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A car-free jaunt to the Lake District to hike a stretch of the coast-to-coast path | Lake District holidays



Alfred Wainwright’s coast-to-coast path via Cumbria and North Yorkshire over mountains and moorland is likely one of the UK’s hottest long-distance walks, with an estimated 6,000 folks finishing the entire 197 miles every year, and much extra strolling shorter sections. In August 2022 the federal government introduced it could change into England’s latest nationwide path. About the identical time, the Borrowdale Royal Oak resort in Rosthwaite, close to Derwentwater and proper on the route, reopened after a £1.3m refurbishment with a sustainable focus (and free cake).

The Lake District has wonderful public transport in contrast with most of rural England so I head to Rosthwaite and again by practice, bus, boat and foot. The eight miles of the path between Borrowdale and Grasmere are thought-about a scenic spotlight. Wainwright, a celebrated author and fell walker within the postwar interval, describes one stretch close by as “a stroll in heaven”.

Derwentwater and St Herbert's Island.
Derwentwater and St Herbert’s Island. {Photograph}: Martin Birchall/Alamy

Day one is idyllic. I meet a good friend at Euston station in London and for the direct three-hour journey north to Oxenholme. The practice to Windermere is ready on the other platform. On arrival we replenish at Cubicles, a grocery retailer by Windermere station, leap on one of many frequent buses to Bowness, and spend the afternoon cruising round England’s largest lake on a Nineteenth-century boat, toasting the sunshine with a pint of Wainwright Gold.

Leaving the boat at Ambleside, we settle into YHA Ambleside in an outdated lakeside resort by the pier, and take a night stroll via close by woods to organize for our massive hike the subsequent day. Swallows are darting and swooping over the ruins of Galava Roman fort, 10 minutes’ stroll from the hostel as we climb up via Skelghyll Wooden, previous glades of ferns and fields of Herdwick lambs.

Visitors on the open top 599 service bus from Bowness on Windermere to Grasmere.
Guests on the open-topped 599 service bus from Bowness on Windermere to Grasmere. {Photograph}: Simon Whaley Landscapes/Alamy

Subsequent morning, the open-topped 599 takes us to Grasmere on one of many UK’s greatest bus rides. We move Bridge Home, straddling the stream at Ambleside, the light shores of Rydal Water, whitewashed Dove Cottage and different Cumbrian landmarks. Grasmere smells of woodsmoke and melting sugar.

Half a mile from the churchyard the place William Wordsworth is buried, we name in at Allan Financial institution (entry: £7), the place the poet and his household moved from Dove Cottage in 1808. Hardwicke Rawnsley, one of many founders of the Nationwide Belief, lived right here a century later. The home is now a welcoming area of books and murals, the place you may assist your self to tea and sit by the hearth. A purple squirrel leaps from department to department as we set off once more via intermittent Lake District drizzle.


Legs aching, we cease to eat honey-spiced Grasmere gingerbread, and admire the view from Helm Crag: the sunlit inexperienced of the village and wooded lake is framed by cloud-capped hills. The interminable steps and scrambles that led up right here felt like the steps of Cirith Ungol that JRR Tolkien’s hobbits needed to scale to achieve Mordor. As we stock on up previous Gibson Knott, the views get even higher and the paths worsen with knee-deep quagmires and ankle-ricking rocks. The £5.6m funds for upgrading this path to Nationwide Path customary by 2025 begins to look optimistic.

A gaggle of walkers is heading in the direction of us, exhausted and bedraggled regardless of their state-of-the-art mountain climbing gear.

“How are the paths forward?” I ask nervously, “we’re heading for Rosthwaite.”


“You’ll by no means make it,” says their chief bluntly. “We left there six and a half hours in the past. It’s a protracted scramble down Lining Crag and, if it begins to rain, you’re in hassle.”

View from Helm Crag, looking towards Grasmere.
View from Helm Crag, trying in the direction of Grasmere. {Photograph}: Julian Parker/Alamy

An hour later, after extra laborious climbing, it does begin to rain. The darkish, forbidding ramparts of Greenup Edge and the crags past loom into even darker clouds. Thomas West, who wrote one of many earliest Lake District guidebooks, describes it as “that turbulent chaos of mountain behind mountain”. A tough path leads sharply left down Far Easedale and, with a mixture of disappointment and aid, we flip again alongside it in the direction of Grasmere. It’s a steep streamside stroll and it’s late afternoon by the point we get again to the place we began.

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