The Coast to Coast, also known as the c2c, is one of the UK's signature bike rides. It’s probably the most popular long distance route in the country, and a must-do for keen cyclists. It makes an ideal UK cycle holiday for leisure cyclists and you’ll ride through some of the most stunning UK countryside.
From the Georgian port of Whitehaven on the Irish Sea to the castle on the rock at Tynemouth facing the North Sea, this ride crosses some of the most dramatic landscapes in the UK - the silvery, shining levels and the high crags of the Lake District, the vast, eerily empty moorland on the Cumbrian Fells, and the Tyne Valley.
The self-guided ride is challenging, but the uphills are countered by long, easy rides down, especially travelling from west to east. The descents from the Whinlatter Pass, off Hartside Pass and from the top of Black Hill are scenic, winding and memorable.
The towns you pass Keswick, Penrith, Alston, Allenheads, Stanhope and Consett are packed full of tea rooms, welcoming pubs and bags of northern charm, but it’s the joy of riding through the wild and open countryside that will remain with you, while completing this belter of a ride in just two days will leave a lasting sense of achievement.
Day 1: Arrive in Newcastle or Penrith
Arrive in either Newcastle or Penrith by train (you’ll be collected from the station) or car (you can leave your vehicle at the hotel for the duration of the trip), and check in to your accommodation. A member of the Bikecation team will meet you this evening or after breakfast tomorrow, to hand over your route notes and maps, plus your bike if you’re hiring one, answer those last minute questions and give you a few tips.
Day 2: Whitehaven to Alston – approx 76 miles
After an early breakfast, you’ll be transferred from your accommodation to Whitehaven. Your epic ride begins on the quay, overlooking the marina. Soon you’re on a disused railway line, climbing almost imperceptibly away from the coast. It’s a lovely, gentle way to start. At the foot of the Lakeland Fells the landscape changes dramatically and the route continues on lanes, round Murton Fell and Owsen Fell, down to Loweswater.
It may be a little early for refreshments, but if you’re desperate, divert ½ mile from the route to the Kirkstile Inn, a classic Lake District pub that has been welcoming travellers since Tudor times. You then follow the River Cocker north to Low Lorton and start to climb, up and over the Whinlatter pass – it’s first the big haul of the day. Once on top, the route is on trails through Whinlatter Forest Park, past the bustling cycle centre where there’s a good café, and then down steeply, to the edge of Derwent Water and Keswick.
The route now heads east along a disused railway line, following the River Greta through a thickly-wooded gorge to Threlkeld. The landscape changes as you leave the iconic hills, scree slopes and crags of the Lake District National Park behind you. You pass beneath the precipitous fell, Blencathra, then out via Mungrisdale on quiet lanes through farmland to the historic village of Greystoke. Beyond Penrith, you pedal passed fields full of lapwings, curlew and grey partridge, cross the River Eden at Langwathby and start to climb, gently at first, into the north western Pennines.
There are a few sections of downhill, crossing the rivers and becks that wriggle across the landscape, but the trend is up, all the way to Hartside Pass (590m), where the restorative powers of tea and cake at England’s highest café will become powerfully obvious. On a good day, the views back across the Lakeland Fells are jaw-dropping. There is a glorious descent to end the day, across heather-clad moorland, to the lovely unspoilt town of Alston.
Day 3 Alston to Newcastle – approx 64 miles
The day starts through the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a vast upland plateau of glorious, unspoilt countryside. It’s the least populated part of England. Depending on what time of year you’re here, look out for the wealth of birds that inhabit the moors – curlew, oystercatchers, lapwing, snipe, grouse, merlin and hen harriers are just a few of the species you might spy.
The road does rise and fall all morning, and the views are continually rewarding, but the greatest sight of all is likely to be Stanhope, an unmistakable Durham dales town on the banks of the River Wear. Stanhope means you’ve broken the back of the Coast to Coast - it’s comparatively gentle from here. The Waskerley Way is a lovely traffic-free section across open moorland, following an old railway line. This is the beginning of the end – it’s pretty much downhill or flat the whole way to Tynemouth now.