There are at least five waymarked coast to coast cycling routes in the north of England, but the best known is the C2C or ‘Classsic Coast to Coast’. The 140-mile C2C route between Whitehaven/Workington and Tynemouth/Sunderland was established in 1994 and has gradually become the most popular long distance cycle route in the UK, with up to 15,000 cyclists each year completing the journey from Irish Sea to North Sea.
There are many reasons to want to ride the C2C, but a few common themes crop up among those who have completed the ride and what follows is a series of posts to share what we think are the main attractions on this unique cycling journey across the roof of England.
The Lake District
If you cycle the Coast to Coast in the recommended direction – west to east – you’re in for a treat just a few miles into the ride. After an unassuming start that gets you out of Whitehaven and onto the refurbished Whitehaven to Rowrah railway line, the vista that gradually unfolds before you is one of the finest rural landscapes in the UK.
The scenic beauty of the Lake District defies simple explanation, but the way the natural upland landscape blends with the man-made features is unique in the UK. In a nutshell, this is a landscape that can be foreboding, uplifting and welcoming all within one visual sweep and nowhere else is this juxtaposition as easy on the eye
The Lake District is traditionally regarded as a venue for walking and climbing, but the breathtaking landscape is just as enjoyable by bike. Being criss-crossed by a network of quiet country lanes and bridleways, the region allows cyclists to explore the very best of the England’s finest national park without competing with busy traffic. The C2C route in the the Lake District makes the most of these quiet country lanes, generally keeping to the valley sides but occasionally rising up to pass from one valley to another to give you a better view of your surroundings.
As the route winds its way from West to East, you’re rewarded with constantly changing views of every landscape type that gives the region its distinct identity. The first lake you’ll see as you enter the ‘foothills’ of the Lake District is Ennerdale Water – just a brief glimpse on your right hand side. Weather permitting, the line of the lake will draw your eye towards the region’s highest mountains including Scafell Pike itself – England’s highest. The route then snakes onwards and upwards – past Loweswater and into Lorton Vale for the start of the first notable climb of the C2C route: Whinlatter Pass. The ascent is short and steep in a couple of places, but otherwise winds gently towards the summit where there is a visitor centre and a great cafe among the trees of England’s highest mountain forest. The descent from Whinlatter rewards you with a wonderful view over Bassenthwaite Lake, with the Skiddaw massif behind.
Some gentler riding follows as you meander your way into the Newlands Valley and through a couple of hamlets and farmsteads before the relative bustle of Keswick. If you ride the C2C over three days you’ll pass through the Lakes District in your first day and there’s not much time available for sightseeing other than from the bike. If you give yourself longer, however, you can afford to stop off and perhaps even spend the night in Keswick or one of the surrounding villages. However long you’re planning to take, Keswick is the ideal place to stop off and refuel in one of its fine cafes or pubs.
After Keswick the route starts to undulate once more in order to keep to the quiet lanes. A steep pull out of the outskirts of the town is well worth it for the chance to stop off at Castlerigg Stone Circle and enjoy the 360º mountain panorama, with the bulky Blencathra dominating the skyline to the north. The steep climbs are now behind you for this leg of the C2C as the route heads eastwards towards the rolling countryside that bounds the next distinct region on the C2C – The Eden Valley. However, there are plenty of opportunities to look over your shoulder and admire the mountainous terrain that you have just passed through. There are more hills to come on the C2C – and more unique English countryside – but there’s nowhere quite like the Lake District.
If you want to experience the joys of cycling in the Lake District, as well as our Coast to Coast cycling trips Inspiring Cycling also organize tailor-made cycling holidays which allow you to experience the very best of cycling in the region.