Picture this: cycling around magnificent lakes set amongst green rolling fells, climbing over moody hilltops with panoramic views and pedaling through historic mining towns and villages – it comes as no surprise that the Sea to Sea Cycle route has become one of the UK’s most popular long-distance cycle routes.
The iconic Sea to Sea (also known as C2C) Route will guide you 140 miles (230 km) from the edge of the Irish Sea to the North Sea. Starting in Whitehaven, you will pass through some of the UK’s most stunning scenery such as the Lake District National Park, the Eden Valley, and the Pennines, before arriving in Tyneside.
This Collection will guide you along the C2C route in seven stages. Although the route can be ridden in both directions, we recommend following it from west to east as the gradients are more gradual and you are more likely to enjoy a tailwind.
The C2C is suitable for any level of rider with a relatively good basic condition whether you are a cycling club enthusiast or family of novice bikers. Just bear in mind that you will have to do some climbing – the highest point of the route is over 610 meters (2,000 feet). To make things easier, there are various companies offering assisted cycles if you don’t want to carry your panniers.
Mostly following quiet country lanes and traffic-free cycle paths, any type of bike is suitable for your ride, although there are some optional off-road sections which may require thicker tyres.
Each section finishes in a town or village with all the facilities needed for a pleasant stay. Thanks to the route’s popularity, there are many accommodation options, cafes and restaurants that are geared towards cyclists, so you will always find a bike rack or bike shop nearby.
You can travel directly to the starting point in Whitehaven via train from Manchester, London Euston, Carlisle and Edinburgh. Don’t forget to book a space for your bike before you travel. To travel more comfortably, you could rent a bike from Whitehaven when you arrive. Bike rental shops then offer a pickup service to return your bike when you reach Tyneside.
For train tickets and timetables, visit: thetrainline.com/stations/whitehaven
For information about Whitehaven, visit: visit-whitehaven.co.uk
Waves crash against Whitehaven’s shore, colourful wildflowers blanket vast hay meadows, crystal-clear lakes glisten amongst emerald hills – your first day of cycling the C2C from Whitehaven to Tyneside will show you some of Northern England’s most magnificent spots.
You will leave Whitehaven on a well-surfaced former railway line which takes you for 10 miles (16 km) from the coast into peaceful countryside, before joining county lanes. You will then gently climb for 12.5 miles (20 km) before you reach the magnificent Lake District National Park.
Famed for its towering mountains, picturesque valleys and lakes set amongst rolling fells, the Lake District National Park is one of the most beautiful corners of England. Covering 912 square miles (2,362 sq km), the Lake District is England’s biggest national park and a wonderful place to explore by bike.
After ascending into the quaint village of Lanplurgh, you will cycle through moody hills before arriving at your first lake in the national park – Loweswater. From here, you will cycle deeper into glorious countryside, following the River Cocker.
Your final destination of the day is Lorton Village. Made up of Lower Lorton and Higher Lorton, the village is nestled amongst Grasmoor, Hopegill and Whiteside fells. The village has various comfortable accommodation options and a well-stocked village shop.
“You may leave the Lake District, but once you’ve been, it’ll never leave you,” famous poet Williams Wordsworth once said about the lakes. On stage two of the C2C, you will understand why as you cycle 11 miles (19 km) further into the heart of the stunning Lake District National Park.
Setting off from Lorton village, you will climb 3 miles (5 km) into the fells to the top of the Whinlatter Pass. The first big climb of your journey is rewarded with a spectacular descent following forested roads towards Thornwaite village.
An idyllic village, Thornwaite is a lovely place to stop for an afternoon tea at one of the pleasant cafes and to explore the grey-stone cottages before continuing through the Lake District countryside.
After a few miles, you will reach Derwentwater, one of the Lake District’s most-loved lakes. Set amongst forested fells, the view here is spectacular. With beautiful gardens, manor houses and interesting sculptures dotted around its banks, Derwentwater lends itself to a few hours exploring.
A stone’s throw from Derwentwater lies Keswick, a pretty market town with plenty of amenities for cyclists. A popular town with visitors to the lakes, you will find a wide range of shops, restaurants, museums and accommodation such as hotels and camping.
Get recommendations on the best single tracks, peaks, & plenty of other exciting outdoor places.
Stage three of the C2C cycle route leads you away from the Lake District and closer towards the Pennines. You will cycle further through spectacular scenery and visit intriguing historical monuments such as ancient stone circles and ruined castles along the way.
Today, you will cover 27 miles (45 km) from Keswick to Penrith. The route becomes hillier as you head into the Pennines. Although there are no long climbs, you will gain 590 meters (1935 feet) in elevation over the course of the day.
Beginning your journey in Keswick, you will cycle into green countryside, following the National Cycle Network route 71. Shortly after crossing the River Greta, you will pass through Threckfeld before following the path of the river as it skirts around beautiful hills towards Mungrisdale.
