A good friend and I did the Cumberland Way over Easter. It was absolutely brilliant and I can’t recommend it enough.
The route runs West to East across the park and gives you a tour of some of the lesser travelled parts of the Lake District. Its a little more remote in feel, and slightly tougher, than the Cumbria Way which runs South to North.
We decided to travel the first 45 miles or so, from Ravenglass to Dockray, cutting out the section outside of the park.
Emma and I began our journey at Kings Cross with a three-train mission up to the small town of Ravensglass. We passed through Carnforth which had a cute little bar and we decided to have a gin and tonic. We were on holiday after all. We then hopped on a small local train that took us along the coastline and into Ravensglass.
Ravensglass is a really pretty little village on an estuary. We dropped our bags at the hotel and headed for a local ale at a pub looking out across the water. We ended up eating here too; scampi and chips, yum.
The next morning we set out at 9am into glorious sunshine. I was very tempted to post home my waterproofs, gloves and a layer or two and on reflection wish I had!
The morning was spent meandering through farmland and along a river where we stopped for the first of many paddles and our lunch. The avocado I’d optimistically packed in London had not survived the journey, but everything else was looking – and tasting – good.
Come the early afternoon we could see the mountains in the distance and I started to get quite excited.
We stopped for a quick half at a sweet pub in Nether Wasdale before deciding to skip the nearby campsite and give wild camping a go.
I took us on a bit of a detour up into the Fell above Wasdale with the intention of camping by one of two small clusters of tiny lakes that I’d seen on the map. It was a little disconcerting to come across the first one and see that they were bone dry. Somewhat nervous about what I’d got us in for I was very relieved a mile or so later to see a couple of little lakes shimmering in the distance – wahoo!
We headed towards them and set up camp for the evening.
I’d planned to have a quick wash in the lake, but it was such a sunny evening and the water was so warm that I got in butt naked for a swim and Emma joined me shortly after. Given it was after 7pm and we were pretty high up I felt sure that no one would see us. But about 15 minutes after we’d gotten out of the water a guy walked past with his dog. Close call!
Dinner that night was brilliant and I was so happy to be wild camping again. The first time since Colorado last Summer and my first time ever in the U.K. It felt particularly special to be doing something so awesome close to home. And I enjoyed leaving the tent at night to pee and not being scared about bears.
I woke up really early on day two and sat enjoying the beautiful views and a cup of coffee by myself. It was another glorious day and I couldn’t believe our good luck.
We had breakfast and set out on our merry way, stopping to wish people ‘Happy Easter’ (it was actually Easter Sunday, we’re not totally mental). Emma was rocking a strong look that day which we dubbed ‘French exchange student’. She has banned me from sharing the pictures unfortunately.
The route took us down into Wasdale and we decided to take an early break at a pub in the village. There we got chatting to a handsome man with a northern accent, which made me even more happy than the Cadbury’s mini eggs that Emma had secretly packed.
I had anticipated having to plan a couple more detours to keep us away from roads, but after lunch the route took us up to Black Sail pass.
It was stunning and the walk back down to the valley was just as beautiful. We stopped for an early afternoon swim in a stream under a bridge. Nearby is the awesome looking Black Sail Hostel and I made a mental note to return there one day soon.
The next portion of the route included another climb and became quite alpine in feel. It may have been the unusually hot weather, but the smells and the views reminded me of parts of the Colorado Trail, which I really wouldn’t expect of the Lake District!
The final descent brings you alongside Buttermere Fell, which looked beautiful in the late afternoon light. I had originally hoped that we could wild camp near the lake, but on this day leant a major Lake District wild camping lesson; the big lakes just aren’t the way to go (or at least not the ones that we passed).
There wasn’t anywhere that I felt was quite secluded enough to be safe or hassle free, and the couple of sites that were borderline ok were covered in litter. Next time I’d stay high on the Fell and aim for somewhere near Haystacks.
