W2W is a challenging route with lots of hills following mainly quiet roads and country lanes.
This fantastic route stretches between Walney Island - just outside Barrow-in-Furness on Cumbria’s Irish Sea coast, and Wearmouth in Sunderland (155.5 miles) or Whitby (179.7 miles) both on the North Sea coast.
The coast to coast route traverses:
- the Lake District Peninsulas
- South Cumbria's Low Fells and the Lune Gorge
- the Orton Fells
- the Eden Valley and North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
- and the Land of the Prince Bishops with its historic city of Durham.
At Barnard Castle, the route splits and you can instead follow National Route 165 to Whitby via the Esk Valley through the North York Moors.
There are railway stations at either end and at other locations along the way - getting to and from the route by train is highly recommended.
The route runs mainly on country lanes and quiet roads across hilly North Country terrain (steep in places), interspersed with sections of shared-use path and tracks.
Walney to Wearmouth
The total climb for this route is around 1380 metres. The toughest sections to look out for are Bigland Hill (just 20 miles into the route from Walney Island) and Tan Hill, the highest point at 1,732 feet above sea level.
If these climbs have worn you out take the easier route after Barnard Castle to Durham via Bishop Auckland, avoiding the climb up to Hamsterley Forest.
The last 18 miles from Durham to the coast gently undulate too.
Barnard Castle to Whitby
The 46 miles from Barnard Castle to Great Ayton is relatively easy-going, although it does undulate gently. The last 30 miles across the North York Moors National Park is much more challenging.
Please note: Sections of unsealed roads, tracks or paths account for approximately 14% of the Walney to Wear route.
In particular, the short two-mile track between the Tan Hill road and Sleightholme Farm near Bowes is rough and thicker tyres are needed.
Walney to Whitby requires the South Cumbria and the Lake District and County Durham and North Yorkshire maps, plus the North York Moors, Tees Valley and Durham Coast cycle map, which shows National Route 165 (formerly Regional Route 52) between Barnard Castle and Whitby, enabling the completion of the W2Whitby.
Cyclists, please be aware that at the time of writing (March 2019), the Witton Park Bridge over the River Wear on the NCN 70 route has been closed for some time with no sign of re-opening soon.
There are currently no official cycle route diversions in place and Sustrans is aware of the issue and acting on it.
For more information on the route please also see the Walney to Wear website with information about places to stay, baggage transfer and the latest updates on the W2W route.
Route distance options
Walney Island - Sunderland: 155.5 miles, 250.3 kilometres
Walney Island - Whitby: 179.7 miles, 289.3 kilometres
We have taken all responsible steps to ensure that these routes are safe and achievable by people with a reasonable level of fitness.
However, all outdoor activities involve a degree of risk. To the extent permitted by law, Sustrans accepts no responsibility for any accidents or injury resulting from following these routes.
Walking and cycling routes change over time. Weather conditions may also affect path surfaces.
Please use your own judgement when using the routes based upon the weather and the ability, experience and confidence levels of those in your group.