Explore Ancient Britain on one of the world's 10 best hikes—an epic adventure!
Absorb the astounding scope of England’s history on this memorable trek, voted one of the ten best long-distance hikes in the world. You’ll see Ancient Britain in all of its glory, from Druid standing stones and old Roman roads to Norman castles! MTS is the only North American adventure travel company to follow all 192 miles of the route of legendary hiker and guidebook author Alfred Wainwright, who originated the walk in the 1970s. We offer his original “West-to-East” route, with the wind at your back and a dedicated support team to help you through the ambitious mileage ahead. You won’t want to miss a single moment as you pass over the famous fells of the Lake District and through three national parks, verdant meadows, and storybook villages. Our adventure begins at the sea cliffs of St. Bees, on the Irish Sea, and finishes at Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea, with a little extra time along the way in the picturesque Lake District, which Lakeland’s favorite poet, William Wordsworth, once described as “the loveliest spot that man has ever known.”
14 days strenuous hiking on varied terrain, with some steep ascents
- Hike one of the ten best long-distance hikes in the world—on the bucket list of all serious hikers
- Trek with MTS, the only North American travel company to walk the 192-mile journey, West to East
- Enjoy the ease of a dedicated support team to help you along this ambitious journey, from optional van support to luggage brought directly to your room
- Spend 16 enchanted days traversing the ancient fells of the Lake District, three national parks, verdant meadows, and storybook villages
- Relax in cozy, family-run inns steeped in English country charm and end each day with a frosty pint of local brew
Duration: 16 days Start Location: Penrith, England End Location: York, EnglandDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Meet in Penrith and Transfer to Cleator/Ennerdale Bridge
Rendezvous in Penrith, England, and transfer to Cleator/Ennerdale Bridge, a small town in the English county of Cumbria.
Day 2 : Hike from St. Bees to Ennerdale Bridge
After a short transfer, we'll begin our long-distance hike in traditional style, by dipping at least a toe in the Irish Sea, by the sea wall at St. Bees! The walk continues four miles along the sandstone cliffs of St. Bees Head, where puffins, kittiwakes, and guillemots can sometimes be seen. Turning inland, we pass through a former coal and iron ore industrial area before reaching the small village of Cleator, with its well-kept cricket ground. The mountain panorama of the Lakeland fells begins to open up, with views across to the Scafell Massif, at 3,208 feet England’s highest range, only 11 miles away. We’ll end today’s hike at our hotel in the unspoiled little Lakeland village of Ennerdale Bridge. (14 miles; 1,900 feet of ascent.)
Day 3 : Hike from Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite
A day of lakeshore, forest, and mountainside, beginning with a splendid ramble along the southern shore of Ennerdale Water, Lakeland’s most easterly lake. Following are enticing place names like Black Sail Hut and Moses Trod, as we ascend into the Lake District proper. The day ends after descending from Honister Pass (1,163') to Borrowdale, considered by many to be one of the most beautiful valleys in the Lake District. (14½ miles; 1,800 feet of ascent.)
Day 4 : Hike from Rosthwaite to Grasmere
The day begins with a gentle walk along Stonethwaite Beck, a mountain stream running along the dominating profile of Eagle Crag, before pulling up to the 2,000-foot pass of Greenup Edge. From here, the view is filled by the immense switchback of the Helvellyn range, Lakeland’s second highest range of mountains. A short descent is followed by an ascent to Helm Crag (1,328'), then another descent to the Vale of Grasmere. (9 miles; 2,200 feet of ascent.)
Day 5 : Hike from Grasmere to Patterdale
Another relatively short day gives us time to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding lakes and fells of the Lake District. In the morning, we'll visit the Wordsworths House and Dove Cottage before setting off on our walk. Today' we’ll climb up from Grasmere over Grisdale Hause (1,936'), offering splendid views over Grisdale Tarn toward the foreboding ridge walk of Striding Ridge leading to the Hellvelyn summit. We descend to the picturesque Patterdale Valley, dominated by the enchanting reflections of Lake Ullswater, Lakeland’s second largest lake. Dinner tonight is at the Inn on the Lake. (8½ miles; 1,800 feet of ascent.)
Day 6 : Hike from Patterdale to Shap
Our last day in the Lake District reaches up to the highest point of our coast-to-coast journey. Leaving the Patterdale Valley and waters of Lake Ullswater, we ascend to the old Roman road of High Street. High Street was the Romans’ highest road in the country, reaching 2,700 feet, and links the fort at Brougham, near Penrith, with Ambleside on the shores of Lake Windermere. The impressive massif of High Street takes its name from this ancient route.
