The Walking Trails of the Literary Greats

Article | Issue: Oct 2023

Greatest Walks of the World includes 200 incredible hikes of a lifetime. You can explore the world’s best walks: chart the routes, read details only a local would know, and see these epic destinations for yourself. Discover where to walk next, with notes on what to research before you travel, beautiful colour photographs of highlights along the way, and enough information to allow you to make an informed decision about the right walk for you. With a variety of completion times and terrains to choose from, you are sure to find your next breathtaking adventure.

In this extract we join the walking trails of the literary greats in the UK as we walk coast to coast.

The Coast to Coast Trail

Northern England, UK

15–18 days


192 miles (308 km)

Ordnance Survey Explorer
Series (9 maps)

Saint Bees/Robin Hood’s Bay

Trail Markings
Varied (signs, cairns)

Wander in the footsteps of literary greats along this epic cross-country trail.

Walking England’s epic Coast to Coast Trail is not just a journey through the best scenery northern England has to offer. And it’s not just a seriously inspiring challenge that will provide tales of adventure for years to come. It’s also a journey through English literary history. The hills and dales of this corner of the British Isles inspired the prose of 19th century poet laureate William Wordsworth when he jotted down the eternal words, ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’. And if it weren’t for the gentle charms of the Lake District – through which this trail wends – then perhaps Beatrix Potter would never have conjured up Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle-Duck, and all those other childhood favourites.

Meanwhile, farther east along the trail, it was the Yorkshire Dales that inspired the James Herriot books about life as a farm veterinarian, and even Bram Stoker found his vision for Dracula among the region’s mist-hidden winter hilltops. But if there’s one literary figure we can thank for the Coast to Coast Trail, it’s Alfred Wainwright. Not officially a novelist or a poet, Wainwright was a keen hill walker and a prolific writer of hiking guidebooks. It was Wainwright’s passion for the trails that lace through the Lake District and Yorkshire that led to him creating the Coast to Coast Trail and writing the very first guidebook to the route. In fact, so important was Wainwright to the trail that the Coast to Coast is often known as Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Trail.


The Route

As the name suggests, this trail spans the width of northern England. Although you can walk it in either direction, most people walk from west to east, the reason being that when the area’s notoriously bad weather hits (and it almost certainly will, even in high summer), you will be walking with your back to the rain.

For most people then, the walk begins from the russet sands and cliffs of Saint Bees, a small coastal village facing the Irish Sea. After a day or two of gentle meandering away from the coastal lowlands, you reach the Lake District. One of England’s most beloved landscapes, this is scenically the most impressive part of the walk with the trail hauling up and down numerous mountain ridges, skipping  long lake shores, and pausing in some of the most picturesque villages in the country.

After several strenuous but rewarding days, the landscape suddenly changes as you enter the North York Moors National Park. Here the hills are rounded, and wind and drizzle streaks over haunted moorlands. Then, subtly, the land mellows, and the trail wends along valley floors checked with fields grazed by countless sheep and dotted with occasional villages. And then, before you know it, the land tilts downward and the North Sea tantalizes as you stride into the seaside village of Robin Hood’s Bay.

Greatest Walks of the World Image 3 Coast to Coast


  1. Borrowdale Valley
Greatest Walks of the World Image 1 Coast to Coast

Quiet,Lane, Rosthwaite, Village, Cumbria, England

Longthwaite, Rosthwaite, and Stonethwaite: with their slate roofed cottages and spring flowers in the gardens, a stout little church, and superb country pubs, these three tiny villages in the Lake District’s Borrowdale Valley fulfill every English village cliché.

  1. Grasmere

Grasmere’s most famous former resident, William Wordsworth, found the surrounding countryside so inspiring that he once described it as “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found.” Visit Dove Cottage, Wordsworth’s former home (now a museum), pay your respects at his grave next to the village church, and stop to buy a treat at the renowned Gingerbread Shop.

  1. Grasmere to Patterdale via the Saint Sunday Route

Deciding which is the best single stage of the Coast to Coast Trail is a surefire way of starting a debate, but our blistered feet reckon that the Grasmere to Patterdale trail offers the finest views

and most variety, and this is especially the case if you take the alternative Saint Sunday Route, which takes you to a lofty vantage point (2,759 feet; 841 m) for views across half the Lake District.

  1. The Nine Standards

The Nine Standards are great piles of stones standing like oversize walkers’ cairns on the top of the bleak Pennines moorlands. We’d be lying if we called it a beautiful spot – and most days the weather is so bad you can’t see much anyway —but it’s certainly a desolate, cold, and mysterious place. Careful navigation is needed around here.

  1. Richmond

Located almost exactly halfway along the Coast to Coast route, the thousand year- old market town of Richmond is one of the urban highlights of northern England. The town centres on the ruins of its Norman castle, while the nearby Georgian Theatre Royal is the oldest (and certainly one of the most beautiful) working theaters in the British Isles.

  1. Little Neck Wood

There’s an unexpected final surprise close to the end of the walk. The 65-acre (26 ha) Littlebeck Wood is crowded with grand old oak trees, and in spring the forest floor turns a fairy blue as thousands of bluebells burst into flower.

  1. Robbin Hood’s Bay

Tucked into a small coastal nook, Robin Hood’s Bay couldn’t be a nicer place to finish the Coast to Coast walk. On arrival, don’t forget to sign the accomplishment book in the Wainwright’s Bar at the Bay Hotel pub, then walk to the sea, dip your feet into the icy water, and treat yourself to an ice cream or fish and chips.



Stuart Greatest Walks of the WorldBased at the foot of the French Pyrenees mountains, Stuart Butler is an avid hiker who has taken to trails all across the world. He is the author of numerous hiking guidebooks covering destinations as diverse as the Himalayas, England, Sri Lanka, the Ethiopian highlands, the Balkans, Scandinavia and, of course, his beloved Pyrenees among others. Stuart also writes travel guidebooks for Lonely Planet, Rough Guide and Bradt and is a regular contributor to many international newspapers and magazines for whom he writes about hiking, wildlife, and conservation issues. Stuart is also an award-winning photographer.

Visit Stuart Butler’s website

Mary Greatest Walks in the World
Mary Caperton Morton is a science and travel writer based in southwest Montana. She is the author of The World’s Best National Parks in 500 Walks (Thunder Bay Press) and Aerial Geology (Timber Press) and has written for EARTH and EOS magazines. Mary documents her travels in her popular hiking blog ‘Travels with the Blonde Coyote’. In her 15 years as a North American road-warrior nomad, Mary has hiked in all 50 states and visited over 200 national parks. When she’s not writing, Mary can be found climbing mountains, hiking, skiing, and taking photographs.

Visit Mary Caperton Morton’s website

Author: Stuart Butler Mary Caperton Morton


Book Format: Hardback

Publisher: Exisle Publishing

ISBN: 9781922539779

RRP: $49.99

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