The Pennine Way was the first official long distance footpath to be created in Britain in 1965 after a long campaign started in 1935 by Tom Stephenson, secretary of The Ramblers Association. The roots of this campaign for a national trail was the mass trespass movement of the 1930s. Some say, after they have been swimming through the bogs of Kinder Scout or Cheviot, they could see why such a concession for a footpath was given for the route: it was enough to put some off walking for life! In reality the trail being a popular "tester" has attracted a great deal of attention from walkers, to the affect that there has been a great deal of erosion, but there has been a lot of negative publicity about this. More recently there have been huge efforts to reseed certain areas and to cover the eroded surfaces with "all weather" flagstones, which have indirectly aided navigation through some of the worst sections of the trail as well.
While the National Park authorities try to improve trail conditions, it should be made clear that this walk passes through some of the loneliest and loveliest high walking terrain in England, and over such length there is a tremendous variety from high peat bog,
heathlands, beautiful karst (limestone scenery) including cliffs, caves and rock pavements. There are also big peaks known as the High fells of which Cross Fell is the highest point at nearly 3000 feet; the smaller hills of the Yorkshire Dales; deep green valleys such as Swaledale, with beautiful rivers, often with industrial and archaeological remains such as the traces of old lead mining or Hadrian's wall; tremendous natural features such as High, Low Force waterfalls and High Cup Nick - a glacial valley; The highest pub in England at Tan Hill, where the beer goes flatter quicker than at lower pubs due to less atmospheric pressure (!) and of course the chance to commune with nature over an extended period.
Most people do "The Way" from South to North which at least normally means that you are walking with your back to the worst of the weather and most walk it in 2- 3 weeks. Maps and compass are essential as there is limited waymarking enroute.
Pennine Way Association: Membership can be obtained from penninewayassociation.co.uk
Stage 1 Edale to Cowden 16 miles (25.6km)
Stage 2 Crowden To Globe Farm 10 miles (16 km) / Standedge 11.5 miles (18.4km)
Stage 3 Standedge to Hebden Bridge 15 miles (24km)
Stage 4 Hebden Bridge to Lothersdale 19 miles (30.4 km)
Stage 5 Lothersdale to Malham 15 miles (24km)
Stage 6: Malham to Horton in Ribbleside 14 miles (22.4km).
Now you are in the Yorkshire Dales National park, and you will climb steeply up the cliffs of Malham cove to walk along the limestone pavements into Watlowes Valley (mind that you do not slip on this fine grained rock in the wet, or trip over the "Clints and Grykes.") Eventually you should get to beautiful Malham Tarn. After Fountain Fell the whale back like hump of your high point for today can be seen. This is the peak of Pen - y - ghent (2277ft / 694m) which is well known to walkers of the "Three Peaks Walk" or the "Three Peaks Cyclo cross Race." Take care on the ascent and the descent of this as there has been quite widespread erosion over the years. As you go over the fence on the top of the hill, you may meet alot of people sheltering in the lee of the fence with there packed lunches, Huddled in the wind/ rain or worse. If it is unusually sunny or calm you will see them lounging around in the soft grass. The downhill route to Horton in Ribbleside (With railway Station) is quite clear., passing Tarn Bar enroute : A tiny version of Malham Cove. At the B6479 road you will find it hard to resist the temptation to visit the Pen-y-ghent cafe to sign the book for 'Way ' goers. It is best to top up with lunch supplies here for tomorrow, because there is little enroute.
Stage 7: Horton in Ribbleside to Hawes 14 miles (22.4km).
Up through Birkwith Moor with impressive dales scenery once again. And it is worth trying to locate the stream tumbling into Calf Holes Cave only to reappear a bit further on at Brown Gill Cave, the route eventually climbs to join the Roman High Road at Cam End and then intersects with "The Dales Way" which possibly is the most popular long distance footpath in Britain. The walk edges around Dodd Fell before dropping down through farmlands to the villages of Gayle to the bustling town of Hawes on the A684.
Stage 8: Hawes to Keld 12.5 miles (20km) or Tan Hill 16 miles (25.6km).
A mile up the road you will be able to visit Hardraw village, home of England's highest waterfall, Hardraw Force. It is then time to leave the green fields of the valley for desolate moors up to Great Shunner Fell before descending to the fields of Thwaite, the arrival of whose cafes are just in time for a pleasant lunch spot. There then follows a very beautiful section where the walk climbs high above the River Swale, meeting "The Coast to Coast" for a while. It is possible to walk an hour or so off route to Keld for additional accommodation otherwise it means blasting on the trail a bit further up the moors to the Tan Hill, about 4 miles from Keld which at 528 m is a welcome site being the highest public House in England, and is the only place around here offering accommodation.
Stage 9: Keld to Bowes 13 miles (21km).
Another nice day is spent leaving the Yorkshire Dales National Park and entering the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty called the North Pennines. This is often a stage where compasses come out! From Keld blast onto the moors again and a bit further up you will reach Tan Hill, about 4 miles from Keld which at 528 m is a welcome site being the highest public House in England. After the pub crawl, walking along Sleightholme Moor for a few miles can be very misty and muddy. Especially if you stayed last night in Keld you will probably dropping down to Bowes or Baldersdale for accommodation , pubs and shops tonight. Otherwise the trail divides at Trough Heads and you will cross the River Greta via a slab of stone : "God's Bridge" and underpass the busy A66, before continuing on through the moors to Blackton Bridge YHA thus avoiding Bowes, if you stay at Bowes you will pass Blackton tomorrow.
Stage 10: Bowes to Middleton 17 miles (or Bowes to Langdon Beck 25 miles*).
