C2C Whitehaven to Tynemouth
Riding the C2C has been on my bucket list for a while, and it seemed like the perfect wee adventure before our baby arrives in October. Harriet was away for a weekend with friends, so I took the chance to spend a few days cycling across the north of England.
The C2C runs from the Irish Sea on the west coast at Whitehaven to the North Sea on the east coast at Tynemouth. The route is ~220km, allowing you to ride it over a weekend if you are fit, or a long weekend if you want to take your time and enjoy the views.
Day 1 Whitehaven to Lorton
On Thursday I took the train from Edinburgh to Whitehaven, connecting in Carlisle. As the train approached Whitehaven there were views over the Solway Firth back towards Scotland. The start of the route is at the Harbour, a short stroll from shops where you can pick up breakfast or lunch before setting off. As is tradition, I dipped my back wheel into the Irish Sea.
Most of the route out of Whitehaven is on cycle paths on an old railway line. The cycling is easy and quick, and reasonably soon you get views into the Lake District. The roads are quiet, and I was unbothered by traffic.
I camped at Whinfell Hall Farm Campsite in Lorton. The campsite was basic, think “barn converted into a toilet block” with the cobwebs and dust that entails, however it was pleasant and perfectly suited to the route. The sunset lit up the hills in a beautiful purple, which I watched from Lorton bridge on my way to dinner at the Wheatsheaf Inn, just ten minutes walk from the campsite. I was glad of my headtorch on the walk home!
Day 2 Lorton to Little Salkeld
The second day started fresh, with the autumn morning light poking through the trees. I set off and was immediately confronted with a climb up the Whinlatter Pass. After a short section on the main road the route turns off onto forest tracks. The tracks are easy to ride, but I appreciated having a gravel/touring bike over a road bike.
I called in at the Whinlatter Visitors Center for coffee and a scone, then headed down toward Keswick. This section of the route I found surprisingly rough, and had I wanted to make better time I would have cut down the main road towards Braithwaite. Some sections of the trail felt a little overgrown, and perhaps not suitable for road bikes.
Keswick was quick pitstop. The center was very busy, and after picking up supplies from Greggs I wanted to get back out to the countryside. I took the route along the Keswick to Threlkeld Railway Trail, which helped make up for lost time on the earlier forest trails. After Mungrisdale the route heads along the main road past Troutbeck. I might consider taking an alternative route along the Lake and Dales Loop slightly further north.
I stayed at Bank House Farm Accomodation, some static caravans and a couple of camping plots with a small toilet block. Aileen joined me for the evening camp, on her way to walk in the Lakes over the long weekend. We ate at the Fox Inn at Ousby, ten minutes drive from the campsite. The other pubs within walking distance were fully booked for the Friday evening.
Day 3 Little Salkeld to Consett
Waking up at Bank House Farm was beautiful. The camping pitches overlook the River Eden. Mist rolled over the hills, with a calm morning light flowing through. Flocks of birds circled across the valley. It felt very peaceful, a great start to the day before the bright sun came out.
The bulk of the 74km of the third day takes you over the North Pennines Area of Natural Beauty. The first challenge is getting up and over the Hartside Pass. The route is quiet, and only rejoins the main road shortly before the top. I chatted to a few other cyclists on the way up - they were staying at pub accomodation at Allenheads, so didn’t have the camping gear that I was lugging with me.
Once over the Hartside Pass the route undulates through several villages. I had mistakently thought that the Hartside was the main event of the day, but the climb out of Garrigill was a real test of my legs and gearing. I had to pause and walk a couple of times.
I had (second?) lunch at The Hive at Nenthead, which is worth the stop for a cake and shot of caffine. Allenheads was also good for a quick pause, with public toilets and some industrial heritage displays. The main attraction is the Armstrong Hydraulic Engine, made in the mid-1800s, working until the mid-1900s. It’s a small display just off the main road. Worth popping in to take a look.
At Rookhope the route takes a turn over a gravel pass avoiding the main road running to the south. There was a sign saying the route was closed, but I decided to push on anyway. I ended up walking my bike up the hill, as the gravel made it difficult to get traction in places. At the top the path was fine, with great views over the hills. I hopped over to the adjacent road to avoid the single-track section, rejoining when the path turns into the Waskerly Railway route.
I stayed at Starlight Camping and Caravanning, a farm field with small toilet block at the edge of Consett. I had quick noodles for dinner, and was in bed by 9pm. Perfect.
Day 4 Consett to Tynemouth
The last day started on the bike paths around Consett and Shotley Bridge, over to the Derwent River and along the Three Rivers Cycle path. The route is downhill for the first half of the day. Once I hit the River Tyne I crossed to the north bank and cycled along the Hadrian’s Cycleway route. At this point the cycleway turns to exclusively city-cycling until the end of the day. You pass under the many bridges of Newcastle, and then a series of industrial estates until North Shields.
Once you hit North Shields then the last kilometer or so takes you past a series of restaurants, bars and importantly, fish and chip places (I returned to Seaview Fish and Grill for a great post-ride lunch!). The walkway takes you down to the lighthouse and priory. I went to the beach and dipped my front wheel (and accidentally both my feet) into the North Sea, completing the journey.
I’d recommend the C2C to anyone who wants a straightforward weekend of cycling. The middle days across the Lake District and Pennines were fantastic. The last leg was a little dull, but the fish and chips made up for it. I’ve published my C2C route on Komoot if you want to plan your own trip.