The Pennine Way is Britain’s foremost National Trail, some 270 miles long, from Edale in Derbyshire to Kirk Yetholm in Scotland. This page is a journal of 2 friends, later on joined by 2 more friends, walking the way in weekend sections over many years. Our last stop was in Bellingham, Northumberland, in summer 2012, with 3 days left to go until our final destination is reached. The next, and final leg, is planned for July 2013.
Pennine Way North/South; National Trail Guides by Tony Hopkins
Pennine Way Companion, a pictorial guide by Alfred Wainwright
The Pennine Way (British Walking Guide) by Keith Carter & Edward de la Biliere
Pennine Walkies by Mark Wallington
One Man and his Bog by Barry Pilton
Pennine Way Leg 1: Edale, Derbyshire to the Calder Valley, West Yorkshire.
Day 1: The High Peak, Nags Head Edale to Crowden in Longendale (16.5 miles, 2,450 ft of ascent).
After a long drive from Leicester to Edale we arrived at the Nags Head, starting point for the Pennine Way, around midday. Keen not to rush this experience we retired to the pub for a pint and lunch before this photo was taken around 2pm on a beautiful afternoon. Little did the two novices know what lay ahead on Day 1!
It was a fairly easy start with an amble along the Edale valley through Upper Booth before reaching the first notable landmark, the Jacob’s Ladder path up to Kinder Scout. A steady climb and we were on the bleak plateau of peat hags and nothingness as far as the eye could see. Fortunately the alternative route which we were following does not cut across the peat hags but skirts round the edge affording fine views of the valley to the west. Relatively easy going ensued as we crossed Kinder Low (the highest point of the day at 633m) and took our first break at Kinder Downfall were the Kinder River drops off the millstone grit edge into the valley below. After a quick refresh we set off again to Mill Hill then turning north eastward to the Snake Pass (scene of the mass trepass of 24 April 1932 when hundreds of ramblers confronted gamekeepers and police demanding access). In previous years this would have been hard going through peat bogs prompting many a walker to give up when they reached the main road. But to save erosion of this precious landscape much of this section is now paved meaning much easier going which was fortunate as the ramifications of our late start began to dawn on us! There was a long way to go until Crowden YHA was reached and absolutely no civilisation along the way. Our late start did have one benefit though we met only one or two walkers after leaving Kinder Downfall.
So against the clock we strode on finally reaching Snake Pass then following the Devils Dike and onwards to the Hern Stones and Bleaklow Head. Nearby is the wreckage and memorial to the B-29 Superfortress that crashed in November 1948 killing all 13 crew.
Then we went wrong, under pressure as the evening got murkier we took a wrong turning following the Black Clough instead of the PW route which, whilst still heading for Longendale, we eventually arrived much further up the valley than we should have been meaning more walking until we finally reached Crowden YHA at 9pm after adding another 2 miles or so onto our day. A couple of valuable lessons learnt on the first day, set off at a decent time and always double check your map reading!
Day 2: Crowden to Diggle, Saddleworth (15 miles, approx 1500 ft ascent).
After a comfortable night and breakfast at the YHA we set off up a steady climb to Black Hill (582m). There wasn’t much to note on this section of the way, we crossed the A635 Saddleworth to Holmfirth road and on past the Wessenden Reservoirs. The main highlight for me was getting closer to my birth place and home for the first 13 years of my life, Oldham. My grandparents lived in Saddleworth, in Delph, so I know this part of the world quite well and as we approached Diggle for our next overnight stop there were some familiar landmarks coming into view.
Not least of all this caravan selling teas, there’s nothing like a fresh brew after a few miles of hard walking!
We stayed overnight in a nice B&B just outside of Diggle. And a trip to Uppermill that evening gave us our first curry of the walk (to become a regular feature!) so we set off the next morning with plenty of carbs to burn!
Day 3: Diggle to Calder Valley (16 miles, approx 1200 ft ascent).
From Diggle we got back on the PW along Stanedge overlooking Cattleshaw Reservoirs to the west which I used to walk round years ago with my grandparents. Over the Huddersfield Road to White Hill (466m) and the first main sight of the 3rd day, the M62 crossing which was an unwelcome interruption into our quiet world.
