Linking Scotland’s east and west coasts, the recently added John Muir Way trip offers an alternative to the most famous coast to coast walk in the UK: Wainwright’s Coast to Coast. We compare this ever-popular classic walking route in England with the new walk that takes you from coast to coast in Scotland.
Before we get to the actual comparison of both walking trails, let us introduce you to two of the most iconic walking tours in Scotland and England.
John Muir Way: Coast to Coast in Scotland
John Muir was born in 1838 in Dunbar, on Scotland’s southeast coast, and as a child developed a deep love of the natural world around him. Best known for encouraging the establishment of the Yosemite National Park in the USA, Scotland honoured its famous son in 2014 with the John Muir Way, which symbolically links Dunbar with Scotland’s first national park (Loch Lomond and the Trossachs) and the seaside town of Helensburgh in the west, forming a Scottish coast-to-coast route.
England’s Coast to Coast Walk by Wainwright
Described by Alfred Wainwright in 1973 as “one of the world’s great walks” and becoming more and more popular every year, the idyllic Coast to Coast in England is widely considered as the most classic of all UK hiking trails. Starting on the Irish Sea coast of Cumbria near the huge red sandstone cliffs of St Bees Head, it crosses three national parks before reaching the North Sea at the pretty fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay on the rocky coastline of the North York Moors.
Now that you have a good understanding of the origin of both long-distance walking routes in the UK, we can start to make some comparisons to hopefully help you choose which coast to coast walk you like to take, or tick off your list first.
Where Wainwright’s Coast to Coast in England is 192 miles, the John Muir Way is ‘just’ 134 miles. The latter can be walked in 12 days on a self guided trip and we offer opportunities to walk the coast to coast trip in England in 14-18 days on escorted or self-guided walking holidays.
Coast to Coast Scotland: leads you from Helensburgh in Firth of Clyde in the west of Scotland, just south from Loch Lomand and the Trossachs National Park, via lively cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh to Dunbar on the east coast at the North Sea.
England’s Coast to Coast: this route also goes from west to east and starts in St Bees on the Irish Sea and takes you via the famous Lake District and Yorkshire Dales to Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea.
England's Coast to Coast walk
There are three national parks that you will get to fully appreciate on Wainwright’s coast to coast, these are some of England’s most famous parks and include the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors. For those with less time available, ask for our separate walking trips in these national parks.
Over in Scotland you pass through the very bottom of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.
Grade of Walking
Walking from coast to coast in Scotland means you will have easy to moderate walking days, with hilly, undulating and flat sections.
In England, the coast to coast walk is graded challenging. When the weather is poor as you have to be able to navigate the high mountain and moorland sections.
Overall the John Muir Way is very well waymarked throughout with the new, purple colour John Muir Way logo.
Despite its popularity, the Coast to Coast in England is not classified as a National Trail so there is no official way marking; however, a number of signs can be found in many villages and lowlands.
John Muir Way, Scotland
What to Expect
Coast to Coast Scotland: A lot of history – in capital Edinburgh and not only! The Antonine Wall dates back to Roman times, many historical battle sites are associated with William Wallace, The Jacobites and Henry VIII's ‘Rough Wooing’. The city of Helensbugh had the world’s first steamboat ferry service, while Loch Lomond’s canals are closely linked to the industrial heritage.
England’s Coast to Coast: Lots of contrasting landscapes, as each National Park has its own character. The walk is a mix of forest tracks, mountain trails and paths through fields and pastures (you will be crossing many gates!), interspersed with coastal cliff and village walking.
What You May Not Expect
Many parts of the walking tour in Scotland involve ‘urban walking’ through big towns and cities, such as Falkirk, Mussellburgh and, of course, Edinburgh.
The route leading through England’s Lake District and Yorkshire Moors is extremely rural – you will find only one settlement with a population of more than 2,000, the market town of Richmond (population: 8,413).
With the new John Muir Way, or known as Scotland’s Coast-to-Coast trail, launching in spring 2017 – and while Wainwright’s walking route remains more popular than ever before – we hope that this list of how the two trails compare to each other will be able to help you decide which of these coast to coast walks in the UK is the right one for you.
For assistance from one of our travel experts or for booking requests, contact us by email or phone.