Pennine Way Blog – South to North

Welcome to The Pleasant Pennine Way blog. The Perverse Pennine Way blog is also available. Either Way, I hope you’ll find these blogs useful if you’re planning a challenging but enjoyable walk along England’s oldest and best National Trail.

Click here to jump to the ‘pleasant’ itinerary, a conventional south to north 19 days in late May and early June 2016, pretty much the optimum time of year although a week later would have been even better for wild flowers. This walk took in most of the standard stops and, although it had its moments, was ultimately achievable even for an oldie of moderate fitness. I based the plan on my first Pennine Way, walked back in April 1999 when I was young and blithe.

pennine-way-edale-peak-district

The Pennine Way, offically created before the miracle of autocorrect.

Despite longer, drier summer days, better gear and better knowledge (ha ha), I was more cautious this time, allowing nineteen days instead of 1999’s seventeen. I was older now, I’d been troubled by foot and knee pain and between Gargrave and Steel Rigg I was to be accompanied. The latter was an excuse to book a few accommodations more luxurious than I’d have justified walking alone.

Complications of companionship also decreed ambitiously compressing the standard first five days into four. I wouldn’t recommend this for a first Pennine Way; many people fall by the Wayside within those early days as it is. Unless you’re already seriously hill-fit, I’d start more slowly and speed up. I could barely speak on staggering into Gargrave.

When I did struggle (days three, four and 18), this was caused by hurrying to reach particular places. Given the ample daylight and benign weather, I could have knocked a day or two off the walk overall by taking greater advantage of my tent to distribute the miles more evenly. I’d also suggest at least one complete, pack-off, rest day rather than a couple of short walking days, which just don’t seem to have the same restorative effect. I’m assuming a tent. To me, a Pennine Way without camping is like the proverbially unpedalled pisciforme.

Many Pennine Way blogs are litanies of pain and misadventure, but this was a wonderful walk. I enjoyed it so much I did it again four months later. We didn’t get lost to any really troubling extent, but then I’d done the trail before. We didn’t fall into life-threatening bogs or freeze or have to be rescued, but then it was June. The days were light, dry-ish, cool and wonderfully long.

On the downside, the latter tempts you to do too much, hostels have to be booked and it’s virtually impossible to sleep on campsites noisy with families.

Guidebook references including page numbers are to Pennine Way – Official National Trail Guide by Damian Hall, Aurum Press (‘NTG’), although this walk was actually done using collapsible vintage copies of the previous two-volume NTG by Tony Hopkins*.  References to Wainwright are to his Pennine Way Companion. Simon Armitage references are to Walking Home – Travels with a Troubadour on the Pennine Way, Faber, 2012. Grid references are OSGB and estimated by eye from the NTG maps or in some cases noted while on The Way from the free smartphone app OS Locate. In all cases they are approximate and subject to error, as are any bearings.

Do not rely on this blog for ‘live’ navigation on The Way. Things change, I make mistakes, I’m no expert. This blog is for entertainment, it describes the Pennine Way as it was in June 2016 and won’t be updated. The Pennine Way involves rough hillwalking often in challenging weather. Even for the suitably experienced and equipped, it can be hazardous.

*I’ve since been converted to the A to Z guides which are light and ideal – just the OS maps bound together with no extra weight of pointless persiflage.

Here’s the bare bones itinerary, with links to the blogs. Distances and elevations are estimated on Google Mapometer, they’re approximate and change every time I do them, so I’ve rounded them to the nearest 1 km, 1 mile, 10 m and 10 feet. Hence they don’t convert consistently, like recipes. They’re just a rough indication for basic planning.

edale pennine way peak district derbyshire england tent campsite

Upper Booth

Pre-day: May 27th

Travel by train to Edale, arrive late afternoon.

Camped at Upper Booth farm campsite (booking essential).

Day 1: May 28th

bleaklow cairn peak district derbyshire pennine way hiking trekking hillwalking

Bleaklow

25 km, + 680 m, – 750 m. 16 miles, + 2240 ft, – 2460 ft.

Upper Booth to Crowden via Kinder Downfall and Bleaklow. Camped at Crowden campsite.

Day 2: May 29th

laddow rocks peak district derbyshire pennine way hike hillwalking wild camp rock climbing

Laddow Rocks

33 km, + 910 m, – 750 m. 21 miles, + 2980 ft, – 2460 ft.

Crowden to Light Hazzles Edge, via Black Hill and The White House Inn.

Wild camped at Light Hazzles.

