|St. Bees to Ennerdale Bridge (22 km)|
Wast Water - Wander
Wast Water - Scafells
Patterdale - Helvellyn
Looking north along the beach at St. Bees to St. Bees Head
The first task of any long walk is to get to the start. If you choose to start from Robin Hood's Bay then there is a good bus service between Whitby and Scarborough with British Rail stations at both towns. The more frequent service at Scarborough out to York is convenient. On the other hand, the line from Whitby to Middlesborough passes through the scenic Esk Valley.
|Bell House Farm||B&B||01946 692584|
|Fairladies Barn||B&B||01946 822718|
|Khandalla Guest House||B&B||01946 822377|
|Manor House Inn||Hotel||01946 822425|
|Outrigg House||B&B||01946 822348|
|Queens Hotel||Hotel||01946 822287|
|Seacote Caravan Site||Camping||01946 822777|
|Seacote Hotel||Hotel||01946 822777|
|Stonehouse Farm||B&B||01946 822224|
|Tarn Flatt Barn||Bunkhouse||01768 772645|
|Tomlin Guest House||B&B||01946 822284|
The more usual starting point is St. Bees (where the descriptions in the guidebooks start). The village has a train station on the Cumbrian Coast Line linking to Carlisle in the north and Lancaster (via Barrow) in the south. I had arrived the previous day from Glasgow (fresh from my Munro Trek around Scotland) and stayed the night in a B&B on the main street just up from the station. I lightened my pack by putting my stove, cooking stuff and sundry items in my day-pack and handing it to the Coast to Coast Packhorse who provide a backpack shuttle service (phone 05396 23688). The idea was that they would transport it along the route and deliver it to the Boggle Hole Youth Hostel the day on which I arrived.
St. Bees is a nice little village, named after an Irish princess (St. Bega) who established a nunnery here in 650. This was destroyed by the Danes and later rebuilt as a Benedictine priory in about 1120 by monks from York - the only part left intact now is the west doorway of the Priory Church. The older section of the village is built around the long main street that curves uphill from the railway station. It has its own web site: A Cumbrian Coastal Village - St. Bees.
The first step for a Coast to Coast walker is to dip their boots into the waters of the Irish Sea. To get to the beach, head west from the railway station down a road that leads past modern housing on the way to the sea wall above the beach. You may have to walk some distance to the sea if the tide is out (as it was for me). Return to the sea wall with dripping boots and turn north to go up a steep set of wooden steps to the cliff tops. A fence is followed across South Head and down to the head of Fleswick Bay. It is well-worth detouring onto the beach where there is an interesting selection of pebbles underfoot, dark caves in the sandstone cliffs and plenty of wildlife.
Back on the cliffs above Fleswick Bay, there is a seat giving a good opportunity to look back south along the coast (ignore the towers of the nuclear power station a few miles south). On a clear day the dark mass of the Isle of Man is visible across the sea. St. Bees Head and its lighthouse is reached after 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) have passed beneath your feet - less than 99% of the walk to go!
The path keeps entertainingly to the cliff edge - take care along the entire cliff path but especially here. It seems to drop down and out onto a dead-end limb but in fact crosses a sunken green pasture on top of a detached inland cliff before climbing through the sandstone to the cliff tops again. The coast is left after passing above the former Birkhams Quarry (now a bit of an eyesore). A country lane with very little traffic is followed down to Sandwith with its 2 pubs perhaps tempting you into an early stop. I resisted temptation and walked down to Lanehead where the lane is left for a green byway to Demesne farmhouse.
|From Bell House to Dent Fell|
A quick trot across the B5345 Whitehaven to St. Bees road and a farm access road is followed up to and past another farmhouse (Bell House). The brow of the hill just beyond Bell House gives a wide vista of the route to come with the Lakeland hills prominent on the horizon. The photo to the left shows this view with Dent Fell to the right of centre on the skyline.
The path descends gently to pass under the Cumbrian Coast Railway and then climb up through fields and beside a wood to another railway underpass - this time a defunct line (one of three crossed during the day). The enclosed track beyond the underpass soon meets the busy A595 Whitehaven-Egremont road which is crossed to follow a dull road towards Moor Row. If you don't like the road then there is a signposted Coast to Coast Walk route along a disused railway line at Scalegill - I think that this curves around to the road to the north of Moor Row. However I took the path along the road straight into Moor Row. Turn right onto a leafy lane which climbs over a brow where a field-path drops down into Cleator (over another former railway line).
Cleator is soon passed through to a bridge across the River Ehen and a rough byway takes you up to Black How Farm. Beyond the farm, a forest road climbs up the slopes of Dent until it is abandoned for a softer parallel path through the plantations. Your first bit of moorland of the trip is reached by a clamber over a stile and the large cairn on Dent's West Top (the traditional summit) is an easy climb away. The real summit is found over a marshy depression to the east - this is easy to miss since it is marked only by a tiny cairn. It provides grandstand views of the Lakeland skyline ahead of you from the sharpish summit of Pillar northwards to the higher peaks of Scafell and Sca Fell southwards ('only' 18 kilometres away!).
The nice descent from Dent brings you into a forest and then onto the open fells again above Raven Crag. The path drops steeply to below the crags and then sidles under them into the pleasant valley below - this is the upper part of Uldale, a dale luckily undiscovered by tourists. The beck is followed up through the narrow valley for a kilometre until an exit is made to the right up onto a moorland road. Don't head straight off down the road - about a hundred metres behind you is Kinniside Stone Circle. This does not pretend to be prehistoric but its location is appropriately lonely and wild. Having feasted your eyes, turn down hill along the road. Two kilometres of ordinary walking brings you into the village of Ennerdale Bridge - on the way, you can lift your head up to enjoy the parade of mountains around you.
Ennerdale Bridge provides all the amenities for an overnight stay without the hassle of being a tourist mecca. This includes the Ennerdale Youth Hostel, however this is a further 6 kilometres away at the head of the lake. I set up my tent in the campground and went off to the nearby inn for a good meal and a couple of pints.