The England Coast Path is opening in sections. The open sections in the north west are described here. The path aims to stay as close to the coast as possible. In many places that means you will be walking right alongside the coast. In some places the path heads inland, usually only for short distances. The open sections of the path are well signed, look out for the distinctive acorn waymarkers. Away from towns and villages you will usually find the path has a natural, unmade surface, some areas will get muddy in wet weather. Closer to where people live you might find smooth surfaced paths, and in towns and villages you may be walking on promenades or pavements alongside roads.
The 22 mile (35km) long west Cumbrian section links Allonby to Whitehaven. This coastal region has a fascinating cultural and industrial history. Shipbuilding, coal and iron ore mining, steel making, and chemical manufacture have all been major employers, but little of this remains today. Allonby is an intriguing old Victorian seaside resort with a wonderful beach, and nearby Maryport and its docks have several tourist attractions. Did you realise you can visit one the largest Roman sites in northern Britain on this stretch of coast? The Senhouse Roman Museum at Maryport is dramatically situated on the cliffs and well worth a visit.
Iron and steel manufacture have always been part of Workington’s heritage, and it was here that the famous Henry Bessemer first introduced his revolutionary steel making process. In recent years, with the decline of the steel industry and coal mining, the town has diversified into other forms of industry.
Further south is Whitehaven. A sleepy fishing hamlet for many centuries, Whitehaven grew rapidly in the 17th and 18th centuries. Its growth, to become one of the busiest ports in the country, was due to exports from the local coal mining industry and the trade with the Americas. Today Whitehaven thrives thanks to its historic harbour and busy marina for leisure craft. Numerous attractions in the town explore its rich and varied history.
Watch the stunning drone footage here:
Opened in 2021, this stretch continues south from Whitehaven to explore Cumbria’s wild west coast. First up is the classic coastal walk to St Bees, passing the official start of Alfred Wainwright’s famous ‘Coast to Coast’ walk and the RSPB bird hides at the top of the highest cliffs in the north west.
Next is a section of stunning brand new access through farmland and cliff top, running parallel with the scenic Cumbrian coastal railway which enables linear walking throughout the stretch; before a completely different experience past the picturesque beach huts of Braystones.
The surreal sci-fi Sellafield skyline is unmissable on the approach to the attractive seaside village of Seascale with plenty of facilities to refresh weary walkers ahead of the gloriously wild Drigg dunes and beach with their epic views inland to the Lake District fells.
Don’t miss the circuit of Ravenglass, which uniquely sits in not one, but two World Heritage Sites – the Lake District National Park, and the Hadrian’s Wall and Frontiers of the Roman Empire site, with its Roman bath house ruins and the site of the Glannoventa fort.
Heading south, a combination of new and existing access takes you past Eskmeals MOD site, Tarn Point and Annaside, before a final 3 miles of new clifftop access past the bulk of Black Combe to Silecroft.
At 32 miles (52km), this stretch brings the total length of National Trail in Cumbria to 70 miles: 54 miles (88km) between Allonby and Silecroft, and a further 16 miles (26km) around Walney Island – see below!
Watch our brand new film showcasing this stretch of the England Coast Path!
Walney is the eighth largest island in England and it now has a 26km (16 mile) section of the England Coast Path. This new national trail circumnavigates the island, starting and finishing at Jubilee Bridge (where it will eventually connect to the rest of the England Coast Path), offering some stunning landscapes for walkers on the way. To the north, there are wonderful views of Black Combe and the Coniston Fells, to the west the Irish Sea and the massed ranks of wind turbines, to the south views across Morecambe Bay to Blackpool and to the east, Piel Channel and the adjoining Furness coastline.
The salt marshes, sand dunes and intertidal habitats of Walney Island support breeding birds, wintering waders and wildfowl as well as populations of important protected species such as natterjack toads. Both northern and southern tips are protected by nature reserves which help maintain the special character and feel of the island. The sense of wilderness provided by the open spaces is a stark contrast to the neighbouring industrial landscape.
Accompanied by the amazing views, you may be lucky enough to see porpoises or roe deer and of course the Walney geranium or natterjack toad to add to the experience. There are some outstanding eating and drinking places along the way and, with luck, you could finish your adventure with one of the famous Walney sunsets.
In due course, the road bridge connecting Walney to Barrow will enable onward routes around Morecambe Bay, and north towards the Duddon Estuary and west Cumbria. Proposals either side of Walney were published by Natural England in January 2020 for consultation.
Want to see more? Here’s our video for Walney: