Cumbria Way


Highlights:

  • The heart of the Lake District

  • Beautiful valley walking

  • Iconic lakes

  • Dramatic peaks

Brief:

⏱ Duration: 5-8 days
🗺 Distance: 115 km
⛰ Difficulty: Moderate
🗓 Best Time: April - October
🛏 Accomm: Bed & Breakfast; hotels

 
 

Walk Overview

The Cumbria Way runs from the southern coast of Cumbria to the northern Cumbrian border and leads walkers through the heart of the majestic Lake District. Unlike many walks in this mountainous region, it is essentially a low-level walk following well-marked valley and river paths. The track involves traversing a couple of mountain passes but does not ascend any mountain summits. 

The Cumbria Way is a wonderful mix of charming Lake District towns, rolling hills, towering peaks, remote farmland, ancient woodlands, waterfalls and, of course, scenic lakes. It provides an opportunity to immerse yourself in landscape and areas of natural beauty that inspired some of England’s greatest poets including Wordsworth and Coleridge.

The walk commences in the bustling market and festival town of Ulverston and finishes in the historic town of Carlisle. The Cumbria Way features iconic lakes such as Coniston Water, Elterwater, Derwentwater and Tarn Hows. It follows stunning valleys including densely wooded Borrowdale, remote Langstrath valley and renowned Langdale valley. The surrounding dramatic mountains of Helvellyn, Skiddaw, Bowfell and the Langdale Pikes are particular highlights, as is the Dungeon Ghyll Ravine area.

The Cumbria Way passes through many picturesque Lake District villages including Coniston, Chapel Stile, Elterwater and Rosthwaite, as well as the town of Keswick.

The outdoor activities hub of Keswick is a popular spot for a rest day as there is so much to do there. Aside from the multitude of adrenaline-inducing activities, Keswick is home to many hotels, restaurants, cafes, shops, theatre, galleries and museums. At the end of the walk, Carlisle serves as a good base to explore local sights including Hadrian’s Wall, Tullie House Museum, Carlisle Castle and Carlisle Cathedral.

The complete Cumbria Way covers 115 kilometres (72 miles) and generally takes between five and eight days of walking to complete. Your total trip duration then depends on whether you incorporate rest days into the walk and, if so, how many.

A six day itinerary is shown below. The itinerary shown below involves an average daily distance of 19 kilometres (12 miles). Shortened versions of the walk are available.

 
 

Itinerary

The walk takes 5 - 8 days to complete. A typical six day itinerary is shown below.

 
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Day 1

Ulverston to Coniston

Distance: 23 km

Time: 6 hours

Accommodation: Bed & Breakfast or camping

 
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Day 2

Coniston to Great Langdale

Distance: 20 km

Time: 5 hours

Accommodation: Bed & Breakfast or camping

 
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Day 3

Great Langdale to Rosthwaite

Distance: 11km

Time: 3 hours

Accommodation: Bed & Breakfast or camping

 
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Day 4

Rosthwaite to Keswick

Distance: 14km

Time: 4 hours

Accommodation: Bed & Breakfast, hotels or camping

 
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Day 5

Keswick to Caldbeck

Distance: 24 km

Time: 7 hours

Accommodation: Bed & Breakfast

 
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Day 6

Caldbeck to Carlisle

Distance: 23 km

Time: 6 hours

Accommodation: Bed & Breakfast or hotels

 

Walk Options

Guided

There are several tour operators offering part or all of the Cumbria Way as a guided trip. You can choose to do the entire 115 kilometres (72 miles) walk or opt for shorter versions. The tour operators that offer the full walk generally follow the six day walking itinerary described above.

Tour operators that offer guided trips generally operate on the basis of scheduled departure dates during the walking season.

Some guided tour operators offer accommodation at one central base (usually spacious and comfortable) and walkers are transferred to a section of the walk each day. Others utilise the available accommodation along the route, meaning the accommodation is more variable.

