With the path decided on – and the direction of travel – it’s only a matter of deciding on an itinerary, booking the accommodation and getting rid of the belly – quite a simple set of tasks if you say them quickly. The first two are obviously the priority and then I have all winter and spring to achieve the third.
On an east to west crossing on the C2C, you head for the Lakes – the best bit many would say – and they come late in the walk, so you’re fairly fit by then and they can be appreciated all the more – rather than half killing you before you’ve got your walking legs on a west to east crossing. So I decided fairly early on that I wanted to make the most of the Lakes – spend four days taking my time and picking some of the lesser trodden paths between the villages.
I broke the route down into three main sections; the Lakes, the Eastern section and the Middle, which also included St. Bees; the final night.
Section 1 – The Lakes
I’ll be using Brigantes for baggage transfer (as usual) and so I am rather limited to the traditional C2C villages for my itinerary stops, but if I use Grasmere I can make the Lakes last four days instead of my previous three days on the last two crossings. So from Shap I’ll head for Patterdale, then Grasmere, then Stonethwaite and finally Ennerdale Bridge.
Shap is a no-brainer for accommodation, if Brookfield House is free take any room they have. The shed at the bottom of their garden would probably be better than many of the B&Bs along the route. Margaret is definitely the hostess with the most(est) fantastic philosophy – if she can make a guest feel at home she’s happy. The reception on arrival is second to none, home made pastries and cake, tea in the best china and not just dropped on a tray in front of you, but delivered hot from the oven, again and again until you’re fit to burst. So no decisions to made there.
Patterdale is a little more difficult, there are two or three really nice places to stay, but they mainly cater for couples or groups – solo walkers tend to have to pay a high price. Tex and I stayed at Glebe House in 2009 and that was pretty grim, elsewhere doubles for sole use are expensive, so I’m going for the White Lion and the little single room they have (the Angle Tarn room). At least then when it rains I’ll not have to get wet going out for dinner 🙂
Grasmere is a nightmare – it’s one of the honeypots of the Lakes and very upmarket – many would say it’s right up its own arse too, the result being that most places are expensive, even for a single room. Many places will only do B&B for two nights or more, which is not very walker friendly. The hotels and B&Bs in the village can charge pretty much what they like – they know they’ll fill their rooms without any problem. So I looked outside the village for a small single somewhere and settled on Chestnut Villa.
Stonethwaite is a must-do stop for me, the Langstrath is fantastic – I can’t rate it highly enough, it’s second only to Brookfield in C2C accommodation in my view. It isn’t cheap though and a single room is too much for me, so I decided to stay at Stonethwaite Farm B&B next door. Tex and I have stayed there before, when we did a weekend away a couple of years ago and it was fine. I get to eat in the Langstrath at least.
Finally Ennerdale Bridge and the fly-in-the-ointment booking for the Lakes section. The two pubs in the village are now owned by the same people/person and to suggest an accommodation cartel is now in operation in the village is not overstating the case. Both places want £55 for a single room. Two years ago I got a double en-suite for £30 in the Fox & Hounds.
Like so many places along the route though, they can now charge what they want – mostly thanks to the BBC and Julia Bradbury and the series of programmes covering Wainwrights walks and latterly the C2C. The result is a huge increase in the number of people walking the path and certain bottleneck locations like Ennerdale Bridge being able to take advantage of the demand – economics is a bitch isn’t it?!
So rather than be held to ransom I looked wider afield and settled for Cloggers B&B.
Section 2 – The Eastern End
With the four Lake District stops, out of a total of thirteen, pencilled in, I needed to concentrate on the eastern section from Robin Hood’s Bay and points westward.
There are dozens of nice little B&Bs in Robin Hood’s Bay and one or two grand-looking hotels as well. I was looking for something quiet, cheap and fairly close to the pubs in the village. I could have any two of these three it seemed and in the end my wallet ruled the decision and I have somewhere quiet and fairly close to the village, but at £40 for a single, it’s not what I’d call cheap. The Manning Tree is right on the C2C path, at the top of the hill.
From RHB I’m walking a relatively short way to Grosmont. I’ve never stopped here before, but it’s about half way between RHB and the Lion Inn and Blakey, which I loved last time and I wanted to stay there again. So I looked for accommodation in Grosmont. There isn’t much there really, considering it’s right on the C2C and it’s a bit of a hub for the steam train enthusiasts. I plumped for central and convenient and I’ve booked the Station Tavern. To say this place has mixed reviews is an understatement of the highest order, it seems to be the sort of place you either love or hate – sounds a bit like the Drover’s Arms on the West Highland Way – a place I absolutely detested. I have higher hopes for the Station Tavern.
The next stop is the Lion Inn at Blakey Ridge. Tex and I stayed here in 2009 and I loved the place, it has one of those fantastic atmospheres, warm log fire and superb selection of beers. I’d made my mind up to use this as a stop on this crossing and I’ve managed to secure a single – so I’m looking forward to this stop.
From Blakey Ridge the next logical – and pretty much the only – place to stop is Ingleby Cross, unless like me you prefer the bright lights and hustle and bustle of Osmotherley. Again, from my experience in 2009 I loved this quiet little village. It has three pubs and a gear shop! We had a great night in the Queen Catherine Hotel, talking and laughing with the Magnificent Eleven. I checked at the hotel and they have space for a single, so I’m in there. My fall-back had been the Blue Bell in Ingleby Cross, but it wasn’t needed.
So that’s my eastern itinerary pretty much sorted. It offers me two fairly short first days followed by two very long days, one of which has quite a lot of height gain as well, but it’s still an easier start to the walk than when you’re walking west to east.
A quick note on hostels and bunkhouses.
