The route was launched on 1 June 2005 to complement the popular Sea to Sea Cycle Route (C2C) that runs from Whitehaven to Sunderland. It is designed to be slightly harder and longer than this other route, totalling either 149 or 151 miles (243 km). As it has only been launched recently, the route is still undergoing some improvements (June 2005) to meet National Cycle Network standards.
From west to east, the W2W takes the following route:
- From Walney Island in the Irish Sea ( it goes on to the industrial port of )Barrow-in-Furness
- It then runs through the Furness peninsula, passing towns such as Ulverston and the picturesque Grange-Over-Sands. There are safety issues along this stretch of the route as sections of the path follow the busy A590 trunk road
- The route continues to skirt the Lake District national park towards the historical market town of Kendal
- After this, the path continues northwards, before moving in an easterly direction towards Kirkby Stephen and through the Pennines to Barnard Castle in County Durham
- At Barnard Castle, the route splits into two spurs. The northerly spur passes through Hamsterley, taking two miles (3 km) more to reach the beautiful cathedral city of Durham than the easier southern spur which passes through Bishop Auckland.
- The final 18 miles (29 km) of the W2W follows the River Wear to the North Sea at Sunderland ().
- A third option is now available. Regional Route 52 between Barnard Castle and Whitby allows cycling the Walney to Whitby route of 171 miles (275 km).
- The official website of the W2W
- Wearside Sustrans website with links to details on the route in Wearside