The Pennine Way is an epic long-distance trail that explores the wildest and most spectacular scenery that England has to offer.
Starting from Edale, in the Peak District National Park, the route takes you 268 miles (431 kilometers) along the Pennine ridge through the Yorkshire Dales, into Northumberland, along Hadrian’s Wall, across the Cheviots, and finishes in the Scottish border village of Kirk Yetholm.
With a reputation for long days, extreme weather conditions, bogs, more bogs, and landscapes that leave you speechless, the Pennine Way is a challenging hike to undertake. However, the rewards are endless.
Taking you over the loneliest hills in England, you will experience spellbinding solitude on this route. Some of the highlights you encounter include: High Cup Nick, one of the best examples of a glacial valley in England; Brontë Country, the picturesque landscape that inspired the three literary sisters; High Force, a dramatic waterfall that plunges 69 feet (21 meters) with great ferocity; Malham Cove, a spectacular geological formation with wonderful views; The Cheviot, the highest point in the Northumberland with views that stretch as far as Edinburgh.
The Pennine Way is widely regarded as the ultimate long-distance hike in the UK. Officially opened in April 1965, it is hailed as a once-in-a-lifetime challenge that every serious rambler should attempt.
This Collection follows the standard 15/16 day itinerary that most people undertake. You will need to be an experienced hiker with a good level of fitness, stamina and navigation skills to attempt this route. That said, if you have good fitness and hiking ability, you will find this itinerary challenging, but manageable. It is advisable to schedule a few rest days.
It is possible to shorten many of the stages shown here. However, the Pennine Way is a serious trail for experienced hikers and there is no escaping some super-long days—unless you are prepared to sleep under the stars or in a bothy.
The final section crosses some very remote countryside and, whilst it is possible to complete it in one day—especially if you do not climb The Cheviot—it is worth splitting it into two. There are some mountain refuge huts en route that you can sleep in and there are some bunkhouses that require a detour to reach.
Due to the remoteness of this hike and the potential for adverse weather conditions, preparation is absolutely essential. Make sure you have adequate clothing, decent boots, map and compass, food and water, and know the stops to resupply at (mentioned in the route descriptions).
If you are planning to travel by public transport undertake the Pennine Way, you can catch a train to Manchester Piccadilly or Sheffield Railway station, which are both served by trains from throughout the UK and offer direct services to Edale, where the route starts.
When you have completed the route, catch the 81 bus from Kirk Yetholm to Kelso. From Kelso catch the 67 bus service to Berwick-upon-Tweed where railway services regularly run to London, Leeds, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh amongst other destinations.
For more information about the Pennine Way, visit: nationaltrail.co.uk/pennine-way.
For the 81 bus timetable, visit: bustimes.org/services/81-kelso-yetholm-circular.
For the 67 bus timetable, visit: bustimes.org/services/67-berwick-upon-tweed-kelso.
For train timetables, visit: thetrainline.com.
The Pennine Way starts exactly as it means to go on: challenging but always rewarding.
From Edale, you begin with a steep ascent up Jacob’s Ladder. This iconic stone staircase is a wonderful climb and your efforts are rewarded with breathtaking views once you reach the summit of Kinder Low.
Following this ascent, the way’s second-longest, the trail is mainly flat and continues across the moors, through Devil’s Dike, past the unusually-shaped Wain Stones and eventually to Bleaklow Head, where you can enjoy stunning panoramic views over the rugged gritstone and peat landscape.
It is a long, but gentle descent from Bleaklow Head to Crowden, where the first day finishes. There is a youth hostel and campsite in Crowden, which both serve food.
There is not much else in the tiny hamlet, though, so make sure you pick-up any last-minute essentials before starting the walk in Edale.
After a challenging start, stage two is a shorter route with a little less climbing.
However, the second day does include the bête noire of legendary fellwalker Alfed Wainwright, Black Hill.
From Crowden, you make a sharp ascent to Laddow Rocks, an exposed rocky outcrop that affords splendid views over the wild moorland, and Black Chew Head, the highest point in Greater Manchester, a short time later.
The trail levels off at this point and meanders through rugged moorland to the summit of Black Hill.
Wainwright described the area around Black Hill as a “desolate and hopeless quagmire”. However, the landscape has a definite charm; vast skies, wild moors, empty valleys and babbling brooks afford a real sense of escapement.
There is not much accommodation in Standedge, so a good alternative is the village of Diggle, which is just under two miles (three kilometers) and has a range of places to stay and eat.
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Day three follows high moorland paths and gritstone edges, resulting in flat, easy-going walking with wonderful views every step of the way.
According to Alfred Wainwright the worst part of the Pennine Way is over by this point. However, this stage is not particularly awe-inspiring due to the ever-present sounds of civilization. That said, there is much to enjoy.
You begin by strolling onto Standedge, an escarpment that has been a major moorland crossing point since Roman times, possibly even earlier.
You continue over bleak but beautiful moorland, enjoying views over reservoirs and the rolling landscape until you reach Blackstone Edge.
Whilst it might not be the tallest at 1,549 feet (472 meters), Blackstone Edge commands a fine view over over Manchester, West Yorkshire, Huddersfield, and beyond. It is a lovely spot to experience some solitude.
Navigation can sometimes be difficult along Blackstone Edge, especially in bad weather conditions, but there are cairns and poles to guide you.
After another seven miles (11 kilometers) of moorland walking, you reach Stoodley Pike Monument. A fixture on the horizon for the second half of the day; the monument pierces the weathered skies ahead.
Erected in 1856 to mark the end of the Crimean War, Stoodley Pike Monument sits atop a 1,300 foot (396 meter) hill. You are treated to breathtaking views from the summit ridge over Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and the Calder Valley.
It is a gentle descent from Stoodley Pike all the way into the Calder Valley. A good option to stay is Hebden Bridge. Only one mile (one-and-a-half kilometers) detour from the trail, the market town has a range of places to stay, eat, and drink, as well as shops.
If you enjoy classic literature and poetry as much as moorland hiking, you are in for a treat as this stage ventures into Brontë country.
Whilst the route shown here makes a few detours from the official Pennine Way, they are worth doing and won’t add much more than an hour.
To start, you take a slight detour east to Heptonstall, one of the Pennines’ most historic villages (if you stayed in Hebden Bridge, however, this will actually be en route). Whilst the village is a lovely place to explore, the ruins of the Church of St Thomas a' Becket are truly magical.
Within the churchyard, you will find the grave of the first literary great on this hike, Sylvia Plath, an American poet, novelist, and short-story writer, who was married to England’s poet laureate, Ted Hughes, for a short time.
Head west from Heptonstall to pick up the Pennine Way as it traverses a patchwork of fields before returning to the familiar surrounds of empty moorland.
Here, you begin to walk into the glorious Brontë country; a dreamscape of Pennine hills west of Bradford. The name honors the Brontë sisters, who wrote such literary classics as Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë), Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë), and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Anne Brontë) while living in the area.
Ten miles (17 kilometers) into the route, you arrive at Top Withens, a ruined farmhouse that is said to be the inspiration for the location of the Earnshaw family house Wuthering Heights in the novel of the same name by Emily Brontë.
A short while, and a little detour later, you arrive at the picturesque Brontë Waterfall, a place the sisters are said to have visited frequently to talk of their literary fantasies, which eventually became their own works of literature.
Ickornshaw does not have many accommodation options, so be sure to book way in advance. There is a campsite, however, that will always find a spot for people hiking the Pennine Way.
Wainwright described this stage as “mostly muck and manure...undulating farmlands…and contented cows on low green hills”.
Whilst this description still holds true, you will find this hike to be a pleasant one. Taking you through a surprising amount of villages, there is ample opportunity for refreshment and to resupply, too.
The way takes you through the Aire Gap, which forms a geographical corridor between the South Pennines and Yorkshire Dales, as well as between gritstone and limestone landscapes.
The reward for this challenging stage is Malham: the start of Limestone Country. According to Wainwright, this is where the highlights start coming thick and fast.
There is a diversion shown here to see Janet's Foss, a wonderful waterfall nestled amid magical woodlands, and the magnificent Gordale Scar.
