Commonly done by staying in Bed & Breakfasts with commercial support to carry bags from B&B to B&B. Camping is available and some villages have youth hostels.
Our hike took 19 days with one full day and one half day off (Sept 1 through Sept 19, 2015). The hike is often done in 12-14 days by younger folks.
The Coast to Coast walk is unlike anything I know of in America. Centuries ago England defined public footpaths and public bridle paths which crossed through active farms and other privately owned land.
They have maintained these paths up the the current day. The Coast to Coast Walk was first documented by Alfred Wainwright in 1965 in a book by that title. It was Mr. Wainwright's vision to cross from the Irish Sea to the North Sea via pubic rights of way. With a few refinements, this is now possible and it is built upon the public paths, which pass through countless pastures that are occupied by sheep, cattle, and horses. The paths cross through farm yards, between the buildings that are in active use. In most cases the entry into the fields is facilitated by a variety of small walker gates and stiles, but in many cases the walker uses the same full sized gates that the farmer uses to access the fields.
Although 10,000 people per year walk the Coast to Coast, it is not a recognized government trail, consequently the signage is quite incomplete. No more than 25% of the signs that mark the way actually say anything about the Coast to Coast Walk. Completing this walk absolutely requires a book. Expect to reference the book several times each day. I recommend Henry Stedman's Coast to Coast Path. It contains very detailed maps with turn by turn diagrams, thousands of landmarks and locations of many of the accommodations you will be longing to find at the end of each day.
The Steadman book does not have "big picture" maps. These may be helpful to find off trail accommodations, short cuts, or recovery routes should you stray from the primary path. You may acquire English Ordnance Survey maps via www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk or you might obtain the Coast to Coast A-Z Adventure Atlas. We started our walk with Martin Wainwright's The Coast to Coast Walk. It had helpful "big picture" maps but the detailed instructions are all in paragraph form. It is easy to loose track of where you are on the map versus where you are in the text. We obtained a copy of Steadman's book mid trip, and used both books for varying purposes. The books disagree on a few portions of the route.
You will need a compass or a GPS. We used our GPS every day, all day. We bought the Garmin Coast to Coast map package which gave us the equivalent of the Ordnance Survey maps in very small bits. To the maps we added a way points file from prior Coast to Coast hikes which was available on the internet. I wish I had started with the Steadman book and the way points that go with the book. The way points we had were very helpful on most days. If we took a path and it was leading to a way point we could be pretty confident we were "on the route." There are portions of the route with variations. On two days the way points took variations we did not wish to take. On those days we just relied on the book and the GPS maps. Many of our fellow hikers used their GPS devices as a last resort. I found it quite comforting to always know where we were 'on' the maps. When we did make a wrong turn, it was quickly evident from the GPS that we had done so and we would backtrack only short distances.
At the end of each day the GPS also let me determine how far we were from our B&B, which was quite helpful. On several days I created a way point for the night's B&B using GPS coordinates I obtained from Google Maps before the trip. In England, a mail code is a single address. Google Maps can pinpoint a B&B using the mail code and then it will yield the GPS Coordinates. Right click on the location, and select the What's Here option. For our Garmin GPS, I had to covert the format of the Google Maps GPS data via the http://www.earthpoint.us/Convert.aspx site.
We stayed in 7 actual B&B's and the other nights in hotels or pubs with rooms. We found every host to be very friendly and accommodating but found a little more personal attention in the B&B's. Almost all evening meals were obtained at a pub. In most of the Coast to Coast villages that is the only source of prepared food, and there is only one pub.
The ultimate accommodation would be the B&B that is within easy walking distance of the pub. We found a wide range of accommodations with the B&B's being nicer and a bit roomier. Every place we stayed had bath rooms attached to the bed room i.e. ensuite. It was interesting to see how they had accomplished what must have been a significant enhancement to many of these rooms. One extreme was the 6x6 bath with the 3x3 shower which required a 10 inch step up. The other extreme were the bathrooms with full bath tubs. In one case, they had used so much of the space for the bathroom that there was not enough room for us to open our suit cases in the bedroom. Norm opened his in the bath room and Bonnie opened hers in the entry way. She had to close it again when we left the room for meals. Then there was the room that was down hill on one side by a couple inches. We slept with our heads below our feet that night.
We used Sherpa Van to transport our bags each day. Sherpa had a 42 pound limit which we both met. If I had thought a bit harder, I might have realized I would be carrying the bags up and down the stairs every day. I would have set a much lower weight limit. We used Sherpa's connection transportation to get from the Darlington train station to Richmond and over to St. Bees and at the end from Robin Hood Bay back to Darlington station.
We used Sherpa's web site http://www.sherpavan.com/ for all of our planning. They have a list of all the villages that have accommodations on or near the route, with the distance of each from the start. I used this information to plan out the distance for each day based on our abilities. Once I had the basic plan, the Sherpa Van website has details on each B&B, Pub and Hotel in each village. Once I had made all of those selections, I turned the whole reservation task over to Sherpa. They made the reservations as requested unless there was no vacancy. They then tried for something else in that village or failing that, something in the nearest village available. In at least two situations they had to add miles to very long days due to unavailability of rooms. I recommend obtaining the Steadman book in the early stages of planning. You can use the maps to find the perfect B&B; the one that is on the route and next to the pub. Sherpa will also plan your whole trip if you just give them the number of days you wish to hike.
We found all of the English people to be friendly and helpful; B&B owners, bar tenders (who take your drink order, show you to your room, carry your bag (maybe) and later take your dinner order), servers, farmers and a few people who stopped their cars just to make sure we were enjoying our walk. On two occasions, we were standing in the rain with the book and the GPS out trying to select between two or three gates. In both cases farmers showed us the way without our asking. One was buzzing by on his 4x4 and stopped just long enough to say, "Go left". The other was in an enclosed tractor cab and I finally noticed him waving us in the correct direction.
The other important people were the other Coast to Coasters. Some we only saw once, if they were on a plan with more miles per day. But those with a plan similar to ours, we saw almost every day either on the trail or at the pub or perhaps even at the same B&B. It was great fun to get to know these folks and build comradery. "Did you take the high route or the low route?" "Did you go through the Abbey?" "How are your blisters?" "Do you need an elastic bandage?" "Do you know about the shortcut in the morning?" "If it's raining, we're taking the bus." We met Australians, Canadians, Americans, Germans, Dutch and, of course, many English who were all walking the Coast to Coast.
We enjoyed almost every meal we ate. The dinner menus were reasonably varied with some English specialties like steak and ale pie, and of course fish and chips. Everything comes with chips, even lasagna. Portions, including potatoes and vegetables, are huge. Full English Breakfast was always offered; eggs, bacon (ham to Americans), sausage, grilled tomato, mushrooms, toast, baked beans and black pudding. You can either tell them what to leave off, or tell them what from that list you would like. I got black pudding one morning because I forgot to tell the server to omit that. Some places offer variations, like poached eggs, beans on toast, or bacon sandwich. There is always a continental breakfast selection which you can have before or with the F.E.B; cold cereals, fruit, yogurt, porridge.
We had exceptional weather according to the local residents. Of the 20 days we were on the route, we had only four days with any rain, and a total of only about 10 hours. Just expect to have some rain and be prepared; waterproof boots, pants, ponchos or jackets and backpack covers. Keep your book and other maps, etc. in zip lock bags. Expect the GPS to get wet when you have to reference it. The rain wasn't awful. It was just a nuisance. If it had rained hard or been windy, it could have been miserable.
Cash can be an issue. Some of the B&B's did not accept credit cards. The Sherpa Van web site let us know which ones in advance. Most of the villages are too small to have a bank or even an ATM. We planned our cash and replenished our supply in Kerkby Stephan and Richmond. We did not use it, but there seems to be an ATM in Shap, as well.
We loved the Coast to Coast. We recommend it. Give yourself enough days to enjoy it.
And look both ways twice before crossing any street or road. It's just too easy to look the wrong way and step out...
Sept 1 St. Bees to Row Moor 9 miles
The Sherpa driver picked us up from the Old Brewery B&B in Richmond and delivered us to St. Bees. He provided some driving tips for Bonnie and interpreted some UK signs we had never seen before. He dropped us off near the Coast to Coast starting sign. We wet our boots in the Irish Sea and picked up our pebbles, one to toss into the North Sea and one to take home. We bought sandwiches at the restaurant above the beach. Norm had planned on only nine miles knowing we would have a late start.
We were entertained by fell bikers riding down trails we could barely walk. They carry the bikes up and then ride them back down. The descent into the valley includes many small waterfalls.
As we joined a jeep road we noticed activity across the valley. It seemed a mountain rescue team was aiding some people. We eventually passed three ambulances. We later learned that a young man had fallen while scaling a bit of a cliff. He had fallen on his hiking companion. The young man had a fractured leg but his companion was OK.
|Note the front door opens right into the road.|
This descent is the most rugged and one of the steepest of the trip. We had to plan every step. Bonnie had a problem with a toe on one foot and the opposite ankle, but once we got down to flatter ground she set a quick pace. The walk along the reservoir seemed to go on forever.
Sept 8 Bampton Grange to Orton 13.76 Miles
Just as we started out, one of the servers from the prior evening pulled in and pointed us to a shortcut that also avoided the road. We started out right through the church cemetery. The first 45 minutes involved several turns. Norm had the book out constantly.
|There has to be a story here.|
Today we walked atop a stone wall for about a mile. The fall on either side would have been six feet, but it was about two and a half feet wide, so it wasn't scary.
Almost as soon as we crossed the motorway, we arrived at the Farmer's Arms hotel. Our whole hike for the day took only 2:35.
Bonnie thought there might be too much pink in the decor of our room.
|Another story no doubt.|
The other American couple started out even later than we did, but eventually passed us. We passed them while they had lunch on a bench. We pass them most days while they are sitting on a bench.
We reached the final pitch of the day after everyone else had disappeared. The route through the Wainstones was not at all obvious, but there was an obvious path to the left, carved into the hillside. We followed it until it went straight up an almost vertical face. We back tracked. A local fellow acted like he knew the route but fumbled around a bit and made no sound recommendation. Norm pioneered a bit and found the way.
|Teresa, Dave, Harold, Norm|
When the ensuite was installed, the room had been divided in an interesting way. The bed room was so small, there was not enough floor space for us to open our bags and also walk around. Norm opened his in the roomy bathroom. Total Miles 175.
|Another rare Coast to Coast sign.|
|View from the dining room|
|Come along and have a go|
|Evidence of the 33% grade.|
The next leg was down a road with no shoulder at all. The tall grass grew right to the pavement. Cars were frequent but not going too fast, so we just stepped into the tall grass when they came up the hill. The English drivers are very courteous. The last mile was on sidewalks. We stopped for a cider at a pub in Thorpe.