Ulverston to Coniston – The Cumbria Way – Day 1. The first 17 miles of the 70 mile trial through the heart of the Lake District National Park.
Welcome to the first part of my write up of this years long distance walk, The Cumbria Way.
The Cumbria Way is a 70 mile (112 km) long distance footpath in Cumbria, England.
It goes through the heart of the Lake District National Park and links the two historic Cumbrian towns of Ulverston and Carlisle.
As Ulverston is the start of The Cumbria Way and we live in Glasgow (approximately 172 miles from Ulverston). The first part of our trip necessitated in us getting to Ulverston.
Now, when I say “us” I mean myself, Lady Lynne (my wife!) and our friend Jen.
If you’re a long time reader of my blog you’ll recall that last year we all successfully completed The West Highland Way together.
This journey from Glasgow to Ulverston should have been the easiest part. After all it involved no map reading and no walking. Just public transport!
However, in actual fact this part of our trip was the most difficult and potentially dangerous. Let me explain….
It was on Sunday 28th April that we all met at Glasgow Central railway station.
Normally to get to Ulverston you would take a train from here to Lancaster then change at Lancaster for a local service.
Unfortunately all trains running on the West Coast Mainline on this day between Glasgow and Carlisle were replaced by buses due to major Engineering work taking place to upgrade and replace track outside of Glasgow.
You can see our replacement bus scheduled on the departure board of the photograph above from Glasgow Central railway station and that train sitting in the station would have been our train.
The bus left on time but it just didn’t feel right.
As soon as we got on the M74 Motorway there were strange screeching sounds and a smell of burning.
Not long after having left the outskirts of Glasgow, just half an hour into our journey, it was proving difficult to breath inside the bus.
The three of us had sat together near the front. Turning round and looking towards the back you could see a haze of smoke. Several passengers came to tell the driver and asked if we could open the roof ventilation. Which was agreed.
Whilst this did make it easier to breath it wasn’t long before the situation was unbearable and the driver was alerted that smoke was pouring into the bus from the toilet area.
The driver immediately pulled into the hard shoulder of the Motorway. Switched off the engine and went to investigate. He soon found the issue.
If you look at the photograph above of our bus you can see a patch of oil on the floor at the back wheels.
So we all got off the bus. It was nice to be able to breath fresh air again. Albeit at the side of a busy Motorway!
Some people were able to transfer to another bus that had been in convoy with us. Unfortunately there wasn’t space for us. Therefore we had to wait 2 hours sitting by the side of the Motorway for another bus to come and get us!
Eventually we made it to Carlisle and caught a later train to Lancaster and then on to Ulverston.
I’ll spare you the description of how uncomfortable the train to Lancaster was as there were few available seats.
We had seats booked in the earlier train we should have got if we’d been on time!
However we managed to make our journey slightly more comfortable by the consumption of wine and the opening of our emergency whisky.
The day ended on a high after a superb dinner at The Farmers Arms.
Ulverston to Coniston – The Cumbria Way – Day 1.
In Ulverston we stayed at the Lonsdale House Hotel. It was very nice good quality budget B&B accomodation.
I was a little disappointed that the breakfast was only a self service continental one rather than a cooked one. I’d read good reviews online about the cooked breakfast and I’d really been looking forward to that!
However the breakfast that was offered was perfectly adequate and enough to set us up for the day’s walk.
The sun was out and the sky was blue as we left the hotel that Monday just after 8.30am.
We stocked up on lunch provisions before leaving Ulverston.
As with the West Highland Way our main bags were transported between our accomodation by a baggage carrier so we only had to carry our day sacks.
Make sure you watch my short video in this post to see all the stunning scenery we enjoyed!
We had a leisurely strole through the picturesque streets of Ulverston admiring the well kept and neat houses.
We saw the plaque commemorating the house that Stan Laurel was born in.
Yes, Ulverston is not only the start of The Cumbria Way but also the birthplace of Stan Laurel of the Laurel and Hardy comedy duo.
Above is the sculpture near the start with Jen and Lady Lynne all set and ready to go!
This bench marks the official start of the Cumbria Way.
It’s in the Gill Car Park, just north of the main centre of Ulverston.
From here begins the 17 miles walk to Coniston.
The Ramblers Association created the Cumbria Way in the 1970s.
The route is marked in places by these little yellow arrow markers.
However on some sections those arrow markers are difficult to find so it’s vital to have a map with you.
Even if my map did send me in the wrong direction twice or was that me reading it badly?
It’s only a short 5 minute walk from the bench before we were out in glorious green English countryside.
The birds were singing and it was just a perfect start.
Here we approached Old Hall Farm. This was just one of many working farms that we ended up walked through.
