Pennine Way

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From the Pennine Way, near Marsden in Yorkshire

The Pennine Way is a long-distance footpath in running up the spine of the Pennine Hills. It is the earliest and most fanous of the long-distance footpaths of Britain and may be said to have inspired the creation of all subsequent trails.

The trail runs for 268 miles,[1] through nine counties: successively from south to north Derbyshire; Cheshire; Yorkshire; Lancashire; back to Yorkshire; County Durham; Westmorland, Cumberland; Northumberland and finally Roxburghshire.

The path runs along the Pennines, described as the "backbone of England" through spectacular scenery (and often hazardous scenery in poor weather), and through three National Parks: the Peak District, Yorkshire Dales and Northumberland National Parks. It passes over four county tops: those of Derbyshire, Cheshire, Northumberland and Roxburghshire, albeit that the strict trail misses by a few hundred yards the highest point of Northumberland's, the Cheviot. The county top of Yorkshire is close enough for a small diversion to add it to the total.

It is not the United Kingdom's longest National Trail (this distinction belongs to the South West Coast Path, at 630 miles), but is according to the Ramblers' Association "one of Britain's best known and toughest".[2] The highest point on ther path is Cross Fell in Cumberland at 2,930 feet.

At its northern end, Kirk Yetholm, the trail connects with the Scottish National Trail, which leads on to Cape Wrath.


The path was the idea of the journalist and rambler Tom Stephenson, inspired by similar trails in the United States of America, particularly the Appalachian Trail. Stephenson proposed the concept in an article for the Daily Herald in 1935, and later lobbied Parliament for the creation of an official trail. The walk was originally planned to end at Wooler[3][4] but eventually it was decided that Kirk Yetholm would be the finishing point. The final section of the path was declared open in a ceremony held on Malham Moor on 24 April 1965.


The Pennine Way has long been popular with walkers, and in 1990 the Countryside Commission reported that 12,000 long-distance walkers and 250,000 day-walkers were using all or part of the trail per year and that walkers contributed £2 million (1990) to the local economy along the route, directly maintaining 156 jobs.[5] The popularity of the walk has resulted in substantial erosion to the terrain in places,[6] and steps have been taken to recover its condition, including diverting sections of the route onto firmer ground, and laying flagstones or duckboards in softer areas. These actions have been generally effective in reducing the extent of broken ground,[6] though the intrusion into the natural landscape has at times been controversial.[7]

Accommodation is available at Youth Hostels, camp sites, B&Bs, and pubs. However, these are limited on upland stretches, so when planning the walk one must sometimes choose between a long day (between two places offering on-route accommodation) or two shorter days involving an evening descent off-route (to a nearby village or farm) with a morning re-ascent.

There are 535 access points where the Pennine Way intersects with other public rights of way. The route is also crossed by many roads, and passes through many villages and towns with good public transport. This makes it easy to sample a short section of the trail, or to split the Pennine Way across several vacations or long weekends.

Most of the Pennine Way is on public footpaths, rather than bridleways, and so is not accessible to travellers on horseback or bicycle. However, a roughly parallel Pennine Bridleway is also now under development (as of autumn 2005, two principal sections are open). This route, open to anyone not using motorised vehicles, starts slightly farther south than the Pennine Way.


A survey by the National Trails agency reported that a walker covering the entire length of the trail is obliged to navigate 287 gates, 249 timber stiles, 183 stone stiles and 204 bridges. 198 miles of the route is on public footpaths, 70 miles on public bridleways and 20 miles on other public highways. The walker is aided by the provision of 458 waymarks.[8]

Peak District (Derbyshire and Cheshire)

Pule Hill, as visible from the Pennine Way along the Standedge Circuit

The Pennine Way starts on the Dark Peak, a part of the Peak District well named for its heavy peat soil, the black peat now very much exposed by the passing of feet. Originally the path was climbed north from Edale across the middle of the Kinder Scout plateau. It was rerouted to reduce erosion, and now heads west to climb onto the plateau by steps known as Jacob's Ladder. It then turns north to follow the western edge of the plateau past Kinder Downfall, crosses the Snake Pass road (A57) and climbs Bleaklow.

From the summit of Bleaklow, the trail descends to Longdendale and enters Cheshire. In the dale it crosses the dam of Torside Reservoir to Crowden, the first village since the start of the path 16 miles away.[9]

From Crowden the Pennine Way climbs a side valley past Laddow Rocks to the thick peat summit summit of Black Hill, Cheshire's highest point, which stands on the border of the West Riding of Yorkshire. The Pennine Way is paved at this point. From here the path descends across Wessenden Head Moor (the eastern part of Saddleworth Moor) and the A635 road to the Wessenden Valley.

