roads; indeed many non-purists just catch a bus and be done with it. As we wanted to walk the entire route this wasn't an option for us, but then neither was staying at Ingleby who's rooms were fully booked. We therefore broke the journey in two at Danby Wiske, and would continue beyond Ingleby the following day to Great Broughton.

Our proprietor Alan didn't offer packed lunches and Richmond's sandwich shops failed to inspire; we were however fairly confident we could reach Danby in time for lunch, so following a decent breakfast with fresh coffee and leaf-tea we set off. As predicted, the route was dull and uneventful, and despite having to walk along many stretches of roads, they were at least quiet.

Before we knew it, we were upon the small village of Danby Wiske, consisting of little more than a few houses, a pub, a B&B and a lovely church. We'd booked into the pub, The White Swan Inn, and after a friendly welcome from owners Terry and Paula, ordered sandwiches for lunch.

An interesting point to note is that unlike most B&Bs which greet you on arrival with fresh tea and in many cases home-made cakes, English pubs tend to show you straight to your room. It's a small point, but the B&B's approach makes you feel special and is sadly missed when staying at pubs. The White Swan was no different.

Our £50 en-suite room was quite large but with dated décor, small bathroom, view of the carpark and most worryingly of all, a large kitchen extractor fan fitted immediately below; this rattled into life every 20 minutes or so, noisily vibrating the room. On the upside, a fresh barrel of Black Sheep ale was ready for consumption, so we headed down for dinner.
Young lambs
Church at Danby Wiske
White Swann Inn
The menu offered typical pub-fayre of shepherds pies and lasagnes from £6.45, but ours tasted like sub-standard frozen ready-meals. To be fair Paula's boiled potatoes were very good, but we'd had our arms twisted into ordering them after her sheer reluctance to prepare chips.

Don't get us wrong, Terry and Paula are a friendly couple but they really need to raise their standards on the room and food, which both fell way behind every other place we stayed at. Enjoy a pint and some company here, but stay at the B&B or make it lunch at Danby before pressing on to Ingleby Cross.
Day 10: Danby Wiske to Great Broughton
21.56 miles, 8 hours (6 hours 45 minutes walking)
Carlton Moor Our longest day yet demanded an early rise, and since Paula wasn't keen to cook before 8am, Terry had brought us some cereal the night before; sadly muesli wasn't on our menu.

We set off on the first leg, completing the final 8.5 miles of flat, boring roads to Ingleby Cross; perhaps catching a bus instead wouldn't have been such a cop-out after-all.
With no shops in Danby Wiske we'd counted on buying lunch at Ingleby, but arrived on a Sunday with the only shop closed and the pub not set to open for several hours; so we pressed on. At least from Ingleby the landscape changes for the better with a steep walk up through Arncliff Wood, then across attractive moors. Many believe the paving used here as part of The Cleveland Way is an eyesore, but for well-trodden paths it's considerably preferable to the earlier bogs.

The final section takes you up across Carlton Moor and past the gliding club with views of industrial Middlesbrough and a first glimpse of the coast in the distant North East; this view of the North Sea is a sad reminder you're approaching the end of your journey.

The traditional stop for this day is at Clay Bank Top, but this is little more than lay-by between the moors, with the nearest accommodation some miles in either direction. Most B&Bs are however happy to collect you by car for a pound or two, but we thought we'd walk the extra couple of miles to our booking at Great Broughton. Checking the map, we spotted a convenient break 1.5 miles from Clay Bank Top to turn off and head down into town.

Great Broughton is a medium-sized village, served by two huge pubs and a hotel bar / restaurant. We'd booked into Newlands House B&B just off the High Street run by Barbera and Keith who welcomed us with fresh tea and home-made cake. Keith is quite the DIY expert and was just putting the finishing touches to a pair of huge en-suite bathrooms including separate bath and shower units; indeed they were bigger than some of the bedrooms we'd stayed in and a most welcome addition to what was an already comfortable place costing £44. No website yet, but you can email keith.huntley@lineone.net.
The menu at the nearby Jet Miner's Inn looked the most promising, despite only offering John Smiths and Theakstons on tap. The grilled goats cheese (£4.25) and Steak and Guinness Pie (£6.50) were average, but the battered Whitby cod (£6.95) stood out; perhaps not surprising considering our proximity to the famous seaside town. Newlands house B&B
Day 11: Clay Bank Top to Grosmont
25 miles, 9 hours (8 hours walking)
Day 11 was always going to be our longest as we'd planned to press-on a further three miles beyond the usual stop of Glaisdale in order to shorten our final day. Rather foolishly though, we allowed pride to add an extra four miles on top.

The day started as planned with Keith dropping us off at Clay Bank Top lay-by, but one mile into the route something didn't feel quite right. Then it dawned on us: we'd not actually walked all the way to Clay Bank Top the day before, having cut off to Great Broughton 1.5 miles early.
Beyond Farndale Moor
Sure, we'd ended up more than matching the distance, but hadn't actually completed that section of the Coast-to-coast path. We agreed to turn back to the point we'd left the day before and start again from there. Trouble was, this plan added 90 minutes and almost four miles of steep ups and downs to what already promised to be a tough day.
Toll sign beyond Egton Bridge

Once up on Farndale Moor though, the going becomes quite quick as it follows dismantled railway paths and quiet roads to Glaisdale. We then pressed-on through posh but picturesque Egton Bridge before finally arriving at Grosmont, an interesting place with an old steam railway museum.

Grosmont station
We checked into Grosmont House, a large country manor with en-suite rooms from £56 and a style and appearance straight out of a classic murder-mystery novel. While slightly dishevelled in places, the décor had an undeniable charm. Husband and wife team George and Rosalyn are also more than happy to rustle up dinner given advance warning.

We were offered a choice of poached salmon or half a roast duck as mains, followed by passion fruit cake for desert. The food was very good, although sadly let down by the choice of only two wines. We tried the red, which I'm afraid to say was truly awful, so to do the food justice you might prefer beer or to negotiate a BYO deal.
Grosmont House
After dinner we enjoyed the numerous railway magazines in the lounge, then retired our blistered-feet to our four poster bed; after all, at 25 miles we'd almost walked a marathon today.
Day 12: Grosmont to Robin Hood's Bay
17 miles, 6 hours and 30 minutes (5 hours moving)
And so to our final day, and despite having a three mile head start on those who'd traditionally start at Glaisdale, we still had 17 more to complete before catching our train back to London later that afternoon. Following a generous breakfast we confronted the staggeringly steep hill out of Grosmont and over the moors.
East Coast at last
Map-reading under blue skies
About halfway through the day, the path loops round to include a charming nature reserve in Littlebeck, after which it's the final boggy stretch to the coast with Whitby visible on the horizon. We arrived at the North Sea just in time to grab a photo before the fog descended.

Our final 2.5 miles may have been more pea-soup than spectacular coastal path, but in no way reduced our elation upon arriving at Robin Hood's Bay.

Our slightly stunned, bedraggled appearance staggering into the town must have been as strange a sight to the day-trippers as their bucket and spades were to us. Amongst the tourists though we recognised several fellow coast-to-coasters to share our joy.

We scampered down the steep road through the town and made a bee-line for the sea, where following Wainwright's recommendation, once again ceremoniously dipped our boots - a sight the locals must have witnessed on many an occasion, but one still met with utter bewilderment. We'd done it! Completed the 192 mile Coast-to-coast path, and better still with an hour spare to find something to eat before starting our journey home.
Gordon triumphant!
After triumphantly marching back up the hill we discovered the best fish and chips were in fact located on a side-alley near the seafront, so staggered back down the road again.

Two cod and chips later and feeling suitably nourished we made it up the hill once more to the bus stop. "Done the coast to coast?" asked a local. "We sure have!". "So you've dipped your toes in the Sea?" "Yep". "And you've signed the walker's book in the Bay Hotel?"
Misty Robin Hoods Bay
Robin Hoods Bay
Now we admit to forgetting the pebble from St Bees Head, but no-one mentioned anything about signing a book - and we only had 20 minutes left. Fearing invalidation from some higher power, I ran back down the hill a third time to the Bay Hotel, located right by the Sea, opposite the alley where we'd enjoyed our fish and chips just five minutes earlier. With the book signed and 15 minutes remaining, I reckoned a celebratory pint could just about be squeezed in.

I made it back to the bus stop with just two minutes to spare, having climbed that damn hill three times in less than half an hour, much to the amusement of the more sensible folk enjoying the show with an ice cream. Unlike those who'd driven to Robin Hood's Bay though, I'd arrived on-foot - ahem, albeit all the way from a perfectly good beach on the other side of the country.

When you put it like that, the Coast-to-coast path sounds like utter madness, but it's actually one the best holiday's I've ever had. Beyond the challenge of walking 192 miles, there's a great pleasure in the simple life of getting up in the morning, walking all day, enjoying some ales with a pub dinner before going to bed, then repeating the whole thing the following day. You don't worry about what to do, where to go or what to wear - you just tie your boots and go.

It's also surprising how easy the walking becomes when you get into the rhythm of marching day-in, day-out. Knowing you have somewhere to get to every night also makes the going much easier, as turning back or even slowing down would simply involve too much reorganisation.

Ultimately it's wonderful to arrive at every new destination by foot, a feeling which should be experienced by anyone who traditionally relies on planes, trains and automobiles. This is what the Coast to coast can do to you: it's certainly turned this fair-weather day-tripper into someone who's already planning his next long-distance walk.

Gordon Laing


Completed the path! Thanks for reading!