Trip Number: 12595B
Staff: Cathy Dezendorf
- Walk through England's most scenic countryside
- Enjoy charming English villages, quaint pubs, and hospitable bed &
- Visit ancient ruins and learn the history of old England
- All accommodations
- All on-trip transportation
- All group meals, entrance fees, and gratuities
Photo: Nancy Lashbrook
This is England's most popular walk and has been described as one of the finest
walks in the world. Beginning on the coast of the Irish Sea, we will walk through
three of England's national parks: the Lake District, renowned for its gorgeous
lakes and craggy peaks; the Yorkshire Dales, with its gentle green valleys full
of ancient stone walls and old farms, and popularized by the PBS series, All
Creatures Great and Small; and the North York Moors, which is secluded and lush
with heather, and ends at a picturesque coastline along the North Sea. We will
stop in charming old English villages, frequent quaint pubs and tearooms, and
explore ancient abbeys, Neolithic monuments, and medieval ruins along the way.
Our coast-to-coast walk covers about 90+ miles of A. W. Wainwright's original
190-mile traverse. A bus will carry our luggage, allowing each of us to carry
only a day pack as we walk 6.5 to 14+ miles a day.
We expect to have some local ramblers joining us for many of our walks, and
several evenings after dinner we will enjoy either a local speaker or some entertainment
from local musicians. Some of the landscapes we cross will display the after-effects
of lead, coal, and iron mining in past ages.
The following is a tentative description of our day-to-day activities. Inclement
weather or poor trail conditions could create necessary changes to the itinerary.
Photo: Nancy Lashbrook
Day 1: Carlisle to St. Bees. Our trip officially begins after
breakfast, when we will all meet in the Carlisle Castle to discuss our plans
and answer questions. We will then have a walking/history tour of the castle
and the town of Carlisle. After lunch, we will leave Carlisle for a one-hour
drive to St. Bees, where we will be taken to our accommodations. After checking
into our B&Bs we will tour the St. Bees Priory and learn about the St. Bees
Man before meeting in the evening for dinner.
Day 2: St. Bees to Cleator (9.5 miles). After the traditional
dipping of our boots into the Irish Sea, we will begin the ascent and traverse
of St. Bees Head, a three-mile-long promontory that ends in cliffs that fall
300 feet to the Irish Sea. On a clear day, you can see the lakeland fells (hills)
to the east and the Isle of Man to the west. At the end of today’s walk,
we take some time for well-deserved refreshments at a local pub before being
transported to our B&Bs.
Day 3: Ennerdale Bridge to Stonethwaite (14 miles). This section
begins with a walk along the shore of Ennerdale Water, the westernmost lake
in the Lake District, to Ennerdale Forest. After a lunch break at Black Sail
Youth Hostel, we climb a strenuous 1,000 feet over Honister Pass, which is dominated
by the magnificent mountain scenery of Pillar (2,927 feet), Great Gable (2,949
feet), and the rugged Haystacks, where Wainwright chose to have his ashes spread.
The path leads down to Honister Quarry, where we will visit one of the oldest
slate mines still operating. From there we’ll continue our descent into
Borrowdale, a very popular Lakeland valley, until we reach our accommodations
for the night.
Photo: Nancy Lashbrook
Stonethwaite to Grasmere (8.2 miles, gain 1,950 feet).
Our second day in the Lake District starts by walking into the secluded side
valley of Stonethwaite, which is dominated by Eagle Crag. We will climb over
Greenup Edge to the head of Far Easedale, the valley leading back to Grasmere.
If the weather is fine after lunch, we may elect to continue up to the summit
rocks of Helm Crag, an amazing array of pinnacles and tilted rock slabs. Following
our ascent, we’ll descend into the historic village of Grasmere, the birthplace
of William Wordsworth. We will overnight in Grasmere.
Grasmere to Patterdale (8.5 miles, gain 1,600 feet).
Today our walk will take us around Great Tongue, between Helvellyn Peak (3,118
feet) and St. Sunday Crag, then alongside Grisedale Tarn (lake) before we descend
to Patterdale, where we will spend the next two nights.
Day 6: Howtown to Patterdale. (6.6 miles) Deviating from Wainwright's
classic route to see the gorgeous Ullswater Lake, we will walk about a mile
to Glenridding, and from there take a boat ride on one of the historic passenger
vessels from lakeside Glenridding to Howtown. From there we walk following the
lakeshore back to our accommodation in Patterdale.
Photo: Nancy Lashbrook
Sunbiggin Tarn to Kirkby Stephen (8 miles). The day
starts with a bus ride to shorten what would otherwise be a 22-mile walk! The
hills in this area are gentler and our route less rocky than in the Lake District.
