Walking the Cumbria Way in the Lake District was a trip I’d planned with friends initially as a winter adventure, but life (aka Covid) got in the way and we ending up hiking the Cumbria Way walk as a summer adventure!
I first walked a section of the Cumbria Way trail in 2019. It was a late-night hike up High Pike and sleeping in Lingy Bothy. I spotted the Cumbria Way route on the map and my adventure idea began there! Then in 2020, I chatted with my friends about a hiking holiday and we all settled on the Cumbria Way trail.
Long-distance walks and trails are a brilliant way of exploring an area, I love going on a journey from start to finish so a hike from south to north through the Lake District National Park felt like a great idea and a perfect group hike.
Here I will share a full guide for our adventure including the Cumbria Way route, how we planned the trip, wild camping spots and a few other useful tips as well as my wild camping kit list! As we initially planned this as a winter trip I’ve included both winter and summer kit for hiking the Cumbria Way trail.
Cumbria Way Walk
About the Cumbria Way
The Cumbria Way trail starts from Ulverston to ends in Carlisle.
Ulverston is about 5 miles/8 km from the south Lake District border and the route heads north finishing in Carlisle, about 15 miles/24 km from the south border of the Lake District National Park. For the majority of the route, you’re hiking through the beautiful Lake District, what’s not to love!
The full route I plotted via Ordnance Survey is 74 miles/118 km with 3,490 metres/11,450 ft of ascent. Traditionally the walk is done over 5 days, over the following stages, so on average, it’s approximately 15 miles/24 km per day.
- Ulverston to Coniston (25 km)
- Coniston to Langdale (19.5 km)
- Langdale to Keswick (25 km)
- Keswick to Caldbeck (23.5 km)
- Caldbeck to Carlisle (25 km)
However, for wild camping we took a different approach with the route and split it up according to best places to wild camp. This meant instead of reaching the main towns and villages at the end of the we timed it to walk through them towards the beginning or middle of the day.
We did this, by starting the Cumbria Way trail later in the day. After travelling up from our respective homes, we set off on the trail at 4.30 pm with a plan to walk 10-15 km until we found a good wild camp spot for night 1. (See below for our route).
How to get to the start and finish?
There are train stations at both Ulverston and Carlisle, making this an easy to do the route solo or with friends. There are two options, a faster train, you’ll need to change at Lancaster (approx 1 hour 37 mins) or a slower (cheaper) route (approx 2 hours 54 mins).
If you’re using public transport Lancaster is the nearest direct train station. There are a few options for starting your hike in the morning, it obviously depends on where you are travelling from as an overnight in Ulverston might be a better option.
There are regular trains arriving from Lancaster to Ulverston at 7.39, 8.17, 9.02, 9.40 then it jumps to 10.51. Check up to date timetables at National Rail enquires. You can also check the latest advice for travelling.
Our travel plan
Due to our UK locations we drove and met in Carlisle, parking cars there (£5 per day) then caught the direct (slower) train to the start in Ulverston (1.07 pm, arriving at 4.08 pm).
We started day 1 on the Cumbria Way at 4.30 pm, which linked in nicely with our plan to wild camp away from the town.
- Fuel to Carlisle (from Nottingham) = £30
- Parking in Carlisle (6 days) = £30
- Train fare (Carlisle to Ulverston) = £19
Total travel costs = £79
Cumbria Way route map
This is the traditional Cumbria Way route which includes going via the high route over High Pike on day 4
Our Cumbria Way hike
Who did I do the hike with?
My hiking buddies and good friends who joined me for the Cumbria Way walk were Nic and Jess, if you follow me on Instagram there’s a good chance you’ll already be following their adventures too! If not, you can find them here @Adventurer.Nic and @JessicaMather_
We’ve all have a mix of experience, making us the ‘dream team’ or maybe the ‘giggle team’ would be more apt, as I’m constantly laughing when I spend time with them.
Jess is a qualified Mountain Leader and has done numerous hikes and wild camping adventures in the UK and abroad. She’s also exploring the Lake District via the Wainwrights with only 1 to go! In September 2020, she did her first UK long-distance hike along the Anglesey Coastal Path.