South Pennines (Yorkshire and Lancashire)

From Black Hill, the Pennine Way enters Yorkshire, which county accounts for the greater part of the path. It descends from the Black Peak across Wessenden Head Moor (the eastern part of Saddleworth Moor) and the A635 road to the Wessenden Valley. It climbs out of the valley to leave the Peak District National Park at Standedge on the A62 road.[10]

From Standedge, the Pennine Way approaches the boundary between Yorkshire and Lancashire, along a series of gritstone edges, and here fore the first time the trail plays footsie across the boundary in the hills. It crosses the A640 road, then the A672, before crossing the M62 motorway by a long footbridge near Windy Hill. Past the motorway the trail follows Blackstone Edge to the A58 road, which here marks the county border. A little north of the motorway the path goes to the west side of the Edge, in Lancashire, all the way to the White House Pub on the A58.

The path continues north past a series of reservoirs, re-entering Yorkshire north of the Wayland Reservoir.

The Pennine Way crosses the Calderdale Way high above the village of Mankinholes, then climbs to the prominent monument on Stoodley Pike. From the monument it descends steeply to the valley of the River Calder, which it crosses about a miles west of the town of Hebden Bridge, the largest town near the route.[11]

The trail climbs out of the Calder Valley through the scattered hamlet of Colden, crossing Colden Water by an ancient clapper bridge.[12] It then passes the Walshaw Dean Reservoirs and climbs to the ruins of Top Withens, said to have been the inspiration for Wuthering Heights. The trail then descends to Ponden Hall, and crosses more moorland to the villages of Cowling and Lothersdale.[13]

From Lothersdale the trail crosses Pinhaw Beacon to Thornton-in-Craven. There then follows gentler country, including a short section of the towpath of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at East Marton, to reach the village of Gargrave in Airedale, on the busy A65.[14]

Yorkshire Dales National Park (Yorkshire)

Highland Cattle above Malham Cove

North of Gargrave the Pennine Way ascends Airedale and enters the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It follows field paths, through the small villages of Airton and Hanlith to the larger village of Malham. It then climbs steps on the west side of Malham Cove, traverses the limestone pavement at the top of the cove, and continues north to Malham Tarn. The trail then crosses a shoulder of Fountains Fell, to ascend the nose of the famous fell, Pen-y-ghent in a very steep section. From the summit of Pen-y-ghent the Pennine Way descends to the village of Horton in Ribblesdale (on the Settle–Carlisle Railway).[15]

The Pennine Way then heads up Ribblesdale along the old SettleLangstrothdale packhorse road. It passes the eastern end of Ling Gill and climbs Cam Fell, where it follows the line of a Roman road, shared with the Dales Way. The trail then passes Dodd Fell Hill and follows a ridge between Widdale and Sleddale, before descending into Wensleydale at Gayle and the adjoining town of Hawes.[16]

The path crosses the dale to Hardraw, then begins the 5-mile ascent of Great Shunner Fell. From the summit of the fell the trail descends to upper Swaledale and the village of Thwaite. It then crosses the side of Kisdon, with good views down Swaledale, passes Kisdon Force, a waterfall on the River Swale, and reaches the village of Keld.

From Keld the path crosses the route of the Coast to Coast Walk, then ascends a side valley known as Stones Dale to reach Tan Hill and its isolated inn at the northern boundary of the National Park and indeed the north boundary of the West Riding of Yorkshire.[17] North of here the path enters the North Riding.

North Riding of Yorkshire and the Tees

North of Tan Hill, the Pennine Way enters the North Riding of Yorkshire, and the North Pennines AONB. In this stretch the path heads over the moor towards Teesdale and into the very northernmost confines of Yorkshire.

The way follows moorland tracks to the isolated settlement of Sleightholme, where the route divides. The main route heads directly north across the moors, crossing God's Bridge and passing beneath the A66 road in a tunnel. The alternative route enters the town of Bowes and rejoins the main route at Baldersdale. From Baldersdale the trail crosses Lunedale and descends to the River Tees, at the small town of Middleton-in-Teesdale.[18] Middleton itself is on the north bank in County Durham, but the Pennine Way sticks to the south bank, in Yorkshire, for the ensuing miles.

From Middleton the path ascends Teesdale on the south bank of the River Tees, below the village of Holwick. It passes the waterfalls of Low Force and High Force, and reaches a bridge close to the scattered settlement of Forest-in-Teesdale. Here, just a few hundred yards south of Yorkshire's northrnmost point (which is at a bend in the Tees a mile and a half to the west), the path crosses the River Tees into County Durham and heads west along the north bank of the river.

Further up the Tees, the path climbs beside the waterfall of Cauldron Snout below the dam of Cow Green Reservoir, and enters Westmorland.