Hillplodder made a comment on my previous post about Youth Hostels. He makes a good point – they are much cheaper than B&Bs and certainly for places like Grasmere where there is a good supply of hostel beds, they are one way of saving a significant amount of money. However I’ve not had a great experience with Hostels, when I’ve been on my own. When you travel as a pair or a trio even, you have a good chance of getting a small 4 bunk room to yourself, whereas when you’re travelling alone there is almost no chance of this. In Once Brewed, along the Pennine Way this year I was sharing a very cramped and subsequently smelly room with three strangers, not to mention sharing the hostel with 60 screaming kids. It was nothing short of a nightmare and has cured me completely of the money-saving urge to visit a Hostel ever again. This is my holiday – I want to enjoy it – therefore I will save what money I can on the cost of a B&B, but booking a hostel is an absolute last resort from now on.
Section 3 – The Middle
With the Lakes planned and the eastern section sorted, I turn my attention to the middle bit and the final night.
From Osmotherly I had the choice to split what would normally be a 25 mile stage into two, with a night in Danby Wiske. However a brief pause for thought I decided I just wanted to get this section out of the way – it’s the least inspiring section of the whole walk and even at 25 miles it’s not especially arduous. I’m a veteran of the long final day of the Pennine Way now, so 25 miles and 900 feet is a doddle. Best to get it over and done with. As a result, my first stop in the middle section would be in Richmond.
After my atrocious behaviour in Willance House last time around (I set fire to my Paclite jacket by hanging it on one of the bedroom wall lights, which I then left on, despite signs asking me not to – and then compounded that by trying to hide the evidence of a very smelly and Paclite encrusted light bulb in the bin in the en-suite) I’ve sort of ruled myself out of one of the best B&Bs in the town – I couldn’t in all good faith go back and face the owners. So I needed to find somewhere else. The first two places I tried were full and a third was ridiculously expensive. I eventually chose the West End Guest House, which is a little way out of the village, but it is almost on my path for the following morning, so it works for me.
The next village along from Richmond, is my least favourite place on the route – Reeth. I don’t know why I don’t like the place, it’s something unconscious I think, too many people and not enough space perhaps. I wouldn’t stay in Walpardo again, it was too small and cramped, despite a great breakfast. I don’t like the Black Bull and two of the other B&Bs I tried were already full. I’ve enjoyed a couple of pints in the Buck Hotel before now, so I thought I’d give their rooms a try this time round. I have a single room for £45 and the knowledge that I’m only a hop, skip and step from the best bakery in the Dales – just down the street from it – so lunch for the next day is sorted.
From my least favourite place along the route, to one of my all time favourites – Keld. I’ve stayed in the village several times now and used it as the start of a walk dozens of times, I keep coming back to Keld and it’s still a lovely place. I’ve secured a “pod” room in Keld Lodge – which should be interesting – it sounds very small, but I know the standard of accommodation is very high in this newly refurbished hotel, so even if it’s small it should be comfortable. Keld Lodge also has the sort of bar area where you can’t help but chat to the other people – nearly all of whom will be walking the C2C – with maybe the odd Pennine Walker thrown in for fresh blood.
From Keld I have a short hop (bog hop) over the top to Kirkby Stephen. Both my first and second choice was full here. Fletcher House and Old Croft House have been fully booked for a while and my third choice, the Jolly Farmers had the whole house booked to one party! In the end I decided on paying a bit extra and staying central, rather than look for something cheaper further out. I’m in the Black Bull Hotel, where I would probably want to eat as well. Another place where I can walk to dinner in my socks! Grand.
And finally, flying over the Lakes section, we arrive at St. Bees. The decision to stay here, rather than walk in and straight out again was fairly easy. It means I can relax, have a shower, put clean clothes on and sit and watch the expectant faces of the C2Cers who will be setting out in the morning. I can bask in the warm, internal glow of knowing I’ve done the best walk in the UK – backwards! I’ve booked Outrigg House, which is just on the edge of the village and somewhere I’ve not stopped before. Fingers crossed.
So all the accommodation is booked – deposits are sent and confirmation letters are arriving each morning now. The total cost for accommodation has come to £520.50, making an average nightly cost of £37.18. The most expensive stay is at Grasmere of course (£55) and the least expensive is at the Lion Inn, only £22 for a single room there.
The Finalised Itinerary
1. Sunday June 12th – Robin Hood’s Bay to Grosmont
2. Monday June 13th – Grosmont to Blakey Ridge
3. Tuesday 14th June – Blakey Ridge to Osmotherley
4. Wednesday 15th June – Osmotherley to Richmond
5. Thursday 16th June – Richmond to Reeth
6. Friday 17th June – Reeth to Keld
7. Saturday 18th June – Keld to Kirkby Stephen
8. Sunday 19th June – Kirkby Stephen to Shap
9. Monday 20th June – Shap to Patterdale
10. Tuesday 21st June – Patterdale to Grasmere
11. Wednesday 22nd June – Grasmere to Stonethwaite
12. Thursday 23rd June – Stonethwaite to Ennerdale Bridge
13. Friday 24th June – Ennerdale Bridge to St. Bees
Accommodation has been sourced and booked at the following stops:
1. Robin Hood’s Bay – The Manning Tree
2. Grosmont – The Station Tavern
3. Blakey Ridge – The Lion Inn
4. Osmotherley – Queen Catherine Hotel
5. Richmond – West End Guest House
6. Reeth – The Buck Hotel
7. Keld – Keld Lodge
8. Kirkby Stephen – The Black Bull Hotel
9. Shap – Brookfield House
10. Patterdale – The White Lion
11. Grasmere – Chestnut Villa
12. Stonethwaite – Stonethwaite Farm
13. Ennerdale Bridge – The Cloggers
14. St. Bees – Outrigg House