Nic has done a couple of awesome peak-bagging challenges, including walking all the Wainwrights in a year. And in 2019, she hiked ALL the Scottish Munros in 6 months, wow! In 2020 she completed her first long-distance challenge, #WalkHome2020, which I joined her on the 6-day section of the Pennine Way.
And me, well, I’ve done a few long-distance walks, my very first was Hadrian’s Wall in 2010 and my longest (so far) was my 950-mile hike from east to west of Britain – the scenic route! My toughest challenge to date was my solo Bob Graham Round hike, a 5-day route over 42 of the Lake District fells.
About our walk
Instead of doing the traditional stages, we split the route up according to the best wild camp spots, which meant adding some extra mileage (and ascent) to find better spots, since much of the route is low-level.
Ideally, if you’re wild camping you should be higher up away from paths, homes and villages, unless it’s dangerous due to the weather. Read my guide to wild camping here for tips if you’ve not tried before.
The entire route only goes over one Wainwright, High Pike in the far north of the Lake District. Other higher spots on the trail include walking over Stake Pass not far from Langdale but this is only 480 m so not high in comparison to some of the surrounding fells.
Instead of hiking over the traditional 5 days we split the trail over 6 days (with day 1 an evening walk and day 6 finished at 2 pm). Below you can see our plan for the hike.
Please note this meant we didn’t 100% keep to the trail. Our wild camp detours meant we missed approximately 14 km of the trail and added on an extra 4 km, as well as an extra 1,000+ metres in ascent (if you want to wild camp then that’s something you’ll need to factor in!)
You could still walk the entire trail, you’d just need to do out and backs to the wild camp spots.
- Day 1 – Ulverston to Beacon Fell (16 km)
- Day 2 – Beacon Fell to Lingmoor Fell (25 km)
- Day 3 – Lingmoor to Castle Crag (21 km)
- Day 4 – Castle Crag to Lonscale Fell (17 km)*
- Day 5 – Lonscale Fell to Caldbeck (16 km)
- Day 6 – Caldbeck to Carlisle (25 km)
*We also added an extra 10 km loop on Day 4, so we walked 27 km, as we were too ahead of schedule for wild camping!
The Cumbria Way trail is mostly a really good path to follow, it generally follows the more established options and with minimal road sections, which if you’re like me, aren’t a fan of!
There are good signposts through some sections of the trail, then in other places there’s hardly anything (mainly the middle section of the trail). We opted to use a combination of navigation via watches (with GPX file), OS Online and Komoot.
Food (and drink) stops on the trail
Our plan for the walk was to treat it as more of a luxury long-distance trail instead of carrying 5 days worth of food with us! With that in mind, we stopped at plenty of places on route! We timed our stops to coincide with an early or late lunch, and dinner too!
Cafes/restaurants and pub stops
Day 1 – Ulverston to Beacon Fell – as you’d expect no shops on route, but we’d filled our tummies on the 3 hour train ride!
Day 2 – Beacon Fell to Lingmoor Fell – (3 stops, haha yes)
- Coniston (breakfast) – Meadowdore Cafe
- Skelwith Bridge (mid-afternoon snack) – Chesters by the River
- Elterwater (dinner) – Slates cafe/restaurant
Day 3 – Lingmoor Fell to Castle Crag
- Stonethwaite (late lunch) – The Langstrath Inn
Day 4 – Castle Crag to Lonscale Fell
- Nr Keswick (late breakfast) – The Lingholm Kitchen
Day 5 – Lonscale Fell to Caldbeck Campsite – no stops on route but Caldbeck has a pub for dinner and shop to stock up for lunch on the last day.
Day 6 – Caldbeck to Carlisle
- Dalston – stop at Crumbs cafe for a homemade roll
Pubs on the route
There are the following pubs on the Cumbria Way route:
- Consiston (The Yewdale Inn, The Crown Inn + more)
- Elterwater (Britannia Inn)
- Langdale (Wainwrights Inn, Old Dungeon Ghyll)
- Stonethwaite (The Langstrath Inn)
- Keswick (The Wainwright Pub + loads more!)