We cross the old Roman road and continue up to Kidsty Pike, at 2,558 feet the highest point of our walk. Descend to Haweswater, where we walk about four miles along the lakeshore before heading off to today’s destination of Shap, a village best known for the ruins of its 12th-century abbey. (16 miles; 2,800 feet of ascent.)
Day 7 : Hike from Shap to Ravenstonedale
Having now left the lakes and fells of the Lake District, we cross a limestone plateau interspersed with ancient stone circles, burial mounds, and prehistoric settlements. Passing through the charming Westmoreland village of Orton, with its old houses, chapels, and roadside stream, we reach Gamelands stone circle. This ancient circle originally contained over 40 granite boulders and is 130 feet in diameter. We then pass by Sunbiggin Tarn on our way to Smardale with its 16th-century deer park. We continue to Ravenstonedale, a delightful quintessential English village, where our accommodation is by the stream. (16 miles; 1,200 feet of ascent.)
Day 8 : Hike from Ravenstonedale to Keld
Passing by the intriguing Giants Graves and the Eden Valley, we now head for the Pennine Chain, a ridge of mountains and hills that form a backbone down the length of England. The town of Kirkby Stephen, sitting along our route, has a market charter dating back to 1351! Now it’s on to Nine Standards Rigg, at 2,171 feet our highest point of crossing the Pennines, before descending into the scenic Yorkshire Dales National Park. This national park is characterized by its sheep-populated, rolling green hills, with little stone built villages nestling by streams on the valley floors. Its limestone features and dry stone walls give it a picture book appeal.
Our destination is Keld, in Swaledale, in the heart of the national park, and there are lovely waterfalls (known as “force”) to be seen along the river Swale as we approach the village. Note—For those wishing to walk only the 6 miles to Kirkby Stephen, a taxi or minibus will be available to transfer you to Keld (cost not included). (18 miles; 2,300 feet of ascent.)
Day 9 : Hike from Keld to Reeth
On our journey across the Dales we first follow the river Swale through flowery meadows and enchanting stone villages as it descends into Swaledale proper. After lunch, we ascend to the old lead mining areas overlooking this beautiful valley, among them the intriguingly named “Surrender bridge.” Our destination is Reeth, the proud capital of Swaledale. Its inns and shops are a popular haunt for locals and tourists alike, and it even boasts a little folk museum. Many consider this the most picturesque day of the hike. (11 miles; 1,800 feet of ascent.)
Day 10 : Hike from Reeth to Richmond
Today is easier as we continue through Swaledale to Richmond, passing an old priory, a couple of lovely villages, limestone geological features, and leafy streams. Richmond is a town steeped in history and dominated by the 11th-century Norman castle, with its imposing 12th-century keep. It’s an impressive sight towering over the town, which itself has 14th-century churches and a cobbled market place. The restored Georgian theater dating from 1788 may offer the chance to catch a play while we are here. (11 miles; 900 feet of ascent.)
Day 11 : Hike from Richmond to Danby Wiske
Only 200 feet of ascent today—a real contrast to the fells of the Lake District and the Pennines! Following the river Swale, we pass near the substantial ruins of Easby Abbey, which was founded in 1152 for a group of white canons of the Premonstratensions order, and was occupied until Henry VIII abolished the abbeys and monasteries in the 16th century.
Passing through the villages of Colburn and Catterick Bridge (once the home of a Roman garrison and now a modern garrison town, with a well known horse racecourse nearby), we reach the charming small village of Bolton on Swale. Here, in the village churchyard, is a memorial to Henry Jenkins, said to have been born in 1500, and died 169 years later! Perhaps a pint in the local pub will help to mull over this, before heading off to complete our day at Danby Wiske. (14 miles; 200 feet of ascent.)
Day 12 : Hike from Danby Wiske to Osmotherley
It’s off to the hills again, as we leave Swaledale and the rolling green hills of the Yorkshire Dales, and head toward the bleaker landscapes of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park. After passing through Ingleby Cross, we visit the interesting remains of Mount Grace Priory. These are 14th-century Carthusian remains now owned by the National Trust and administered by English Heritage. Here, wealthy monks gave money to the order to purchase their very comfortable houses and have their needs taken care of. Mostly a silent order, they worked transcribing colorful biblical texts. The rows of monks’ cells are still visible.
Today, by way of contrast, we pass through the flat and arable farmlands of the Swaledale plain. Our destination of Osmotherley is a charming and typical small English village. (13 miles; 500 feet of ascent.)
