Alterations and improvements to Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk

The Coast to Coast Walk (C2C) is a brilliant concept and Wainwright’s (AW’s) route has been deservedly popular with walkers from all over the world. It runs for 190 miles from St Bees in Cumbria, on the Irish Sea, to Robin Hood’s Bay, just south of Whitby, North Yorkshire on the North Sea and passes through the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors national parks.

AW is believed to have walked his creation only twice and thus was unable to check whether he always chose the best route and in the preface to his guidebook he suggests that walkers should explore alternative itineraries. In some cases he was lazy and his route includes sections of road walking which, with a little forethought, could have been avoided. His guidebook to the route has brought immense pleasure to countless thousands of walkers but, unfortunately, he had a cavalier attitude to rights of way and included some routes that were not public paths. The cost to the taxpayer in legalizing his errors has amounted to many thousands of pounds.

I have have guided more than forty-eight groups of walkers along the C2C since 1991 and have taken the opportunity to explore alternative routes. They fall into two categories:
1    Minor changes that are better, mostly because they avoid sections of road walking and/or are more scenically attractive. They are approximately the same length as the section of AW’s route that they replace.
2    Major changes that alter AW’s route significantly.

Note that the alterations listed below have to be followed on the appropriate Ordnance Survey Explorer map, given in the heading, because these notes are not intended as a step-by-step guide. Nevertheless, I have included enough eight-figure grid references to allow a competent map-reader to follow the suggested routes. Grid references and locations marked with an asterisk (eg * NY 1760/0115) indicate that the alteration can be followed by using the OS Coast to Coast Map Guide.

Walkers who use a GPS receiver can convert the eight-figure grid references to ten figures by adding a zero to both the easting and the northing. Thus, in the example above, the waypoint would be keyed in as NY 17600/01150. Sufficient information has been provided for the route to be transferred to a receiver by using mapping software.

1 Minor improvements

St Bees to Rosthwaite
AW’s route between Ennerdale Water and the Honister Pass goes via Loft Beck and Fleetwith which, by the standards of the Lake District, is dull and lacking in attractive views. For a more exciting walk, leave AW’s route at *NY 1769/1223 and head E and then N uphill to *Scarth Gap (*NY 1890/1233). Take the path that runs generally E over *Haystacks and past *Blackbeck Tarn, from where there is a wonderful view into *Buttermere, to link with the disused tramway and join AW’s route at the *Drum House.

Rosthwaite to Grasmere
No changes.

Grasmere to Patterdale
No changes.

Patterdale to Shap (Explorer 0L5)
AW’s route takes you from the Straits of Riggindale (NY 4393/1225), from where there is a breathtaking view, to the shores of Haweswater (NY 4679/1178) from where there is a long slog to Burnbanks (NY 5080/1611). The descent to the reservoir from Kidsty Howes (NY 4630/1250) is steep and horribly eroded and can easily be avoided by choosing one of two high-level routes that give wonderful views over Ullswater and Haweswater:

1    Leave AW’s route at NY 4435/1269 some 700 metres after turning sharply NE at the path junction above the Straits of Riggindale (NY 4393/1225) and head NNE along the Roman road to High Raise (NY 4475/1345). The start of this path, near some low rocks, is not easy to find but it is clear on the ground within 100 metres of leaving AW’s route. Follow the clear path over Raven Howe and past the only boggy section near Redcrag Tarn (NY 4516/1500). Note that the true line of the path on the ground is shown on the map by the black pecked lines not the green bridleway. After passing through the broken wall at NY 4520/1575, continue to NY 4525/1620 where a pile of stones indicates where you should turn due E along a clear path, not shown on the map, until it connects with the footpath at NY 4617/1612. Note that there are several parallel paths so always select the most southerly and you will arrive at the quarry at NY 4780/1636. From here you can see the footbridge over the Meesand Beck at NY 4823/1569. You must then make your own way downhill through the bracken along one of several paths created by wild ponies and sheep to the footbridge (the path shown on the map does not exist on the ground). Then follow the beck through a charming glen to rejoin AW’s route at NY 4860/1541.

2    There is a shorter alternative from High Raise (NY 4475/1345). Turn NE and head for the cairn visible on Low Raise (NY 4563/1378). From here, a wide grassy path, not shown on the map, descends to the footbridge at the Meesand Beck (NY 4823/1569) to join AW’s route at NY 4860/1541.
Note: There is a pathless route from below The Knott (NY 4370/1270) which leaves AW’s route at NY 4380/1260 and heads ENE around Rampsgill Head, from where there is a view almost as fine as that from the Straits of Riggindale, and then climbs steeply to join the Roman road near High Raise at NY 4460/1308.

Shap to Kirkby Stephen (Explorer OL19)
This section is an example of the fallibility of AW and is one of the reasons why the Natural England and its predecessors have been so reluctant to designate the C2C as a national trail.

The route between the road junction north of Orton (NY 6285/0993) and the road at NY 7935/0680 was mostly on roads (almost all of which can be avoided) and an illegal route that the landowner subsequently closed. At NY 6285/0993, continue along the road to Orton for 100 metres then take the BW that runs directly to Orton. From the village centre go E along a footpath to Street Lane, TR for 70m then L to Bland House. TL and follow road to next road junction than take path diagonally across a field to Knotts Lane and then E on BW to Acres. TL and follow road to Stony Head (NY 6630/0855) and continue along BW to the road at Sunbiggin Tarn.

Turn right along the road for 400 metres and then turn left along a track (NY 6708/0730) and head S and the E to the road at NY 6940/0611. TL for 200 metres and then R along a BW to join AW’s route at NY 7009/0661.

Kirkby Stephen to Keld (Explorer OL19).
All the road walking from Hartley (NY 7825/0850) to the roadhead at NY 7989/0752 can be avoided. Follow AW’s route over Frank’s Bridge to the first kissing gate (NY 7786/0867) then turn due S along the banks of the river Eden. At NY 7792/0808, turn SE through a gate and climb steeply uphill (no visible path) to a bridge over disused railway at NY 7805/0771. Continue uphill to NY 7812/0752, pass through a gate and turn right and follow the top of the field to NY 7843/0702, then head NE through scrub and descend to a gate in a wall (NY 7861/0707). Head uphill to a stile (NY 7913/0707) near a telegraph pole and follow poles to the end of the field where you are forced uphill before descending to a stile at NY 7949/0705. Continue across a meadow to a waymarked farm bridge which will bring you to the access road to Ladthwaite at NY 7963/0685. Turn left and walk to the roadhead (NY 7989/0752) to rejoin AW’s route.

From the viewpoint on Nine Standards Rigg (NY 8239/0639) there is an interesting, if mostly pathless fair-weather route that avoids most of the bogs on AW’s route. From the viewpoint (not the trig point), take a compass bearing of 196° and make your way through some bogs to Jack Standards (NY 8223/0540), then follow sheep paths through the heather along Coldbergh Edge to rejoin AW’s route near Millstones (NY 8320/0370).

Some dangerous road walking can be avoided on the approach to Keld. On reaching the road at the eastern end of *Cotterby Scar at *NY 8861/0159, cross over and follow the access road to *East Stonesdale (*NY 8950/0125). If you wish to visit *Keld, continue for another 120 metres to the *Pennine Way and follow it to just beyond the bridge, then turn right and walk into *Keld.

Keld to Reeth
No changes but see alternative route through Swaledale described under Major Alterations to AW’s Route below.

Reeth to Richmond
Much of the road walking out of Reeth can be avoided. 200 metres after crossing *Reeth Bridge, turn right at *SE 0426/9907 and take the path to the *B6270. Cross the road at *Grinton Bridge (*SE 0462/9855) and follow the riverside path until it joins AW’s route at a dead-end *road at *SE 0540/9860.

There is no need to walk down the road into *Marske (*NZ 1050/0058). At *Hardstiles Top *NZ 0922/9991, follow a farm track to a gate giving access to the road at *NZ 0937/0012 (this is not a right of way so those with a tender conscience should walk to the stile at *NZ 0961/0010, then turn left and walk to the footpath sign at *NZ 0949/0010). Walk down the field, cross a lane and continue over a substantial *bridge (*NZ 1000/0066) and climb the hill to a track that will take you into *Marske to join AW’s route at *NZ 1050/0058.

Richmond to Ingleby
Consider carefully whether you want to walk the 23 miles of this flat section of which 7 miles is on roads. The Dales & District bus service 55 will get you from Richmond to Northallerton and connects with the Abbotts of Leeming service 80 to Ingleby Cross. The journey time is approximately 90 minutes.

Ingleby Arncliffe to the B1257 at Hasty Bank
If you are having a bad day, it is possible to avoid the three steep climbs over Cringle Moor (*NZ 5345/0339), the unnamed summit at *NZ 5507/0346 and the Wainstones (*NZ 5590/0355) by following a contour track, known locally as the Jet Miners’ Path, which leaves AW’s route at *NZ 5275/0312 and rejoins it at *Hasty Bank (*NZ 5450/0339). It is shown as a black pecked line and runs just above the forestry between *NZ 5460/0340 and *NY 5450/0339.

If you are staying overnight in Great Broughton there is an attractive path shown on Explorer OL26 that avoids all the road walking along the B1257. At NZ 5460/0340 descend S through the forestry of Broughton Bank. Look for a waymark at NZ 5485/0385 that indicates the start of the path to Solomon’s Porch (NZ 5489/0414) and which is waymarked all the way to Great Broughton.

Clay Bank Top to the Lion Inn, Blakey Ridge
The 5.5-mile slog along the old railway line from Bloworth Crossing (NZ 6159/0148) to the Lion Inn (SE 6790/9970) is across bleak, uninteresting moorland with only the occasional attractive view. It’s a good route in foul weather when there is a following wind but there is a much more attractive alternative via Farndale.

At Bloworth Crossing (NZ 6159/0148), take the broad track that runs SE. After 200 metres take the indistinct, signposted bridleway (NZ 6183/0110) that runs across boggy ground on a bearing of 100°. After 750 metres you will come to a gate located in a kink in a wall (NZ 6255/0109). The path now becomes more distinct so descend steeply into Farndale (watch for the waymark that indicates the location of the bridge at NZ 6292/0086). From now on the path, which soon becomes a track, is obvious and eventually continues as a metalled lane. At SE 6495/9971, just before reaching Esk House, take the bridleway that runs NE through some disused tips to a gate in a fence at NZ 6531/0019. Continue NNE uphill to join AW’s route at NZ 6539/0071.

Lion Inn, Blakey Ridge to the Horseshoe Inn at Egton Bridge (Explorer OL26)
All the road walking between the Lion Inn (SE 6790/9970) and the beginning of the track (NZ 7000/0192) that leads to Trough House can be avoided.

Cross the road at the inn to the footpath sign (SE 6800/9960) and turn SE when you meet the trackbed of the old railway line. At a junction of tracks (SE 6837/9927), fork left and, head downhill to a lane at Moorlands Farm (SE 6911/9892) where you should turn left for 150 metres to a waymarked gate on your right (SE 6915/9907). Walk down the field to a footbridge hidden in a miniature gorge (SE 6932/9916) and then continue uphill to a gate at another lane (SE 6957/9921) where you should turn left. Look for a bridleway sign adjacent to a barn on your right (SE 6954/9928) and then walk alongside the barn to the trackbed of an old railway (SE 6979/9980). Cross over and take the path that runs due N and then NE to a road at NZ 7024/0054 . Cross over and follow the George Gap Causeway, which still has some flagstones in situ, to join AW’s route at NZ 7142/0169.

A shortcut, which avoids some tedious and dangerous road walking, can be made at Glaisdale. On reaching the *T-junction on the outskirts of the village (*NZ 7739/0570), turn right for 50 metres and then take a metalled path that descends steeply past the *village hall to join a *lane that crosses AW’s route at *NZ 7823/0543. Cross the road and follow a stony path down the side of a *pub to join AW’s route at *NZ 7839/0544.

The Horseshoe Inn, Egton Bridge to High Hawsker
On the E side of the boundary of the garden of the *Horseshoe Inn (*NZ 8018/0516) is a short path that leads to two sets of stepping stones across the river *Esk. Turn right after passing through an old mill and follow a *lane to join AW’s route at NZ 8042/0520.

There are two miles of road walking from the level crossing in Grosmont up a hill that, at its steepest point, has a 33 per cent gradient. This can be shortened by taking the bridleway at *NZ 8450/0507, just beyond a *cattle grid, that follows the intake wall to a quarry. Just beyond the quarry at *NZ 8492/0540, the bridleway forks due E and crosses moorland to reach AW’s route at the *A169 (*NZ 8620/0478). For most of the way the route is obvious but the last few hundred metres are difficult to follow but the gate giving access to the A169 is visible in clear conditions.

When approaching Littlebeck along the road, look for a narrow path on the left (*NZ 8785/0489) 100 metres after a right-angle bend. This will cut out some road walking around a dangerous bend.

There are stepping stones across the *May Beck (*NZ 8885/0342) which can be dangerous if the beck is in spate. They can be avoided by retracing your steps to the *broad track, then turn right, cross the *bridge and turn right again and follow the *beck upstream.

Some road walking from the car park at *Old May Beck (*NZ 8830/0245) can be avoided. Turn left along the *road and after 100 metres turn right at *NZ 8927/0262 and follow a footpath uphill to *St John’s Cross (*NZ 9000/0270). You will see a footpath sign 100 metres ahead which should be ignored because the path does not exist on the ground. Instead, follow the *wall on your left to the *road at (*NZ 9043/0391) to join AW’s route.

High Hawsker to Robin Hood’s Bay
AW’s route out of High Hawsker follows a busy road and then a much-used access road to a caravan site. These can be avoided by turning left in the village at *NZ 9284/0742 and walking past the *pub. At *NZ 9272/0758, turn right off the road and follow a *bridleway NE to *Gnipe Howe (*NZ 9338/0847). From here, take the waymarked footpath that heads SE and then due E to reach the *Cleveland Way from where AW’s route is joined at *NZ 9409/0820. If very weary, you can reach Robin Hood’s Bay along the old *railway line by leaving the bridleway at *NZ 9272/0775.

There is a delightful walk to the beach at Robin Hood’s Bay which most Coast to Coasters miss in their eagerness to dip their boots in the North Sea. On reaching the turning circle, beyond which only authorized vehicles are permitted, continue downhill and turn left along the first alleyway beyond the first cafe. Just continue through a series of enchanting alleyways and narrow passages and, sooner or later, you will arrive at the beach.

2  MAJOR ALTERATIONS TO AW’S ROUTE

Ravenglass to Rosthwaite (Explorer OL6 & 0L4)
This route, via Eskdale to Boot and over Burnmoor to Wasdale Head, Styhead and Seathwaite is, in my view, a far more attractive itinerary than commencing the walk at St Bees.

From the station on the Ravenglass to Eskdale miniature railway (NY 0860/9650, cross the bridge over the standard-gauge line and walk to the beach (NY 0850/9615). Then head E and SSE to the Roman Bath House (NY 0885/9590) and Newtown (NY 0930/9560). Turn NE via Muncaster Castle to the A595 (NY 1032/9660) where you should turn left and follow the pavement to Fell Lane (NY 1003/9680) which runs NE. At NY 1105/9803, leave the main path and follow a path, not shown on the map, to the trig point and splendid viewpoint on Hooker Crag (NY 1120/9830). Continue NE on path to join the main route at NY 1210/9880 from where there is a good path to the station at Eskdale Green. Turn right at the road and walk past the George IV pub to cross Forge Bridge at NY 1493/1950. Turn NE and follow the river Esk along a bridleway to the stepping stones opposite the chapel at NY 1760/0025. If the river is in spate, continue to the footbridge at NY 1805/0017 and walk along the opposite bank back to the chapel. Head N to Boot (NY 1760/0115) and Burnmoor Tarn (NY 1769/0460) to Wasdale Head (NY 187/088).

There are two routes over Styhead Pass (NY 2187/0949).The first is the obvious route that appears to run in a straight line to the summit of the pass and the second is the more interesting route that leaves the main path at NY 2020/0929 and crosses the Lingmell Beck, via some stepping stones, at NY 2123/0917. Descend from the pass to Stockley Bridge (NY 2345/1090) and Seathwaite (NY 2350/1215), then take the path (the Allerdale Ramble) that runs NE from the farm. Cross the B5289 at NY 2508/1369 to reach Folly Bridge (NY 2505/1385) and walk NE into Rosthwaite (NY 2565/1470).

Keld to Reeth (Explorer OL 30)
AW’s route is fascinating if you are interested in industrial archaeology, but it is not beautiful. If you prefer to take a more scenic route through Swaledale, I recommend the following itinerary.

Leave AW’s route at NY 9045/008) and follow the track that keeps on the N side of the river Swale. The path, sometimes through traditional hay meadows, runs through Ivelet (SD 9360/9796) and Gunnerside (SD 9518/9817) and at SD 9666/9760 is forced onto the road for 300 metres. There is another short section of road walking at SD 9960/9855 before the path crosses fields again at SE 0001/9849 and makes for Healaugh, pronounced ‘heelaw’, (SE 0164/9896) and Reeth (SE 0397/9911).