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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.

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Cumbria Coastal Way

208 mi

6,150 ft

6,175 ft

Last updated: November 23, 2021

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Silverdale to Arnside — Cumbria Coastal Way

    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 Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and boasts glorious views across Morecambe Bay.

    From the station, you make for the

    by Alex Foxfield

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  • 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 for a splendid detour.

    There is an alternative to this route across the mudflats and sands during a low tide. However

    by Alex Foxfield

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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 meet the Leven. Holker Hall and its parkland are worth a visit before you loop around the head of the estuary, crossing at Greenodd

    by Alex Foxfield

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  • 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 to the land by a causeway and the vibrant Roosecote Sands, a popular roosting site for all manner of birdlife.

    From Ulverston, take

    by Alex Foxfield

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  • 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. The profile of nearby Black Combe is a near constant, whilst there are superb views to the mountains of South Lakeland

    by Alex Foxfield

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  • 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 round Haverigg Point en route to Silecroft Beach. The vestiges of a once-thriving iron-ore industry are apparent during the latter stages of this

    by Alex Foxfield

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  • 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 village. There’s plenty to interest history buffs, with a visit to the grand Muncaster Castle, as well as northern England’s largest Roman

    by Alex Foxfield

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  • 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 you to the village of Seascale. At 6.5 miles (10.5 km), this is a short section. You could choose to combine it with stage

    by Alex Foxfield

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  • 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 is soon left behind as natural beauty takes hold once more. The railway line is a constant companion.

    You follow

    by Alex Foxfield

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  • 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 fine lighthouse and is the most westerly point in North England. The end point of this stage is the large port town of Whitehaven.

    From

    by Alex Foxfield

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  • 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 graceful fulmar. After visiting a few pleasant villages, the stage ends at the industrial town of Workington. You could

    by Alex Foxfield

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  • 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 Coastal Way. For a longer walk, you could end at the village of Allonby, a further 5 miles (8 km) down the coast.

    After

    by Alex Foxfield

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  • 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 journey from Maryport to Silloth.

    As you depart Maryport, you also leave behind what has been your faithful companion

    by Alex Foxfield

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  • 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, known to few but enjoyed by those who venture into it. The great northern Lakeland sentinel of Skiddaw looks especially

    by Alex Foxfield

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  • 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 the delights on offer here, from the Roman history at Bowness-on-Solway to the wildlife found on the coastal paths and moss boardwalks

    by Alex Foxfield

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  • 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 the Hadrian’s Wall Path, as it joins the Eden and meanders to the great border city of Carlisle and its magnificent castle.

    At the eastern

    by Alex Foxfield

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  • 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, at which point the Way officially ends. You may choose to continue to the River Sark, cross into Scotland and visit the famous lovers

    by Alex Foxfield

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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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