Trip Number: 13700A
Staff: Francy Rubin
- Walk through England’s most scenic countryside
- Tour ancient monuments and ruins, and learn about England’s rich
- Enjoy charming English villages and their local pubs, and friendly bed
and breakfast accommodations
- All accommodations
- All group meals, entrance fees, and gratuities
- All on-trip transportation and luggage transfers each day
Please note that the leader has changed from what was originally published. If you
have questions, please
Photo: Deirdre Butler
England’s Coast-to-Coast walk is a classic. It was a life ambition of
A. Wainwright’s, as documented in his pictorial guide that describes a
190-mile walk, in an approximate beeline, that keeps a preference for the high
ground and crosses some of England’s most stunning countryside. Our walk
covers 100+ miles of the original route and begins at St. Bees Head 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.
Along the way we will stop in remote and quiet country villages and hamlets
to refresh ourselves in pubs and tearooms, and we’ll also take time to
wander around medieval ruins and monuments that give evidence of England’s
ancient history. Our luggage will be shuttled by van each day to the next B&B,
leaving us free and unburdened to enjoy our day with just a day pack. Our walks
vary in length from 8-13 miles each day and, on occasion, our van will transport
us across sections of this classic walk.
We will be accompanied by some local ramblers on several walks and they will
also join us for dinner, giving insights into the rhythm of life in rural England.
This part of England had a vibrant history in mining -- we’ll cross landscapes
that show evidence of lead, coal, and iron mining reaching back into the early
The following is a tentative description of our day-to-day activities, giving
a flavor of what you can expect on this trip. Inclement weather or poor trail
conditions could require necessary changes to the itinerary.
Photo: Deirdre Butler
Day 1: Our trip officially begins in Carlisle after breakfast
when we take a bus for a 30-minute ride to Birdoswald Roman Fort, where we'll
explore ancient Roman ruins and walk along the longest continuous stretch of
Hadrian's Wall visible today. A walk through the excavated Roman Fort gives
an introduction to the fascinating life of Birdoswald, dating back 2,000 years.
After lunch, we return to Carlisle to collect our luggage, and a one-hour drive
will take us to St. Bees, where our hike begins. After checking into our B&Bs
we will tour St. Bees Priory and learn about the St. Bees Man before meeting
in the evening for dinner.
Day 2: St. Bees to Cleator (8.5 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. Following lunch at a small village,
we wind our way through a network of fields and lanes to Cleator. At the end
of today’s walk, we take some time for well-deserved refreshments at a
local pub before being transported to our accommodations in Ennerdale to freshen
up before dinner.
Day 3: Ennerdale to Honister Quarry (11 miles). We begin walking
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, formerly
a shepherd’s hut, we have a strenuous 1,000-foot climb over Honister Pass,
overshadowed by the magnificent mountain scenery of Pillar (2,927 feet) and
Great Gable (2,949 feet), and the rugged Haystacks, where Wainwright’s
ashes were scattered. The path leads down to Honister Quarry, where we will
visit one of the oldest slate mines still operating. From there, we will board
our waiting bus to our B&B accommodations in Borrowdale, a very picturesque
Photo: Deirdre Butler
Stonethwaite to Grasmere (10 miles; total elevation gain
1,950 feet). Our second day in the Lake District starts by walking into the secluded
side valley of Stonethwaite, dominated by Eagle Crag. Next is Greenup Edge, the
pass separating Borrowdale and Grasmere in the Far Easedale Valley. Pending fine
weather after lunch, we may elect to continue up to the summit rocks of Helm Crag,
better known as "The Lion and The Lamb," 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
Day 5: Grasmere to Patterdale (8.5 miles; total elevation
gain 1,600 feet). Today we have a gradual climb up to Grisedale Pass where we’ll
stop to enjoy the view of Grisedale Tarn (lake) below, backed by Dollywagon
Pike. Beyond the pass we descend to walk alongside the lake between Helvellyn
Peak (3,118 feet) and St. Sunday Crag, and onwards to Patterdale, where we will
spend the night.
Day 6: Patterdale to Shap (12 miles). Today we start with
a cruise on one of the steamers along Ullswater Lake, the second largest lake
in the Lake District. Next we walk across Askham Fell passing "High Street,"
the course of a Roman road, and on to a small village on the edge of the River
Lowther where we’ll stop for lunch. Our trail follows the river through
a remote valley to the remains of Shap Abbey -- once the home to a community
of Premonstratensian canons in about 1200. We have now left the Lake District
and will overnight in Shap.
Photo: Deirdre Butler
Day 7: 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, together with evidence of lead extraction from the Roman time period.
Then we walk on to Gunnerside where we meet our bus and ride on to Richmond
for a well-deserved rest day.
Day 10: Rest day in Richmond, North Yorkshire. Richmond is
a large, historic town founded by the Normans in 1071 -- the castle and its
keep still dominate the surroundings. The Georgian period, in the late 17th
and 18th centuries, marked Richmond’s heyday, with much elegant architecture
being erected around its cobbled marketplace reported to be one of the largest
in England. A walking tour is planned in the morning for those who wish to join.