It felt like a bit of a bummer to admit defeat, but we continued on to a campsite nearby. This actually turned out to be not a bad option at all. It was pretty small, but scenic, and had plenty of space for out tents. We polished off another mini wine and had a welcome shower.
Day three was possibly my favourite day scenery wise. You begin with a bit of a climb and then stay just below the peaks for the duration of your time winding through the valley. We had another really gorgeous day which I couldn’t really get my head around. You always expect at least some rain in the Lakes!
We enjoyed plodding along and I was accompanied by my Paul Simon playlist. We passed a couple of trail runners along the way, and got chatting to one who was doing a 16 mile loop. I decided I’d come back soon and give that a go myself.
We stopped for what had now become our customary swim and lunch break. It was just so hot and there was very little shade. But I really enjoyed being out in what felt like the middle of nowhere, surrounded by the mountains.
I know I’m forgetting the sheer grandeur and scale of Colorado, but again it reminded me of the Continental Divide Trail, particularly the five miles to the start of Hope Pass. It was beautiful.
In the afternoon the route took us alongside Derwent Water and towards Keswick. It had been my original – probably slightly ambitious plan – for us to take a detour up towards Skiddaw and wild camp somewhere off the Cumbria Way. Understandably, given it was her first backpacking trip, Emma was feeling a bit knackered, so we decided to head to a campsite just outside of Keswick.
It was such a great site, high up on the hill overlooking the town. We had a lovely relaxed evening, drinking the last of the mini wines and sampling the Fireball aka the best drink of all time.
We even bought some eggs from the campsite shop and boiled them in my jet boil, which was a first. I also enjoyed reading my book, Born to Run. Since signing up for a trail marathon I’ve become slightly obsessed with all things trail running, particularly in America. It was a great companion for this trip.
I woke up really early and half asleep looked up towards the back of the field. I was momentarily confused about what the hell the big yellow ball was, before realising it was the sun! I chucked on my jacket and headed up to the gate for a prime time view of a beautiful sunrise. I even woke Emma up after a while to have a look. Which I think she was ok with haha.
We packed up for our last day and were both really happy to have such light bags. Wahoo! The final morning wasn’t the most exciting scenery wise, although you do pass the Castlerigh Stone Circle which is actually really cool. Kate Bush vibes.
After a few miles you end up on an old cart track which takes you all the way to Dockray – our planned end point. It was a bit boring and I thought that we were in too beautiful a part of the world to be disappointed by the scenery, so started looking for options for a detour.
The options were pretty limited, aside from a slightly mad up and back, that would take us in a V shape up to the ridge and back down into Dockray. But YOLO 😝 Emma gamely decided to join me and we headed up along what was supposed to be a path. We followed the stream up to top where I realised that oops yes we were headed up to the summit, not the ridge – sorry Emma! The trail petered out and we had to cross the river and go cross country to meet up with the trail on the top of the ridge.
We made our way up to Great Dodd and were astounded by the views. It was amazing! We had a great chat with a few other people on the summit.
It was here that we were supposed to head back down, almost the way we’d come, towards Dockray. However, we followed the only path that I could see and continued on our merry way towards Watson’s Dodd. The views were cracking and I forgot to check our bearings. Oops.
It was only a few miles later, when we faced with another summit and I realised that Emma might kill me if I made her go uphill again, that I checked where we were. And lo behold we were miles off in the wrong direction.
However, we were by a path that would take us down into Glenridding so we decided to make our way down here and catch a taxi to Dockray. Emma has the patience of the saint when it comes to my overconfident map reading!
It was a really pleasant plod downhill and we stopped for our final lunch on the side of the mountain. At the pub in Glenridding we realised that we’d done 17 miles that day – only about five more than intended 😝 If you don’t fancy a mad detour or the old cart road, a good option would be to take the Cumbria Way North out of Keswick to Caldbeck.
We arrived to our hotel in the tiny Dockray to a warm shower and a surprisingly great dinner. The white wine went down very well and we toasted our little adventure. More of this please!