Alex Foxfield

Hike vibrant estuaries and historic coastline — the Cumbria Coastal Way

Alex JD (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Hike vibrant estuaries and historic coastline — the Cumbria Coastal Way

Hiking Collection by Alex Foxfield

14-31

days

3-6 h

/ day

229 mi

6,050 ft

6,025 ft

The Cumbria Coastal Way is an epic 182-mile (298 km) long-distance trail that follows Cumbria’s west coast from Silverdale in Lancashire to Metal Bridge near the Scottish border. It includes the wonderful Kent, Leven and Duddon Estuaries; the dynamic Lake District coastline between Silecroft and Drigg; the beauty of St Bees Head; the industrial port towns of Whitehaven, Workington and Maryport; and finishes by exploring the glorious Solway Coast.

En route you’ll discover magnificent birdlife, as many of the saltmarshes, dune systems and mudflats found here are of international importance for seasonal migrators. Specialised flowers decorate the sand dunes and mosses in spring, whilst autumn brings starling murmurations to the skies above.

It is a route saturated in history. The former wealth and prosperity of West Cumbria is apparent in the many vestiges of ancient industry and trade, with historical sites harking back as far as the Romans and Hadrian’s time. The Cumbrian Coast railway line is a frequent companion, as are the tumultuous outlines of the Lakeland Fells. Impressive castles and battlemented churches hint at the violent tug-of-war between England and Scotland that this region has suffered.

Officially opened in the 1990s, the Cumbria Coastal Way was designed to either be split into day hikes or completed as one big long-distance trek, taking between 10 and 17 days. Most opt to split the route and hike it in disparate sections. The railway accompanies the route from Silverdale up to Maryport, so you can easily travel between most stages.

South to north is the usual direction of travel due to prevailing winds. Whilst May to October is prime season, the route is enjoyable all year round, with each season bringing different sights and sounds.

In this Collection, I have split the Way into 17 stages to reflect the recommended day walks. I also include the Cardurnock Peninsula in stage 15, as it is a beautiful walk that’s full of historic interest and it seems a shame to leave a section of the coast unexplored. This and other worthy detours brings the Collection to 229 miles (369 km) in length.

The walking is mostly easy along footpaths, minor roads and beachfronts, with little in the way of elevation gain. However, the Way is not without its challenges. Although it does not suffer from as wet a climate as Lakeland, incoming westerlies can bring rise to cold and damp conditions at any time of year, so sturdy boots, warm layers and waterproofs are essential.

Sensible decision making is also important when it comes to route choice. Take heed of any warnings about quicksand and never step out onto sands if you are unsure of their composition. In 2010, Cumbria County Council ceased to endorse the route and therefore it has not been as well maintained since then. To add to this, there are many sections that are impassable at high tide. In such instances, an alternative inland route will need to be taken. For more information about tide times, visit tidetimes.org.uk.

Accommodation is in good supply, with popular seaside villages and port towns aplenty. The main exceptions to this are Kirkbride and Burgh-by-Sands, where there are only a few options. However, advance booking is always recommended regardless of settlement size. There are many cafes, pubs and restaurants along the route.

Your starting point of Silverdale is a short drive from the M6 and has its own train station. The optional end point of Gretna is also just off the M6 motorway (A74 (M) in Scotland). Gretna also connects to Carlisle via bus and rail.

Unlike the other stage end points, Siloth, Kirkbride and Burgh-by-Sands are not connected by the railway, though they do connect to Carlisle via bus. Check cumbria.gov.uk/buses for more information.