Typically, the package offered by the guided tour operators includes:

  • 7 day tour with professional guides, 6 days of walking

  • 7 nights accommodation

  • All meals

  • Transfers between the track and the accommodation (where applicable)

Click here for assistance in relation to this option.

Assisted self-guided

A substantial number of tour operators offer the Cumbria Way as a self-guided trip.

Typically, the service includes:

  • Track notes, maps and information pack

  • Accommodation, usually with ensuites (the range and quantity of accommodation available in some villages is limited; also, the basic package offered by some tour operators might not always extend to ensuites)

  • Luggage transport between accommodation (and sometimes, where necessary, vehicle transfers between track and accommodation)

  • Breakfasts and optional packed lunches

  • 24/7 support

The duration of the self-guided options varies depending upon how far you wish to walk each day. Accommodation options range from comfortable through to luxury, again depending upon the size of the village or town and the purchased package.

Click here for assistance in relation to this option.

Independent

There are camping grounds along the route that make camping on all or most nights a possibility. It’s also quite feasible to book accommodation along the route yourself and, if you require luggage transfers, to arrange that independently.

For those considering this option, it’s worth noting that the self-guided tour operators often have preferred rates with accommodation providers and luggage transfer companies. They also often have reserved allocations at the best-located/most suitable accommodation for the particular walk, so sometimes when accommodation shows no availability to an independent inquiry there’s still availability through a self-guided operator.

Click here for assistance in relation to this option.

 

Essential Information

Access

The starting point for the Cumbria Way is Ulverston in southern Cumbria. 

The finishing point is Carlisle, also in Cumbria.

Ulverston and Carlisle are both readily accessible by public transport:

  • for Ulverston, there are regular trains from London’s Euston station (with one change at Lancaster/Preston);

  • from Carlisle, there are regular trains to London’s Euston station.

best time

The best time to do the walk is between April and October.

In the spring months of April and May, the countryside is very green and adorned with with abundant wildflowers. The summer months are ideal as it is rarely too warm for walking and the long evenings provide plenty of opportunity for relaxation. The autumn months of September and October are also a very pleasant time - walker numbers are down and the weather is still fine for walking.

Difficulty

This walk is rated at a difficulty level of moderate. The track has some steep ascents and descents from escarpments, but it’s essentially a lower country walk that follows rivers and valleys. The paths are well maintained and clearly defined. 

AccomModation

There are many accommodation options at either end of the walk and, generally, plenty along the way.  Accommodation options include camping, hostels, B&Bs, guesthouses, inns and hotels.

Many of the accommodation providers, particularly those near to the route, are attuned to walkers’ needs or offer amenities suited to walkers.

We can assist walkers in choosing the accommodation options which best suit their needs. Click here to contact us.

DINING

We can assist you in choosing some special dining options along the route.

Other activities

As a popular tourist destination, the Lake District offers many attractions in addition to the Cumbria Way.

Many walkers choose to add extra days to their trip so that they can explore these other attractions. Some will do that through rest days along the trail; others prefer ‘add-ons’ at the end of the walk. Some do both!

Coniston and Keswick are popular spots for extra time as they offer many activities. In Coniston, there are boat trips on Coniston Water, the climb to the summit of the Old Man of Coniston and museums linked to literary figures such as Beatrix Potter, William Wordsworth and John Ruskin. Keswick is a hive of activity including boat trips on Derwentwater, museums, art galleries, a theatre by the lake and day walks including Castlerigg Stone Circle and Mt. Skiddaw.

It is worth noting that Keswick hosts its annual Keswick Mountain Festival in mid-May. This festival involves live music, sporting events, guest speakers and various outdoor activities. The festival is a popular event and Keswick is very crowded during this time.

We can assist walkers to explore the many attractions of the Lake District.

Assistance

We can assist walkers with various aspects of their walking holidays. Click here to contact us.