Hadrian’s Coastal Route

Route: Ravenglass to Bowness-on-Solway
Distance: 86 miles
Total ascent: 906m
Difficulty: easy
Waymarked: no


We completed the Hadrian’s Wall route in 2018 and finding out that the Roman defences continued along the coast inspired us to continue our Roman trek. The book Hadrian’s Coastal Route: Ravenglass to Bowness-on-Solway: Walker’s Guide by Clifford Jones was our rough guide. Roman Coastal defences once stretched from the end of the Wall at Bowness-on-Solway down to Ravenglass, which was once an important Roman naval port. The book contains a wealth of historical detail, but only a basic description of the route, and with hand drawn maps. My copy was published over a decade ago and paths and access have changed since then. We knew therefore that we would have to find our own way.


The walking is mostly easy, 32 of the 86 miles are on roads, mostly C roads, but with some A roads (2 miles) and B roads (7 miles) along the way. Much of the off road walking is on paths, but there are sections without discernible paths. Some walking is on sand dunes, or beaches of pebble, gravel or sand and can be quite tiring. In places the path has actually been lost to coastal erosion. We crossed meadows which were dry but could, I am sure, be quite muddy after a downpour. Crossing the salt marshes of Skinburness was difficult because they are crossed by deep gutters. Footbridges marked on the map had been washed away. We could not find the footpath in the marshes between Border and Brownrigg, and had to escape to the road. The ‘permissive footpath’ between Newton Arlosh and Kirkbride was overgrown and proved impassible.


This is not an official route and as such is not waymarked. The route does coincide with the old Cumbrian Coastal Way and some signposts for the CCW are still standing though the CCW is no longer officially sanctioned and is not shown on modern OS maps. One old Cumbrian Coastal Way sign sent us the wrong way. The English Coastal Path is present in very short sections, but our experience was that most signs for the ECP were there to say that it was not yet opened. Some of the route also coincides with National Cycleway 72, Hadrian’s Cycle Route. In Workington some of the signs, for both the walking and cycleways had been moved to point the wrong way, so beware.


We walked the route a day at a time, travelling down to Cumbria each day. Where possible we ended with an ice-cream. We were able to use the train to get from the end back to the beginning on one leg. Parking was not a problem. We tried to keep the distance walked each time to no more than 10-12 miles to allow ourselves time to ‘stand and stare’.


What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

William Henry Davies


  • 12.3 miles 5h 4m 114m ascent
  • 12.96 miles 6h 15m 430m ascent
  • 10.81 miles  4h 57m ascent 114m
  • 11.0 miles 5h 14m ascent 79m
  • 11.2 miles 5h 53 m ascent 20m
  • 11.71 miles 6h 16m ascent 45m
  • 10.37 4h 54m 33m ascent
  • 7.19 miles 2h 55m 9m ascent