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Sample route guide: St Bees to Ennerdale Bridge
Stage 1: St Bees to Ennerdale Bridge - Maps 1-7
There is a lot of variety in this 14-mile (22.5km, 6¼hr) stage, beginning with a cliff-top walk along the Irish Sea and ending (weather permitting) with a high-level view from Dent Hill across to the brooding western fells of the Lake District.
Most will find this first day a bit of a struggle, particularly the haul up and over Dent Hill into Ennerdale Bridge (where there are few places to stay). If you think this may include you, pace yourself while you have a choice and consider stopping near Cleator or Egremont, both a mile or two off the path, before continuing on the second day to the youth hostels at High Gillerthwaite or even Black Sail. In a couple of days you may be glad you did.
As far as we and most other walkers are concerned, ‘Mile Zero’ (WPT 001) on the path is at the Coast to Coast monument by the RNLI hut facing the Irish Sea. To get to Mile Zero follow Beach Rd to the shore, baptise your boots in the surf and take a photo by the sign with its new steel adornment showing the entire C2C elevation profile. Some walkers even collect a small pebble as a keepsake to drop into the North Sea at the end of the walk. Suitably initiated, turn northwest, steel yourself for the adventure about to unfold, and climb up the steep path to the clifftop. You’re now on the Coast to Coast path, with a fence on one side and what becomes a 300ft (90m) drop on the other.
The cliffs themselves are made of red St Bees sandstone, used in the construction of many of the buildings in the vicinity since medieval times and part of a broad sedimentary bed which you’ll encounter again in the Vale of Eden on the far side of the Lakes.
The first notable landmark is the cleft of Fleswick Bay (Map 2) composed of a secluded pebble beach surrounded by red sandstone cliffs with some unusually weathered boulders on the shore.
This bay marks the dividing line between the constituent parts of St Bees Head: South Head, which you’ve been on up to now, and North Head (Map 2), which you now climb up to from the bay. Two features distinguish this latter part of St Bees Head: the three RSPB observation points, to the left of the path, which allow you to safely peer over the cliffs and observe the seabirds nesting there (including puffins, terns and England’s only colony of black guillemots); and St Bees Lighthouse, a little way inland from the path but clearly visible since South Head.
If you’re already puffed out, Tarn Flatt Hall (Map 2; â˜Ž 01946 692162, www.tarnflattfarm.co.uk; dogs OK if sole occupancy only), a basic camping barn, is best reached by turning off the path here towards the lighthouse and continuing east for 1/4 mile/400m. It sleeps 12 and costs £8.50pp. The barn comes with electric lighting (no power sockets), a slab to put your camping stove on and a wood-burning fire, with wood available from the farm. Showers cost 50p. Booking is recommended and should be done through the website; however, if you have queries you can phone. Parking (long- and short-stay) is also available.
After the lighthouse the path continues to the tip of North Head before curving east along the coast and eventually turning inland at Birkham’s Quarry.
Fifteen minutes later you arrive in the village of Sandwith (pronounced ‘Sanith’). This is the first settlement of note on the trail; it’s almost five miles/8km along the path from St Bees (though only two miles/3km as the crow flies!). Grovewood House B&B (Map 3; â˜Ž 01946 63482; www.grovewood house.com; 1D or T en suite with whirlpool bath; WI-FI; continental breakfast; £55pp, £75 sgl occ) offers self-contained accommodation with a kitchenette. The owners are happy to meet people at St Bees station and take their luggage which means you can arrive in St Bees and then set off on the walk unencumbered for the first stage. The village pub, the Dog and Partridge (â˜Ž 01946 592177) is now open daily and also does food.
Taking the road past the pub, the path crosses Byerstead Rd and, just over half a mile (0.8km) later, the B5345 linking Whitehaven to St Bees. From the tunnel beneath the railway line (Map 3) at the foot of the hill, the trail crosses waterlogged fields around what was Stanley Pond (with possible navigation issues; see box p92) and a small stream (Scalegill Beck; Map 4), before passing underneath a disused railway. We, however, advise you to take the steps on your right up the side of the tunnel onto the disused railway track; take a left here and follow the ‘track’ to Moor Row.
