This is something I’ve flirted with doing for a couple of years now, but with very limited holiday allowance, I didn’t really feel it was worth using my (likely) one Lake District trip a year for something so low level. I always said to myself that if I did it, it would be a modified higher level route.
With an opportunity to have a career break, I revived a 4 year old desire to do the Cambrian Way, and after some initial planning, realised that the Cumbria Way could be a good training trip. And with me knowing the area reasonably well, it wouldn’t be too difficult to plan and execute quickly.
I soon set the parameters of the trip:
1. The route had to start in Ulverston and end in Carlisle, the same as the official route.
2. The route I chose had to pass through the key staging posts of the official route: Coniston, Elterwater, Langdale, Stake Pass, Rosthwaite, Keswick, Skiddaw House, High Pike, Caldbeck. This was easy – most of these are the natural places to consider for accommodation along the way.
3. My route had to be at least as hard in terms of distance and amount of ascent as the official route. Thay would assuage any guilt around modifying the route.
4. My route would go over high ground with a focus on fells I hadn’t done before.
5. Apart from these detours I would by default aim to follow the official route.
6. I wanted to minimise accommodation costs and would camp if necessary.
I worked out a schedule based on arriving in Ulverston at lunchtime, meaning I would need to stop overnight somewhere between there and Coniston. This proved an immediate problem as the campsite I wanted at Birch Bank wouldn’t be open for another month. This drew me to Fell End Camping Barn, a little out of the way, but workable.
The longer walk this entailed meant getting the earliest possible trains and I found that it was both quicker and cheaper to train to Windermere and then bus to Ulverston, rather than train all the way to Ulverston.
With no camping on the first night, the rest of my accommodation plans were based on either camping the majority of nights or not at all. I soon ditched the idea of camping altogether as not worth the weight of the tent for so few nights. Instead, I discovered camping barns, and ultimately would stay in 3 during the trip.
Night 2 was obvious – the youth hostel in Coniston. Night 3 was going to be the bunkhouse at the Sticklebarn Tavern, until they told me it was closed. With limited options in Langdale I was glad they put me onto the farm right behind the tavern.
Night 4 was a barn in Borrowdale,
and night 5 was always going to be a B&B in Keswick. As I was going via Skiddaw House I looked into staying there and booked 3 nights so I could do a bit of peakbagging in the area (something I’d wanted to do for a while). Night 9 was a barn at the foot of High Pike
and night 10 needed to be the cheapest B&B I could find in the centre of Carlisle. I ultimately ended up booking the Travelodge near the station.
Now the route. Day 1 would be a trek over Kirkby Moor and Burney. On day 2 I would knock off the rest of the Wainwright Outlying fells north of Burney and then drop down to follow the official route along Coniston Water.
Day 3 would be built around detours to Holme Fell and Black Fell and I’d cut out a lot of the meandering that the official route does. If I was feeling fit (not likely) I could even throw in Lingmoor Fell.
On day 4 I would head up Langdale, over Stake Pass and into Borrowdale, a shorter day after a strenuous day 3, but with options to extend, for example over Glaramara.
Day 5 would be a simple and short walk into Keswick along the official route, but with optional detours to climb Castle Crag and Swinside.
Day 6 was planned to be a mop up of missed out fells – a walk over Latrigg, Skiddaw and descent to Skiddaw House via Bakestall.
Days 7 and 8 would be circular walks from Skiddaw House – one to explore the High Pike fells and one to knock off Blencathra and friends.
Then on day 9, I’d head over Great Cockup etc to Hudscales.
Day 10 would be a long one, due to a detour to Faulds Brow, but it wouldn’t involve a lot of ascent in total.
Kit. As I was staying in barns, I would be taking full camping gear except for the tent. I now set about paring down the weight. A big saving was made by not attempting to carry all 10 days food from the start. But a big stock up in Keswick would give me a shock in terms of the overnight weight increase.
Timing. I arranged the trip to mean that I was only away from home for 1 weekend, and as I do art classes on a Friday, to make sure that I only missed 1, which was unavoidable.