As a result of popular demand, for people with more time, or who want to break up some of the longer days of the original two week tour, we have given you the option to increase Wainwright’s masterpiece by splitting a couple of the longer days. This is the quintessential English hill walking and long distance trail experience: 190 plus miles traversing three national parks and a lot of interesting landscapes, old towns and of course public houses in between! It is amazing to think that this most famous of routes, totally eclipsing the Pennine Way in terms of popularity and variety, is still not classified as a National Trail! Starting at the tiny Cumbrian seaside resort of St. Bees on the Irish Sea we head east, with the wind, into the Lake district to pass by some of its most famous lakes and cross some important passes, with options to extend days (with ascents of peaks such as Helvellyn). Then it is on into the Yorkshire Dales and over the mystical Nine Standards Rig, before following the beautiful River Swale for a couple of days into the old market town of Richmond. There follows a marathon section to link up with the North York Moors National Park from where we roller coaster around to the North Sea Coast to make a triumphant entrance into Robins Hoods Bay where a celebratory pint, bottle of Champagne or ice cream whilst standing in the sea is in order. Along the way you will be amazed at the variety of the dry stone walls, the charming little villages and just how much that you get to eat for a full English cooked breakfast! There are cozy small hotels, guesthouses and pubs to stay at on this tour and these, as well as the rich variety of the people that you meet enroute, reflect something of the great diversity of England.
Moderate to Challenging. Some long days with steep climbs and descents. You must be comfortable climbing up over stiles, walking on steep rocky and coastal terrain. Mixed weather can be expected. We would not recommend the route for first time walkers.
Make your own way to the starting point St Bees on the edge of the Irish Sea with views across to the Isle of Man. You should have time to visit the Abbey church, which has features on the local history and has a display on a mummified knight that was discovered in a lead coffin from the graveyard. If you have an extra night here, you can follow the coastal path or quiet inland roads to the attractive town of Whitehaven, with its marina and great museum. It is famous in the annals of the US navy as the site of an elaborate raid on the British mainland by one John Paul Jones during the American War of Independence.
Accommodation: A 17th century sandstone barn situated on the main street in the coastal village of St. Bees. The barn was initially converted in the 1980's into a large guesthouse and self-contained flats. All rooms have a colour television and tea & coffee facilities.
Climb from the beach taking a footpath along red sandstone coastal cliffs of St Bees Head with England’s only breeding colony of Black Guillimots, then inland over hilly ground to the edge of the Lake District National Park. Dent Hill is the first real fell that you cross and will give you some indication as to whether you are fit enough for the pursuivant days! Although short, there follows possibly the steepest descent of the whole tour down to Nanny catch Gate and beck a delightful stroll along which brings you to the final descent to leafy Ennerdale Bridge. The day’s total ascent 780m / descent 665m.
Accommodation: Overnight at a friendly, family owned hotel. Enjoy a home cooked meal of local produce including fish and game in season. A traditional feel is retained by the hotel, with its open fire, and the fully licensed bar serves a range of beverages including locally produced ale.
Follow a quiet and scenic footpath along the shore of Ennerdale Water, with a bit of an easy scramble under Angler’s Crag at Robin Hood’s Seat. A long walk on a forest track then continues to Black Sail Hut, which is the smallest Youth hostel and originally a shepherd’s hut. A steep climb follows up the Lowther Beck before traversing some of the Lake land fells, perhaps with views down to Buttermere. Finally you reach the ‘drum house’ which marks the descent path to the Honister slate mine workings with its useful cafe to Borrowdale; perhaps the most delightful valley in the Lakes with its crags and broadleaved trees. This is a delightful ensemble of hamlets, Seatoller (the wettest place in England), Longthwaite, Rossthwaite and Stonethwaite. Delightful riverside paths connect the places and their pubs, together if you have sufficient energy left of an evening. You might be interested to know that ‘thwaite’ is old Norse for paddock. The day’s total ascent 765m / descent 785m.
Accommodation: Tonight we stay in a small and long established guesthouse. It is set in a beautiful small hamlet town. A popular peaceful retreat for former clients. Ensuite facilities are not available here as it is a listed building that changes cannot be made to.
Classic Lakeland scenery over Greenup Edge to Easedale and Grasmere. Grasmere is one of Lakeland’s most celebrated villages, and hopefully there is time either this afternoon or tomorrow morning to visit the poet Wordsworth's home at Dove Cottage and drop into the famous Ginger bread shop! The day’s total ascent 750m / descent 760m.
Accommodation: Our small family run guesthouse is conveniently placed in the centre of this delightful village.
A great walk over Grisedale Pass (609m/2000ft) and around the small mountain lake of Grisedale Tarn to Patterdale. In good weather if feeling reasonably strong, the best option is to take the route up St. Sunday Crag, for some exceptional views down across Ullswater as we descend to Patterdale, possibly the most breathtaking of the trip. Add 2 miles and 2 hours if include detour via Summit of Helvellyn. Add 1 ½ hours for detour of St. Sunday Crag. The day’s total ascent: 900m / descent 805m via the recommended route over St. Sunday Crag.
Accommodation: Tonight’s Coaching Inn accommodation is popular with visitors and local people alike since the early 1800’s. Many a tale could be told of events that have taken place in all its lifetime, including the time when Wordsworth was in this very bar as news arrived that Nelson had died at Trafalgar. This is a listed building so the rooms are small, to change this would spoil the character of this wonderful inn.
Some would say this was the most difficult stage especially in bad weather when you do need to be ready with map and compass. The day starts with a steep climb up past pretty Angle Tarn, and then up and onwards to a critical cairn where you turn off the route to High Street to go up and over Kidsty Pike (780m / 2560ft), the highest point on the whole route and then descend steeply to walk along Haweswater, a huge body of water conceived in 1929 to supply Manchester with drinking water, drowning a couple of villages in the process. You then undulate through fields to Shap Abbey, the most easterly point of the Lake District National Park. This was the last Abbey to be founded in England in 1199 and the last to be destroyed in 1540. It nevertheless is a pretty place to pause with some new interpretation signs. After this continue into Shap, the old granite mining town with several pubs and shops. The village offers an interesting insight to the history of the area, and the old Shap Abbey is nearby. The day’s total ascent 1174m / descent 1009m.
Accommodation: The proprietors will welcome you to their guesthouse in the village of Shap.
There follows a hilly section across Limestone Moors with limestone pavements in places strewn with ‘erratic’ boulders moved there by glaciers. Finally you drop into the gentler climes around Orton, a diversion of about a mile can be made to this quaint picturesque village with Kennedy’s Chocolate factory to lead you into temptation. Walking now between Cumbria and The Yorkshire Dales, there is a lot of attractive farmland to cross with a section of moors around Sunbiggin Tarn, which is an important site for birds. A steep descent to the Scandal Beck at Smardale Bridge makes for a nice late lunch stop. Then ascend over Smardale Fell for the pretty descent into Kirkby Stephens and attractive market town, with St. Hedda’s Church containing the 8th Century Loki stone relating to Norse Mythology. The day’s total ascent 808m / descent 950 m.
Accommodation: This accommodation has many unusual features, and is of an exceptionally high standard. It is a Grade II listed Georgian town house full of character, with a friendly relaxed atmosphere
Climb out of town to the cairns of Nine Standards Rigg (661m / 2170 feet) with its array of obelisks. This is an ancient possibly boundary feature that no one has any real knowledge of. It marks the Watershed of England. Next you cross squelchy moors down to Keld in Swaledale. If it is a wet and cold day you might relish a scone and tea made on the farm at Ravenseat, where they breed prime rams. The moors then become increasingly gentler as you walk into Keld with its many waterfalls and old stone barns. The day’s total ascent 780m / descent 575m.
Accommodation: Stay in a medium sized guesthouse, offering a gateway to the Pennines "The Backbone of England". Traditional Yorkshire fayre is served in an attractively decorated dining room, and there are tea and coffee making facilities in all rooms.
There are two options today, the slightly longer higher alternative over wild moorland with long-abandoned lead mines, a magnet for the industrial archaeologist. If you have unfavourable weather or just prefer a lower level walk, the pretty alternative route via Swaledale is a lovely option. There is a really nice pub in Gunnerside on this route. Your day finishes in Reeth an attractive Green Village which flourished at the height of the mining age and today does well out of tourism, hence a collection of pubs and tea shops. The day’s total ascent 838m / descent 911m via the higher route.
Accommodation: Formed from a terrace of traditional Cl6th miners' cottages, a peaceful and comfortable hotel with courtyard and garden, renowned for its cuisine.
A morning walk through pretty Swaledale lined with limestone crags on either side, allowing time in Richmond for shopping (note most shops closed Sunday) and sightseeing. The extremely picturesque North Yorkshire town of Richmond, with its cobbled market square and Norman castle, is an ever-popular destination for visitors. You can also follow the swale to Town Falls, which are quite impressive when the river is in spate. The days total ascent 395m / descent 510m.