Just south of Cauldron Fell is Mickle Fell; the highest mountain in Yorkshire. It would be possible to take a diversion to top the fell, though it would require crossing the Maize Beck (the Tees being too wide to ford in most seasons) or staying south of the river to this point.

Westmorland and Cumberland

From Cauldron Snout, the trail continues westwards into Westmorland and ascends the gently rising side valley of Maize Beck to reach High Cup Nick, one of the most photographed places on the Pennine Way. From High Cup the trail descends to the village of Dufton,[19] north of the county town, Appleby in Westmorland.

From Dufton the Pennine Way turns north again and climbs back up the fells, passing in turn the summits of Knock Fell, Great Dun Fell and Little Dun Fell and at Tees Head entering Cumberland. Continuing up the ridge the path reaches the summit of Cross Fell, at 2,930 feet the highest point on the entire path.

A long descent follows to the valley of the South Tyne at Garrigill. The trail then keeps close to the river to enter the town of Alston.[20]

The trail continues down the valley of the South Tyne into Northumberland.

Northumberland to Roxburghshire

North of Alston, the Pennine Way enters Northumberland, following the River South Tyne down to Slaggyford and Knarsdale. Above the village of Lambley the trail leaves the valley to cross more moorland to the A69 near the village of Greenhead.[21]

Outside Greenhead the Pennine Way passes Thirlwall Castle on Hadrian's Wall. For the next 11 miles the route coincides with the Hadrian's Wall Path, following the wall closely past Once Brewed to Rapishaw Gap, a mile west of the Housesteads Roman Fort.

From the wall the trail heads north through Wark Forest. Past the forest it follows field paths to Shitlington Crags and descends to the large village of Bellingham. More remote country follows, across Padon Hill and the edge of Redesdale Forest. The trail eventually reaches Redesdale at Blakehopeburnhaugh and Cottonshopeburnfoot, two neighbouring hamlets which compete for the longest name in England. The route then follows the River Rede upstream to the village of Byrness.[22]

The last stage of the Pennine Way, across the Cheviot Hills from Byrness to Kirk Yetholm, is 27 miles long, with no habitation on the route. It is usually tackled in one long day, although there are two refuge huts (or bothies).

The trail climbs steeply from the village, then heads north to cross the boundary of Roxburghshire near Ogre Hill. For the rest of the stage the path switches between the two sides of the boundary, along a fence which marks the border itself. Back in Northumberland the trail passes the Roman fort at Chew Green, and briefly follows the Roman road of Dere Street. The path then follows the boundary ridge, passing the high point of Windy Gyle. At the west top of Cairn Hill (2,438 feet), from where there is a side trip to the summit of the Cheviot, Northumberland's highest point. The main path turns sharply northwest with the boundary fence, passing (on the very boundary) Roxburghshire's own county top on Cairn Hill, a subsidiary top of the Cheviot.

From here the path descends to a refuge hut before climbing the Schil at 1,972 feet, above the College Valley. The path then descends definitively into Roxburghshire and enters the village of Kirk Yetholm. The path ends at the Border Hotel in that village.[23]

Route distances

Edale to Crowden
via Kinder Plateau and Bleaklow Head
16 miles
Crowden to Standedge 11 miles
Standedge to Calder Valley 11 miles
Calder Valley to Ickornshaw 16 miles
Ickornshaw to Malham 17 miles
Malham to Horton in Ribblesdale 14.5 miles
Horton in Ribblesdale to Hawes 14 miles
Hawes to Tan Hill
incl. Swaledale
16.5 miles
Tan Hill, Yorkshire to Middleton-in-Teesdale 17 miles
Middleton-in-Teesdale to Dufton
High Force, Cauldron Snout and High Cup
21 miles
Dufton to Alston 20 miles
Alston to Greenhead 16.5 miles
Greenhead to Bellingham
with Hadrian's Wall
22 miles
Bellingham to Byrness 15 miles
Byrness to Windy Gyle 14 miles
Windy Gyle to Kirk Yetholm 13 miles

Further reading

The Pennine Way has attracted a number of writers over the years, including Tom Stephenson himself, who wrote the first official guidebook. A popular guide was authored and illustrated by the writer Alfred Wainwright, whose offer to buy a half-pint of beer for anyone who finished the Pennine Way is estimated to have cost him up to £15,000 by his death in 1991.[24] The National Trail Guide contains a description of the route, GPS waypoints and 1:25000 maps of the entire walk. Barry Pilton's book gives a more lighthearted and personal account of completing the Pennine Way, with a foreword by Mike Harding. Mark Wallington's book Pennine Walkies (in which the author is accompanied by his dog) is another humorous personal story of the walk, as is Walking Home by Yorkshire poet Simon Armitage, who walked north-to-south along the Pennine Way without money, relying on his 'earnings' from nightly poetry readings along the way.[25] Movement artists Tamara Ashley and Simone Kenyon performed the entire length of the trail in August 2006;[26] their book documents the performance and invites readers to create their own interpretations of the landscapes along the way.