After Troutbeck village, you will leave the Lake District behind as you near towards the Pennines. Following quiet country lanes, you will pass through leafy farmland before arriving at your final destination, Penrith.
A historic market town, Penrith is the gateway to the Eden Valley. Here, you will find many independent shops, boutique cafes and restaurants offering everything from fine dining to world cuisine, lively pubs, theatres and cinemas, as well as a range of accommodation.
On stage four of your adventure, you will pass 23 miles (37 km) through the beautiful Eden district into the Pennine mountains. With 690 meters (2263 feet) of elevation gain, you will warm your legs up for the challenging mountainous terrain that is to come.
Setting off from Penrith, you will head north through the luscious Eden Valley, following the River Eden. As the name suggests, the Eden Valley is home to diverse wildlife and nature. Look out for kestrels, swallows, otters, foxes and bats that call the region home.
Along the way, you will pass the ancient stone circles Long Meg and Her Daughters and Little Meg before reaching the Pennines. Described as the “backbone of England,” the Pennines’ mountains and hills stretch 268 miles (429 km) through the north of England. A designated Area of Outstanding Beauty, the region is often considered to be one of the most scenic areas in England.
After a gradual climb up to 575 meters (1886 feet), you can enjoy a stunning descent into the Pennines towards your final destination – Alston. Nestled amongst the hills over 304 meters (1000 feet) above sea level, Alston claims to be the highest market settlement in England. The town has many pretty cottages and a quaint market square built from grey stone. You will find many shops, restaurants and accommodation options in Alston to ensure you have a comfortable night’s rest.
Serpentine roads carve through magnifcent peaks, long downhill stretches with panoramic views, and historic villages – stage five of the C2C is a beautiful day of adventure. With 750 meters (2460 feet) of elevation gain and four climbs, this is the toughest section of the route. But, you will be rewarded with spectacular views over the Pennine mountains.
Starting from Alston, you will reach your first and hardest climb as you leave Garrigill village after 5 miles (8 km) of riding. After an exhilarating downhill, you will then arrive in Nenthead, a village with a strong industrial past and a pub to reward yourself after your hard work.
Your second climb comes shortly after leaving Nentshead as you ascend and descend Black Hill. Standing at 609 meters (1998 feet), this is the highest point of the C2C route. After another short uphill, you can enjoy a beautiful 2.5 mile (5 km) descent through the hills.
Next, you will join the River East Allen as it meanders into Allenheads village. A former mining town, you will find cafes and shops here to refuel before the final climb of the day which marks the end of the mountainous section of the C2C.
You can now relax and free-wheel downhill all the way to your final destination of stage five – Rookhope. There are various self-catering cottages, b&bs and inns in the area to rest your legs for the night – they deserve it!
Leaving the Pennine mountains gradually behind you, stage six of the C2C will guide you 29 miles (48 km) through sweeping moorland from Rookhope to Consett passing pretty villages, impressive viaducts and multiple cafes along the way.
Your journey begins with one last climb as you depart from Rookhope. At the top, you can marvel at the panoramic view over the Pennines and the village below. From here, you will join Waskerley Way, a traffic-free former railway line which leads through green hills and woodland.
If your legs are sore from the climbing, don’t worry, as next you can enjoy an 18.6 mile (30 km) incredible downhill stretch. As there are few places to stop for supplies along the Waskerley Way, we recommend packing enough water and snacks to keep you going.
After 27 miles (45 km) of peaceful countryside backdropped by the Pennines, you will reach the outskirts of Consett. Once the center of an industrial boom, Consett is now a bustling town that has benefited from huge development since the closure of the minds. Today, you will find large green spaces, a great community feel, and plenty of cosy accommodation options.
Meandering rivers, buzzing cycling cafes, bustling cities, and ancient castles – your final day of cycling the C2C will lead you 28 miles (46 km) through luscious countryside and thriving suburbs towards the cultural metropolis of Newcastle Upon Tyne and the North Sea.
Today, you can enjoy a relaxed ride, with more elevation lost than gained. There are also plenty of things to see and do – museums, shops and restaurants and interesting sculptures line your way, especially as you reach Newcastle Upon Tyne.
Although you will pass through much denser patches of civilisation during stage seven, you will nonetheless follow quiet stretches as you follow the Three Rivers Cycle Route along the River Derwent before joining the River Tyne as it flows into Newcastle Upon Tyne.
The most populous city in the North East, Newcastle Upon Tyne is a lively city known for its bridges, entertainment and unique “Geordie" spirit. You will follow the River Tyne as it flows through the heart of the city towards the coast, before flowing into the North Sea in Tynemouth.
Here, your adventure comes to an end in Tynemouth aside the crashing waves of the North Sea. To return home, you can easily take the train from Newcastle Upon Tyne. With direct train links to York, London, Edinburgh, Leeds, and Glasgow, the city is well connected with the rest of the UK. Just don’t forget to dip your wheel in the North Sea before you go!
For more information on trains from Newcastle, visit: thetrainline.com/destinations/trains-to-newcastle