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Coast to Coasting

Hiking in UK

There are some great long distance walks in the world, from the Camino Real in Spain to the USA’s very own Appalachian Trail. One that’s growing in popularity with hikers from the US is considerably shorter than these leviathans, but which can easily compete with them in terms of interest and natural beauty.

The UK Coast to Coast Walk was the brainchild of Alfred Wainwright. If you’re a Brit and you like hiking, Wainwright holds a place in the pantheon roughly equivalent to that of Elvis for rock’n’roll fans. He was primarily a man of the English Lake District, but for the Coast to Coast he strayed from his home territory a little.

The C2C (as it’s usually abbreviated) runs across one of the narrower parts of England. It starts at St. Bees on the west coast and runs through the Lake District, the Pennine Hills and the North Yorkshire Moors until it meets the east coast at the small fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay. The fact that it’s on 190 miles long gives you a pretty good insight into exactly how small a country the UK is when compared to the US.

If you’re interested in doing the C2C you should be reasonably fit, and be confident in hills. Although none of the high peaks on the route – which tend to be confined to its western end in the Lake District – are particularly lofty by international standards, the UK’s unpredictable maritime climate can lead to swift and dramatic changes in the weather. Even in mid-summer it can become very cold very quickly on the tops, and snow has been known to fall, albeit briefly, in August.

To find accommodation near to the coast to coast route try these links: Lake District Accommodation, Yorkshire Dales Accommodation & North Yorkshire Moors Accommodation.

Most hikers start at the western end, at the small coastal town of St Bees. After that, the first third of the trail is probably the most demanding, as it crosses the high hills of the Lake District. There is then a brief section of relative flatness before the Yorkshire Dales appear. After the Dales come the relatively low hills of the North Yorkshire Moors before hikers finally reach the sea.

Most hikers walk the trail over a period of around two weeks. You can, if you wish, lug your own gear and equipment with you, although there are a multitude of ‘Sherpa’ bus services which will carry your luggage along between overnight stops so that during the day all you have to do is carry a light rucsac containing spare clothing, food and other essentials.

There are a number of places en route that are well worth taking some time out to explore. Grasmere, in the heart of the Lake District, is probably one of the most beautiful places on earth, and is a regular overnight stop for C2C hikers. The star attraction is Wordsworth’s Cottage, where the famous poet lived in his younger years. Be warned that it is a good idea to book accommodation in advance in places like Grasmere – during the summer many of the towns and villages on the route are very busy. For that reason, one of the most popular times to undertake the C2C is spring, when there are fewer crowds and the weather is not so hot, although rain can be a problem.

A little further on, at the end of the Yorkshire Dales section of the trail, the town of Richmond is worth exploring. Many people start that day’s section of the route early so they have plenty of time to explore this historic hilltop town with its quaint cobbled streets and imposing, walled medieval castle. Richmond has an abundance of bed and breakfast accommodation, and is full of great pubs – some of them, however, can get a little lively, as Richmond is on the other side of the Swale valley (known as Swaledale) from the biggest army base in Europe; soldiers know how to have a good time! If you’d prefer a little peace and quiet you can stroll down the hill to dip your toes in the cool waters of the Swale, by Richmond’s famous waterfall.

As you journey on eastwards, you’ll notice the climate getting a little dryer and the landscape a little more rolling. Your final destination, Robin Hood’s Bay, is the legendary site of one of the famous outlaw’s adventures. It’s a pretty village of narrow, winding streets and overhanging cottages, built on a steep hillside that winds it way down to the sea. There are some great pubs and restaurants in the village to help you celebrate your triumph!

The C2C is increasingly popular with hikers from overseas – there are probably more Americans hiking the route these days than any other nationality apart from the British. If you’re fit, you like a challenge, and you love beautiful countryside, the Coast to Coast could be the trip of a lifetime!

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