Approaching Higher Lath Farm was our first bit of an uphill climb.
These were just rolling fields compared to the more hilly conditions we would be walking in that afternoon.
Nothing of what we encountered today on the path from Ulverston to Coniston was as mountainous or as bleak as our walk on Wednesday from Great Langdale to Borrowdale.
Throughout the whole week there were sheep and spring lambs everywhere!
Although the lambs were quite intrigued by us and would often come very near it was always best to keep well away.
Mother sheep was never that far away.
She was always keeping a close eye on her children. Letting out a concerned deep and menacing “baaa” every now and then!
St John the Evangelist’s Church is a very pretty church near Broughton Beck and on The Cumbria Way.
It was built in 1874 and is still hosts regular services today.
We actually met the minister and his wife outside as we passed by.
They were taking refreshments inside for a group of their parishioners who were walking there from another local church that day.
We politely declined a visit inside. I just knew we would end up spending a whole lot of time there when we had a schedule to keep to.
By schedule I mean a bar and a pint of local ale in Coniston by hopefully 4pm!
The path after the church at Broughton Beck led us through more green fields
Fortunately with the weather being dry and very warm these fields were not too difficult to navigate through.
I can only imagine that if we had had wet weather, walking through these pastures would have been a complete nightmare.
Overall we were very lucky with the weather for the whole week. It was mostly dry.
We climbed about 200m to reach Beacon Tarn at 255m.
This was a fantastic and tranquil spot for our picnic lunch. In the distance we could see the mountains above Coniston.
The pointed one is The Old Man of Coniston which is 2,634 feet (803 m) high.
I read that this Tarn has a reputation for attracting people for a spot of wild swimming.
Let me assure you that the water is not warm!
After circulating Beacon Tarn the path takes a steep descent and leads down to Stable Harvey Moss.
The path here avoids the boggy ground but still provided us with amazing views of The Coniston Fells.
I remember at this part of the walk that one minute it was fleece jackets off when the sun shone.
Then the next minute when the sun went away it was fleece jackets back on!
Here at Torver Low Common we should have branched to the left when we reached the flat area.
Instead we stuck to the southern path which seemed to be clearer to us.
As I mentioned earlier there are parts of The Cumbria Way which are not well signposted.
However, all this detour meant was that when we reached a main road we had to walk up it to get back on the official way.
However. Our slight detour did give us this magnificent view of Coniston Water from Coats Hill.
A view we would not have seen had we found and followed the official path!
So we began our descent to the waters where I assumed we would follow a flat path along the shore.
However on reaching the lakeshore path it was pretty rugged in places and there was also some steep climbs.
Having promised Lady Lynne and Jen a more gentle meander I could see from their facial expressions I wasn’t in their good books!
However, the views of Coniston Water were amazing. We just had to remember to watch our feet whilst admiring them!
Coniston Water is the third largest lake in The Lake District. 5 miles long makes it a popular lake for boating and its deapest part is 184 feet.
The waterside path did eventually flatten out and became much easier for walking on.
Looking to the left the mountains above Coniston of Yew Pike and Rigg Head could be seen, without a cloud on.
The path led us through a campsite towards a building that from a distance made me think “wow that’s a really ugly building with horrible chimneys”!
That building was in fact Coniston Hall!
A Grade 2 listed building. Part used as a house, part used as a sailing club.
It’s an old manor house which dates from the 1580’s
After reading up on the history I understood that the reason for the tall chunky chimneys was apparantly a means of showing your wealth!
The building is relatively intact.
The central part of the building, which at one time would probably have been the “great hall” appears to have been converted into a barn.
You can see the grassy earth bank built to allow access to a barn door in the centre of the wall.
Coniston Hall was also used as hunting lodge and seems to have gone out of use around 1710.
The building was partially restored in 1815 and remained as part of an estate owned by The Fleming Family until it was sold to the National Trust in 1971.
We arrived into Coniston just before 5pm. So pretty much on time.
Our first stop here was The Black Bull pub which we were able to sit outside and enjoy a pint of local ale brewed the in that pubs microbrewery.
Having had our thirst suitably quenched we headed to our accomodation for the evening, Lakeland House (above).
Our accomodation was excellent. We had The Lookout Suite.
After freshening up we had a pre-dinner drink at The Crown Inn.
Then an excellent dinner at The Yewdale Inn.
So folks that ends Day 1 Ulverston to Coniston. Be sure to check back soon for Day 2 Coniston to Great Langdale or better still subscribe by following the instructions below!
If you enjoyed reading this then you might also be interested in reading about our other adventures such as our climb of Kilimanjaro last year or our videos of our coast to coast walk of Hadrian’s Wall.