- Caldbeck (The Oddfellows Arms)
Food shops on route
If you need to stock up on food supplies these are the food shops on route:
- Consiston (Spa/garage or Co-op)
- Keswick (Co-op or Booths)
- Caldbeck (village store)
- Dalston (Co-op)
Wild camping on the Cumbria Way
As a relatively low-level route, wild camping on the Cumbria Way isn’t practical if you follow the traditional 5-day route. It’s not possible to wild camp close to the towns and villages on the way, which is why we opted to start at 4.30 pm to ensure we didn’t reach these locations at the end of each day.
If you’ve not wild camped before then you can read my wild camping guide here.
Summer wild camp spots
Our four planned wild camp spots were all fells, high up and abiding to the wild camp principles, arrive late and leave early, leave no trace and pitching away from paths. The fells we camped on were Beacon Fell, Lingmoor Fell, Castle Crag and Lonscale Fell.
The weather was brilliant so not surprisingly we saw other wild campers, with the exception of Lonscale Fell. Out of all the fells Castle Crag was the one we were worried about due to it being the weekend. We hiked up for around 7.00 pm but sat around chatting, cooked dinner before pitching our tents just before sunset.
For our final camp, we opted for a treat and staying at Caldbeck Campsite, it worked better for our timings as wild camping in the Lake District would have meant a final 30 km day. Cost = £5 each.
Winter wild camp challenges
(Now not relevant for our summer trip but handy if you’re planning a winter adventure)
We initially decided to complete the route in December, we’d all done winter hiking and wild camping but so far none of us had done a UK winter adventure.
There’s the obvious challenge, it’s winter and going to be much colder but that’s not the only issue!
The other factor to consider is the daylight hours or the lack of! During December, sunrise is roughly around 8 am and sunset is roughly 4 pm. Ideally, we’ll want to at least wake up with some sunlight and also to have at least found a wild camp spot before sunset which only gives us 8 hours for de-camp, walk and then pitching up again. It might be a challenge, but that’s part of the fun!
Summer + Winter Wild Camping Kit List
(Kit lists included for both summer or winter trip due to our change of plans)
Here’s the kit took for the Cumbria Way walk since there were three of us doing the challenge we shared a few items to help reduce the weight of our kit but I’ve included everything here.
The main items we shared were a 2-person tent (Nic + Jess), cooking stove and gas, poo trowel, penknife and first aid kit. We opted to take a basic kit list to keep the weight of our backpacks light. We will be carried some food, but as mentioned above we treated ourselves a lot!
Summer trip – Osprey Kyte 36-litre backpack
Winter trip – Osprey Ariel 65-litre backpack (due to carrying warmer (and bigger) gear)
Camping gear – summer set up
Here’s my summer wild camp set up. The winter camping set up (detailed below) adds an extra 1.3 kg of weight, but the winter tent is a 2-person so I was planning to be sharing the weight.
- Summer tent – MSR Hubba NX (1.3 kg)
- Sleeping mat – Thermarest X- Lite – (360 g)
- Sleeping quilt – Thermarest Corus Quilt – (560 g)
- Silk sleeping bag liner – Silk liner – (130 g) – (optional)
- Pillow – Thermarest Air Head – (145 g)
Total weight of winter tent and sleep system = 2.5 kg
Read my review here on my MSR Hubba NX. It’s a brilliant lightweight tent for 3-season camping trips.
Camping gear – winter set up
I was going to be using my winter tent with Groundhog stakes, you can see my initial setup via YouTube. I’ve now used on campsites and wild camping during September and October. And I will also use winter sleeping set up as December can be a chilly month!
I tend to get very cold at night so I have a super warm down sleeping bag that has a comfort rating of minus 10 and a limit of minus 18. If you’ve never wild camped in winter as well as upgrading your gear here are a few other tips for keeping warm here.
- Winter tent – MSR Access 2 (1.9 kg)
- 4-season sleeping bag – Thermarest Oberon (1.1 kg)
- Winter sleeping mat + repair kit – Thermarest X-Therm (430 g)
- Sleeping bag liner – Silk liner (130 g)
- Camping pillow – Thermarest Air Head (145 g)
Total weight of winter tent and sleep system = 3.7 kg
I have the MSR cooking stove kit which included the stove, cooking pot and bowl – similar to this one from Cotswold Outdoor, however, this is the standard set. I have the Deluxe which has a self ignitor which is very handy.
Or alternatively, check out the Pocket Rocket standard stove on its own – Base Camp Food currently have a brilliant deal on the stove.