MOOR ROW MAP 4, p99
Moor Row lacks the village-green charm of Sandwith but does have Su Ellen’s Baker’s Shop (â˜Ž 07749 485492, Tue-Fri 8am-4pm, Sat 8am-1pm) which does takeaway pasties, pies and snacks. For accommodation, Jasmine House (â˜Ž 01946 815795, : www.jasminehousebandb.com; 1S/2D/2D or T or Tr; all en suite; WI-FI; packed lunch £7 if ordered the night before) does B&B from £32.50pp (sgl £39, three in room £90). The owner, Jean, is very welcoming to Coast to Coasters and offers transport to and back from the nearest pub for supper, making this a great first night if you don’t feel quite ready for the long haul over Dent Hill to Ennerdale. If staying more than one night then the owners will happily provide free transfers between St Bees and/or Ennerdale – making this a worthy base for the first couple of nights on the trail. The No 30 bus (Mon-Sat) passes through on its route between Whitehaven and Thornhill; see pp52-5 for further details.
Following the uncomfortably narrow and busy road south out of Moor Row (signposted to Egremont), you’re relieved to get off it soon and head into a field. A series of kissing gates follows as you cross the dismantled railway once more on your way towards Cleator, arriving alongside St Leonard’s Church.
CLEATOR MAP 5, p101
As with Moor Row before it, it’s clear that Wordsworth’s lyrical ballads never reached out to immortalise the grim, pebbledashed, terraces of Cleator. Remnants of 12th-century masonry in the church (St Leonard’s) attest to the village’s venerability, but the abiding impression dates from a 19th-century iron-ore mining boom when Irish migrants flooded into the area (as the many Celtic house names suggest). The mining collapsed in the latter half of the 19th century and the nearby settlements followed suit; a familiar story repeated across west Cumbria. It’s ameliorated today by the ongoing decommissioning of the ageing Sellafield nuclear plant, offering work to the 10,000 who want it.
Note that Cleator Stores (â˜Ž 01946 810038; summer Mon-Fri 5.30am-6.30pm, Sat 8am-1pm, Sun 8.30am-12.30pm) is now the last decent store until Grasmere, although you can get basics in Borrowdale (see p118). Otherwise, Cleator Moor, the regional hub with many grand 19th-century edifices, some once painted by Lowry, is a mile to the north, with an ATM, corner shops and several junk-food outlets. There’s also an ATM at Egremont. Stagecoach’s bus No 32 (Mon-Sat) shuttles between Whitehaven and Cleator, or there’s also the No 31/31A which travels between Whitehaven and Frizington via Cleator Moor; see pp52-5.
Where to stay and eat
Nine miles along the Coast to Coast path from St Bees, Cleator can make a good first day destination after a weary first walk. Set in the former council offices, Ennerdale Country House Hotel (â˜Ž 01946 813907, www.bespokehotels.com/ennerdalehotel; 2S/14D/8T/4Tr/2 suites; WI-FI; open all year) is pitched at visiting nuclear executives, weddings and conferences, with rooms starting at about £40 per person. It could be worth a look as it’s closest to the path. Food is served daily (2-9pm) in both the restaurant and the bar. Less than half a mile further up the road, Grove Court Hotel (â˜Ž 01946 810503, www.grovecourthotel.co.uk; 2T/8D/2Tr/1Qd; all en suite; WI-FI; open all year; packed lunch £4.95) is a slightly classier version of the same, with rooms from £34.50pp in the twins and doubles, £69 in the triples and £89 in the quad (sgl occ £59). Meals are available (11.45am-1.45pm, 6.30pm-8.45pm); booking recommended, particularly for Monday’s steak night. Under new ownership, two miles north of Cleator along the A5086 is the Parkside Hotel (â˜Ž 01946 811001, www.theparksidehotel.co.uk; 2D/4T or D or Tr; all en suite; WI-FI). Refurbished, it’s well priced at £42.50-47.50pp, (sgl occ £75-85). Meals won’t cost the earth and the bar is open daily. It’s a dreary roadside schlep up from Cleator to the Parkside Hotel so it’s better to get a bus or follow the quieter cycleway directly from Moor Row (Map 4) north-east for two miles via Cleator Moor to the hotel. As an alternative to Cleator, Egremont is only 11/2 miles/2.5km to the south and has Bookwell Garth Guest House (â˜Ž 01946 820271, 16 Bookwell; 5S/6T/1Tr; shared shower facilities); B&B from £30pp. They also have a large car park. Several bus services stop in Egremont including the No 30 (daily) and No 6 (Mon-Fri); see pp52-5.
- About the Coast to Coast path
- Practical information for the walker
- Using this guide
- Sample route guide: St Bees to Ennerdale Bridge
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