Today is a momentous day. Were you a drop of water, at the start of the day you would flow west – back towards St Bees and into the Irish Sea – but by the end of the day you would trickle east and into the North Sea. Naturally, crossing this watershed requires a climb, which starts immediately out of Kirkby Stephen and rises to cross over the Pennines via the Nine Standards Rigg (Blue Route). Secondly, you will cross from Cumbria into Yorkshire today, and thirdly, Keld is the halfway point of the Coast to Coast. I think all that achievement warrants a celebratory beer!
There are actually 3 routes over the moors to Keld, known as the green, red and blue routes - some routes can close off during the year due to the peat becoming heavily eroded with large amounts of walkers trudging over it on a daily basis. There is normally signage from local authorities on the trail (example shown in the images) that advise you what route to take; depending on what month your walking in. It is important you respect any route diversion from local authorities - if you do not, don't be surprised if you have to explain yourself to an angry Yorkshire farmer!
The landscape is bleak, hostile and uncompromising, and that is its charm (though you’ll probably struggle to discover this charm on a wet and windswept day!). Towards the end of the hike, you will drop towards the River Swale which cascades through the Swale Valley and brings life and colour to the region. Dry-stone walls carve the landscape into fragments, many filled with sheep. Scattered across the valley, in every field are small stone buildings are known as a cow house, or a cow’uss if you’re a local; such was the economic significance of a cow and her milk that these buildings were built to offer protection from the harsh elements.
Keld is only a small village but sits on the crossroads between two walks, the Coast to Coast and the Pennine Way. Despite the hordes of travellers that pass through each year, it is a charming and forgotten village where life appears to carry on as normal, as it has for generations.
Rest StopKeld Lodge
There are a few stretches where you must walk on the road as there is no pavement or verge. Walk on the right side facing the oncoming traffic unless there is a right-hand turn, in which case you should cross to the outside edge to allow drivers the maximum chance to see you.
There are several river crossings in today’s walk. There are always stepping stones available but these may be slippery.
The section across the moors can be featureless. It is important to read the instructions and check the map regularly to ensure you stay on the correct path.
You must cross a cattle grid today. Place your feet carefully and bear in mind it may be slippery when wet.
This route is peaty terrain and can become very boggy; take your time to work out the best route to navigate across it.
Tips and hints
Points of Interest
Keld Countryside and Heritage Centre
This museum sits in the Old Literary Building. There are an interesting collection of display boards and a video which provide insight into life in this region.
More information available here: http://keld.org.uk/
Food and Drink
The only option to buy food or drink between Kirkby Stephen and Keld is the Raven Seat Farm Café after 15 kilometres. This isn’t always open so don’t rely on it for lunch!
There is a black corrugated metal hikers’ shelter after 12 kilometres which hikers are free to use and offers good protection from the elements for a lunch-stop.
There are limited options for food in Keld; Be sure to book a table for dinner in advance as it can fill up quickly.
Bring enough supplies for today’s walk before leaving Kirkby Stephen.
Sturdy hiking boots, warm clothes and a waterproof/wind-break layer are all required. The weather can change quickly so be sure to take all equipment even if the weather looks okay. Walking poles will be a big advantage on some of these ascents and descents.
Ensure your phone is fully charged; if you doubt the battery will last throughout the hike, it might be beneficial to bring a power bank.
This walk is isolated with limited opportunities to buy food or water so be sure to bring enough with you.