A nice bleak moorland and stream walk to Middleton in Teesdale today which could take 6 hours or so on rolling terrain, with no big ascents. There is alot of stone walling around, many farms, ruins and the reservoirs of Blackton and Lunedale before the route passes Harter Fell and drops down into the valley of the river Tees. The Youth Hostal at Blackton is thought of as being the half way point in the route. Please note that those walking Bowes to Langton Beck will need to spend another day walking from Langdon Beck to Dufton 12.5 miles, otherwise the hike over to Garrigill becomes 28 miles.
Stage 11: Middleton to Dufton 20 miles (32km) (or Langdon Beck to Dufton 12.5
Be prepared today because you will encounter some of the wildest natural features of the entire walk. There are some opportunities for lunch enroute. Leave Middleton with enough supplies along the course of the River Tees which will resemble malt whiskey in colour. The first waterfall is called Low Force and drops over a series of rocky steps. Eventually you reach the outstanding High Force, England's own version of Niagra Falls..er, well It is no place to fall in here! If you are hostelling, you maybe staying at The Langdon Beck YHA a bit further on, If you are continuing you will reach another water fall called "Cauldron Snout" rumbling on the Tees. Follow the moors along the Maize Beck until you reach High Cup Nick a deeply cut glacial U shaped valley. Then it is on a few miles downhill to Dufton. This is a fine little town with many old buildings and a good place for a pub and a tub to wash off all that peat that you picked up today.
Stage 12: Dufton to Carrigill 17 miles(27km) or Alston 20 miles(32km).
A full, long day so carry enough food with you. It is certainly the hardest day that you have encountered so far as regard to route finding if the weather is poor. From Dufton the route takes you up over Knock Fell (794m) , Great Dun Fell (848m) with its 'Golf Ball ' radar, over Little Dun Fell and then Cross Fell (893) which is the highest point along 'The Way.' The moorlands here are no place to get lost in the mist! There is a mountain refuge a little further on if you need it. It is then a tiring march to the metalled road at Garrigal for pub refreshments or for the night, but if you have got the time it is recommended that you walk the 2 miles or so along the South Tyne to the pretty little market town of Alston.
Stage 13: Alston to Greenhead 16 miles (25.6km).
This section some will find tedious, it is very agricultural and can be very muddy in places if there has been alot of rain and perhaps the name of the village of Slaggyford sums it all up! At least there is a pub here and tiny Post Office and you could stock up with chocolate before taking the Maiden Way Roman Road towards Hartleyburn Common and onto Greenhead.
Stage 14: Greenhead to Once Brewed 7 miles (11km).
Hadrians Wall and the Northumberland National Park beckon on the route, walking the roller coaster of Hadrians Wall is tiring and we recommend staying at Once brewed, giving you plenty of time to visit the major attractions along the wall today; there are cafes (seasonal) enroute. Walking along the Cawfield and Winshield crags section the wall is very well preserved. You then drop down to pub and hostel at Once Brewed. If you are staying at the youth hostel here tonight, we recommend that you drop your sack there and continue along the wall to see alot more of it at your leisure, as the route turns to the North at Cuddy's Crags before the Housteads section.
Stage 15: Once Brewed to Bellingham 15.5 miles (25km).
Head Easterly along the wall for a few miles, (you may want to detour to see Housesteads Roman Fort if you did not go and see it yesterday). This section from Steel Rigg is the most dramatic of the wall, but very exposed on a cold blustery day. You should get great views to the Pennines and across to the Simonside hills in Northumberland and the various coniferous forest estates. After this you turn North into the Northumberland National Park and through the coniferous Wark Forest and to Lowstead a fortified house to protect the locals and their animals from raiding groups called Reivers. The walk follows small roads and crosses farmland and North Tyne to follow the River Bank down into the pretty village of Bellingham, just about the best place to stock up with basic supplies until the end of the route.
Stage 16: Bellingham to Byrness 15 miles (24km).
You will need to carry all your supplies for the day with you as you cross several miles of heather moorlands before passing through more conifer forests, then between forests and moors and then back into the forest and via Blakehope burn haugh on a nice riverside path to the village of Byrness which has limited accommodation possibilities due to its nature originally as a Forestry Commission station, rather than a market town.
Stage 17: Byrness to Kirk Yetholm 26 miles (42km). Yikes!
The longest day provides the ultimate climax to the walk and it is likely to take you all day as well. In addition there is the detour up to the big boggy fell of Cheviot (815) which will add slightly to the distance. Be prepared, it is a hard long walk and pretty lonely. You must be ready to navigate. 'The Way' climbs over Moorland, with an alternative routing to take in Chew Green Roman Camp. Eventually you drop down across the Cheviot Fells to alight at Kirk Yetholm an old borders market village in the middle of nowhere in particular, but just happens to be the end of the Pennine Way.
Please Note: Most walkers choose to split this into 2 stages. There is accommodation available at Cocklawfoot Farm, between Byrness and Kirk Yetholm - 12 miles prior to Kirk Yetholm and two miles off the route. The only issue is, it is difficult for luggage to be delivered as it is quite remote. Walkers will need to take an overnight bag with them from Byrness and then they will be reunited with the main bag when they reach Kirk Yetholm. Byrness to Kirk Yetholm is charged as 2 day stages.
Arrival In Edale: Trains to and from Manchester or Sheffield. Tel 0161 832 8353 or National Rail Enquiries: 08457 48 49 50, or visit www.railtrack.co.uk
At the end of your walk: Bear in mind that if there are 3 or 4 of you it is often cheaper and quicker to travel by taxi than to take public transport back to your car, or to a main line station. Otherwise there is a limited daily bus service from Kirk Yetholm by "Lowland Scottish" to Kelso where you can get buses to Edinburgh, or Jedburgh to change for Newcastle Upon
Tyne; or you can also get buses to Berwick Upon Tweed to link into the railway system, for details ring 01573 224 141.