The Cumbria Way is an enchanting hike through the heart of England's largest and most-loved national park, the Lake District.
Exploring majestic mountainous scenery, mirror-like lakes, lonely fells, waterfalls, woodlands, and pastures, the Way travels 70 miles (112 kilometers) from Ulverston near Morecambe Bay to finish in the historic city of Carlisle.
The route cuts right through a quintessentially Lake District landscape; passing Coniston, Langdale, Borrowdale, Derwentwater, Skiddaw Forest, and Caldbeck. The Way follows a low-level route along valley floors for the most part but does explore some high-level and exposed sections, too.
As the walking is not as challenging as you might expect for Lakeland, this trail is a great choice for anyone who is new to long-distance hiking and is a wonderful introduction to the national park.
For anyone looking for something a little more challenging, though, there are plenty of worthy hill-bagging detours to choose from along the way. Giants such as Coniston Old Man, the Langdale Pikes, and Blencathra loom over you, simply begging to be conquered.
The route broadly comprises three sections with two very different characters. The southern and northern sections explore farmland pastures. (Just a note, these pastures will be filled with cows in summer which might cause a problem for people with a dog.)
The centre section—over Stake Pass, between Langdale and Keswick, and across Back o'Skiddaw and High Pike to Caldbeck—is classic Lakeland fell walking and is typically the most enjoyable part.
The most common way to walk the Cumbria Way is from south to north, as per this Collection. However, there is nothing stopping you from completing it the other way.
In this Collection, we split the route into five stages. Of course, you can split up each stage into as many days as you are comfortable with. You can also walk any single stage, or a couple of stages, in isolation.
Every stage finishes close to accommodation, even if there are only a few options nearby. However, places to stay are not always abundant so it is worth planning in advance and scheduling any rest days accordingly.
If you are planning to arrive by public transport, you can catch a train to Ulverston railway station, which has direct trains from Manchester, Carlisle, and Lancaster, among others, and has connecting services around the UK. It is then a ten-minute walk to the start of the trail.
To get home, it is a short walk from the end of the trail to Carlisle railway station, which has direct services to Newcastle, Birmingham, and London, among others, and connecting services around the UK.
If you are planning to arrive by car, your best bet is to negotiate with a hotel or B&B a rate to stay for a night either side of your hike in Ulverston. To get back, there are direct trains between Carlisle and Ulverston.
For more information about the Cumbria Way, visit: cumbriaway.org.
For train timetables and tickets, visit: thetrainline.com.
The first stage of the Cumbria Way takes you over the Lake District boundary into the wild landscape of the national park.
From Ulverston, the trail climbs steadily to Old Hall Wood and then ascends sharply to reach a high point near Knotallow Tarn.
The trail continues through undulating farmland and you will notice the scenery become more rugged as you reach the Blawith Fells.
Below the summit of Beacon Fell, you hike past the pretty Beacon Tarn nestled within the upland landscape. The shallow tarn has a reputation as a wild swimming spot.
The trail descends Tottle Bank to reach the picturesque shores of Coniston Water. Situated in the shadow of the mighty fell, Old Man of Coniston, it is the fifth largest lake in the national park.
You follow the lakeside path for the rest of the hike, which passes lots of beautiful beaches on Coniston Water.
This stage finishes in the village of Coniston, which has a good range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.
Lonely fells, pretty tarns, and waterfalls combine to make this highlight-filled hike one to remember.
From Coniston, the trail ascends through farmland and woodland to Tarn Hows, a picturesque tarn surrounded by mountains and pines.
You hike along a wonderful section of trail over Tom Heights, where you are afforded great panoramic views.
The trail then descends through rough upland and woodlands. As you hike along the edge of High Park Coppice woodland, you find Colwith Force, a stunning waterfall on the River Brathay that drops roughly 40 feet (12 meters) in several stages.
You continue the descent and cross the Bray close to another waterfall, Skelwith Force.
At this stage, it is worth a detour to see Loughrigg Tarn. Almost circular in shape, the tarn affords striking views northwest towards the Langdale Pikes.
Poet William Wordsworth described the tarn as “round, clear and bright as heaven". If you do not fancy the detour, it is lovely walking along the Bray.
You then follow rough course of Great Langdale Beck for the rest of the hike to Langdale, where this stage finishes.
Whilst there is only hotel in Langdale, there are a few campsites nearby, as well as other accommodation options in the area.
Get recommendations on the best single tracks, peaks, & plenty of other exciting outdoor places.
This stage takes you high onto the fells before dropping to one of the Lake District’s most picturesque lakes, Derwentwater.
From Keswick, the trail heads along Langdale Valley before a sharp climb to Stakes Pass.
You then descend through the rugged landscape to Black Moss Pot, a pool on Langstrath Beck where the water cascades into a small ravine.
With high rock walls and a deep pool to jump into, Black Moss Pot is a popular wild swimming spot in the summer months.
Upland terrain eventually gives way to farmland as you follow the course of Stonethwaite Beck to Rosthwaite.
You join the course of the River Derwent at the village and follow it downstream to Grange. You depart from the river before arriving on the shores of Derwentwater, a stunning lake surrounded by majestic upland scenery.
The trail then winds around Derwentwater—exploring tree-shaded bays that gaze onto the mirror-like waters—to Keswick.
Keswick has a good range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.
Isolated fells and far-reaching views await you on this challenging hike.
With 2,525 feet (770 meters) of ascent, this stage has the most climbing of any on the Way and will really test your mettle.
From Keswick, it is a short but sharp ascent to Latrigg. Despite being one of the lowest fells in the Lakes, the summit affords enchanting views over Keswick, Derwentwater, and down the Borrowdale valley.
The trail heads over Lonscale Fell and continues climbing through the lonely upland landscape to High Pike, which is known for its majestic changing moods of light and has excellent views over the Solway Firth and the Scottish Border hills.
Rough fells recede to lush farmland as you descend to the village of Caldbeck, where this stage finishes.
There is not much in Caldbeck but you will find a few options for accommodation and food and drink.
The final stage of the Cumbria Way is one long and gradual downhill; from wild fells to gentle farmland and finishing in the historic city of Carlisle.
Before leaving Caldbeck, it is worth paying a visit to St Kentigern’s, a pretty Grade I-listed church that is steeped in history.
You leave the village and follow the River Caldew through woodlands to Sebergham.
You emerge into farmland and continue along the Caldew, passing Buckabank and Dalston, all the way to Carlisle, where this stage and the Way finishes.
Close to the end of the trail you have two worthy attractions; Carlisle Cathedral, which was founded in 1122, and Carlisle Castle, which was founded in 1092 by William II and has endured more sieges than any other place in the British Isles.
Carlisle has a good range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.