Cycling coast to coast: Crossing the North of England

We asked top blogger Kirstie Pelling from the Family Adventure Project to join us on a cycling break and share with you their route and top tips.

Kirstie took her family on a coast to coast route from Workington to Sunderland.

The route:

We cycled from Workington to Sunderland via Cockermouth, Keswick, Penrith, Alston, Stanhope, Consett and Beamish. The C2C is a Sustrans national challenge route with several route options. It includes on and off-road sections and the route is well signed following mostly National Cycle Network routes 71 and 7. View the route on Strava here

Miles covered:
Difficulty level:
Trail must-do:

140 miles


Climbing Hartside Summit and visiting the café for a hot chocolate at the top.

Standing in the centre of Castlerigg Stone Circle, wondering if that sound is the wind or a druid whisper, it feels like I am the only person on the planet. But then one of my family weaves past me in a hurry to get to lunch and I remember that I am far from alone and on a cycling adventure with my family. 

The route we are cycling weaves its way from Workington on the wild west coast of Cumbria to the striking east coast at Sunderland, taking us from the honeypot towns of the Lake District all the way to the gritty, industrial docks of Sunderland. You can do this route in a long weekend, or you can take a week like my family and I did.

Along the way, we stop off at Beamish for a whole day and the children love being transported back in time (plus it’s a welcome break from all the cycling!) The next day we carry on, but stop for a while in Durham City and explore the Norman splendour of the iconic Cathedral, towering above the city!

Even though we take our time, the ride is still a challenge with three young children in tow. At the end of each day we all needed some treats; starting with a hot bath and a warm bed. When we were planning the trip we imagined freewheeling through sunny lanes on our half term break. But, of course, this is England and so we are faced with every element known to man. At one point we even find ourselves lost in the fog! 

Despite being tired and grumpy, Premier Inn staff prove to be our very own Angels of the North. They give us sweeties and plump pillows and cook us a hot breakfast. They watch over our bikes and turn a blind eye to our overtired children having a sibling scrap in reception. 

On our final day, we ride the last few miles along a delightful cycle path on the bank of the River Wear. The route ends near The Roker Lighthouse and a sculpture of the letter C. Being a coast to coast cycling route, we finish at the North Sea. Dipping our toes into the ocean, as we did exactly a week before, the water doesn’t feel as cold. Is it warmer or are we just braver than we were, having travelled from coast to coast through a fair few decades and a clutch of changeable weathers? The children have pedalled like champions and slept like babies. I can’t remember a time when any of our faces glowed quite so bright.