Thankfully they built a footbridge across the motorway 40 years ago so a detour to go under the M62 via the A672 is now avoided. It wasn’t long until we were on our way up Blackstone Edge (472m), the intrusive motorway traffic just a distant hum behind us. From there it was down to Blackstone Edge reservoir then along the side of Light Hazzles and Warland reservoirs before turning right along the Warland Drain and across to the Stoodley Pike Monument.
From there we dropped down into the Calder Valley to Hebden Bridge where we picked up the cars for the long drive back. A great first leg with fantastic scenery taking in 3 counties, Derbyshire, Lancashire and West Yorkshire, and covering a fair section of the Peak District National Park. A taste of what lay in store!
Pennine Way Leg 2: Hebden Bridge to Horton-in-Ribblesdale
Day 1: Hebden Bridge to Cowling (17 miles, approx 2500ft ascent).
After a another long drive north we stayed overnight at the Hare and Hounds just outside Hebden Bridge, who do a mean pint of Landlord (Timothy Taylor) by the way.
Suitably refreshed we rejoined the PW the next morning for our trek across Yorkshire. We started with a good climb out of the Calder Valley across Heptonstall Moor to Gorple Lower Reservoir before turning north-eastwards across the famous Bronte moors towards Haworth. Around the ruins of Top Withens (423m) it got a little busier, a few intrepid tourists venturing from Haworth up onto the moors to savour that Bronte atmosphere. The ruin of the old farmhouse has long been associated with Wuthering Heights, the Earnshaw home in the Emily Bronte novel. We left the tourists behind making our way to Ponden Reservoir and then over Ickornshaw Moor to Cowling where our B&B landlady greeted us with much welcome tea and cake, a perfect end to a tiring day. Well almost, after a shower, it was in a taxi to Skipton for another curry!
Day 2: Cowling to Malham (17 miles approx 17ooft ascent).
From Cowling onwards we crossed the Aire Gap, a pleasant section of rolling hills and a patchwork quilt of fields. Easy going bar the constant stile clambering. It marks a definite boundary in our journey from the harsh, bleak gritstone moorland landscape of the High Peak and South Pennines to the limestone uplands of the Yorkshire Dales.
We trekked on through Lothersdale and over Pinhaw Beacon (388m) then descending into Thornton-in-Craven, a pleasant enough place blighted by the A56 traffic between Skipton and Lancashire. We then crossed an area of Drumlins, remnants from the Ice Age, a series of small hills until we reached the Leeds-Liverpool canal at East Marton. A pleasant section of towpath walking followed under a double-arched bridge before a pub stop in the village.
Then we cut across fields to Gargrave and continued on following the River Aire into the Yorshire Dales National Park and our overnight stop in Malham.
Malham is a mecca for walkers with famous scenic sites such as Gordale Scar, Malham Cove with its limestone pavement leading to the beautiful tarn and Tarn Moss Nature Reserve. The next day was one to savour, classic Dales walking across to Horton-in-Ribblesdale. Taking in the Cove, Tarn, Fountains Fell and Pen-Y-Ghent this is probably the best days walking on the entire way.
After an easy walk out of the village the first landmark we reached was the impressive Malham Cove, 240 ft high by 900ft wide it was formed by the Middle Craven Fault and then eroded back to its current position by a torrent of glacial meltwater that passed over it from the moorland above. What must have been an impressive sight now occurs underground in the limestone fissures of the cove but the sheer cliff face of the cove still merits a few minutes stop to take in the scenery.
The Way climbs up the left hand side of the cove to a magnificent limestone pavement and within no time at all we were back to geography lesson days of grykes and dykes, a precious and rare landscape.
Then came the beautiful Malham Tarn and its Nature Reserve which was the area used in April 1965 for the official opening ceremony of the Pennine Way. The Tarn is the highest lime-rich lake in Britain, it sits on an area of impermeable rock whilst the area around is limestone. It’s not entirely natural though owing its existence to an embankment built in 1791. The Way follows the estate road round to Malham Tarn House now owned by the National Trust and let out to the Field Studies Council.
Shortly after the tarn we started our climb up Fountains Fell, a bare moorland hillside for the next couple of miles would have been without interest but for a couple of guys flying a goshawk. After a brief chat we carried on to find the Way taking us round the summit instead of over it. Still our final climb of the day, Pen-Y-Ghent (694m), one of the three Yorkshire peaks (the other two being Ingleborough and Whernside, was now in sight and was the outstanding feature of our descent of Fountains Fell. We drew breath at its base for a few minutes before the short sharp shock of the steep ascent. But what a view, Yorskhire’s beautiful landscape stretched out before us, and fuelled a rapid descent into Horton-In-Ribblesdale and the end of our 2nd leg.
Pennine Way Leg 3: Horton-in-Ribblesdale to High Force
Day 1: Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Hawes (14 miles, 1300ft ascent)
This was actually Day 2 of our walking on this leg, the first day we where up Scafell Pike in the Lake District then across to Horton for the next leg of the PW.
In the guide this day is described as classic hill walking over limestone county following the Cam High Road across Dodd Fell to Hawes. Most of the section is a classic ridge walk, great views on all sides etc etc. Well we’ll have to take their word for it as the entire section was fog-bound, a real pea-souper, and we could only see for a few feet in any direction. This is one of the pitfalls of a schedule, if we were locals it would be easy to abandon and sit in a pub for the day but we had to press on to our next overnight stop in Hawes. Such a shame, but that’s part and parcel of hill walking.
Fortunately Hawes is a resonable sized placed, home to the Wensleydale creamery. And to a decent curry house where we spent most of the evening consouling ourselves!
Day 2: Hawes to Thwaite (11 miles, approx 2000ft ascent)
Today we had one objective, to get over Great Shunner Fell (716m). Again the weather was against us with rain lashing us for most of the day. Shunner was a long climb before we reached the top and a similar length descent. The top should have been a classic viewpoint although it was too misty on that day to see far. Fortunately we had our best lodgings to-date booked in Thwaite, the Kearton Country Hotel, pretty much the only place around, and we were not disappointed with the hospitality that night.
Day 3: Thwaite to Baldersdale (17 miles approx 17ooft ascent)
We had to drag ourselves away from the breakfast at the Kearton and up a steep, sharp climb to Kisdon and then Keld where most people overnight from the previous Shunner Fell leg. From Keld the Way crosses the Swale at Kisdon Force a pretty little waterfall.
The Tan Hill Inn is everything you want a pub to be. In the middle of classic, bleak moorland scenery, great ale (a couple of pints of Black Sheep), slate floors, an open fire and bottle-reared lambs running about the place. It could have been a blizzard outside and we’d have been safe and warm at the Tan Hill Inn!
Still we couldn’t stay there forever and we had a fairly non-descript part of the Way to navigate across Sleightholme Moor, where we nearly lost Richard up to his waste in one of the notorious Pennine Way peat bogs. After a brief interlude to dry off we were across the A66 near Bowes and close to our overnight stop in Baldersdale, a farmhouse run by a lovely couple, who set us up with an evening meal washed down with a few cans of lager.
Day 3: Baldersdale to High Force (13 miles approx 1200ft ascent).
This was a relatively easy day of walking across meadows and pastureland before reaching Middleton-in-Teesdale and following the River Tees north past the twin waterfalls of Low and High Force. High Force was an impressive end to our leg the water as the Tees plunges some 65 feet over the Whin Sill edge into a deep plunge pool. The noise is great, you can hear it for some time before it comes into view and was a spectacular end to our walk.
Pennine Way Leg 4: High Force, County Durham to Knarsdale, Northumberland.
Day 1: High Force to Dufton (16 miles, 800 ft ascent).
The High Force Hotel had seen better days but it provided a convenient overnight stop before the start of our fourth leg of the Pennine Way. We drove into Barnard Castle and had a curry at the excellent Bengal Merchant. We are all curry lovers, possibly experts, and this place rated very highly in our book, well worth a visit if you’re in the area. Barnard Castle looked like a lovely town to visit as well, although we didn’t have time to look around, one for next time.
