One of the many allures of the Coast to Coast cycling route is the diversity of landscapes to be enjoyed as you cross the country from West to East. The contrast between the compact, rugged fells of the Lake District and the broad, open moorland of the North Pennines is best appreciated as you pass between the two upland areas in the comparatively low-lying Eden Valley. Remember the word ‘comparatively’ – the area provides a respite before the challenging climbs ahead, but there are still plenty of ups and downs as you cross the valley towards the western flank of the Pennines.
The River Eden flows for around 80 miles from the edge of the Yorkshire Dales to the Solway Firth on the Scottish Border and is notable for being one of the few rivers in the UK that flows north, as well a haven for endangered wildlife such as the White Clawed Crayfish, Otters and Atlantic Salmon. The wide valley that flanks the River Eden covers a huge 850 square miles and the Coast to Coast route travels across this catchment for around 25 miles, giving you ample time to enjoy the scenery that’s sandwiched between England’s two highest mountain areas.
The Eden Valley is often overlooked due to the area’s proximity to the neighbouring and high profile Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks, but the area is undoubtedly a destination in its own right. Anyone who lives or visits Eden knows that the region is a real hidden gem with enough attractions, scenic beauty and cycling routes to rival anywhere in the country. This is a countryside adorned with distinctive red sandstone villages, market towns, ancient castles, stone circles and superb inns and cafés. And all of these are connected by a network of quiet country lanes that give you limitless options for rewarding cycling adventures. The Eden district is also England’s least densely inhabited region and we’re rightly proud of the fact that there’s plenty of room for everyone on our roads, without the inevitable traffic conflicts of busier regions.
On leaving the Lake District, the Coast to Coast route descends gradually from the idyllic village of Greystoke – with its grand (and still lived-in) castle and superb cycling café – passing through several villages en route to the market town of Penrith. Keep your eyes peeled on this section and you’ll notice the fractured remains of numerous ‘pele towers’ – fortified keeps and towers attached to dwellings that served as watchtowers and places of refuge from the attacking Scots and Border Reivers prior to the Treaty of Union.
Penrith is the usual – and very welcome – night stop at the end of the first days’ C2C ride. If you started your day in Whitehaven you will have ridden 53 miles to Penrith and thankfully there are plenty of refreshment and refuelling options for all tastes and budgets. As you leave Penrith on the first leg-testing climb of the second day you’ll ride around the side of Beacon Fell and it’s well worth stopping to look over your right shoulder. Weather permitting, the morning sun will light up the eastern and northern fells to give you one of the best and most extensive Lake District panoramas there is, including a unique view along Ullswater – generally regarded as England’s most beautiful lake.
Heading east, the C2C route crosses the River Eden on the record-breaking bailey bridge at Langwathby. The bridge was intended as a temporary fix, built in 1968 to replace the original sandstone bridge that was washed away in flooding that year. The fact that it is still there nearly 50 years later makes it the longest lasting temporary bridge in the country!
Shortly after Langwathby you’ll have the opportunity for a morning coffee in the distinctive Watermill Café at Little Salkeld. You’ll do well to miss it – the café and mill are housed in a bright pink building as you enter the village and it’s well worth a stop to refuel before the terrain changes over the next few miles. Just outside Little Salkeld, a short detour down a farm track on your left will bring you to one of the largest stone circles in the UK, known as Long Meg and her Daughters. It’s an atmospheric place in any weather and you won’t be disappointed even if you’re not a fan of mystical ruins.
The terrain increasingly undulates along this section of the C2C route, an indication of what’s to come as the North Pennines draw you towards their challenging western scarp slopes. You’re cycling through an area descriptively known as the ‘Fellside’ – an evergreen upland farming landscape that gradually gives way to the heather moorland at the tops of the Pennines. One of the iconic climbs of the entire C2C route – to the summit of Hartside Pass – starts from the fellside village of Renwick and this is where the Coast to Coast route adopts a distinctly different texture. Up, up and away!
If you want to experience the joys of cycling in the Eden Valley, as well as our Coast to Coast cycling trips Inspiring Cycling also organise tailor-made cycling holidays and we have a fleet of cycles for hire which allow you to experience the very best of cycling in the region. For more information on what the Eden Valley has to offer, visit the Eden Tourism website.