Coast to Coast
There are variations of the C2C route; we chose to start at Whitehaven and finish in Tynemouth. You could start in Whitehaven and/or finish in Sunderland. With the prevailing westerly winds, most people do it from west to east but no doubt some will do otherwise.
All credit to Sustrans for devising the route - more details can be found on their website; in particular, the detailed map of the route, with notes, is indispensable. Credit is due, also, to those councils who had the foresight to appreciate that rail tracks - even when closure if forced on them - are, in fact, an asset and without which, many of these cycle routes would not be feasible.
We did the trip with a group of schoolchildren and decided to take a leisurely five days over it, but there is no doubt that it can be done comfortably in less time than this. To some extent, it may depend on what accommodation you're using, whether you have transport for luggage/bikes and so on. We were camping and, as yet, facilities en route are a tad on the sparse side. No doubt they will improve.
Day 1: Whitehaven to Portinscale
Left Whitehaven in the rain and managed to find the Whitehaven to Ennerdale Railway Path which is followed to Rowrah. From here the route takes us through Kirkland and on to Lamplugh. There's a long descent to Loweswater. Low Lorton has a small post office/shop if you need to fortify yourself for the long climb up Whinlatter Pass.
In fact the climb is less intimidating than I'd thought but there's no doubt that a following wind is welcome. We stuck to the road but there is an alternative track through the woods if you prefer. The Visitor Centre at the top is well worth looking at, if only to pause and get your breath back.
All downhill now. The campsite at Braithwaite is a good one and is open pretty well all year round, as far as I'm aware. The pub in the village does bar meals.
Day 2: Portinscale to Langwathby
The day starts with an absolute downpour. There are ducks paddling round the tents.
The route through Keswick isn't too clear, plus there's an innordinate amount of traffic. We make a blunder and take the route that goes up to the Castlerigg stone circle. The key word here is 'up'. It is relentless. It's also somewhat pointless unless you particularly want to see the stone circle because as soon as you get there, it's just a steep road back downhill. Much better, we think, to take the alternative route out of Keswick along an old railway path to Threlkeld.
The way meanders one side or the other of the main A66 before heading away from it altogether. The village of Greystoke is worth pausing at; there's a small shop and decent pub.
Onwards to pass under the M6 on a good track and make your way into Penrith. Langwathby is a further 5 miles and takes your total to 60 for the two days. Campsites are scarce. We had transport and ferried the group to Alston. It has to be said, though, that the campsite here really isn't up to much - a pity since Alston itself is OK.
Day 3: Langwathby to Nenthead
This was always going to be the tough one. The Pennines rise up ahead of you. The first problem is the climb up to Hartside at 580m. Off-road sections are available, but with a strong westerly, the opportunity to tune into some opera on the Walkman, put the head down and just go for it was too good to be missed. So far, so good.
From the cafe at the top, a breeze of a run down for several miles followed by some ups and downs before reaching Garrigill - small village, pub. The route from here to Nenthead gives you a choice. Most seem to go for the longer route on the track; quite rough in parts. We opted for the road and wished we hadn't. One of the fiercest and most relentless climbs I've come across for some years. To add insult to injury, you have to brake hard virtually all the way down into Nenthead.
We finish the day by climbing a couple of miles out of Nenthead up to the highest point on the C2C at 609m. Ferried back to camp in Alston again.
Day 4: Nenthead to Consett
From 609m the views all around are extensive and fairly bleak but typical of the area. Allenheads is downhill then up and down again. A steep haul out of here to emerge from the trees before a long run down to Rookhope. From here it's uphill then across open moorland to join the Waskerley Way, a cycle/walking route along an old railway. You're passing the 100 mile mark now and coasting down towards Consett, a former steelmaking town. The campsite at Castleside has all facilities and is to be recommended - Tourist Information at Beamish have their phone number. The campsite is close to a river - anti-midge spray is optional but advised...;-)
Day 5: Consett to Tynemouth
Lydgett's Juntion, marked by a large smelting wagon, is the parting of the ways. Tynemouth follows the Derwent Walk while Sunderland goes off down the Consett and Sunderland Railway Path. Once over Berry Edge and the A694 we're on an old rail track which goes gently downhill for about 10 miles to Blaydon, a super run.
As Newcastle looms large, it's tempting to think that you've virtually finished but there's still a fair way to go. Some parts are better signed than others and it's fair to say that some changes/improvements to the route are being made. In Jarrow and North Shields they're now building expensive flats where once they built ships. A sign of the times.