Day 3: May 30th.

hebden bridge pennine way yorkshire moorland hike trek

King Common

29 km, + 670 m, – 830 m, 17 miles, + 2180 ft, – 2710 ft.

Light Hazzles to Ponden, via Stoodley Pike, May’s Shop and Top Withins.

Camped at Ponden Mill campsite.

Day 4: May 31st

yorkshire pennine way moorland hiking trekking trail long distance england

Ickornshaw Moor

28 km, + 730 m, – 840 m. 17 miles, + 2410 ft, – 2760 ft.

Ponden to Gargrave, via The Hare and Hounds at Lothersdale.

Bed and Beakfast at The Masons’ Arms, Gargrave (pre-booked).

Day 5: June 1st

yorkshire dales camping campsite pennine way england limestone karst tent

Malham Beck

11 km, + 210 m, – 120 m. 7 miles, + 680 ft, – 390 ft.

Gargrave to Malham, an easy recovery day.

Camped at Town Head Farm campsite on Malham Beck.

Day 6: June 2nd

limestone karst landscape yorkshire dales pennine way england

Malham

24 km, + 830 m, – 800 m. 15 miles, + 2710 ft, – 2610 ft.

Malham to Horton in Ribblesdale via Fountains Fell and Penyghent.

Bunkhouse at The Golden Lion (pre-booked).

Day 7: June 3rd

yorkshire dales horton ribblesdale pennine way england trail long distance walk

Cam High Road

22 km, + 450 m, – 450 m. 14 miles, +1480 ft, -1480 ft.

Horton to Hawes via the Cam High Road.

Bed and Breakfast at The Old Board Inn (pre-booked).

Day 8: June 4th

yorkshire wensleydales hawes pennine way england summit long distance trail

Great Shunner Fell

20 km, + 710 m, – 620 m. 13 miles, + 2320 ft, – 2050 ft.

Hawes to Keld, via Great Shunner Fell and Thwaite.

Camped at Swaledale Yurts (pre-booked).

Day 9: June 5th

yorkshire highest pub england dales bikers hiking real ale

Tan Hill

June 5th. Keld to Tan Hill.

7 km, + 280 m, – 80m. 4 miles, + 930 ft, – 270 ft.

Camped at Tan Hill Inn (no booking). Another easy recovery day.

Day 10: June 6th

county durham limestone karst england pennine way walkers hikers

God’s Bridge

16 km, +200 m, – 400 m. 10 miles, + 650 ft, – 1310 ft.

Tan Hill to Clove Lodge, via Sleightholme Moor and God’s Bridge.

Bunk Barn at Clove Lodge (pre-booked, check availability).

Day 11: June 7th

baldersdale-pennine-way-sunrise-blackton

Baldersdale

25 km, + 540 m, – 470 m. 16 miles, + 1750 ft, – 1550 ft.

Clove Lodge to Langdon Beck, via Middleton in Teesdale.

Hostel at Langdon Beck (YHA, pre-booked).

Day 12: June 8th

teesdale county durham england waterfall cow green pennine way

Cauldron Snout

20 km, + 380 m, – 580 m. 13 miles, + 1230 ft, – 1900 ft.

Langdon Beck to Dufton via Cauldron Snout and High Cup.

Hostel at Dufton (YHA, pre-booked).

Day 13: June 9th

cumbria summit pennines highest point pennine way cairn trig

Cross Fell

25 km, + 940 m, – 770 m. 15 miles, + 3080 ft, – 2520 ft.

Dufton to Garrigill, via Cross Fell.

Camped at Garrigill Village Hall (normally no need to book).

Day 14: June 10th

northumberland pennine way england burn long distance walk national trail

Gilderdale

20 km, + 260 m, – 400 m. 12 miles, + 850 ft, – 1300 ft.

Garrigill to Knarsdale, via Alston.

Camped at Stone Hall Farm campsite, Knarsdale (normally no need to book).

Day 15: June 11th

northumberland england pennine way roman fort picts border national trail

Hadrian’s Wall

28 km, + 620m, – 610 m.17 miles, + 2040 ft, – 2000 ft.

Knarsdale to Once Brewed, via Greenhead and Hadrian’s Wall.

Bed and Breakfast at Vallum Lodge (pre-booked).

Day 16: June 12th

northumberland kielder pennine way national trail england hike walk

Wark Forest

25 km, + 430 m, – 530 m. 15 miles, + 1420 ft, – 1750 ft.

Once Brewed to Bellingham, via Rapishaw Gap, Wark Forest and Horneystead.

Bunk Barn at Demesne Farm (pre-booked).

Day 17: June 13th

pennine way northumberland england long distance national trail moorland peat

Whitley Pike

25 km, + 580 m, – 470 m. 15 miles, + 1890 ft, – 1540 ft.

Bellingham to Byrness, via Whitley Pike and Redesdale Forest.

Bunkhouse at the Forest View Inn, Byrness (pre-booked).

Day 18: June 14th

northumberland kielder pennine way cheviot forest view byrness hillwalking trekking

Redesdale

33 km, + 1160 m, – 790 m. 20 miles, + 3800 ft, – 2600 ft.

Byrness to The Schil, via Windy Gyle and Auchope Cairn.

Wild camped on The Schil.

Day 19: June 15th

pennine way schil scotland borders cheviot camping hiking hillwalking coleman aravis tent trek trekking

The Schil

9 km, + 180 m, – 650 m. 5 miles, + 600 ft, – 2130 ft.

The Schil to Kirk Yetholm (high option).

Hostel at Kirk Yetholm (Friends of Nature, pre-booked).

Post-day: June 16th

river tweed england scotland border railway bridge

Berwick

Buses from Kirk Yetholm to Berwick on Tweed, via Kelso.

Hostel at Berwick (YHA, pre-booked). Train home on the 17th.

General Pennine Way Tips

As well as time of year, type of accommodation and rough schedule, one of the most important decisions is choice of footwear. Our number one problem was sore feet. I was pretty much unblistered as my boots were worn in and I was proactive and pre-emptive with the Compeed. I ‘merely’ suffered unpleasant toe and metatarsal pain on descents, inexplicable instep bruising (only on my left foot) and eventually unattractive and itchy foot rot. My companion unfortunately did encounter the Wayfarers’ number one curse of blisters and, like so many, was unable to complete her planned walk because of them. We both wore mid-weight, upper-mid-price leather boots.

That decision, was based on my 1999 experience walking The Way in suede, fabric and Goretex hybrid boots, Karrimor KSBs in fact. I still recall those boots with loathing. They were comfortable, but they leaked like sieves after around day eight. Barely-thawed bog water constantly trickled into them, even with gaiters, Nikwax was no help and from Hawes northwards my feet were permanently soaked and freezing (I also acquired frostbitten ears – The Way in April can be quite hardcore if you’ve no idea what you’re doing). I thought leather boots would be better, but in fact this time my Goretex lined Scarpa Rangers behaved identically! From around day eight they too leaked hopelessly, rendering their weight and bulk pointless.

After completing this Pennine Way I subsequently walked the entire trail a third time, in October 2016. I walked it nimbly and lightly, with no foot pain, rot or blisters. How? By finally heeding advice I’d heard often from wiser walkers. Ditch the heavy, soggy boots and walk in trail shoes. For three season fellwalking in the largely unpointy Pennines, for me personally it’s now that simple.

Guess what: my Goretex lined trail shoes leaked too, and from around day eight! It seems no Goretex footwear can remain waterproof for more than a week or so on the Pennine Way. But, being light and minimally structured, they dried quickly too.

One more thing on footwear – I routinely ditch all insoles, however fancy, and replace them with Sorbothane Double Strikes. In my opinion the three essentials of long distance walking are Sorbothane insoles, Compeed and trekking poles. These are all to do with saving your feet and knees, which will then drag the rest of you with them, along The Pleasant Pennine Way…

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4 comments

  1. Jenny Hillyard · · Reply

    I love reading these – witty and educational at the same time.

    Like

    1. Thanks! That’s a very kind thing to say and much appreciated.

      Like

  2. A great read Andrew. I’ve never done the whole PW as a complete trip, though I’ve covered a great deal of it in instalments over the years, not as a plan but just the way it worked out.

    I’ve also got a vicarious interest in the PW as a route – every January I work as safety cover on the Montane spine Race – that’s the PW in WINTER in SEVEN days! I’ve seen Extreme Event Ultra Runners struggle on it – the record stands at 3 days, 23 hours and 43 minutes!

    I’ve blogged the event several times, my favourite post being here –
    https://hillcraftguidedwalking.com/2013/10/06/141-two-men-and-a-dog-and-the-highest-noodle-bar-in-the-uk/
    It might give you a laugh or two.

    It makes you feel tired just thinking about it! I think I’d settle for a nice steady 19-day trip – off to check out your ‘Pleasant’ and ‘Perverse’ blogs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That really is extreme isn’t it? I might look into volunteering. Thanks for looking at my blog 😉

      Like

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