Having recently taken part in the TGO Challenge, a walk across the Scottish highlands from the west coast to the North Sea, I got to reminiscing about another great coast-to-coast walk.
Back in the summer of 2012, Michael and I walked Wainwright’s coast-to-coast trail in northern England. It goes right from one side of the country to the other – from the North Sea, across 300 km of mountains, moors, and classic English countryside to the cliffs of the Irish sea. Here’s my journal and some photos from our adventure…
Usually, people walk the trail from west to east and stay in B&Bs along the route but we chose to go in reverse and to camp as much as we could. This let us save what we felt was the most beautiful (and difficult!) part for last.
Day 1 – Scarborough to Robin Hood’s Bay
We got a taste of walking in England today. As soon as we walked out the door of our hostel it started to drizzle. But not more than half an hour later the sun came out and burned off much of the mist that had been hiding amazing views of ocean waves crashing into rocky cliffs below. We passed through some pretty countryside and started to see our first of many, many sheep. Actually, I think we saw more sheep than people on the entire walk.
Robin Hood’s Bay is a charming little village. The old stone houses live right next to each other with narrow walkways in between. It’s almost a maze to find your way from one street to another and sometimes you suddenly find yourself at the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean below.
Day 2 – Robin Hood’s Bay to Intake Farm
Today’s theme was cats. And rain. We left Robin Hood’s Bay on a beautiful sunny morning after a filling Full English Breakfast and passed by this kitty tucked away in the grass.
The trail turns away from the sea and heads across farmland and through little villages. The sun disappeared in the afternoon. Luckily we arrived at a teahouse in the forest right as a massive downpour started. We pitched our tent outside a farmhouse run by a really friendly couple who gave us tea and cake. Very English. Back to the theme of cats… as we were packing up the next morning one of the little devil kittens decided to climb our tent. That made us change our minds about bringing them home with us!
Day 3 – Intake Farm to Hollins Farm
Lots of variety today. We walked through crackly dry moor that suddenly turned mushy and soaked our feet. Michael was optimistic that he could stay dry. Look at the photo below and you’ll see why that was impossible. Actually, we saw other hikers with big boots who were completely soaked up to their knees. Little did we know, that was a sign of things to come.
Day 4 – Hollins Farm to Busby Moor
Rain storm today! We thought we’d stay dry but the wind drove the rain hard and relentlessly. Once it stopped a thick fog rolled in covering the moors. It felt really spooky, almost like Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of the Baskervilles. I kept listening for howls and screams in the distance. After a long day of walking we found a nice place to pitch our tent with views of farmland stretching into the distance.
Day 5 – Busby Moor to Danby Wiske
It felt a little like being in the prairies of Alberta today. The wheat fields seem to go on forever. But unlike home, here you can walk through the farms. And you’re actually quite welcome. The coast-to-coast trail follows a series of ancient walking paths that people took long before there were roads and farms here. A few ingenious farmers have caught on to the volume of people following the trail and put out snacks to purchase. One even had a little freezer full of ice cream!
Day 6 – Danby Wiske to Richmond
We’re starting to enjoy walking in the rain. Today we got completely soaked. Michael lost his $2 umbrella that was keeping him somewhat dry. Luckily we arrived at Richmond, the biggest city along the trail, population 8000. We splurged on a luxurious farmhouse B&B. Here’s the view from our room.
Day 7 – Richmond to Reeth
Michael picked up a new high-quality umbrella today and so we were rewarded with a beautifully sunny day. We passed through dark quiet forests and over strikingly green pastureland. We stopped for a late lunch at a lovely farm where we enjoyed delicious food and great views.
Day 8 – Reeth to Ravenseat Farm
Today we passed over barren mountainous hills and came upon an old lead mine. It feels like we’re miles from anywhere but there was lead mining here as far back as the Roman period. It peaked in the 1700s and 1800s and now looks like a ghost town.
Day 9 – Ravenseat Farm to Kirkby Steven
We visited the famous Nine Standards Rigg today. A “rigg” is a big rocky hill and a “standard” is a really important pile of rocks. It’s a bit like Stonehenge. They’re really good at stacking rocks here.
Day 10 – Kirkby Steven to Shap
We stayed in a really cool place last night – an old church converted into a hostel. The walking was fun today. We saw lots of sheep and cows wondering about but the most cool sight of all – Robin Hood’s grave! We crossed over the M6 motorway that runs up through England into Scotland, marking two thirds of the way to the end!
Day 11 – Shap to Kidsty Pike
We’ve finally made it to the Lake District! On our way out of Shap, we visited the ruins of an old abbey. We were really excited to walk along a huge reservoir and then up into the mountains where we set up camp. Huge streams gushed down the mountains giving us a sense of entering a whole new world.
Day 12 – Kidsty Pike to Grisdale Tarn
Big event of the day – Michael’s old worn out shoes finally died. We were walking down a steep rocky trail in the rain and his foot suddenly slipped right out through the front of the shoe. Luckily, I’ve been carrying “toe-shoes” that I was using when the trail got really mucky and wet. Now those will be Michael’s for the rest of the trip.
Day 13 – Grisdale Tarn to Grasmere
Last night we camped at a tarn (a little lake) high up in the mountains. It started to rain as we got higher up and turned into a real downpour that never seemed to let up. We set up our tent in the wind and pouring rain. Amazingly, Michael managed to cook up a delicious dinner. The next morning the rain stopped and we had a leisurely walk into the picturesque mountain town of Grasmere.
Day 14 – Grasmere
The forecast was for hard rain and winds up to 100 km/h today so we decided to take a day off and relax in Grasmere. Good thing we did. The storm was huge! There were rivers of water running down the roads. Grasmere is a charming town. It reminds us a bit of Banff with its sense of mountain adventure all around. A nice place to spend a rainy day.
Day 15 – Grasmere to Honister Hostel
Beautiful day today! The weather gods got their frustrations out yesterday. We walked along rocky ridge-tops with fantastic views of the lakes that this part of England is so well known for. Surprisingly, after a day of rest we were pretty tired today. Michael says when you take a day off your body decides the hard work is all done and it goes into repair mode. Or maybe it was all the bacon & eggs yesterday. But we’re getting close now – only a few more days until we reach the Irish Sea!
Day 16 – Honister Hostel to Dent Hill
Exciting day today! We climbed up through a bleak grey slate quarry into misty green mountains to the sound of streams trickling down the trail and the smell of rich mosses. Storm clouds returned late in the morning giving everything a spooky feel. We arrived at a little hut called Black Sail just in time. A huge downpour burst from the clouds. We hid in the tiny outhouse until it finally passed.
Day 17 – Dent Hill to St. Bees Head – Our final day!
We camped on a hilltop overlooking our final destination – the town of St. Bees Head and the Irish Sea! It seems like everyday I write about the crazy rainstorm that hit us. But last night’s storm was a real doozy. A bridge got washed out forcing us to take a detour and when we arrived in St. Bees to catch our train we learned that a landslide had destroyed the train tracks and that no train would be coming! An exciting end to a fun adventure.