The walk started by crossing the Tees and a short walk to High Force, the impressive waterfall created by the Tees being forced through a narrow gap in hard rock. We then carried on up the valley past Langdon Beck crossing the river a couple of times until we reached the Moor House – Upper Teesdale Nature Reserve. This is where the Way takes a left turn, ignoring the more direct high-level route to take in Cauldron Snout and High Cup Nick on the way to Dufton, two of the most memorable sights on the walk.
After 6 miles of relatively easy river valley walking, apart from clambering over some boulders by the riverside, we reached the impressive Cauldron Snout waterfall, where the Tees spills out of the Cow Green reservoir and comes crashing down some 200 ft into the valley below. The Tees is mentioned in the Viking Knytlinga saga of 1026 known as the ‘Tese’ or ‘boiling, surging river’ and you can see why this description is apt when you see Cauldron Snout. After a short scramble up the rocks by the side of the waterfall we stopped for lunch.
After the Cauldron Snout there is a section of bleak moorland which climbs gradually to reach the Maize Beck which is crossed on the approach to High Cup Nick which suddenly opens out in front of you, a magnificent glaciated valley with the Vale of Eden and Lakeland hills in the distance. You just have to stop and stare at such a wonderful natural feature, perfectly symmetrical nearly 1 1/2 miles long and 660 feet deep.
From High Cup it was a steady descent into the peaceful village of Dufton where we stayed at the YHA. A pretty tough day being 16 miles across hard country but ideal preparation for what was to come the next day.
Day 2: Dufton to Garrigill (16 miles, 3200 ft ascent).
At the start of this leg we’d rung ahead to the pub in Dufton, The Stag Inn, to check they did evening meals. The landlord informed us it was “Gypsy Fair Week” and we’d have to take our chances. I remembered we were close to Appleby-in-Westmorland home to the famous Horse Fair and we realised that the place would be overrun with gypsies from all 4 corners of the country. So we were intrigued to see what greeted us when we arrived in the village. Luckily we were far enough away from Appleby and Dufton was relatively quiet. We managed to get a meal and a couple of pints before crashing out at the YHA.
From Dufton we climbed steadily onto the Pennine fells. Firstly Green Fell, then Great Dun Fell, Little Dun Fell and finally Cross Fell, the highest hill in England outside of the Lake District and the highest point on the Pennine Way at just under 3000ft.
The old clapper bridge across Great Rundale Beck.
And then the long ascent to Knock or Green Fell before bearing north again to Great Dun Fell.
The Cairn at Green Fell looking across to Great Dun Felll.
The radar station on top of Great Dun Fell (848m).
We then dropped again before a short ascent of Little Dun Fell then dropped again before the final climb of the day up to Cross Fell (893m). A bleak, rocky plateau bar the trig point and a cross-shaped stone wind shelter. We were walking the spine of England now, a watershed line, rainwater falling here can go east along the Tees to Middlesborough and the North Sea or west via Eden and Solway to the Irish Sea. Fortunately for us there was no rain, it was a beautiful sunny day and thankfully the height we were at took the edge of the heat making it an exhilirating days walking.
From Cross Fell there was a sharp descent to the bothy called Greg’s Hut. Then we started the long walk to Garrigill along the Corpse Road so called as the dead were carried along it in olden days to burial.
After a long, hard days walking we eventually reached our B&B in Garrigall, a sleepy village, unfortunately the pub has closed down so it was a taxi into nearby Alston for a meal and a couple of pints before a well-earned nights sleep.
Day 3: Garrigill to Knarsdale (10 miles, approx 750 ft ascent)
The final day of this leg was an easy one although we were worn out from the previous days walk. This is a relatively dull section of the way particularly after the previous two days which are about as good as the Pennine Way gets for landmarks.
We follwed the South Tyne to Alston and onwards to Slaggyford and our final destination Knarsdale.
Our final destination for this leg the Kirkstyle Inn at Knarsdale, Northumberland.
Pennine Way Leg 5: Knarsdale, Northumberland to Bellingham, Northumberland.
2012 update to follow.