It is difficult to get one’s head around an adventure as large as hiking England’s Coast to Coast over 18 days. To help the reader appreciate the whole trip in one post, here are the highlights using one photo per day.
Day 0: It starts with the Sir John Barrow monument on Hoad Hill in Ulverston. The day before we started from St. Bees, we stayed in our former hometown so that we could visit friends and climb up Hoad. Our love of the Lakes was born here, so it was a fitting prelude.
Day 1: St. Bees to Ennerdale Bridge. The start of the hike is a tremendous experience on the cliffs of St. Bees Head. I tried to capture it with my drone and other photos, though this panorama by Janet reflects our experience the best. After the cliffs, the walk through farmland and small villages is a great depiction of rural England.
Day 2: Ennerdale Bridge to Stonethwaite. Our epic day of two halves. The day started with a hike along Ennerdale with the Lake’s fells growing ever larger. The weather was fine, and the wind coming off the lake reminded us all how great life is. The grey clouds in the distance were an ominous sign.
Day 2 bonus. OK, I know I said one photo per day, but this day earned two. After lunch, the rain and wind came. Janet, Bailey, Tracy, and Dean were all relatively novice hikers, so had experienced neither these weather conditions nor this type of terrain. Hiking through rivers up a steep mountain was just something they didn’t do, but that is now exactly what faced them in hurricane force wind and rain. The way they faced this challenge and pushed through “the toughest day of their lives” so impressed me. The picture above, a frame taken from a video of Dean helping Tracy cross Loft Beck, is the closest to capturing the moment (which lasted hours). Samuel took “the high route” by himself. On his own, he faced the most severe weather he has experienced. Thankfully he completed his hike unscathed, but he learned a key lesson about not being indestructible. Photographs come nowhere close to capturing his experience. Samuel learning from such experience is a highlight for me! The incentive during these climbs was the sausage rolls at Honister Mine Cafe. We arrived as they closed, but they had sold out of sausage rolls hours earlier. We still had a long rainy walk down the hill into the Borrowdale Valley. Welcome to Lake District weather!
Day 3: Stonethwaite to Grasmere. While we had a good rest, it takes more than one night to recover from our “day 2.” Day 3 started well, but we summarized it by ‘WE CLIMBED A WATERFALL!” The picture shows Tracy part-way up the climb to Lining Crag, where the path followed a stream in full flood. Just before the ascent, she had taken her first fall in the bog, but continued to show tremendous determination. While the kids had no issue in climbing, we were passed by a fell runner and his dog and were buzzed by RAF jets.
Day 4: Rest Day in Grasmere. The Calllaghans visited during the day, and it was great to walk around the touristy spots leisurely. The highlight of the day was a fine dinner at Lewis’s Bistro, with the fells as the backdrop.
Day 5: Grasmere to Patterdale. This is a classic Lake District hike. Five of us took the low route, which involves a steady climb to Grisedale Tarn on good paths. The weather was mostly fine, and the views showed the best of the Lakes. Samuel went off ahead of us up Helvellyn and then Striding Edge, where the weather provided excellent conditions.
Day 6: Patterdale to Shap. This was the first day we hiked without Tracy and Dean which was a downer. The hike up to Kidsty Pike was long, hard, and with sporadic showers. We chose an alternate path down, which not only added an additional sense of adventure, but also yielded a kind route with fantastic views. It was an appropriate way to say farewell to the Lake District.
Day 7: Shap to Orton. Having left the Lakes, we entered open moorland. It is very different scenery from the Lakes and remains impressive. Team Sloth was at full numbers again and the weather was kind, allowing the above picture from my drone. Perhaps the most memorable part of the day was my becoming a quivering wreck while taking the footbridge over the M6 which lit up all of my scared-of-heights buttons.
Day 8: Orton to Kirby Stephen. This was a fantastic stroll through the English countryside. While the terrain was similar to the previous day, it seemed more joyous walking through the open moorland and fields with sheep. England’s centuries-old system of public footpaths across private land as a legally protected right-of-way makes hiking in England special. Dean’s toe pain sadly prevented him from hiking this day. While we missed his jokes on the trail, he made up for it that evening by recounting his adventures in Kirby Stephen.
Day 9: Kirkby Stephen to Keld. The “official” highlight of this leg is likely the Nine Standards, monuments that lie on England’s east-west watershed, so act as a symbolic halfway mark on the Coast to Coast. However, on the descent, one has to pass through THE BOG. Tales of sinking up to one’s thighs are shared. We were passed by someone walking barefoot through the worst bits, which oddly seemed wise. Our team tried very hard to stay dry, dreading either falling in, or the unimaginable losing a boot! I am sure Tracy suffered a little PTSD after this experience. Depending on who you ask, it wasn’t too bad as it hadn’t been raining much recently. After the bog, the walk was pleasant until the final mile up to Frith Lodge. When planning the trip, an extra mile up a side valley doesn’t seem too much. When we headed up the valley after 13 miles of hiking, we saw a farmhouse perched alone at the top of one of the valley sides and could not accept that was where we were going. The path is exceptionally cruel as it takes you past the lodge while climbing. However, on arrival, all that pain is quickly forgotten after Karen and Neil’s warm welcome with tea and cake. Frith Lodge was the most welcoming and comfortable stay on the trip where we were simply made to feel at home, in a mighty fine home.
Day 10: Keld to Reeth. The adults took the low route and had a fine day’s hiking following the River Swale. The kids took the high route, and this photo shows how much fun they had together. As a parent, knowing they were enjoying each other that much is the highlight.
Day 11: Reeth to Richmond. A lowlight for some during this leg was climbing the Nun’s Steps while a highlight was walking through meadows of sheep separated by dry-stone walls. The winner for the day must be The Fleece Hotel in Richmond. The team was eager for a rest, and The Fleece provided just what we needed: from the warm welcome to the comfortable beds, great baths and showers, a fine restaurant, and even Dyson fans in our rooms! While obviously very different from Frith Lodge, they were equal in many aspects of comfort, and we were lucky to spend 2 nights at the Fleece.
Day 12: Rest Day in Richmond. The priority was a few chores like washing clothes and some shopping. There was plenty of time for exploring, and the Ireland family wandered around town and explored the castle. The vibe of the town was great. In some of the previous smaller towns, we had felt we stood out, and sometimes were not welcome. With a population of nearly 10,000, one blends into Richmond’s crowds quite easily. Even when one’s background is betrayed by a lack of Yorkshire accent, the greetings were genuinely warm.
Day 13: Richmond to Danby Wiske. This was the first of two hot, flat days. Even though we were coming off a rest day, I sensed lethargy. Passing under the A1(M) was symbolic for me as the Englishman, but there wasn’t much else that was “new.” With less things to worry about, Bailey took some great photos. The above was taken outside St Mary’s church in Bolton-on-Swale, which was a fine rest stop. Bailey and Samuel had a great time doing lots of silly things, and fortunately for Janet and I, many were captured in a photo!
Day 14: Danby Wiske to Osmotherley. While much of the day’s terrain was similar to the previous day, this day had multiple highlights. Starting with our landlord riding out to tell us we had gone the wrong way, it continued with friendly sheep, cows, and baby horses; wading through wheat fields; the photo of Dean and Tracy by a “Beware the Wife” sign; playing frogger across the A19; coffee at The Joiner’s; meeting Diane and eating her flapjacks; and some fine drone flying at sunset. The path crosses a quiet railway line where the kids had a lot of fun capturing photos.
Day 15: Osmotherley to Clay Bank Top. After two days of flat agriculture, we were back in the hills. The initial climb out of Osmotherley wakes one up, and then the path follows the edge of the escarpment, so the day is filled with views across the valley to Teesside and the North Sea beyond. The weather was gloriously clear with a cooling breeze, and the paths were kind with most of them paved.
Day 16: Clay Bank Top to Blakey Ridge. This was the easiest hiking day. Normally, I like the challenge, but it was OK to have an easier day, though the team could sense how close they were to the end and just wanted to get to the finish. The day’s destination was the Lion Inn, sitting alone on top of the ridge in the middle of the moor. Even though it is famous in these parts and has many visitors, its charm prevails. Its altitude also reduced the temperature which was critical after some uncomfortable nights. My highlight was drone flying with Samuel and Dean. The area’s high point is a mound just behind the inn. It has unrestricted 360-degree views so is perfect for drone controlling. Not only did we get some great photos, but Samuel also took control for the first time, though he needed no instruction. It reminded us of previous camping trips, and we just hung out for a while on the mound, shooting the breeze in the breeze as the day ebbed away.
Day 17: Blakey Ridge to Grosmont. With the end almost in sight, the team’s focus switched to completing. The penultimate day is a bit of an anticlimax, as one comes off the moors back into civilization, yet there is still another day to go. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a fine day’s walk. The highlight I recognized was the alignment in thought with Janet. We have both loved this hike, yet realize we want more flexibility and less mandatory miles day-after-day on future excursions. As well as a great experience of its own, especially doing it as a family, it has given us plenty of food-for-thought about future adventures we undertake.
Day 18: Grosmont to Robin Hood’s Bay. The highlight has to be the finish line. It was important that all of Team Sloth was there. Even though we had not been together for every step of the journey, we had been together in spirit! The picture shows the Victoria Hotel in the top right where we had a restful night. What the picture does not show is how quickly the tide was coming in, and we had to keep moving inland to stay dry. The unexpected highlight of the day was a fine lunch at the Coastal Cafe Bar; it was just one of those unexpected high points that come out of nowhere when doing things like this.
Day 19 prelude: Robin Hood’s Bay. I was able to get some great photos of both sunrise and sunset this day, though sunrise with the drone at 4:45am was extra special. It was so peaceful, though I need a silent drone! As I went back to bed, I’m going to allow an additional photo :).
Day 19: Robin Hood’s Bay to Heathrow. The final leg of the journey for Team Sloth began, and I must salute the team. The way each member faced diversity and helped each other was a testament to their true characters. You can’t hide much in the conditions we faced! One is advised to choose one’s hiking partners very carefully. I will hike with this team any time, though my challenge will be persuading them to put on their boots again :). Until the next adventure, Team Sloth…
Still to come is a reflection post, but that needs more reflection time :).
This page is linked to from my
England’s Coast to Coast home page.
Thank you for following us on this journey and for sharing your encouragement!