One of several reasons why it’s best to walk the Cumberland Way with a guide who knows exactly where they’re going is that, officially speaking, it doesn’t actually exist, and it isn’t waymarked. Even with a good map and route notes, you could potentially miss dinner. In fact the county of Cumberland no longer exists either. With the boundary changes of 1974 the area was absorbed into the new country of Cumbria. It lives on, however, both in the famous Cumberland sausage, a Lake District delicacy, and the Cumberland Way
which is unarguably one of the great English long-distance walking routes. The walk begins in Ravenglass, the only coastal town in the Lake District, and leads across the national park as far as Appleby-in-Westmoreland (though some itineraries finish earlier, in the village of Brougham on the edge of the park).
If you have time to spare after arriving in Ravenglass, you might support a beloved local heritage attraction by taking a trip on La’al Ratty, one of the country’s oldest and longest narrow-gauge railways, before setting off. Then it’s on towards the atmospheric Wastwater, a lake with plunging depths, over Black Sail Pass and past several of the region’s most imposing peaks, among them Scafell Pike and Haystacks, the latter a favourite of legendary Lakes writer Alfred Wainwright.
You continue east through the Newlands Valley, along the shore of Derwentwater, before reaching the popular market town of Keswick. Then it’s up to the Bronze Age Castlerigg stone circle before descending through moorland, past Ullswater and the finish line. By the way, if megalithic stone circles are your thing, then note that Castlerigg draws just a fraction of the crowds of Stonehenge and offers some quite spectacular panoramas on a clear day. Strictly speaking the Cumberland Way ends in Appleby-in-Westmoreland, but some itineraries come to a close earlier, as it leaves the park, at historic Brougham Hill, parts of which date back as far as the 13th century.