This month I did the final section of the Coast to Coast, having walked the earlier parts of it in September 2021 and September 2022.
We rejoined the trail from Northallerton on a rainy Bank Holiday Monday. By the time we reached our starting point of Oak Tree Hill, my boots were damp. They stayed damp for several hours as we tramped through farms and muddy trails. Any long trail will have fill-in days that merely connect interesting parts, and the section from Richmond to Ingleby Arncliffe was an example of this. The landscape was flat and the route included a lot of tramping down roads, so I was glad that we’d chopped it into two. While it’s always good to be out hiking, some days are definitely better than others.
The Coast-to-Coast is by far the friendliest trail I’ve been on. Most of the venues along the way are friendly, both in terms of owners and other hikers. There are also a lot of honesty shops along the way, including a spooky one at Wray House Farm.
Our first day ended with a dash across the A19 at Ingleby Arncliffe. Apparently this section of the route was going to be diverted, which would have meant the closure of the Blue Bell Inn, but local MP Rishi Sunak persuaded the Treasury to fund a footbridge. The Blue Bell Inn is another excellent Coast to Coast venue, with various vegan options and lots of other hikers dining in.
Our second day was an epic 21-mile trek which I’d not broken up as I wanted to end the day at the Lion Inn on Blakey Ridge. We started with an epic climb through Arncliffe Wood, where we joined the Cleveland Way. There were some lovely moorland sections and we somehow avoided the worst of the weather on the flatlands below us.
We stopped at Lord Stones, which I’d expected to be a pleasant place to grab lunch. The staff were rude, the coffee was terrible, and outdoor speakers played grating music. Given the excellent welcome in most other places, this was a rare discordant note.
The middle of the day included a series of sharp climbs before a long road the wound out towards Blakey Ridge. The section ran along an old railway line and was a slightly dull end to a long day – Map 80 in my guidebook was almost entirely blank. I was tired and could feel myself slowing as the weather came in. We heard thunder, and I spotted some lightning, but the worst of the weather held off.
On the drive to Northallerton, I told Dave that I’d not called ahead to check about vegan food options. He laughed so much I thought he might crash the car. In the past I’ve had some underwhelming experiences, particularly for breakfast. Going to a remote pub did not seem like a great prospect for vegan food.
Well, I’m pleased to say that the Lion Inn is probably the best pub I’ve ever been in. We were warmly welcomed by lovely staff, there were seven vegan options on the menu, and the place was bustling. We were too tired for the public bar, but it was packed with people who’d driven out to the middle of nowhere on a Tuesday night. This is a place so good I’m considering coming up for a stay another time. It was the perfect place to recover from a long day’s hiking.