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, between 2006 and 2013. Having finally completed the Way we are know looking for something more sedate and closer to home, The Ridgeway, starting in the summer of 2014.
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 our first day!!
It was a fairly easy start with an amble along the Edale valley following an old packhorse trail 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 then the Wain 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 (Torside Clough) 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).
Typical Pennine scenery with no real landmarks as there had been on the first stage.
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.
Day 3: Malham to Horton-in-Ribblesdale (15 miles, 2600ft ascent)
(unfortunately no photos of this day’s walking)
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.
You can see from the photo above (taken at the cross-walled shelter on top of Great Shunner Fell) how bad the weather was and just staying relatively dry was a challenge. That said it was thankfully a relatively short day.
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 Fell.
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 followed 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.
We stopped off at the Angel of the North on the way up to start the 5th leg of the Pennine Way.
Day 1 – Knarsdale to Greenhead – 12 miles
2012 and we were back in Northumberland for PW5 and decided to stay at the same B&B as before in Garrigill – and the pub was back in business so a few pints were consumed!
Our start point the next day was Knarsdale and what followed was possibly the worst days walking I’ve ever experienced. There are no redeeming features between Alston and Greenhead – the start of the Hardrian’s Wall stretch – the guide books prepare you for for the worst and this together with one of the wettest summers on record meant that waders would have more appropriate than hiking boots!!
In this type of situation it’s always good to have some quality snacks with you – in this case our regular PW accompaniment Gourmet Scotch Eggs.
I managed to find the one dry spot on the days walking to grab a few minutes rest!
Even the sheep are unhappy being stuck out in this miserable godforsaken place……………..
It was drudgery of the highest order but we slogged through it with the anticipation of one of the classic stages – The Wall – on the next day and a pub near out Bunkhouse overnight stop.
Day 2 – Greenhead to Twice Brewed – 7 miles (ascent 1100ft / 340m).
The second day was a complete contrast – drier underfoot and classic scenery with history all around. A bit busier though, we were surprised at the number of European tourists “doing” the Wall either on foot or by bike . We didn’t see a soul the previous day so this was a bit of a shock to the system!
Quick photo in Greenhead before we set off for the day.
The first sight of the day was Thirwall Castle, a fortified house built largely from stones taken from the Wall. A ruin now we didn’t linger long and pressed on for our first real glimpse of the main attraction of the day.
The Wall itself does not make an appearance until after the Walltown quarry which was our first stop of the day with a “pop-up” snack van providing the refreshments and a collection of telescopes pointing towards the sky an unusual distraction.
Whinstone was quarried here and now there is an attractive lake to wander by.
It was fantastic walking. and with being a short stage there was plenty of time to soak up the scenery.
This section of the Wall follows the Whin Sill and there was quite a few steep ascents and descents.
It was a great days walking finished off nicely with a dinner and a few pints in the pub!
Day 3 – Twice Brewed to Bellingham – 16 miles (1400ft / 430m ascent).
Apart from a couple of miles alongside Hadrian’s Wall again this is very much another transitional stage moving the walker from the Wall to the foot of the Cheviots in a couple of days worth of walking. Not much of note, thankfully nowhere near as boggy as the first day but on the negative side quite a lengthy forest section which wasn’t the most exciting walking.
Pennine Way Leg 6: Bellingham to Kirk Yetholm, Scotland.
2013 finally saw us complete the Pennine Way. The final leg would be three days of walking with a days travelling either side. The start point of Bellingham was a fair old drive from Salisbury but we had a great pub accommodation and with a good meal and a few pints we were set for the challenge ahead!
Day 1 – Bellingham to Byrness
A good night’s rest in Bellingham was had and we eventually gathered for the traditional start of day photo.
We hadn’t gone far (yards in fact) before we had to stop at an excellent looking pie shop to get a couple of extra treats for the day.
The first half of the day was quite murky, wet underfoot and not very exciting. Again another bridging day (like Alston to Greenhead) to get us from The Wall to The Cheviots.
After a few miles we had our lunch stop – the scotch eggs made an appearance – note the feet out and talc’d at every opportunity!
We walked through many miles of the Reesdale Forest. The tracks were mainly good although there were a couple of boggy stretches were The Way left the main forestry tracks from time to time.
Later in the day it brightened up which afforded us some great views of the mighty forest stretching into the distance. Our overnight lodgings were not far away now and we were looking forward to some light refreshment after a slog of a day with no particular highlights (bar the company and snacks!).
A well earned pint at the welcoming Byrness Hotel.
Day 2 – Byrness to Windy Gyle – 13 miles (ascent approx 2500ft).
We planned to complete the first half of the “Cheviot traverse” today and get picked up by the owners of the Byrness Hotel at the half way point below Windy Gyle. We’re not the type of walkers who either physically or have the motivation for tackling the Cheviots (27 miles) in one day. Splitting it into two means we can walk at a leisurely pace, take plenty of stops and most of all enjoy the day. Once we’d agreed to pick up spot it was time to set off.
There’s not much in Byrness………..The Border Services garage closed some time ago.
Pretty quickly we were going up Byrness Hill which was woody to start with leading out into a deforested patch before reaching the summit.
The view back from the first hill.
On top of the first summit.
We’d spotted an injured lamb near the summit and then spotted the farmer on a quad bike in the valley who we flagged down to let him know where the lamb was.
Once we’d climbed the first hill it was like being on top of the world. Whilst this stretch was quite boggy it was great to be high up again after the previous days relatively low-level walking.
As always it’s important to take regular breaks!
This is a typical mountain bothy which, on a bad day, could provide a lifeline for a tired walker.
After a good days walking we started to descend into the valley below Windy Gyle to our finish point and a lift back to the hotel.
Day 3 – Windy Gyle to Kirk Yetholm – 15 miles (ascent approx 2500ft)
Our final day started with a nice surprise. In order to reach our second day finish point we had a two mile walk from the valley floor back up to the top of Windy Gyle, and this was before we stepped foot on the Way. The owner of the Byrness Hotel offered to take his Land Rover up to the top and, after a quick stop to check with the landowner – a friend of his – we carried on in comfort and style negotiating the rough track all the way up to the top of the Cheviots. It was a great start to what would be a memorable day in the hills!
The gang pose by the Landie before setting off at Windy Gyle.
Of course, before starting out a member of our group, “Snake”, had to get a bit of trig point action. We then followed the border fence along the flagged path away from Windy Gyle (619m), over the top of King’s Seat, before turning right towards the Cheviot.
Even with the path well marked it’s always a good idea to stop occassionally for a map check.
Great view from the border fence looking north.
As we approached the spot were the track for the Cheviot branched off we came across an area of path construction. This is an important part of the conservation effort along the Way to prevent erosion of the vulnerable moorland landscape. There is debate, from a hill walking perspective, on whether or not flagged paths are the the right thing – certainly the Way is not as challenging as it may have been on certain stretches – however I, for one, prefer taking advantage of a good path rather than sinking to my knees in a peat bog. It also protects the landscape for future generations so can only be a good thing in my opinion.
We took our first rest of the day whilst our friend “Snake” – the mad one – decided to jog to the Cheviot and back (approx 2 miles), a detour that the rest of us couldn’t be bothered with. Whilst the Cheviot is high at 815m (2,674 feet) it’s a hump of a top with no decent views. So as Snake jogged out of sight we tucked into a gourmet Scotch Egg and rested. You can see I’m bare foot at this point – at any decent rest point I always take the boots off to give the feet an airing, letting them dry out a bit before applying fresh talc and getting back into the boots. Looking after your feet on a long walk pays dividends in the end with much less chance of blisters and it does give the feet a nice, fresh feel even if it only lasts for a short while!
We reached Auchope Cairn giving Snake another opportunity to demonstrate some “extreme planking”!
And the views were amazing! In worse weather this would be awfully exposed being right on the ridge with only a small stone shelter for cover. Fortunately for us it was a cracking day and we could take time to stand and admire the glorious views all around us. We then had a serious drop in height before our final climb of the walk, The Schil.
We dropped just over 200 metres before reaching the mountain hut for a quick pit stop. The steep descent had played havoc with our knees so a 10 minutes sit down and a chocolate bar was required!
We then climbed again from approx 480m to 601m over the exposed top “The Schil”.
Resting at the top of The Schil.
After a short descent we then turned and began to drop down and it wasn’t long before fields replaced moorland and we were back on level (ish) ground and surer footing. Finally the road and Kirk Yetholm village with the end – The Border Hotel, traditional finishing point – within sight!
What started, seven years ago, as a walk with an old university friend of mine finished with a group of four mates and a huge sense of achievement. Yes we hadn’t done it in one continuous walk, yes we hadn’t “roughed it” but we had walked all along the most famous long distance footpath in the UK through some of the finest landscapes this country has to offer and we’d loved almost every minute of it! Indeed the fact that we managed to squeeze long weekends to go hill walking into our busy lives gave us an even bigger sense of achievement! There can be few better pastimes than hill walking and when it all comes together with some cracking weather you can have a fantastic time up on the hills!