Resident guide John Millen walks Wainwright’s Coast to Coast looking for that perfect pint…
Walking on the Coast to Coast, it will almost be impossible to avoid ending up at a few pubs along the way, even if you don’t drink. They may actually be the only place around serving dinner! Few can resist the temptation to sit down and have some well-deserved refreshment at the end of the walking day on this epic trail.
Starting the Coast to Coast walk at St. Bees, you’ll find most walkers at the Manor House or The Queen’s Head, which are almost opposite each other. The latter has a lovely beer garden if it isn’t raining and serves food. The Manor House is probably the most popular place to eat in the village and usually has a Wainwright beer on offer.
Looking for something local? The tiny Oddfellows Arms may be exactly your thing.
Once in Ennerdale Bridge visit the Fox and Hounds, with its beer garden or the great farmers’ pub The Shepherd’s Arms (1700s). Both probably will be serving the local Ennerdale, Hawkshead or Langdale beers. At The Shepherd’s Arms one of the famous local dishes is the Lamb Henry which is a half shoulder of lamb slow cooked so it just falls off the bone. For meat eaters the dish is a joy.
Popular once with farmers and now with walkers and tourists coming from the neighbouring campsite, or from the nearby town of Keswick, is the Langstrath Inn. It’s in the National trust village of Stonethwaite and Landlord and Jennings were popular ales, hard to get a seat in the bar – always busy!
Or try the the Riverside Bar in Rosthwaite, at the end of the Borrowdale Fell Race.
The next stop on the Coast to Coast route, Grasmere is surprisingly not graced with as many pubs as you might expect for such a popular village. Try The Inn at Grasmere (1769) or The Good Sport for craft beer from the Grasmere Brewery.
A bit more hidden, you find up the Old Keswick Road a number of aged pubs. There are for example The Swan and The Traveller’s Rest - a beautiful 16th century coaching inn with low beams and creaky floorboards and flagstone bar floors where once they would have tethered sheep and covered the place with straw.
Did you know? Way back in the 1600 – 1700s, there were so many inns in Grasmere that Wordsworth’s house Dove Cottage had previously been a pub.
Patterdale & Glenridding
The best pub on this part of the Coast to Coast walk is another Travellers Rest, which is a slightly more cosy low-beamed and wood panelled two-bar pub with straightforward food and well-kept ales such as Hesket Newmarket and Jennings. There is often a real fire and it can get really busy. It takes a little hill to walk up to it.
Or try the Inn on the Lake (Glenridding), the White Lion, or the Victorian Patterdale Hotel.
Keld – halfway on the Coast to Coast
So, you have made it to Keld and you are halfway, congratulations! Nothing to choose between here unless you walk four miles up the road to Tan Hill, so the place to go is the lovely Keld Lodge. It usually has a couple of real ales on and a lounge with windows overlooking the valley. A relaxing place to be, especially if the rain is tapping against the large window panes. Food is pretty good as well.
Once you have made it to Shap you will definitely need a drink after the hardest walk of your Coast to Coast holiday. May we recommend the old coaching inn called The Greyhound (1680), which seems to have opened and shut many times like a stage trap door over the last 20 years. Now open once more, it has always had a good bar if your feet can stand the extra walking.
Or try The Crown or The King’s Arms.
In Orton, if you can prise yourself away from Kennedy’s chocolate factory and café, The George is a good traditional pub, where farmers from the local market would meet. Good beers such as Jennings.
The town of Kirkby Stephen can be a very lively place on market days and weekends when thirsty farmers come into town. The place they go of all ages is The Black Bull – great food, and often Black Sheep or Theakston’s on the pump.
Or try The Taggy Man or the former working men’s club the Kirkby Stephens Sports and Social Club.
Reeth is an old lead mining village where miners would have descended on the place to spend their hard-earned money on drink, gambling and no doubt fighting. You can imagine, there were many alehouses around. Today, three popular pubs remain within cudgel hurling distance from each other and all of them creek with age. They are The Buck, The Black Bull (1680) and The King’s Arms (1743).
If you fancy something different, the last two often serve the dark creamy beer called Old Peculier, one of the few places you may find it on the Coast to Coast. It is one of those beers you should have last thing a night… and for good reason, the beer lives up to its name!
Richmond is the largest town on the route and has a few quality pubs. If you walk out of town about 500 metres steeply along Slea Hill from Bridge Street, The Holly Hill Inn gets some of the best reviews in town for food and drink. It has a small beer garden and a bright dining room as well as a traditional bar area. As a bonus, you get a gorgeous view of Richmond Castle as you puff your way up the hill.