  • Armitage, Simon (2012). Walking Home. Faber. ISBN 978-0-571-24988-6. 
  • Ashley, Tamara; Kenyon, Simone (2007). The Pennine Way: The Legs that Make Us. Brief Magnetics. ISBN 0-9549073-1-0. 
  • Collins, Martin (2003). The Pennine Way. Cicerone. ISBN 978-1-85284-386-1. 
  • De La Billiere, Edward; Carter, Keith; Scott, Chris (2011). Manthorpe, Jim. ed. Pennine Way: Edale to Kirk Yetholm (3 ed.). Trailblazer. ISBN 978-1-905864-34-8. 
  • Hall, Damian (2012). Pennine Way. National Trail Guides. Aurum Press. ISBN 978-1-84513-718-2. 
  • Barry Pilton (1988). One Man and His Bog. Corgi Books. ISBN 0-552-12796-5. 
  • W._A._Poucher (1946). The Backbone of England. A photographic and descriptive guide to the Pennine range from Derbyshire to Durham. Billing and Sons Limited. 
  • Pulk, Richard (2007). Rambles of a Pennine Way-ster. Touchline. ISBN 978-0-9536646-2-7. 
  • Tom Stephenson (1980). The Pennine Way. HM Stationery Office. ISBN 0-11-700903-2. 
  • Alfred Wainwright (2004). Pennine Way Companion. Frances Lincoln Publishers. ISBN 0-7112-2235-5. 
  • Mark Wallington (writer) (1997). Pennine Walkies: Boogie Up the Pennine Way. Arrow Books. ISBN 0-09-966141-1. 
  • Wood, John (1947). Mountain Trail: The Pennine Way from the Peak to the Cheviots. Blackfriars Press. 


The Old Nags Head, Edale. The traditional start point of the Pennine Way  
The paved surface of the Pennine Way on Black Hill  
Hebden Bridge  
Waymark at Airton  
The limestone cliff at Malham Cove  
Tan Hill Inn  
High Force  
High Cup  
The Summit of Cross Fell, the highest point of the Pennine Way  
Hadrian's Wall  
The Pennine Way passes in the Kielder Forest  
The Church at Byrness  
The Cheviot  
Kirk Yetholm, the traditional end point of the Pennine Way  
180° view from the beginning of the Pennine Way, of the Vale of Edale, about half a mile from the Old Nag's Head

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Pennine Way)


  1. "Trail stats, Pennine Way". National Trails Homepage. The Countryside Agency. Retrieved 3 August 2007. 
  2. Ramblers' Association. "Pennine Way National Trail". Retrieved 26 March 2006. 
  3. Poucher, page 13
  4. Wood, page 234
  5. Countryside Commission (1992). Pennine Way survey 1990: use and economic impact. Cheltenham, Gloucestershire: Countryside Commission. ISBN 0-86170-323-5. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Smith, Roly (7 July 2001). "Paving the Way". The Guardian. 
  7. Simmons, I.G. (2003). The Moorlands of England and Wales: an environmental history. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 978-0-7486-1731-9. 
  8. National Trails. "Pennine Way interesting facts" (PDF). Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  9. Collins pages 29 to 37
  10. Collins, pages 40 to 45
  11. Collins, pages 47 to 53
  12. National Heritage List 11592829: Hebble Hole Farmhouse
  13. Collins, pages 58 to 64
  14. Collins, pages 67 to 72
  15. Collins, pages 72 to 81
  16. Collins, pages 83 to 88
  17. Collins, pages 91 to 98
  18. Collins, pages 99 to 105
  19. Collins, pages 107 to 115
  20. Collins, pages 117 to 124
  21. Collins, pages 125 to 129
  22. Collins, pages 130 to 143
  23. Collins, pages 144 to 152
  24. Askwith, Richard (2 July 2005). "Alfred Wainwright: Grumpy, reclusive and eccentric". The Independent. Retrieved 10 February 2014. 
  25. "Poetry in motion: Simon Armitage walks the Pennine Way". The Guardian. 23 June 2012. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  26. "Performing the Pennine Way". National Trails. Retrieved 11 February 2008. 
Long-distance footpaths in the United Kingdom

Cleveland WayCotswold WayGlyndŵr's WayGreat Glen WayHadrian's Wall PathIcknield WayNorth Downs WayNorfolk Coast PathOffa's Dyke PathPeddars WayPembrokeshire Coast PathPennine BridlewayPennine WayThe RidgewayScottish National TrailSouth Downs WaySouthern Upland WaySouth West Coast PathSpeyside WayThames PathUlster WayWest Highland WayYorkshire Wolds Way