Coast to Coast 1 – Whitehaven to Kirkoswald

Coast to Coast 1 – Whitehaven to Kirkoswald

Wide awake at 6am, too excited to sleep we were on the road for by 8am. After fearing awful conditions the weather was great for cycling. It was this week last year that Cumbria suffered the devastating floods so luck was definitely on our side.

Starting with the customary dip of the back wheels in the Irish Sea we set off along an old railway line which rose steadily out of Whitehaven and quickly took us to the top of some stunning views and away from civilisation. The route took us through the Lake District, which was spectacular with all the colours of autumn and just a shame we couldn’t have stopped more to really appreciate it.

We’re currently riding stand-in bikes before we splash out for the South America trip. Paddy’s well-used Specialised Globe, already conqueror of Lands End to John O’Groats, performed well throughout the ride, even loaded up with the tent and two heavy panniers. My Halford’s Carrera less so. Affectionately nicknamed ‘the Tank’ it missed the vital gears to get up those steeper slopes and we lost count of the number of times the chain fell off. Needless to say there was a lot of pushing involved. Not least up the Whinlatter Pass which was a shock to the system. Those we met resting at various intervals along the ascent seemed to think the same.

We stopped for an early lunch in Keswick at ‘Laura’s in the Lakes’ – we had to really. It was a long pit stop as Laura got a puncture coming into town and we struggled to get the brakes running properly again – bike maintenance is not yet our forte it seems.

It’s fair to say we found today, especially the morning, difficult. It was hillier than we’d expected and carrying all our camping gear slowed us down considerably. We were a little out of shape too, having both come down with colds at the start of the week.

Crawling up a long, steep hill out of Penrith though, just keeping pace with the old guy walking up next to us, it suddenly started to feel fun. Turning right at the top to a hill with three false horizons didn’t actually feel that overwhelming.

It had taken some hours but we’d got back into the swing of a long day on the bike. We’d remembered how to use those gears that don’t get a look in on the daily commute and gotten into the mode of pedalling about at plod pace.

The last run of the day from Penrith to Kirkoswald was a little gentler, “undulating” is the word used by Robert the owner of Mains Farm where we camped. We had perked up considerably by the time we arrived, rolling over along a beautiful bridge with nice views of Kirkoswald Castle. We even beat the rain and nightfall to put our tent up in the farm’s apple orchard, proud of having the willpower to camp rather than stay in the cosy looking bunkhouses.

We celebrated surviving with a great meal in the local pub, the Featherstone Arms. Amazing pies and mash, just what we needed. Conversation was limited though and we’d crawled into our sleeping bags by 9.30.


  • Distance covered: 63.3 miles
  • Average speed: 10.34 mph
  • Highest point: Whinlatter Pass
  • Paddy’s best moment: Realising the Goretex works
  • Paddy’s worst moment: The 534 (or seemingly so) gates to open and close between Keswick and Penrith
  • Laura’s best moment: Getting on the bike in Whitehaven and that feeling you get at the start of a trip
  • Laura’s worst moment: Every time gears slipped or chain came off on a climb
  • Food of the day: Rocky road, flapjack halfway up hill coming out of Penrith, or maybe the pies in the pub….

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