- On 22 Feb 2019
The Sights of St Bees Head
Starting the famous Coast to Coast walk is an exciting and nerve-wracking experience. After all you are now faced with walking nearly 200 miles across beautiful but rugged countryside. Despite all your training and preparation, who really knows how your body (legs and feet in particular) will react to the daily toil as you embark from St Bees to Ennerdale?
But cast those nerves to one side and savour this moment. Think of all those who have stood here before you about to do the same. These include well-known figures such as: Julia Bradbury, Tony Robinson, Graham Gooch, and of course Alfred Wainwright himself.
St Bees to Ennerdale Bridge – The First Steps
Initially you have a nice problem to solve. Of the millions of pebbles on the beach, which one are you going to take? Do you go tiny and near weightless, but risk losing in your pocket? Or large and polished? Or maybe one with some rough edges? Maybe there’s a scientific survey that links your personality to your choice of pebble?
Then do you dip your toes in the water or not? A decision made easier if the tide is in.
St Bees Head is a red sandstone bluff that forms one of the most dramatic features along the entire coast of North West England. It is the most westerly point you will reach on the Coast to Coast. From this point onwards you’ll be walking towards the breathtaking Robin Hood’s Bay.
The undulating terrain of St Bees Head provides for ever-changing views. This includes a rather unexpected descent towards Fleswick Bay, a delightful hidden cove accessible only from the sea or through a narrow gorge, cut by a small stream. To the north of the beach is a cave, used by 19th-century smugglers to hide illegally-imported goods.
You will then pass St Bees Lighthouse, now fully automated and controlled by Trinity House Planning Centre in Essex. St Bees Fog Horn Station, next to the lighthouse, is another point of interest on the route. Although now decommissioned, for many years it provided an audible warning to ships as they approached the headland. The National Trust now manages the building and run popular Heritage Open Day visits during Summer months.
St Bees to Dent Fell
Soon after passing the Lighthouse and Fog Horn stations, you’ll head east still along the top of the cliff. As you set off, if the day is clear, you’ll see the Scottish coast of Dumfries and Galloway. You’ll also note that Whitehaven and its harbour is getting much closer. Keep an eye out: there’s one spot where many passers-by have etched their names or missives into the rock.
The C2C path then breaks away from the cliff top and heads inland for the first time by Sandwith Quarry. Although small now, this quarry is the origin of the distinctive red sandstone used to build Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral.
You’ll then drop underneath the railway line that runs along the coast from Carlisle to Lancaster via St Bees. You can savour a spell of flat walking through fields and then along what was an old railway line. This is now a shared cycleway (part of Sustrans National Cycle Network) and walkway.
Dent Fell to Ennerdale Bridge
After Cleator, you can’t miss what awaits you – Dent Fell, the first proper hill on the Coast to Coast. It can be a muddy climb through the forest but you’ll soon break out onto open fell with fantastic views in all directions. You should be able to trace the route you have already walked from St Bees. The coastline, the Isle of Man, Scafell Pike, many of the other Lake District peaks. You’ll also unavoidably see the Sellafield nuclear power station, a main source of employment for the whole area.
A big pile of stones marks the top of Dent Fell. This pile grows almost daily as it’s become a sort of memorial, a place of storing memories and keepsakes to loved ones.
Then you have the fun steep descent down to Nannycatch Beck. This is probably the steepest descent you’ll do on the whole walk. We have fun on this on our guided run!
This section along Nannycatch and beside Cold Fell can feel quite remote. This hidden beauty is only a few miles from the nearby towns. After this, you’ll drop into the Lake District National Park and into Ennerdale Bridge. Here, depending on your tastes, you may savour a refreshing drink in one of the two pubs or hot drink and tasty cake at the Gathering, the community café and hub.
You can now celebrate day 1 of the coast to coast route conquered, and 14 miles already knocked off!
Next: Ennerdale Bridge to Borrowdale