The rest of the day is free to explore Easby Abbey, the many parks and gardens,
or to just wander along the River Swale. Tonight we’ll be treated to traditional
music in a local pub.
Photo: Deirdre Butler
Day 11: Swainby to Clay Bank Top (9 miles). A morning bus
ride takes us into 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 well-known landmark of the Wainstones on Hasty Bank, and then descend to
Clay Bank Top. After a short ride we arrive in nearby Great Broughton for a
night's stay in a working farm or a country inn.
Day 12: Clay Bank Top to Lion Inn at Blakey (9 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
along our way to the venerable Lion Inn at Blakey which dates back to 1553.
After a well-earned refreshment, our bus takes us to the North Sea town of Whitby
where we will stay our last two nights.
Day 13: 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 clifftops 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
Photo: Deirdre Butler
Our 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 airport, take the Heathrow Express into central London and
catch a train north to Carlisle. You may also fly into Manchester and take a
train north to Carlisle directly from Manchester Airport and avoid the difficulties
of getting around London.
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 Carlisle Castle, the cathedral and Tullie
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 York Minster, northern Europe’s largest Gothic cathedral. Another
attraction is the Viking-age village of Jorvik, depicted as it stood 1,000 years
ago. The York Railway Museum, the largest in the world, is a special treat.
Accommodations and Food
Our shared accommodations will be at B&Bs, country inns, and guesthouses,
each offering a warm friendly welcome. Unfortunately single room accommodations
are very difficult to find in this area and will not be available. Our luggage
will be transported to our new accommodations daily by a carrier service. All
meals from lunch on Day 1 to breakfast on Day 14 are included in the trip price.
Breakfasts will be English style -- full and hearty. For lunch, you will be
given money to buy food from local stores, a sack-lunch from your B&B host,
or lunch at a pub or tea-shop where available. Dinners will be provided at our
larger accommodations or at nearby pubs or restaurants. Vegetarian options are
available at most locations.
PLEASE NOTE: Drinks, including bottled water and soft drinks, are not included
in the trip price. (Coffee, tea, and juice are included with breakfasts.) You
may also choose to purchase extra hiking snacks and afternoon post-hiking treats.
Photo: Deirdre Butler
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 12+ 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 high-top waterproof boots are a must. A lightweight, two-piece
waterproof rain suit, 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. We highly recommend using
trekking poles for added stability on potentially wet and slippery surfaces.
- The classic itinerary for this walk is contained in A. Wainwright’s
pictorial guide, A Coast to Coast Walk, a pocket-sized guide jammed
full of valuable information, sketches of the area, and minutely detailed
descriptions of the ground covered. Getting to know Wainwright, through his
witty and thoughtful commentary, is a delight. Keep in mind that our trip
takes the best sections of his trip, and adds and omits other areas.
- Reading about the country's natural history and culture beforehand also
enhances the participant's enjoyment of the trip. The National Trust Book
of Long Walks in England, Scotland and Wales, by Adam Nicolson, available
in many libraries, is an excellent resource.
- Other guidebooks that are excellent supplements to Wainwright's classic:
Coast to Coast Path, by Henry Stedman, Coast to Coast Walk,
by Paul Hannon, and A Northern Coast to Coast Walk, by Terry Marsh.
- The Ordnance Survey is Great Britain's national mapping agency and provides
the most accurate and up-to-date geographic data. It is relied on by government,
businesses, and individuals. Visit their website at: http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/leisure/
Maps are easily purchased in the villages and small towns along our walk.
- Photos that the leader took on her 2011 Coast to Coast Walk may be found
Photo: Deirdre Butler
England has been heavily populated for hundreds of years and most of the land
is utilized for human endeavor. Basically, its national parks are lines drawn
around scenic areas, which are largely in private hands, to control development
and non-conforming uses. Urban sprawl, intensive farming, motorways, and the
demand for vacation facilities place heavy pressure upon open space and wildlife
habitat. We will take every opportunity to meet with local conservationists
and naturalists to discuss these problems.
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 and aided by a salaried staff, and encourages grassroots involvement.
Our outings seek to empower participants toward environmentally understanding
parallel concerns at home and abroad.
Participants are encouraged to bring information about environmental issues
of concern in their area to share with the group. Take this opportunity to educate
and encourage us all to engage in conservation advocacy. Every voice really
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.
Francy Rubin is an early retired physical therapist/athletic trainer who loves having time to spend outdoors. She is a strong believer in the concept of "giving back," and has lived this motto through activities ranging from weekly trail maintenance on the Appalachian Trail to five years spent volunteering in Mexico. She now serves as a volunteer Sierra Club leader for trips across the United States and in the Caribbean. Come join her in nature!
Born in the UK, Deirdre Butler grew up hiking and horseback riding in Dartmoor National Park, southern England. She lived and worked in northern England for a number of years and is excited to be returning to her old "stomping grounds" and sharing her love of the English countryside with you. Before taking early retirement, Deirdre worked in the medical industry and has traveled extensively throughout Asia and the Far East. Since 2001 Deirdre has been leading outings for Sierra Club in her home state of Colorado and is a certified Wilderness First Responder.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips