The Walk
… was fantastic. It was so varied- I walked across mountains, moorland, flat farm land, through pretty villages, past ancient monuments and along the coast. There was something of interest or some superb scenery every day. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone but with a caveat- doing the Coast to Coast as your first long distance walk may raise your expectations so that your enjoyment of other walks is slightly spoilt!

I never realised just how many lovely areas there are for walking in the north of England and would love to go back to places like the Howgills, Pennines and the Yorkshire Dales to explore them further.

No matter when you do the walk you are bound to meet some lovely people, some of whom will become friends. There is a real sense of camaraderie along the Coast to Coast.

My Schedule
I had decided to walk the Coast to Coast over twelve days. This was due partly to finances, as more days walking means more accommodation to pay for, for both me and the cats! Most people walk it over fourteen days and with hindsight I would have taken at least one extra day.

Walking the route over fewer days means putting in some long days, which unfortunately makes some stages a bit of a slog. If I was walking fewer miles I would have enjoyed some of the stages more. It also meant my feet started to break down with blisters and I became really tired.

If I were to do the walk again I would stay at Reeth overnight, as it is a lovely little place and would like to have spent more time there. This means that the following day’s walk to Richmond can be done in a morning, giving time to explore this historic town. Instead I had very little time in which to see Richmond, plus the long day from Keld to Richmond left me feeling exhausted and it was after this that my feet started to break down.

I chose to keep my days in the Lake District short to give myself chance to take the higher level options if the weather played ball. I am glad I did this as I was able to walk the Red Pike/ High Stile route on day two, the Helm Crag ridge on day three and the St Sunday Crag option on day three.

Equipment
I initially had reservations about my boots- Merrell Capra Gore Tex- as they are so light and quite flexible, and some reviewers found them flimsy. Although they are not as sturdy as heavier boots and the soles don’t give as much protection when stepping on sharp stones, the trade off is that I was able to wear them all day without discomfort even when I had blisters. Sure my feet ached, but they ache on multi- day walks whichever footwear I am wearing.

The boots still protected my ankle adequately from rolling over (there were a fair few incidences when I am sure I would have twisted it without an ankle support) and I was impressed, as always with Merrell, with the boots’ grip.

I had a GPS (Doris) on me- although the route wasn’t planned in it was invaluable some days to confirm I was on the right track- sometimes if you are walking alone doubts can start to creep in (have I missed that turning? Surely I’ve gone to far…) and a quick glance at a GPS can give some reassurance.

I used the Stedman guide (as were almost everyone else!) and can’t fault it. I photocopied the maps and put each days in a plastic wallet, which worked well apart from one day when I had two the wrong way round- D’oh!

I am also glad I took my trekking poles. I used both on rough ground and one at all other times; these really do help to stabilise you and take some of the weight when carrying a heavy pack, plus they are great for balance when forging streams or walking downhill.

I chose not to use the baggage handler services, mainly due to cost. I guess this might have made things easier as I did feel the weight of my pack some days. I had parked the car at Kirkby Stephen and could have left stuff in it for the second half, but my sister and brother in law met me instead with clean clothes and other gear- they also took my dirty clothes and stuff I didn’t need back with them.

I did choose to carry my old heavy Canon DSLR but this was a personal choice and for me it is worth the inconvenience and extra weight for good quality photos!

Accommodation
As always with a long distance walk, this ranged from excellent to adequate. The best accommodation seems to be found outside of the obviously tourist areas, as they have to up their game to attract walkers through their doors. My most expensive accommodation (but not the best) was in Grasmere and the cheapest in Richmond and Borrowdale.

I booked well in advance (August/ September 2016 for my walk in June/ July 2017) so had no problems booking. I also found that I wasn’t charged excessive supplements for being a solo walker. A few weeks before the walk I contacted half of them to confirm the booking and found no issues, but recently read that one Coast to Coaster contacted his accommodation a few week’s prior and discovered that one bed and breakfast he’d booked had stopped trading and forgotten to tell him!

Accommodation in Ennerdale Bridge was expensive so I stayed in Rowrah which is off the route, but Paul from the Stork Hotel will collect walkers from Ennerdale Bridge and return them the next morning. If you need to stay off route there’s a good chance that establishments will offer a pick up service (for example from Clay Bank Top or Burnbanks).

Food
Food is not a great problem on the Coast to Coast. In more remote areas such as Rowrah, Keld and Little Beck, establishments offer an evening meal, but in all of the other villages and towns there are places to eat.

Most towns and villages also have a shop to buy stuff for lunch, but establishments will often offer a pack up lunch for around £5- £7. You will pass by plenty of cafes and pubs where you can get lunch or snacks; using the Stedman guide I was able to plan in advance where I could buy/ eat lunch for the next day’s walk.

I will post a separate list of my equipment in a few days.

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