There's a spot, high up on the flanks of Haystacks, where you can spy at least three of the Lake District’s famous waters.

It is a world that defies description, where superlatives are meaningless words ill-equipped to capture the essence of the mountains.

It’s easy to forget the 21st Century exists because, honestly, there’s little evidence of it.

This, to me, is heaven, and I would stay here all day, except that I’m on a mission.

This isn’t just any normal walk in Cumbria. We are on the second day of the Coast to Coast, a 192 mile trek taking in some of the UK’s most stunning countryside.

The Cumbrian stretch runs from the start at St Bees to past Kirkby Stephen, along cliffs packed with nesting seabirds, traversing the valleys and mountains of the Lake District and taking you well into the Yorkshire Dales national park.

You’re finally in Yorkshire only when you’ve crossed over the M6 and completed a steady climb up to Nine Standards Rigg, the mysterious collection of cairns standing on a summit 662 metres above sea level.

St Bees is worth a visit in itself, and is a fascinating destination for anyone interested in myths, history and nature.

Coast to Coasters assemble by the beach to take their starting point pictures by the stone commemorating Alfred Wainwright, mastermind of the route, and choose a pebble to drop in the sea at Robin Hood’s Bay.

Our accommodation at Springbank Farm Lodges looked over the valley, where the railway line runs to St Bees from Carlisle, which we would cross after walking around the wild headland at St Bees and turning east.

It’s intimidating, looking from here to the giant summits of the Lake District, but it’s day one, and we’re so excited even the steep push up to Dent Fell can’t dampen our spirits.

Ennerdale Bridge is a welcome stop for the first night, offering a welcome sit down and a slice of cake at the Gather, the community-run café, and hearty meals at the village’s two pubs.

We stayed at Beckfoot Retreat, a beautiful Georgian farmhouse down by the banks of Ennerdale Water.

It’s only been a day and already we’re learning the Coast to Coast is as much about the people and history of Cumbria as it is about the walking.

Nina, our host at Beckfoot, explains how the villagers set up the café and took on the running of one of the pubs themselves, to save it being lost like so many other community facilities.

We spy a young buck deer the next day, walking along the flat banks of Ennerdale Water, continuing on up the valley to Black Sail Hut, where you can help yourself to a hot drink before a scramble up Loft Beck to the peaceful fells above Honister slate mine, just below Haystacks.

The Borrowdale Gates Hotel is a few miles from Rosthwaite, but it’s a gentle and lovely walk along the river and we were rewarded with the lovely sight of young fledglings on the hotel’s garden feeders: three blue tits crouching nervously on top as they worked out how to get the seeds, a green finch, and even a woodpecker.

It was the next day when the enormity of what we were trying to undertake hit me.

Borrowdale to Patterdale is 17 miles, with two steep and unrelenting climbs, as well as long descents down into the valleys. We were well into the heart of the Lakes – two days behind and two days ahead, as well as another two days before reaching Yorkshire.

This is the wild land, of high, boggy moors scattered with cairns, sheer crags, fierce gills rushing down to the valleys and surprisingly peaceful tarns, perched high up in bowls on the mountainside.

It’s not a terrain you can conquer; in fact it barely deigns to notice your presence as you trudge on, fighting your own will as you convince your legs to keep walking up the steep ascent until suddenly you reach the top of the pass and stop, hearing nothing but the sound of your own breath, savouring the sweet knowledge that it’s all downhill from here. Well, at least until the next climb.

Patterdale is a small village that we were immensely pleased to see after 11 hours of walking. Even better was the meal at the Patterdale Hotel, where we took some well-earned rest before heading off the next day to Kidsty Pike, the highest point of the entire C2C at 780m.

Despite the height it’s a fairly easy climb, offering views back towards Ullswater – time it right and you’ll spot the steamer chuffing its way from Glenridding. But it’s at the top of Kidsty where the views are most impressive.

Look west and the entire majesty of the Lake District fells is laid out while, to the east, there’s a glimpse of the Yorkshire Dales – a whole new national park yet to be crossed.

After a steep scramble down it’s a pleasant valley walk to Shap, and we revelled in the novelty of walking across fields not, at that particular moment, all too sorry to leave the Lake District behind us.

New Ing Lodge offers private rooms or camping for the more adventurous, and is a real walkers’ place, with long benches where dinner is served and a log fire roars in the lounge even in summer.

A mile or so after leaving Shap, we crossed the M6, a huge marker in our journey, roughly a third of the way completed. From here it’s farmland and moor to Kirkby Stephen, an area ruled by the curlew, its mournful cry underlining the remoteness of the landscape.

Kirkby Stephen was by far the biggest town we passed through in Cumbria. We were given a warm welcome by Chrissie and Joe at the Lockholme bed and breakfast, as well as cake and tea, which was much-needed after a 21-mile hike.

Crossing the River Eden at Frank’s Bridge we spied an encouraging C2C sign: 82 miles from St Bees and 108 to Robin Hood’s Bay. After the previous day’s lack of ascent, the climb to Nine Standards Rigg is hard on the legs but there was plenty to gaze upon as we took a well-deserved breather.

Kirkby is a pretty town of cobbled streets, surrounded by lush green countryside, overlooked by the standing stones high on the fell above, the story of their origins lost in time.

And that’s it – the end of Cumbria. Or not really the end. Because there are miles and miles of paths left to explore, lakes and towns I still haven’t visited and fell summits I have yet to touch. It is a county of myths, hidden history and adventure, where a visit is more than a holiday. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.

The Coast to Coast

The Coast to Coast was the brainchild of Alfred Wainwright, whose pictorial guides helped make the Lake District the destination it is today.

Anyone attempting the C2C needs to be reasonably fit – it’s over 190 miles long with around 8,800m total ascent – and able to navigate using a map and compass as it is mostly un-signposted.

It’s usually completed over 12-15 days and if time allows, it’s worth factoring in a rest day. With that said, many people we met were not walking the route all in one go, but split it up over several long weekends.

For the less adventurous there are plenty of walks around each village which are flat and shorter. Baggage companies are available for those not wanting to carry everything (though anyone heading into the hills should always take a day bag with plenty of water, food and first aid kit) and they can also arrange accommodation.

Visit for more Cumbrian holiday ideas and inspiration.


Accommodation was offered by:

Springbank Farm Lodges, St Bees. 01946 822375

Beckfoot Retreat, Ennerdale Water. 01946 748144

Borrowdale Gates Hotel. 017687 77204

The Patterdale Hotel, Patterdale. 01253 754266

New Ing Lodge, Shap. 01931 716719

Lockholme B&B, Kirkby Stephen. 01768 371321