After crossing near Rayseat Pike and the lower slopes of Crosby Garret Fell,
we will see the site of the prehistoric village of Severals in the valley of
Smardale, and the lime kilns on Smardale Fell. We'll continue walking to the
old market town of Kirkby Stephen, where we will stay the night.
Day 8: Kirkby Stephen to Keld (12 miles). We will begin the
1,570-foot climb to Nine Standards Rigg, large cairns dating back to at least
pre-18th century. Two important milestones are reached in this section of the
walk: we enter Yorkshire Dales National Park, and we cross the watershed of
the Pennines at the highest point of the fell -- 2,178 feet. We will descend
to Keld for the night.
Day 9: Keld to Gunnerside (8.5 miles). We will follow the course
of the River Swale along the valley floor. From Keld we will cross the river
by a footbridge near East Gill Force (waterfall) and climb to the ruins of Crackpot
Hall (a former lead mining area), then down to the path along the river. There
are many old mines in this area, dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries,
and there is evidence that the Romans extracted lead in this region. Then we
walk on to Gunnerside where we meet our bus and ride on to Richmond for a well-deserved
Photo: Nancy Lashbrook
Day 10: Rest day in Richmond, North Yorkshire. This is a large,
historic town with an impressive castle and classic Georgian architecture. A
walking tour is planned in the morning for those who wish to join. The rest
of the day is free to explore the many attractions, parks, and gardens, or to
just wander along the River Swale.
Day 11: Swainby to Clay Bank Top (9 miles). Before our hike
begins, our bus will take us for a tour at Mount Grace Priory, a ruined Carthusian
monastery dating from 1398. We are now in the North York Moors National Park.
Wainwright described the moors as "unenclosed, uninhabited, remote from
industry and noise and free from traffic -- a magnificent territory for the
walker." We will pass the Wainstones on Hasty Bank, and then descend to
Clay Bank Top, where we will be met by bus and taken to nearby Great Broughton
for a night's stay.
Day 12: Clay Bank Top to Lion Inn at Blakey (8.75 miles).
As we leave Clay Bank Top, the ground will rise steadily across Urra Moor, the
highest point of the North York Moors. There are beautiful views of Bransdale,
Farndale (famous for its daffodils in spring), and Rosedale. We will eat lunch
in Blakey at the venerable Lion Inn, which dates back to 1553. Then our bus
will then take us to the North Sea town of Whitby where we will stay our last
Photo: Nancy Lashbrook
Whitby to Robin Hood's Bay (9 miles). Leaving Whitby,
we’ll pass the dramatic Whitby Abbey, which inspired Bram Stoker to write
Dracula. From there we’ll continue along the coast on the Cleveland Way
a few miles until we rejoin the Coast-to-Coast track. Today’s walk will
take us along the cliff tops overlooking the North Sea and drop us into the
picturesque smugglers village of Robin Hood’s Bay where we will ceremoniously
and triumphantly dip our feet in the North Sea, enjoy a walk through the charming
and historic village, and have lunch at a seaside pub. After lunch we will visit
Whitby Abbey, founded in 657, and the town of Whitby. Following today’s
activities, we will gather for our farewell dinner.
Day 14: Whitby to York. Our bus will depart at 9 a.m. for
York, a journey of about two hours. We will say goodbye here, after accomplishing
a remarkable feat. The trip ends at the York Train Station at approximately
This trip begins and ends in two different cities. Getting to our starting
point of Carlisle is the responsibility of each participant. You can fly into
London's Heathrow or Gatwick airport, go to London, and take a train north to
Carlisle. It is also possible to fly to Glasgow, Edinburgh, or Manchester and
take a train to Carlisle. Participants are encouraged to arrive at least a few
days before our official start time to get through the almost unavoidable jet
lag. Many take advantage of this extra time to visit historic Hadrian's Wall,
which is just a short bus ride out of Carlisle.
Our trip officially ends when we are dropped off at the York train station
before noon. There trains can take you to London or other destinations. If your
schedule allows, it would be worth your time to tour the walled city of York
and visit its old church (minster) and famous museums. The York Railway Museum,
the largest in the world, is a special treat.
Accommodations and Food
We will be using a variety of comfortable hotels, bed & breakfasts, farmhouses,
and inns. Rooms will be double occupancy. Based on availability, single-room
supplements may be available for an additional cost. Please discuss this with
the leader before signing up for the trip. Breakfasts will be hearty, with choices
ranging from full English egg and meat breakfasts to continental fare. Our midday
meal may be a box lunch, a pub lunch, or food purchased at local markets. Dinners
will be provided at our larger accommodations or at nearby pubs or restaurants.
Traditional English cooking can be challenging for strict vegetarians; nonetheless,
we will do our best to negotiate suitable meals for those with dietary restrictions.
