When temperatures take a downward spiral, it’s tempting to send your walking boots to the back of the cupboard and spend the next few months hibernating in front of the fire.
It doesn’t make sense to let the weather stop you from engaging in a favourite pastime. Providing you bundle up to beat the chills, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t spend the winter exploring magical landscapes, when nature undergoes a wonderful transformation of ice and frost.
If you’re based in the UK, or you happen to be visiting during the winter, a fantastic choice of route is walking coast to coast. At a brisk pace, the 180 miles should take you around twelve days to complete (amazing, when you consider it would take five hours to fly across the USA) and takes you through some of the most stunning areas in Britain.
The route itself is unofficial and is largely unmarked by sigh posts. Traditionally, walkers begin on the west coast in the town of St Bees and head eastwards, taking in the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors. The route ends in Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea coast.
Though it’s possible to reverse the route, walking west to east keeps the wind against your back and makes walking easier.
A simple way of planning a route is to use something like the Sherpa Van trail planner. As well as providing a detailed map, these planners include details of overnight stops and points of interest along the way. At just £5, they’re an affordable tool that will make your hiking trip in England much easier to organise.
What to see
As well as the breath-taking scenery of the UK’s National Parks, there are plenty of things to see along the way.
Above the Yorkshire town of Kirkby Stephen, you’ll discover the unique Nine Standards Rigg. This unusual collection of stone cairns (tall columns of stone) marks the watershed of England; rivers flow westwards to the Irish Sea and east towards the North Sea.
The purpose of the columns remains unknown, although some historians suggest that they were constructed by the Roman army to look like soldiers from a distance. Others suggest that the stones mark a boundary between previously existing regions.
There’s something quintessentially British about an old-fashioned pub. Exploring this area of the UK brings you across quaint, charming taverns and country pubs, which are the perfect place to relax with a pint of traditional cloudy ale in front of a crackling log fire. The Independent has a great guide to the best 50 country pubs, so it’s worth checking this out to see if you can pop in for a half on your way.
What to take
The route may be challenging in places, especially during the ascent of the Pennines, but you won’t need to invest in any expensive equipment if you intend to walk coast to coast.
However, it’s a good idea to equip yourself with a decent pair of walking boots that are going to protect your feet and offer ankle support; this is especially important when you’re tackling hilly terrain. You’ll also need to invest in a winter walking coat etc. Brantano actually stock a pretty decent selection of Mountain Peak jackets and shoes if you haven’t yet got yourself sorted.
When embarking on a winter walk, it’s tempting to pile on layers and wrap yourself up in thick jumpers. You’ll feel warm at first, but as you clock up the miles your body temperature will increase and you’ll quickly start to feel hot, sweaty and uncomfortable. A good rule of thumb is to begin your walk feeling slightly chilly; after a mere 15 minutes of walking, you should start to feel a lot warmer.
Once you’ve completed this classic trail, you’ll be inspired to explore the UK further. Perhaps you’ll set your sights on accomplishing the iconic John O’Groats to Land’s End for your next challenge…