I’ve used this cooking set up on many trips, including my Bob Graham Round hike which was very windy. It is lightweight and combined with the windshield means you can use in windy places.
- Cooking stove – MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe – 83 g
- Cooking pot + bowl – MSR one-person cooking set – 130 g
- Windshield – 135 g
- Titanium mug – 54 g
- Titanium Spork – 21 g
- Medium-sized gas – 385 g (shared item)
- Swiss army knife – 119 g (shared item)
- Lighter – 10 g (shared item)
Cooking gear weight = 0.9 kg
Clothes + footwear
Here’s the kit I took/wore on my summer trip and also a side by side example of what I’d initially planned to take on the winter version of the hike!
Footwear + waterproofs for summer trip
- Hiking shoes – Salomon Outline Prism (non-Goretex)
- Waterproof jacket – Salomon 360 lightweight jacket (never wore)
- Waterproof trousers – Salomon Bonatti (never wore)
Footwear + waterproofs for winter trip
- Hiking boots – Salomon 4D Quest or Salomon Outback GTX
- Microspikes – (like these in my winter gear post)
- Waterproof jacket – Mountain Equipment Nanda Devi
- Waterproof trousers – Rab Firewalls winter trousers
Hiking clothing for trip
For my long-distance hikes, I generally have one set of clothes for hiking and one set for when I get to camp (thermals, socks and a down jacket).
- Base layer – t-shirt (wear)
- Thin layer – zipped top (wear)
- Warm jacket (for camp)
- Hiking shorts (wear)
- Sports bra (wear)
- Underwear x 3
- Socks x 3 (camp socks 2 x hiking socks)
- Gloves (didn’t use)
- Thin base layers for sleeping
For a winter trip, I’d take warmer layers for hiking + sleeping in at night
- Mid layer – Synthetic or down jacket (for hiking)
- Warm down jacket (for camp)
- Hiking trousers/leggins
- Merino wool top – Helly Hansen (for camp/sleeping)
- Merino wool bottoms – Helly Hansen (for camp/sleeping)
Merino wool are perfect base layers, they both keep you warm and don’t smell, especially for multi-day hikes! I have a few different ones that I wear for winter hiking and wild camping – you can read more about choosing a base layer here.
Other hiking gear
- Hiking poles
- Watch + cable
- Water bottle – Salomon soft flask + XA filter
- Hydration pack + lid – Platypus
- Water filter – Platypus
- Toilet kit – trowel, wipes, tissues, bag for rubbish – 277 g
- First aid kit – 239 g (one kit to share)
- Head torch + cable – 97 g (LedLenser rechargeable torch) (didn’t use)
- Compass – 38 g
- Small tripod – 76 g
- Phone + cable
- Waterproof phone case – Aquapac 43 g (opted not to take as no rain forecast)
- Power bank (Anker 359 g)
- Toiletries – Toothbrush, toothpaste, hanky + lip balm
- Suncream, sunglasses + bug spray
I bought the Anker power bank for my Bob Graham hike and it was amazing. It was a 5-day hike, where I used to charge my phone and watch and it still didn’t run out of power. I used my phone in flight mode but filmed a lot of the trip (coming soon)
Food for the hike
Here’s the food I took from the start.
- Peppermint tea bags x 10
- Coffee sachets x 5 (Campfire coffee)
- Freeze-dried meals x 3 (Huel + Summit to Eat)
- Snack bars/breakfast bars x 19
- Kendal mint cake x 1 small pack
- Clif energy bloks x 3 packs
- ORS hydration tablets – 1 tube (24 tablets)
- Trail mix x 1 (own mix include dried fruit, nuts, sweets)
Visit Base Camp Food for a range of different freeze-fried food, instead of buying one brand you can select different meals from their range of brands, including Summit to Eat, Firepot and Expedition Foods.
Here is the weight of my kit at the start of the walk:
Base weight (all camping + other kit) = 7.5 kg
Food (listed above) = 1.6 kg
Water (1-litre)* = 1 kg
Total weight at start = 10.1 kg
*Note I was able to carry less water as I had a water filter so could top up on route.
More questions about the Cumbria Way?
Let me know if you have any more questions about the Cumbria Way hike in the comments below. And let me know if you’re planning to do the walk too!
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