Distance: 14 miles
After arriving in London we spent a couple days adjusting to the time change, thoroughly enjoying all the touristy things that we could pack into these two days. On the third morning we set off on a five-hour train ride to St. Bees on the west coast of northern England. The St. Bees train station was just a short walk from our hotel, the Manor House Inn.
The Manor House Inn was a comfortable, well-situated pub with tasty food. The only problem we had was that they couldn’t find our reservation when we arrived. Since I always carry confirmation documentation for these reservations (note: a good idea for any hikers) the staff was very helpful in getting us registered and settled.
Leaving the hotel in the morning and with our packs on our backs, we set off to the beach on the first leg on this journey.
Nearing the sea, we had a great view of the trailhead and first steps of the Coast to Coast trail, which climbed up the hill to begin a lovely cliff walk. On our way to the trailhead, we walked down to the beach at St. Bees to participate in a traditional ritual described in the trail’s guidebook: first, dip our feet into the Irish Sea before beginning the Coast to Coast hike, then select a small stone from this beach to toss into the North Sea at the conclusion of our 200 plus mile journey.
We checked out the official starting point sign as we began our adventure.
Soon we were scrambling up a hill which, as we looked back, gave us a clear view of St. Bees and its coastline.
The view of the sea and the green grass and flowers near the top of the cliff were stunning!
The cliffside trail on a beautiful sunny day was a great way to start this trek.
Heading north along the coast we saw the white St. Bees lighthouse. The gorse hedgerows were a rich yellow which clearly delineated the different fields.
Turning inland, we left the appealing sea view behind and began our eastward journey across England. Several groups of walkers would join us briefly as our conversations covered the usual questions: where are you from, where are you going, what have you seen, etc.
The Coast to Coast Path was created by Alfred Wainwright in the 1970’s. He would walk the countryside with only a small rucksack and sleep in farmers’ barns. Since that time, the trail has been developed as have the many bed and breakfast options now along the path. We found a sculpture honoring Wainwright for his contributions which have been enjoyed by all the walkers that came after him.
As we passed through the small village of Moor Row, an inviting sight was the “Walkers’ Pop-In Cafe”, a tearoom run by a woman in her back garden. We could not pass up this opportunity.
After the tea break, we were soon climbing up Dent Hill with far reaching views behind us toward the sea.
At the top of Dent Hill was a huge cairn which might be stones cleared from the farmer’s fields but could have been built by ambitious hikers wishing to make their mark.
For the remainder of the day the trail rolled up and down through the rural countryside.
When we arrived at this first day’s destination, Ennerdale Bridge, our host, Paul Stanley at the Ennerdale View B&B picked us up and drove us to his place. This B&B has a commanding view of the Lake District hills which we enjoyed while drinking a glass of wine in their hot tub! Dinner was beautifully presented and delicious. What a fun B&B for the first night on the trail!