The Cyclist’s Coast to Coast

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The ‘C2C’ stretches from the harbour at Whitehaven on the Irish Sea to the Abbey and castle at Tynemouth on the shores of the North Sea. The original route ended in Sunderland, but the alternative Tynemouth ending is somewhat more satisfying. The ride is 142 miles long. It is a great way to see northern England and how the landscape changes sometimes abruptly, and then more gently as you cycle along. There is so much to see, the Cumbrian Lakes and Fells, the bleak Pennines, beautiful Dales, towns and villages of all sizes. Along the way you should find plenty of time to visit tea shops, pubs and interesting historical and industrial sites. There are some quite big hills as well, but nothing that could be classed as Alpine! the weather of course can do anything, but you will generally be pedaling with the wind at your back.

The original cycling route was developed by ‘Sustrans’, a charitable organization aiming at the development of sustainable transport networks in the UK. They took minor roads and ride-able ‘off road’ bridleways that could be used to thread together small towns and country areas across Cumbria, the Pennines, through the Tyne and Wear watershed and onto the more urban parts of the North East. The route so created is called the “C2C,” literally “Sea to Sea,” to differentiate it from the “Coast to Coast” walk, which covers an altogether different route and embraces different scenery.

Trip highlights

  • Ride across England from Irish to the North Sea, crossing the Lake District and Pennines
  • Biking through the hills and dales
  • Attractive hamlets and villages
  • Industrial heritage, lead mines and the River Tyne
  • A satisfying challenge ride


Day 1 Arrive Whitehaven

Make your own way to Whitehaven. This is a pleasant blustery Georgian seaside town, with an attractive harbour and remains of pit wheels and shafts from its mining past. The town was designed in a grid-like fashion a way that was soon to be adopted across North America. It also has the carnet of being the only place in the UK that has been attacked by the USA (1778)! There is an interesting harbourside museum and you can visit the church where George Washington’s grandmother is buried. If you are hiring bikes, you need to collect them on the morning of day two (except Sunday). Accommodation: Glenfield house is situated just a few minutes’ walk from Whitehaven town centre and the waterfront. This fine example of a late Victorian townhouse has been transformed into an elegant bed and breakfast offering all modern amenities whilst retaining its original features.

Day 2 Whitehaven to Keswick (50 km / 31 miles)

If hiring bikes from Whitehaven, collect from the hire shop. Having dipped your wheel in the sea, the ride rolls out gently for the first few miles along the former Ennerdale Railway Line. Leaving this, you approach the Lake District with views over Ennerdale Water and then you pedal around Loweswater. The big hill of the day is up over Whinlatter Pass (318m), shortly after the top there are views over Keswick and to the peak of Skiddaw. It is then a fast and undulating descent and ride into one of the most popular towns in Cumbria: Keswick. Literally, an old cheese town, with a market charter going back to the 1200s. From those days the town grew wealthy from local mining, from the popularity of Lakeland poets and writers and finally from the coming of the railways and the growth of popular tourism in the Lakes. There are plentiful shops, pubs and restaurants. Keswick is a town that nestles beneath giant Skiddaw by the shores of Derwentwater. Accommodation: Babbling Brook Guesthouse, is one of the attractive Victorian guesthouses about town that we use.

Day 3 Keswick to Alston (75 km / 46.5 miles)

The hardest but perhaps most picturesque day. A steep climb out of Keswick takes you to the famous ancient stone circle, which bestrides a hillside reflecting the contours of the mountains around it. Descending to cross the River Greta, you wheel through pretty Threlkeld Village before a quiet road takes you on a loop round the hamlet of Mungrisdale, which at intervals offers beautiful views of the northern Lake District. Next is a long traverse of the Vale of Eden starting with a visit to the ‘Green Village’ of Greystoke and then on to historic Penrith. The afternoon is punctuated by a number of steep climbs culminating in the longest ascent of the trip up to Hartside Summit 1903 ft / 580 metres, which is also the watershed between the Irish and North Seas. Here you enter the Pennines, great viewpoint from the summit over the Vale of Eden and there is a convenient cafe stop, before a fast ride down into the traditional market town of Alston. Accommodation: Alston House Hotel is a small hotel with comfortable rooms and a dedicated pub restaurant. Small B&Bs may also be used in the town.

Day 4 Alston to Stanhope (36.1km / 22.4 miles)

Ascend out of Alston and into the region of old lead mines through the village of Nenthead. There is a steep climb out of the village and you reach Black Hill, the highest point on the C2C, leaving Cumbria for Northumbria. You then descend into the valley of the River East Allen and through the village of Allenheads with its heritage centre and coffee shop. There are also interesting Victorian pumps, especially the Armstrong steam pump that was used for clearing water out the lead mines in the area. From here, there is a steady climb out of Allenheads until you reach the summit of the hill at Currick, entering County Durham and riding with the sound of the Curlew. This is followed by a long descent into the Rookhope Valley. Scars (or hushes) from centuries of lead mining are evident in the valley. Another climb takes you along the ridge of a hill before descending into the small pretty town of Stanhope, which has a fossilized tree stump in its churchyard, and a range of attractive local shops. Accommodation: The Bonny Moorhen is a lively country pub with friendly staff. Aternatively you may need to cycle a further hilly 5 km to Parkhead where the old station makes a remote, attractive overnight stop. This will of course make tomorrow’s ride a bit easier.

Day 5 Stanhope to Tynemouth (67.5 km / 42 miles)

The Ride up out of Stanhope is the steepest, but not the longest ascent of the C2C, it parallels where once train engines were steam hauled up the incline. At the top you could have a quick coffee at Parkhead Station before making your way for a good 12 miles generally flat or downhill along the Waskerley Way, a reclaimed railway path. You will cross the Hownsgill Viaduct, and then continue on bypassing Consett and joining another ex-railway cycle path along the Derwent Valley with some beautiful views over the Durham countryside. The route crosses the River Tyne and turns towards Newcastle, soon passing under its different bridges including the famous Tyne Bridge which was built by the same company who built the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The Tyne is now wide looking across to Gateshead and by the Millennium Bridge is a great dedicated bicycle cafe. The ride progresses out of the suburbs, passing Wallsend, where Hadrian’s Wall ends, or begins! The final run and you pass docklands and new marinas to reach the bay near Tynemouth. You can dip your wheel in the sea here, because where you finish at the castle and Abbey is high above the water! There is a pub right at the end where you leave your hire bikes and celebrate your completion of the famous C2C. Accommodation: Tynemouth 61 Guesthouse is one of the attractive guesthouses that is used in the centre of Tynemouth.

Day 6 Arrangements end after breakfast

Depart from Tynemouth, convenient Metro train to Newcastle Central Station to join national rail network.


What’s included

  • 5 breakfasts
  • 5 nights accommodation on a twin share basis with ensuite facilities where available
  • One piece of luggage per person transferred from Inn to Inn, not exceeding 20kg
  • Information pack including route notes & maps
  • Emergency hotline
  • GPX Files

Images courtesy of UTracks