Please let the leader know what your desires are.
Photo: Nancy Lashbrook
This trip is designed for experienced hikers currently involved in regular
hiking activities -- not just walking. The route will vary in difficulty with
walking distances of up to 14+ miles and elevation gains up to 2,500 feet. All
walks will be on trails or paths that could be on steep, rocky or boggy terrain.
Agility is needed to negotiate rocky trails, traverse small streams, and climb
stepladder stiles over stone walls without difficulty.
Some rain is to be expected and can make any walk more challenging. Our luggage
is shuttled to our accommodations each day; however, each participant must carry
a day pack with lunch, drinking water, raingear, a warm sweater, and any other
items needed during the day.
Participants should be accustomed to walking at a pace of 2+ miles per hour
on level ground and be able to walk up steep grades at a slower pace without
undue fatigue. Our walking is not difficult or rushed for a fit hiker; however,
for safety reasons it is important that everyone be prepared to keep a similar
pace. Please call or email the leader if you have any questions regarding your
abilities before signing up for the trip. Your enjoyment of this trip will depend
on your preparation and general fitness level. Regular hiking is the only activity
that will totally prepare your legs, feet, and ankles for this trip.
Equipment and Clothing
It can rain a lot in England! Even if it is not raining, some areas are very
wet and boggy, so Gore-Tex boots or equivalent are a must. A two-piece waterproof
rain suit, again Gore-Tex or equivalent, is also necessary to keep warm and
dry. The leader will make other suggestions about clothing in more detailed
letters, listing what you may need for daytime and nighttime activities. If
you have trekking poles, please bring them as they will be very useful.
- Wainwright, A., A Coast to Coast Walk. The classic itinerary for
this walk. Be sure to get a revised updated edition. This book is a must for
anyone who wants to enjoy the walk to the fullest. Its 168+ pocket-sized pages
are jammed full of valuable information, sketches of the area, and minutely
detailed descriptions of the walk. Getting to know Wainwright, through his
witty and thoughtful commentary, is a delight.
Other guidebooks that are excellent supplements to Wainwright's classic:
- Stedmank, Henry, Coast to Coast Path.
- Hannon, Paul, Coast to Coast Walk.
- Marsh, Terry, A Northern Coast to Coast Walk.
Photo: Nancy Lashbrook
The Sierra Club is an environmentally focused entity. We are concerned about
conservation and sustainability of resources both locally and globally. Our
work is accomplished by volunteers, aided by a salaried staff, encouraging grassroots
involvement. Our outings seek to empower participants toward understanding environmentally
parallel concerns at home and abroad.
England has been heavily populated for hundreds of years and most of the land
is utilized for human endeavor. England’s national parks are typically
designated around scenic areas that are largely in private hands. This designation
helps control development and non-conforming uses.
The environmental topics on this outing include urban sprawl, intensive farming,
motorways, and the demand for vacation facilities that place heavy pressure
upon open space and wildlife habitat. We will take this opportunity to meet
with local conservationists and naturalists to explore these, and other, issues
of local and global interest.
This trip requires a $200 per-person deposit. An additional payment of $300 per person is due six months prior to trip departure. International trip prices are subject to change and are based on double-occupancy or group accommodations as described above. Single rooms may not be available or may cost more than the listed price. If you have any questions regarding double occupancy, please contact the trip leader.
See the How to Apply for an Outing
section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the
trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing
up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing
approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical
Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on
the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to
the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and
notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
The Sierra Club accurately and fairly budgets and prices our trips. However, unforeseen costs such as devaluation of the dollar compared to other currencies and fuel surcharges assessed by our international providers may necessitate adjustment in trip price. We will make every effort to mitigate and absorb these fees. If a price increase is necessary, however, you will have 14 days after announcement to cancel without penalty.
Cathy Dezendorf has been leading Sierra Club National Outings backpack trips in California's Sierra Nevada since 1996. She also leads snow camping, hut and hostel trips for the San Francisco Bay Chapter backpack section and is certified as a Wilderness First Responder. A hiking trip to Spain a few years back convinced her that it was time to expand her horizons and she's now looking forward to her fifth summer as an International Outings leader in Europe. After growing up in Oregon, Cathy moved to Northern California in the early 70's and raised her family just a few minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge. She loves to take early morning walks in the Marin Headlands before heading off to her job as a sales rep.
Kate Froman has enjoyed walking in England since she and her husband (they met on a Sierra Club knapsack trip) spent their honeymoon in Yorkshire. Kate loves clouds and likes the way the weather can change from sun to rain and back to sun in a matter of minutes. Kate leads hiking trips in Nepal and Bhutan and when at home, she makes quilts, tears up the garden (unless she is skiing) and makes great pesto.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips