Coast to Coast

Start: St Bees, Cumbria
End: Robin Hoods Bay, North Yorkshire
Distance: 192 miles
Ascent: Around 28,000 feet
Time: 13 days
Terrain: Good paths throughout; landscape changes dramatically as you progress from seaside to the Lake District, and then through Dales and Moors before arriving at the seaside again.
Difficulty: 4 – some steep climbs, and a long walk that will test stamina. Route finding is easy, even in the Lake District.

I don’t really know why I wanted to walk the Coast to Coast. In fact, many times before and during the walk I was asking myself that exact question. But I think there’s something about starting with nothing but the sea behind you, and only the sea in front of you to aim for; separated by a couple hundred miles of hills, mountains, valleys, pubs, roads, blisters, rain and sunshine.

I first heard of the Coast to Coast a dozen years ago, when one of colleagues was walking it for charity. I always remembered that it started and ended in those strange sounding places St Bees and Robin Hoods Bay. But the length of the walk, the ascents and descents and the general tone of most walking websites always put me off. But whilst walking from one coast to the other is far from easy, it is an obtainable goal for any vaguely fit person.

Planning the walk was easy. I just followed the main itinerary set out in the Trailblazer guide. This suggests doing the walk in 13 days. For the most part this was perfectly OK, but I’d say that Day 11 from Ingleby Cross to the Lion Inn is too long. That 20 mile stretch was brutal, and it would be far more sensible to break that up into two days.

Prior to the walk, I read lots of online articles, forums and books. Places like Kidsty Pike, Kirkby Stephen, Richmond and Grosmont become almost legendary in my mind. Half of the stuff I read said I shouldn’t go; not alone. But I did, and there was only one point where I genuinely nearly quit (more on that later). The Coast to Coast was one the best things I ever did. The views, the people, the challenge – it all comes together to make this a truly memorable experience.