Walking the Coast to Coast, With a Dog, the Other Way

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Last week we returned from the biggest walk we have ever done – 200 miles from the Yorkshire Coast to the Cumbrian one in 18 days (we had a few rest days). It was tough, much tougher than the distance walking we had done in New Zealand. We had a real mix of weather (and our worst days were the bad weather ones, especially the gales and driving rain we had between Keld and Kirkby Stephen and up over Kidsty Pike, which is at the 800m mark, the peak on the profile below), but we were lucky because whenever we were camping, it wasn’t that wet.

Click to see elevation of Coast to Coast path at http://discoverwalking.co.uk/coasttocoast/elevation.html

Click to see elevation of Coast to Coast path at http://discoverwalking.co.uk/coasttocoast/elevation.html

I have never eaten as many biscuits and chocolate bars in my adult life as I did on the Coast to Coast. And we all still lost weight.

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My favourite parts were the North York Moors, Keld and the inside of all the dog-friendly pubs.

The Lake District is scenic and all, but when you get up close and walk across it you realise that there is sheep shit in every square foot. There are a lot of sheep in the Lake District. Maybe too many.

I enjoyed the experience and I’m glad we did it and didn’t get lost, or hurt, or broken up, but I think the people who do it again and again are mad (though most of them aren’t carrying all their gear and camping half the time).

Billie was a wonder dog and really kept our spirits up when the going got tough.

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Robin Hood's Bay

Most people end here, but we started at Robin Hood’s Bay because we wanted to get fitter as we headed towards the largest peaks of the Lakes

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Billie in his digeridoonah looks a little unsure.

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The first of three National Parks we walked through was the North York Moors. We had good weather for most of this part.

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There was a lot of live and dead heather to walk through

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Billie coped well on every bit of the walk, including these stepping stones at Egton Bridge

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Our first of 6 wild camps was at Trough House, which meant an easy walk to The Lion Inn the next morning and a whole day in the pub!

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This photo sums up how we felt as we staggered into the Buck Inn at Richmond, after 10 hours and 24 miles, in the drizzly dark

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Nearly all our booked accommodation was brilliant (the hostel at Thorney How was the exception) and in this pub, Billie even got his own mini bed.

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The Yorkshire Dales was our next National Park and we had a beautiful day walking through Swaledale from Richmond to Keld

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Don’t know what kind of owl this was, but it was lovely to see so close.

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The most unusual place we stayed was a yurt at Park House in Keld. It had a log burner and we were able to order drinks and delicious food to be eaten there.

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Rain and gales were forecast and we elected not to walk via the boggy moor, but to take the road. It was still 10 miles and after 3.5 hours in driving rain we were soaked through and shivering. This was the only time Billie ever protested, pulling on the lead at the start, but even he just put his head down in the end and kept on going. We were glad to find the hostel open, a dry room and a welcome cup of tea in Kirkby Stephen.

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Lots of historic bits and pieces along the way like these old lime kilns

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Crossing the M6 near Shap

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Nearly ten year old Billie was full of energy and even wanted to play the stick game on occasion

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We wild camped the night before so we could make an early start on a day that was going to be inclement. It wasn’t too bad as we climbed up Kidsty Howe and we could still see Haweswater

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The weather got worse as we got up to Kidsty Pike, the highest peak on the Coast to Coast. It got even worse, with 70 mph winds and rain and almost zero visibility on the other side, making navigation quite hairy. We encountered other Coasters coming up from Patterdale and we were able to follow them back as they turned back because of the weather.

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All the Lion pubs were good. The Lion at Blakey Ridge was one of the best pubs on the track. The Golden Lion at Osmotherly had the best food and the White Lion at Patterdale was like heaven after the hell of going over Kidsty Pike.

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This wasn’t a path we were taking, but we were cautious around cattle of all kinds. We tried to avoid fields with cows and calves in (even when we had to climb over walls to do it), except in the last mile when we saw a couple emerge from one with their very springy springer spaniel. Our closest call was near Shap, where we wild camped just off the path, near a walled copse. We had only seen sheep, but as it began to get dark, Billie started to growl. We looked out to see a shaggy headed steer with a massive set of horns right by the tent flap! We were surrounded by half a dozen steers and kept Billie quiet and waited until they moved away. The next morning, they were gone, but we found out in Shap that those same steers had trampled a man, who then had to be airlifted to hospital, the week before. He had had a dog that they charged and when he picked it up they kept on going….

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The weather came good again when we walked up Grisedale Valley to the tarn and over to Grasmere, getting what we think may have been our first glimpse of the sea on the descent.

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I was still dressed for all weathers as we walked up and over another peak to Borrowdale

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Our last big climb out of Seatoller, past Honister Pass, gave us views of Crummock Water and Buttermere lakes to the right and Ennerdale Water and the sea to the left

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We got to the other coast and finished with a long slog along it to St Bees

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It wasn’t that inviting, but it was a lot less rough than Robin Hood’s Bay, so I had to go in!

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For the last two days of the walk, the boyf kept the sole of his boot on with sugru!

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Celebrating our 18 day adventure. Fitter, thinner and uninjured.

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It was great to have walked the Coast to Coast, the other way and to be heading home.

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12 thoughts on “Walking the Coast to Coast, With a Dog, the Other Way

  1. Wowo you guys, fantastic! What a once in a lifetime adventure
    And how typical of the Billie saga, great adventures well documented…hope to speak in person about it some day but for now am tied down to projects and our house on califa…great blog! I feel healthier having hiked it in my mind

  2. Thanks for sharing! I think the elevation chart at the beginning says it all – you can have peaks and valleys or flatline. Hope Billie keeps dreaming up challenges for you three!

  3. Wow, you have my respect and admiration for that awesome trek!
    Well done, Alex, Duncan and Billie. My portion of the Camino de Santiago was a pee pee walk compared to yours. Thank you for sharing it. Great blog, Alwx, but not surprised – you’re do talented. Writing from Bellagio – wished we were just a little but closer so we could see you.
    Love, Nor xxx

  4. The last photo was great, with Billie occupying what North Americans would consider the driver’s seat… Your choice of direction sounds logical – I’d sure want to build up stamina before hitting the hilly zones. What is it about the opposite direction to make it more popular?

  5. Pingback: The Coast To Coast: The Best Meal | Local Food Hound

  6. What a cracking trip, well done Billie (oh, and you two of course guys!), some of that weather looks grim and I don’t like the sound of those steers around the tent – brave Bill for trying to warn them off. Sounds like you had a great journey, I confess I miss those fantastic English pubs – and they welcome dogs! How civilised.
    Love Jane

  7. What a fantastic trip, the photos really bring it to life ( especially the rain…). You’ve inspired us as we’ve been thinking of something similar – and maybe I can finally persuade Simon to include a dog…

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