137 miles, Whitehaven to Sunderland
C2C is the original coast to coast route, and is the UK’s most-popular long-distance cycle route. The name is actually not short for coast to coast, but rather sea to sea – it runs from the Irish Sea to the North Sea (or vice versa). Of all the coast to coast routes, this one’s probably the best known. It’s also unusual in that there isn’t a single set route. You can start in Whitehaven (where most people set off from) or Workington, and end in either Newcastle or Sunderland. The route on the map below is for Whitehaven to Sunderland.
Traditionally, cyclists doing the C2C start by dipping their bikes’ rear wheels in the Irish Sea, and touch the water of the North Sea with their front wheel, when they finish the ride.
Coast to coast cycle routes in the UK
The island of Greater Britain is long and reasonably narrow, which lends itself perfectly to a (usually) West-East coast to coast bike ride. Because of this, there are multiple coast to coast cycling routes to choose from, but the C2C is the one that started it all. Coast to coast routes vary enormously, in terms of distance, hilliness of the terrain, and how much of the route is traffic-free, versus on-road.
The route is a mix of traffic-free trails and (normally) quiet lanes. There are some serious climbs, and no matter which way you ride it, make sure you have good brakes.
You will certainly remember riding up Hartside!
Most standard bikes are fine on this route, including road bikes. There are some traffic-free segments where those on a road bike may instead prefer to stick to the roads.
Other coast to coast routes
Points of Interest
The C2C routes passes through the beautiful Lake District, and the views when the route crosses the Pennines are spectacular.
Also consider visiting the ruins of Penrith’s 14th century castle.
Getting to the C2C
The trouble with all coast to coast routes is that they’re linear, so you end up far from where you started.
For the C2C route, you can get to both Whitehaven and Newcastle by train. Handily, you can get from either of those by train, from the other.
Your only other option of getting to the start is by driving there.
What the C2C looks like
Weather forecast for the C2C route
Because of the length of the route, there are multiple forecasts. Clicking each forecast will open it in a new window, in a larger format.
Preparing for the C2C
If you’re planning on riding the C2C (and I hope you are) you must accept from the outset that the route includes crossing the Pennines. That absolutely means you will have several serious and challenging climbs to contend with. Alongside that, you will also have equally serious descents to deal with, and it’s vital your bike has decent brakes.
The only way to prepare yourself for big climbs is to go cycle up as many climbs as you possibly can, ideally while carrying all the luggage you’ll have when riding the C2C. There really is no substitute for this.
This post will give you more information on preparing for a cycle tour. If you’re not a very experienced cycle tourer, I rather strongly suggest you go read this post. It will answer at least the majority of questions you may have about cycle touring.