Day 13 : Hike from Osmotherley to Blakey
We are in for a real roller coaster of a day along the Cleveland Hills, where ascent is followed by descent as we make our way through the sometimes bleak, often dramatic North Yorkshire Moors National Park for the last part of our journey. After an early start, we pass through Arncliffe Wood and ascend to the escarpment for dramatic views over the flat Swaledale plain, before reaching Carlton Bank where a hidden café offers a mid morning warm snack (a distance of about 7 miles). We then pass through Cringle End and Cold Moor before reaching the crags and boulders of the Wainstones and the scarp cliffs of Hasty Bank. (19 miles; 2,900 feet of ascent.)
Day 14 : Hike from Blakey to Grosmont
A mostly downhill day as we descend to Great Fryup Head, where track ponies would earlier have carried coal from the pits scattered in the area, and on through the bracken of Glaisdale High Moor to the valley of Glaisdale and the river Esk. Glaisdale was a part of the iron ore boom of the 19th century, with three blast furnaces and a railroad nearby.
Nearby Beggars Bridge is a work of art. Its graceful arches above the river Esk date from the early 1600s, when it was used in the times of the packhorse. The path on goes through East Arncliffe Wood, and follows a centuries-old trade route through Eskdale and on to our day’s destination of Grosmont, in the Esk valley. (13¾ miles; 400 feet of ascent.)
Day 15 : Hike from Grosmont to Robin Hood’s Bay - The End!
We can almost smell the North Sea now, but there is still a good day’s hike ahead, as we leave the Esk Valley and head up over Sleights Moor and the Graystone Hills. The little hamlet of Littlebeck will have you reaching for your camera, while a pleasant walk through the wooded slopes of Great Wood along May Beck spurs thoughts of reaching our destination. The interesting man-made features of the “hermitage,” hewn from solid rock, contrast nicely with nature’s answer at Falling Foss, a wooded waterfall.
And then it’s on to a final three-mile cliff-top walk before reaching Robin Hood’s Bay, itself a picturesque little fishing village with narrow alleys and 400-year-old houses. Finally to the North Sea, and a very welcome ritual: bathing of the feet as we reflect on a great journey. (15 miles; 1,700 feet of ascent.)
Day 16 : Transfer to York - Departure
Transfer to the rail station in York for onward destinations.
DATES: Best time to go: July - September Departures: Jul 9 - 24, 2014 Aug 13 - 28, 2014 Sep 10 - 25, 2014
The Victoria HotelRobin Hood's Bay
Boasting stunning cliff-top views over Robin Hood’s Bay, this grand, Victorian hotel is on the edge of the North York Moors. It offers homemade food, rooms with Egyptian cotton bedding, and a sea view tea room. Light and elegant, the rooms all provide a flat-screen TV, free Wi-Fi, and free tea and coffee for guests to relax with. Every bedroom has a private bathroom with free toiletries and a hairdryer. Using local Yorkshire ingredients, the Sea View Restaurant serves hearty cooked breakfasts, and local cuisine in the evening. During the day, it doubles as a coffee shop and tea room with fantastic sea views. The bar provides real ales and a cliff top beer garden. Guests can enjoy the dramatic scenery of the nearby North York Moors or drive along the Yorkshire Heritage Coast.
The Lion InnBlakey Ridge, Kirkbymoorside, North Yorkshire
This 16th-century freehouse has been owned and operated by the Crossland family since 1980. Open fires burn all day and evening in ancient fireplaces, and original low-beamed ceilings add to the inn's authentic atmosphere. The bar is well-known for its selection of quality real ales, and the inn boasts 3 candlelit á la carte restaurants.
The Black SwanRavenstonedale
Classic Cumbrian hospitality greets you at this family-owned village inn situated just outside the conservation village of Ravenstonedale. The breakfasts are hearty, the beds particularly comfortable. The inn also serves as the village pub, and the selection of real ales— including the notable Black Sheep bitter—is plentiful.
The Inn on the LakeGlenridding
A stately inn offering generous amenities on 15 acres of green gardens on Lake Ullswater's shore. Meticulously renovated rooms showcase stunning views of either Ullswater or the Helvellyn Mountains.
The Buck HotelReeth
A former coaching inn offering a a generous selection of Yorkshire Cask Ales, a renowned Sunday carvery, and friendly, communal character. The Buck Hotel rests in the center of Reeth - its spacious rooms overlook the town's main square.
The King’s Head HotelRichmond
A warm, classy townhouse inn with generous rooms facing the market place. Modern amenities meet timeless Georgian architecture in the individual suites as in the spacious front rooms - including the ballroom, where Franz Liszt once gave a piano recital.
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way.
Mr. Ben Walker makes his home in England’s Lake District, but has spent much of his life travelling and leading groups in wild and remote corners of the world, including Borneo, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina. He regularly guides overland trekking trips; as well as walking and epic cycling journeys across Asia from Borneo to Beijing, and to Kathmandu. He has also spent time in the Merchant Navy, and has worked as a scuba diving instructor.