You can see what the Coast to Coast trail was like from my little film, this is for some thoughts about the walk as a whole.
My original schedule was to do the walk over 14 days, plus 1 rest day in the middle. I ended up doing it in 12 days (+1 rest day), possible thanks to the flexibility of camping. On two occasions I reached my planned destination early on in the day (12-1pm) and felt good enough to carry on. I changed destinations for the last few days to fit in with progress, and camp with friends made along the way.
I had Cicerone’s strip map booklet in my pocket and referred to it frequently each day. I also had the routes plotted in OS maps on my phone, which doubled as a GPS so I could check I was on the right path every now and then. I had Cicerone’s guidebook in my bag but only read that each evening to check up on tomorrow’s walk, rather than using it for navigation during the day.
A note about maps – sometimes what was a tiny black dotted line of a track on the map was a well established path on the ground, and what was a green dotted footpath on the map didn’t exist on the ground, so always use common sense.
In general, the walk is well signposted. There were more Coast to Coast/C-to-C/C2C signs than I expected given that it’s not a national trail, and some were from farmers who no doubt were fed up of people going the wrong way through their land. Otherwise the paths are generally well defined, but in some instances it can be easy to lose the trail, particularly in the boggy sections.
I started walking on the 15th April over the Easter weekend, which is pretty early in the year for the Coast to Coast. The owners of the pubs and B&Bs said they started getting people doing the walk from around Easter, getting busy from May onwards until August, with it tailing off in October. I met quite a few along the way doing the Coast to Coast, but not as many as I expected given that it’s a popular trail, probably due to the timing.
Spring basically meant I was going ‘aaawww look at the cute little lambs’ for two weeks. There were lambs, calves, foals, the gorse was in flower, bright yellow fields of rapeseed, and bluebells in the woods. It was beautiful.
The flipside is that the weather can be rather unpredictable at this time of year. I had days of sun, t-shirts and getting a bit burned, then days of snow, hail, gale force winds, and sub-zero nights.
There was more road walking than I was expecting, but the paths are generally well maintained. Bridleways are often 4×4 tracks or gravel paths, and footpaths can be dirt trails, grassy tracks, slabstones, mud, bog or a mix of everything. The bog on Nine Standards Rigg is somewhat legendary, but a slabstone path has been laid over the worst section, and it sounds like there are plans to extend it if more funds are raised.
The idea of 15 miles on the first day, when getting used to the weight of the backpack, was a bit daunting, but by the second week anything under 15 miles felt like a short day. As I have most experience from walking in the hills and mountains, I think I underestimated how quick miles can be covered on the flatter sections, such as inbetween Richmond and Ingelby Cross.
I can recommend the Coast to Coast to anyone wanting to get outside for a couple of weeks in England, walk through 3 national parks, explore some local history and sample many different ales!