Or try The Golden Lion; The Castle Tavern; The Black Lion; Number 29 Alehouse, Gin & Tapas Bar in Frenchgate; or Wetherspoons’ The Ralph Fitz Randal in a large former post office sorting office.
From Richmond it can be thirsty work crossing the Vale of Mowbray, and the walking is not the most interesting of the Coast to Coast, but then a beautiful mirage appears! That of the village green at Danby Wiske and The White Swan pub. It has previously been a CAMRA regional winner, with localish beers such as from The Three Brothers Brewery on Teeside. The pub has been going for some 400 years. There is nothing better than to slip off your boots and sit on the green in front of the pub with a drink if the weather is pleasant.
Remember, it is closed at lunch time on weekdays.
Entering the North York Moors, walkers go by a couple of ways: traditionally in Wainwright’s guide book Ingleby Cross is the port of call with its Blue Bell Inn (1912). It’s a red tile-roofed, honey stone-walled pub with Theakston, Black Sheep and a guest ale on hand pump.
Some walkers bypass Ingleby to go to the prettier village of Osmotherley. The stand out pub here is The Golden Lion; an 18th century building, which has a great reputation for food and some guest ales. Inside you sit on old pew benches with lively conversation going on in the room.
Or try The Queen Catherine or the Three Tuns.
The next pub actually right on the Coast to Coast route is perhaps the finest traditional inn for beer drinkers on the whole walk. The Lion at Blakey Ridge dates back to 1553 and sits at an altitude of 1325 feet (400m). It would be the ideal place to retreat from society at large and write a book. There are open fires burning in ancient fireplaces and the original low-beamed ceilings add to the friendly, cosy atmosphere. The bar is famed for its good selection of quality real ales which include Black Sheep, Theakston's, that rare Old Peculier, Timothy Taylors Landlord, Wainwright and a range of regularly changing guest ales. The food portions are huge and will certainly fill your boots after the long days walking.
Coming off the Moors, walkers usually make it to the old ironstone industrial village of Glaisdale at around lunch time, which means that the Arncliffe Arms (1865) is a perfect stop for a quick drink with outside tables, even if it is for a cream tea.
A couple of miles further in a valley-fold at leafy Egton Bridge, the Georgian Horseshoe Hotel (1700s) is a welcome break with a flowery beer garden. It sits above the babbling River Esk, making this one of the most picturesque inns of the whole walk. Three ales are usually on the pumps from local breweries.
Or cross the stepping stones over the river for the Postgate Inn (1860), which was a regular feature in the popular TV series "Heartbeat" that was set in the North York Moors.
You may end the day running out of steam around Grosmont. It has one pub linked to the local railways not surprisingly called The Station Tavern (1836, Black Sheep, Hobgoblin). This is a popular place to sit with a drink listening to the historical steam and diesel trains shunt out of their marshalling yard onto the track and off to Whitby or Pickering. It is quite a unique experience, and you can imagine people sitting doing the same thing 150 years ago!
Or try the marvellous, not so easy to find, little pub called The Grosmont Crossing Club.
The next pub on the way is ‘The Hare and Hounds ‘ at High Hawkser typically offering Theakston’s Best, Old Peculier and Wainwright real ales. This pub gets missed out by a lot of walkers because during weekdays it closes from 3-6, when most of us pass through and also because by this time of day walkers want to crack on to Robin Hood’s Bay. On hot days it could be a life saver!
Did you Know? You can let your friends at home know when you finish your Coast to Coast walk, so they can see you on the live streaming webcam at The Bay Hotel.
Robin Hood’s Bay
Finally after, a couple of weeks (or 44 hours if you are holding the current World Record for the Coast to Coast!), you have arrived in Robin Hood’s Bay. The Coast to Coast walk is nearly over. Most people waste no time and head straight down to The Bay Hotel (1828) - the official end of the walk. Here, walkers sign a book, buy a certificate if they want, and sit with a beer (Theakston, Deuchars, Wainwright). You find walkers either on the small terrace overlooking the sea or the little boat dock at the front of the building, which can be a real suntrap, there is even a lower Wainwright Bar in season. Usually it is just too busy to sit inside.
Or try the Victoria Hotel and its terrace, The Grosvenor with sometimes live music on, the tiny Laurel Tree Inn, or the restored The Dolphin, arguably the most interesting pub in the bay.
We can’t take them for granted
Pubs face an existential crisis with the huge price hikes in the cost of energy, drinks and the trouble of recruiting staff. There is pressure for them to close down and be converted into flats or, economically disastrous for the local village, turned into second or third homes. We can’t take them for granted and will continue to support them at Walkers’ Britain.
Have good memories of any of the pubs when you walked Wainwright's Coast to Coast? We'd love to hear your story! Let us know in the comments below or email us at [email protected] to get featured.