The Cumbria Way – our guide to this excellent 73 mile route

geograph-6777231-by-Adrian-Taylor (1)

We write about lots of walking routes on our website, many of which extend for well over 100 miles, such as the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. We also love shorter routes like Marriott's Way, which is only 26 miles long. The great thing about the Cumbria Way is that it's not too long and not too short either, but there is still plenty to enjoy along the way. It's a mainly low-level route which takes you through some of the most beautiful & contrasting landscapes that Cumbria has to offer. If you're looking to work your way up to a longer 100-mile + walking route, then completing the Cumbria Way is a great way to build up towards one of the longer routes we've written about. But it is also very enjoyable in its own right.

We wanted to publish an updated guide about The Cumbria Way for anyone looking to complete it in 2023, let's get into it:

Where is The Cumbria Way?

The route runs around 73 miles between the town of Ulverston to the city of Carlisle. We've actually got a guide about Ulverston if you'd like to visit the town before you head off on the route.

What sections are there?

We should start by saying that there is definitely not a "right" way of following this route, and you might find it ends up being slightly less or more than 73 miles, but you'll pass by these locations so the route can be split into the following 5 sections across 5 days:


Ulverston to Coniston (15.5 miles, ascent 640 metres)
Coniston to Langdale (11.5 miles, ascent 500 metres)
Great Langdale to Keswick (15.5 miles, ascent 650 metres)
Keswick to Caldbeck (15 miles, ascent 890 metres)
Caldbeck to Carlisle (15.5 miles, ascent 160 metres)

What is there to see and do as you walk along The Cumbria Way?

There is quite a lot to see as you move along The Cumbria Way, especially if you're willing to deviate off the route a little bit. We've picked a few points along the way which we think are really worth seeing if you have the time, let's break it down section by section:

Ulverston to Coniston

The starting point of the Cumbria Way is the marker sculpture in The Gill at Ulverston, which is the image at the top of this guide. As we mentioned above, we have an entire guide about Ulverston, and if you have time before you set off on The Cumbria Way then there are quite a few things to see and do within the town. The Laurel & Hardy Museum is very fun and interesting, especially if you're a fan of the slapstick legends. The walk up to the Hoad Monument not only allows you to get up close to this impressive structure, but also provides you with stunning views of Morecambe Bay and the Lake District fells. As you reach Coniston, you'll soon see Coniston Water, an impressive lake which is a joy to walk along. You'll also walk past Wild Cat Island, which is referenced in the book Swallows and Amazons.

Coniston to Great Langdale

This is one of the flatter sections of the Cumbria Way, particularly the first section as you depart from Coniston. As you pass through Colwith and Skelwith Bridge, you'll eventually reach the Great Langdale Valley, which is stunning. If you're happy to veer off the route slightly then the National Trust-owned Tarn Hows area is absolutely worth a look. This hidden gem offers some of the best views you'll find anywhere in the Lake District, and the Coniston Fells from here are stunning. Similarly, Cathedral Quarry next to Little Langdale is a stunning series of caves which is worth a visit if you have the time.

Great Langdale to Keswick

This section is fairly straightforward until you reach Stake Pass, where there is quite a challenging climb up and then down into Langstrath Valley. You'll pass by the former home of William Wordsworth in Grasmere, which has now been transformed into a fascinating museum. You'll also pass by Thirlmere reservoir, a stunning manmade body of water which has a very atmospheric and almost eerie feel to it. After crossing Stonethwaite Beck you reach Rosthwaite, before a scenic walk through the finest scenery that Borrowdale can offer leads you to Grange. A short section of road walking a wooded trail alongside Derwentwater takes you through Portinscale and into Keswick
Just before you reach Keswick, you might wish to stop for a visit at the Castlerigg Stone Circle, which is estimated to be more than 5000 years old. Keswick is a great place for an overnight stop, with restaurants and lots of accommodation.

Keswick to Caldbeck

If you choose the high level routes in this section, then this can be the steepest section of The Cumbria Way, and you'll want to make sure that you're well-rested and stocked up before setting off. The first climb is up to Latrigg and then up the Glenderaterra valley. It's just after this point where you'll have the option of taking the High Level Route or Low Level Route, with the High Level Route taking you to High Pike, the highest point of The Cumbria Way. Unless you're experienced, always go for the low level route as navigation can be tricky on the tops here when it is misty.
The Whitewater Dash waterfall just after Skiddaw is very impressive and photogenic if you have the time to stop.

Caldbeck to Carlisle

As you enter the last section of The Cumbria Way, you might already be looking forward to reaching Carlisle for some well-earned R&R. But you'll also have to have your wits about you along this section - although it starts fairly flat, once you hit Dalston you'll feel the incline as you join the cycleway. Once you reach Carlisle, make sure to take a photo of the Market Cross to celebrate completing the route, and of course take full advantage of everything you'll find in the city.

What should you be aware of before heading along The Cumbria Way?

As we mentioned previously, this guide is split into 5 days but if you'd like to visit all of the additional points that we've highlighted then you may wish to allow for 7 or even 8 days, covering a more leisurely 10 miles per day.
As with all of the routes we write about, probably the most important thing to be aware of before heading on the Cumbria Way route is that you need to plan your accommodation if you don't plan to complete the route in a day, and always have a backup plan! Always let plenty of people know where you're going, and ideally tackle the route as part of a group. If you can, complete the route in spring or summer when the weather is less harsh. If you're walking then you'll need to be extra careful with how you prepare, as you probably won't be completing the route in a day.

Extend the walk - The Westfield Greenway

Many people who choose to follow the Cumbria Way will extend the route by including The Westfield Greenway walk either at the start or end, depending on how they approach the Cumbria Way. This 7km walking route between Foulney Island and Cavendish Dock is a very scenic and easy walk, and it offers amazing views of the Walney Channel and Piel Island, as well as the castle.


It's a linear route which is pretty straightforward and is accessible all year round. It's suitable for walkers, cyclists, wheelchair users, and those with pushchairs and young children. The trail has a concrete surface along its entire length.
FireShot Capture 046 - Concle Terrace to Cavendish Dock - Google Maps -

The above map gives you a rough outline to the route, but here is a more specific breakdown which you can follow:

  • Start from the causeway that leads to Roa Island
  • Head towards Concle and cross the road at the first set of dropped kerbs
  • Follow the second public footpath which is gated with a passing point
  • Walk through the farmland and past St Michael’s church until you reach Roosecote Sands bay
  • Once you reach Cavendish Dock, you've completed the route!
Hopefully, this guide has inspired you to tackle this great route. As we mentioned, we've also got guides about other routes like the nearby Sandstone Way and the Ullswater Way. We've also got guides about the Hadrian's Cycleway, the Borders Abbey Way, and the Exe Estuary Trail.

Finn is the editor of You Well and has been writing about travel, health, and more for over 10 years.

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