A Walker’s Journal by Anthony Linick
The Cumberland Way, which we completed in 2002, was for us the second section of a Lake District walking circuit devised by Paul Hannon; earlier we had walked what he has called the Furness Way and later we walked his version of a Westmorland Way. These routes, we could say, were each the brainchild of a knowledgeable and experienced walker – whose publication of guidebooks describing where to go next encouraged others to explore the beauty and variety of Lakeland from new perspectives. They never obtained official status and, indeed, the Long Distance Walkers Association today describes the Cumberland Way as “an old route that is no longer classified as a long distance path.”
I would say that it was never a continuous path as such – it was never waymarked, for instance, but in following Hannon’s instructions you knew at every moment where to head next as you used existing rights of way, tracks, paths and roads to walk the 80 miles from Ravenglass, on the Irish Sea, to Appleby near the Pennines. It would appear that the guidebook itself is no longer in print, which is a great shame, but this does not mean that walkers should give up on the route completely. While the accounts of our own experiences on the Cumberland Way do not, in themselves, represent an attempt at guidebook writing, they would help you understand what turnings need to be made in your own journey. The Ordnance Survey Explorer Series, at two and a half inches to the mile, offers, on sheets 4, 5, 6, and 19, a graphic representation of all the choices made by Hannon in devising his route – and these can be followed by anyone who has had some experience in map reading. The route still seems to be supported by the accommodation and baggage transfer services of Contours Walking Holidays – at least as far as Eamont Bridge. If you are making all of the arrangements yourself and are new to the enterprise then you may find it useful to see the relevant sections of my A Walker’s Alphabet – available from Authorhouse.co.uk or Authorhouse.com or from Amazon.co.uk or Amazaon.com or any of the other online booksellers. Given the limited amount of accommodation in the Lakes it is vital to start early in your preparations.
The Cumberland Way is considered a challenging route and I wouldn’t quarrel with this description, but the challenges (except for the stretch from Wastwater to Buttermere) are not so much with the ups and downs of a mountainous terrain but with the distances that need to be covered and the route-finding challenges that have to be puzzled out. If you are up to such challenges you will be rewarded again and again. You can let me know how you got by leaving a message on the Contact Page.
Here are the stages we followed:
Day 1: Ravenglass to Nether Wasdale – 9.5 miles
Day 2: Nether Wasdale to Buttermere – 14 miles
Day 3: Buttermere to Keswick – 10.5 miles
Day 4: Keswick to Dockray – 13 miles
Day 5: Dockray to Stainton – 12 miles
Day 6: Stainton to Morland – 12.5 miles
Day 7: Morland to Appleby – 9 miles