The Coast to Coast path near its end at Robin Hood's Bay. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The Coast to Coast path near its end at Robin Hood's Bay. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The Coast to Coast Walk devised 50 years ago by author Alfred Wainwright is to gain national-trail status.

The government has given its approval to the three-year scheme to upgrade the 317 km (197-mile) route from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay in North Yorkshire.

The Westminster Government’s advisory body on the outdoors, Natural England, said it will work with partners to improve the popular walking route, currently used by thousands of outdoor enthusiasts every year. It has committed £5.6m to the project and pledged long-term support for the Coast to Coast, including funding for a community programme, to help maximise economic and health benefits for local people and businesses along the route.

National trails, of which there are currently 15 in England and Wales, plus the still-to-be-completed England Coast Path, have higher standards than other leisure routes, including better waymarking, path surfaces and infrastructure.

Natural England said its plans for the Coast to Coast route will also make the path more accessible to people with different abilities, using gates rather than stiles where possible. It also hopes to encourage people to take shorter, circular routes based on the trail, developing link routes.

The agency said 85 per cent of the existing route is currently on public rights of way or with legal access rights. It proposes to create 9.7 miles of new public footpath; nine miles of new public bridleway; and realign five miles of existing rights of way as part of the project.


Signage should be improved with the upgrade. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

It will retain alternative routes on the southern and northern shores of Ennerdale, and high-level and valley alternatives in upper Swaledale.

Natural England has worked with the three national parks – the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors – through which the route passes, along with local authorities in Cumbria and North Yorkshire.

The route will largely follow the existing route, first detailed by the renowned fellwalker and writer in his 1973 publication A Coast to Coast Walk, a Pictorial Guide. He began planning the book in 1971. Ironically, in his introduction he said: “I want to emphasise that the route herein described is in no sense an ‘official route’ such as the Pennine Way – it has not needed the approval of the Countryside Commission [the forerunner to Natural England] or indeed any other body, nor have any permissions needed to be sought.”

Despite this, the Wainwright Society, aficionados of his work, gave its approval to the national trail plans. Chairman Eric Robson said: “The designation of Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk as a national trail has long been one of the society’s ambitions.

“The Walk is one of the country’s most popular long-distance routes, and helps support businesses and jobs from St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay, including in some of the north’s most sparsely populated rural communities. We very much welcome, therefore, the news that the route will become a new national trail.

“This is the start, of course, of bringing the project to successful fruition. But this is a very exciting and important step and we look forward to working with partners along the route to establish the C2C Walk as one of the UK’s great national trails. As Alfred Wainwright said of the walk he devised: ‘Surely there cannot be a finer itinerary for a long-distance walk’!”

Julia Bradbury at St Bees, the starting point of the Coast to Coast Walk. Photo: Julia Bradbury

Julia Bradbury at St Bees, the starting point of the Coast to Coast Walk. Photo: Julia Bradbury

Presenter Julia Bradbury, who walked the route for a BBC series in 2009, said: “I’m so pleased that this well-trodden route is to become an official national trail.

“Having walked the walk – and talked the talk! – and promoted its virtues on TV and in print, I know exactly why it is one of the great Alfred Wainwright’s most popular routes. Taking in the magical Lake District, to the heights of the peaks and the rolling landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales and Moors – it is just stunning.”

The upgrade to national trail status will see the route recorded on Ordnance Survey maps in its entirety for the first time.

The long-distance route noted by Wainwright for its scenic beauty passes through three national parks and the North Pennines area of outstanding natural beauty. The path remains popular with walkers and international tourists and is currently walked in its entirety by about 6,000 people every year, generating roughly £7m for the local economy, despite its unofficial status.

On the Coast to Coast path walkers traverse high fells, heather moorland and heath. The route also encompasses some of England’s richest history – from iron-age hillforts to medieval castles and the village of Ingleby Cross, which is thought to date back to the 10th century.

The route uses a footbridge to cross the M6 in Cumbria and an underpass at the A1(M) in North Yorkshire, but walkers have to brave a road crossing of the A19 dual carriageway with a speed limit of 70mph at Ingleby Arncliffe. Natural England said National Highways are studying options for improving the crossing, ranging from an underpass, overbridge and footpath diversions to use other locations to cross.

This work would need to be funded separately from the three-year Coast to Coast budget.

Marian Spain, chief executive of Natural England, said: “The way we will now develop the Coast to Coast into a national trail is a turning point for national trail development as it will be the first national trail where delivery of the social and economic benefits for users and communities will be built in from the start.

“Once established the Coast to Coast national trail will allow many different types of users, with a range of abilities and backgrounds, to connect with nature on this iconic walking route while also bringing the benefits of tourism and other business to communities along the trail.

“Those who live nearby but may not currently access the countryside on their doorsteps will also have the chance to use the trail for local and longer circular walks. Natural England looks forward to working hard with our partners to make this vision a reality within the next three years.”

The Coast to Coast path in the North York Moors. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The Coast to Coast path in the North York Moors. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Lord Benyon, minister for rural affairs, said: “The Coast to Coast route passes through some of our most spectacular countryside, villages and natural habitats so I’m delighted to approve these plans and deliver on our manifesto commitment to develop the route into a new national trail.

“With over £5m of new funding to upgrade the path, local business and communities will be able to secure real benefits from the sustainable tourism this route offers. I look forward to seeing the route go from strength to strength and leave a lasting legacy across the North of England.”

In 2008 grough backpacked the Coast to Coast Walk. Be aware accommodation and other details will have changed in the 14 years since publication.

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