Accommodation: Our accommodation is in a very comfortable, guesthouse within easy reach of all the sights in Richmond
A gentle rural day, walking out from Richmond beside the River Swale and across the fields to Catterick Race Course, then threading your way to Brompton on Swale, an ideal lunch stop in the church yard before trundling along beside tiny streams and quiet country roads reaching the village of Danby Wiske with its Green and single pub.
Accommodation: This popular B&B is in the centre of the village.
Today is primarily a road walk although there are cross country sections. The two hills are towards the end, a short climb to what was East Harlsey Castle, and then with the North York Moors pressing ever closer you have to carefully cross the main A19 road to take a lovely woodland footpath up to Osmotherley. On the way we may visit Mount Grace Priory (built 1398) this is a ruin but there has been some restoration work. Osmotherley is a quaint hill village with three pubs to choose from, and Britain’s oldest functioning Methodist Church 1754. John Wesley came to preach here.
Accommodation: Tonight's accommodation is set in an extremely picturesque village on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors. All rooms are ensuite and have tea and coffee making facilities.
This is a roller coaster walk. A steep stretch from Osmotherley introduces us to the North York Moors, sandy heather clad hills with areas of forest. After coming off Scarth Wood Moor, there is a long ascent up Live Moor and Carlton Bank (408 m) before descending to Lord Stones Café, almost hidden in an off road embankment, ready for coffee time. There then follows the succession of Cringle Moor, Broughton Bank and White Hill all at or over 400m. You loose and then re ascend 100-200m between each one. White Hill has an area of sandstone boulders called The Wainstones that we thread through on the way up. Great views in clear weather, Roseberry topping, Vale of Mowbray and back to the Pennines. You come off the ridge at Clay Bank Top and descend to various accommodations with no real local centre.
Accommodation: Clay Bank Top/Chop Gate - We use a number of guesthouses in this remote area.
Today the walk follows a moorland ridge up over Round Hill (454m) and the track maintains its height as it follows the line of the old dismantled Rosedale railway line. The moor is bleak in bad weather punctured in places by standing stones some marked with inscriptions. There are enticing views at times into the fertile upper valleys of Farn and Esk dales, but especially when it is misty, wet and cold, the arrival at the ancient Lion Inn at Blakey is a great relief.
Accommodation: We stay at the Lion Hotel in this bleak moorland location. This pub hotel has been a refuge from the elements for 400 years or so, and very cosy it is to! Normally there are a large number of species of Real Ale and great dining in either the bar or the restaurant.
After a bit of a road perambulation past a white cross called Fat Betty, there follows an easy undulating descent down to beautiful wooded Eskdale. The latter part of today's walk follows a pretty path through the woodlands on the banks of the River Esk, where we come across the ‘Beggars Bridge’ a parabolic stone structure that has a story of love lost and love refound! Egton Bridge features a church with relics of the Catholic Martyr, Oliver Postgate. A really pretty setting, the river is famous for fly fishing and has some interesting stepping stones, which enables you to hop between the two pubs faster than using the road.
Accommodation: Egton Bridge or Grosmont - We use a variety of guesthouses/B&B in either of these villages.
Following a delightful private road to Grosmont, you might get there in time to see a steam engine pull out for Pickering. There then follows a very steep pull up across heather moors with views down to Whitby and its Abbey. But the sea and journey’s end is still tantalizingly far as the route abruptly changes course to visit the May Beck valley with its Falling Foss waterfall. A last area of high moor brings you to the coast, where the last 5 km/3 miles are spent on the coastal cliff path to Robin Hood's Bay, which appears almost by surprise as we near it. This is a village of red roofed houses clustered around its harbour on the North Sea coast marking the end of this 190 odd-mile crossing of England. Celebrate with a drink at the Bay Hotel and as tradition states, dip your toes into the sea. The day’s total ascent 775m / descent 770m.
Accommodation: Your final night is spent in an elegantly refurbished Victorian guesthouse with many original features. This is a popular seaside location so one of many similar B&B's may be used.
Trip concludes in Robins Hood Bay after breakfast.
Wonderful weather - 16 days of full sunshine - was this really England? Great people met along the way. Hospitality of the b&b owners and people in the pubs. They made us feel welcome. A great holiday overall - and a sense of accomplishment for walking across England!
D. Goldfischer, Pennsylvania, USA, 20 Jun 2016
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