On The Map

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
    Intermediate
    03:19
    7.71 mi
    2.3 mph
    475 ft
    475 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage follows the last few miles of the Lancashire Coastal Path on its journey from Silverdale station to Arnside. This is just a part of the wider Arnside and …

  • Difficult
    06:50
    16.6 mi
    2.4 mph
    300 ft
    325 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Stage 2 is a wonderful walk around the Kent Estuary to Grange-over-Sands, with plenty of wildlife on display and some lovely scenery. Levens Hall and its incredible topiary garden make …

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  • Difficult
    10:17
    24.3 mi
    2.4 mph
    1,175 ft
    1,150 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage is characterised by two beautiful estuaries, a grand stately home and many encounters with nature. One estuary makes way for another as you leave the Kent behind to …

  • Difficult
    07:09
    17.3 mi
    2.4 mph
    375 ft
    375 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The Furness Peninsula is revealed in all its glory on this stage of the Cumbria Coastal Way. En route to the industrial town of Barrow you discover Roa Island, tethered …

  • Difficult
    06:43
    16.3 mi
    2.4 mph
    375 ft
    375 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Stage 5 intimately acquaints you with the glorious Duddon Estuary over its 16.3-mile (26.2 km) course. Sandscale Haws and Duddon Mosses Nature Reserves offer a wealth of flora and fauna. …

  • Difficult
    06:37
    15.8 mi
    2.4 mph
    525 ft
    550 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    You bid farewell to the estuaries of South Cumbria towards the end of this stage of the Cumbria Coastal Way, saying a hearty ‘hello’ to the Irish Sea as you …

  • Difficult
    06:09
    14.8 mi
    2.4 mph
    500 ft
    500 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage of the Cumbria Coastal Way takes you from the vast seafront at Silecroft to the confluence of the Rivers Esk, Mite and Irt at Ravenglass, a small coastal …

  • Intermediate
    02:42
    6.54 mi
    2.4 mph
    175 ft
    150 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The first part of this walk is characterised by an inland section on roads, through fields and over charming river crossings to Drigg. After this, another lovely seafront amble takes …

  • Intermediate
    03:40
    9.07 mi
    2.5 mph
    100 ft
    100 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    An arrow-straight, 8.3-mile (13.4 km) amble along the seafront to St Bees village awaits you on this stage. Whether you find it impressive or depressing, the Sellafield nuclear power station …

  • Intermediate
    03:17
    7.42 mi
    2.3 mph
    625 ft
    650 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    On this beautiful stage you walk along the only stretch of Heritage Coast between Wales and Scotland, the gorgeous cliffs of St Bees. The North Head is adorned by a …

  • Intermediate
    04:13
    9.91 mi
    2.3 mph
    500 ft
    500 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    In this stage you leave the port town of Whitehaven and head along a stretch of coast characterised by outcrops of Triassic sandstone, beautiful wildflowers and birdlife, such as the …

  • Intermediate
    02:57
    7.22 mi
    2.5 mph
    75 ft
    75 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage explores some delightful wildlife spots on its journey from Workington to Maryport. It’s a 7.2-mile (11.6 km) stretch, making it one of the shorter sections of the Cumbria …

  • Difficult
    05:26
    13.3 mi
    2.5 mph
    175 ft
    150 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    After Maryport, you leave the Irish Sea behind and make for the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Roman history, vibrant wildlife and seaside villages await on your …

  • Difficult
    06:40
    16.4 mi
    2.5 mph
    125 ft
    125 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    In this stage you visit the headland of Grune Point beyond Skinburness hamlet, before striding out along the Solway Plain and its atmospheric marshes. This is a gloriously open landscape, …

  • Difficult
    07:48
    19.2 mi
    2.5 mph
    175 ft
    150 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The traditional Cumbria Coastal Way misses out the Cardurnock Peninsula, though it is listed as an optional alternative. I have included it as it would be a shame to miss …

  • Difficult
    05:01
    12.3 mi
    2.4 mph
    225 ft
    200 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The penultimate stage of the Cumbria Coastal Way is a splendid walk to where the River Eden becomes the Solway Firth. In the latter stages, you follow the route of …

  • Difficult
    06:10
    15.1 mi
    2.4 mph
    200 ft
    200 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The final stage of the Cumbria Coastal Way crosses the River Eden and follows its course to Rockcliffe. Beyond here it heads north to the River Esk and Metal Bridge, …

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    17
  • Distance
    229 mi
  • Duration
    94:59 h
  • Elevation
    6,050 ft6,025 ft

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Alex Foxfield

Hike vibrant estuaries and historic coastline — the Cumbria Coastal Way