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Wandering the Pennine Way

Written by Heather-Belle Russell on

A sign on the Penine Way with green countryside in the background.

One of the most famous walks in the UK, the Pennine Way stretches along the spine of Britain, from the Peak District National Park right up to the Scottish Borders. It’s known as one of the toughest, most challenging treks around, 267 miles of mostly high level walking through three National Parks and ending in another country. Taking an average of two to three weeks to complete, many people opt to rent a nearby cottage in villages such as Skipton, Appleby, Hawes and visit the trail on a daily basis.

It starts at Kinder Scout, site of the mass-trespass in 1932 that led to the establishment of National Parks, many long distance footpaths and walkers’ rights, and the trail gets hard fast, a steep climb leads to a walk across the peat moorlands that incorporate Bleaklow and Black Hill. Inspiring views greet you over the flatlands, (it’s the highest point in the East Midlands) and on a good day you can see across to Manchester and the Welsh Snowdonia mountains.

The trail wends its way north towards Yorkshire, on your way look out for Stoodley Pike with its 37 metre high monument to the Napoleonic Wars on the peak, Pinhaw Beacon, and the curious double-arched bridge at East Marton. Once you cross over into the white rose county, the walk takes you close to the massive natural amphitheatre of Malham Cove, and you may even spot some of the little owls and peregrine falcons that make it their home. Leaving the Cove behind, Fountains Fell soon appears. Sadly there are no fountains (the name derives from the monks who used to own it), but there are plenty of pits and shafts on the summit that attract cavers from all around. It’s the highest point on the trail so far, until you climb Pen-y-Ghent a few miles later. You’re now in Three Peaks territory, and it’s worth paying a visit to the famous Pen-y-Ghent café that marks the start of the challenge and serves large amounts of calorific food, great sustenance for walkers.

It’s a simple trek from Horton to Hawes, with impressive views over the local landscape. The Pennine Way then drops down the long spine of Dodd Fell and ends up at Gayle, home of Wensleydale cheese, and if you fancy a diversion from your trek for a couple of hours the Wensleydale Creamery Visitor Centre is an interesting place to visit.

The next feature to look for on your journey is Hardraw Force, the largest single drop waterfall in England. It empties out into a pretty glade, and visitors can easily walk behind it, providing a refreshing stop on a hot summer’s day. This is the first of several waterfalls in short succession, Low Force and High Force await you over the border in Durham, as the river Tees makes its way south. The smaller of the two is a prime spot for white water rafting, and there are signs that salmon are returning to the waters. Screw your courage to the sticking point when crossing the river on Wynch Bridge, an ancient suspension bridge that has been there since the days of Charlotte Bronte. Meanwhile, High Force may not actually be the highest waterfall in England, but it is the largest in terms of the volume of water. 

The next stretch of the Pennine Way moves into Cumbria, Lakeland country. Langdon Beck to Dufton is a beautiful place to walk, with plenty of farms and pastures to enjoy, plus the stunning Falcon Clint and Cauldron Snout waterfall. The border of the Eden Valley is marked by a simple stile, and once on the other side you’re confronted by the steep slopes of Knock Fell. As you climb, take a look over your shoulder every now and then to see the increasingly spectacular views of Eden valley. On the way to the summit you’re rewarded with the enormous cairn of Knock Old Man, and at the top you’ll be on the highest point of the Pennine Way. Great Dun Fell, Little Dun Fell, Cross Fell and Longman Hill are lined up before you, and once you’ve conquered these it’s not much further to the most recognisable section of the route. Hadrian’s Wall is your companion for several miles before you head fully north once more, on to Scotland proper. Look out for Bellingham, it’s the last chance you’ll have to resupply before the end of the walk so make sure you stock up.

A final stretch amongst the conifers and firs of Redesdale Forest awaits you before you’re into the Cheviots proper, and much like the beginning of the trail back at Kinder Scout, it’s an unforgiving section. The length of a marathon, it’s extremely difficult to do in one day, so it’s usually better to split it over two, take your time and enjoy the scenery. Finally the Pennine Way comes to an end in the charming village of Kirk Yetholm where you can finish your journey in the Border Hotel, aching feet up, with a well deserved meal and pint in your hand.

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