One of the most dramatic sights in the Yorkshire Dales, the narrow canyon of Gordale Scar is dominated on either side by sheer walls of rock, hundreds of feet high, with Gordale Beck tumbling through the rocky ravine.
This detour will add approximately 60 minutes on what is already a long day. However, if you are in the area these sights cannot be missed. A rest day, where you only complete this little detour, is a good option.
Malham has a good range of accommodation and plenty of places to eat and drink.
Day six is a real highlight and showcases limestone country at its finest. So good, in fact, Wainwright described this as “the best walking territory so far encountered along the Pennine way”.
Whilst the joys are abundant, this stage is rather challenging—it is solid uphill for the first eight miles (13 kilometers)—but the rewards are worth it.
Less than a mile into the route you begin ascending Malham Cove Steps. The 400 irregular stone steps take you to the top of Malham Cove, where you can enjoy spellbinding views.
You continue the past Malham Tarn and spectacular limestone scenery, before you tackle Pen-y-Ghent.
At 2,277 feet (694 meters), Pen-y-Ghent boasts incredible views of the golden landscape. With decent paths and a few scrambles to boot, it is a highly enjoyable hike.
As you descend, you pass an interesting hole in the landscape, the Hull Pot, which is a great spot to stop.
Wainwright loved the descent to Horton in Ribblesdale and, whilst it can be hard-going, most will surely agree.
There is not much at Horton, but you will find a few accommodation options and places to eat.
If you are in search of solitude then today will be a real treat. Whilst there are not many obvious highlights, the landscape today is wild, beautiful and utterly endless.
This route begins with a detour to see the iconic Ribblehead Viaduct. Whilst the extension will add around 90 minutes to the route, this much-photographed landmark is quintessential Yorkshire.
From there, you head northeast to pick up the Pennine Way and begin the ascent of Dodd Fell Hill, which affords spectacular views of the Yorkshire Three Peaks: Pen-y-ghent, Whernside, and Ingleborough.
After admiring the views, you make a sharp descent into Hawes. If you have any energy left, it is worth visiting Hardraw Force, England’s largest single-drop waterfall.
The paths are easy to follow for the entire day, apart from a tricky section coming off the moors down Rottestone Hill into Hawes, where the path is undefined.
Hawes has plenty of accommodation options, cafes, restaurants and shops.
This stage of the Pennine Way is hiking heaven. Starting at the highest single-drop waterfall in England and finishing at the country’s highest pub, and packed with beauty every step of the way, this route is a classic.
From Hardraw Force, you begin with a delightful climb across the moors and over Great Shunner Fell, the highest point so far. Wainwright loved this climb so much, he said he could do it non-stop.
As you traverse the lonely moors, you pass East Gill Force, an impressive waterfall in a stunning location at the point where the two iconic long-distance hikes—the Pennine Way and the Coast to Coast Walk—intersect.
It is worth a brief detour to see Wain Wath Force. Whilst the waterfall might be fairly modest compared to others nearby, it is certainly a much-loved spot. There is a delightful grassy bank next to the waterfall and a deep pool below that you can swim in.
From Wain Wath Force, it is an undulating climb to Tan Hill Inn. At 1,732 feet (528 meters) above sea level, it is Britain’s highest pub and boasts beautiful exposed beams, stone-flagged floors and welcoming fire.
Tan Hill Inn has a range of rooms and a campsite. It also serves food. As there is nothing much else in the area, it is worth booking ahead.
Today marks the halfway point along the Pennine Way and the milestone is honored with the kind of hiking this trail does best—vast empty moorland, rolling hills and utter solitude.
Whether reaching the 134 mile (216 kilometer) halfway point fills you with relief, or despair, is likely to split opinion as much as the kind of walking on offer today. Whilst some will resent squelching through endless boggy moorland, others will rejoice in the purple heather, empty landscape and serene moorland vistas.
From Tan Hill Inn, it is a gentle descent to the tranquil village of Bowes. It is well worth a visit to the ruins of Bowes Castle here. The splendid ruins of Henry II's 12th century castle are set on the site of a Roman fort that guards the approach to Stainmore Pass.
The trail then undulates through lush farmland pastures and rolling moorland past Blackton Reservoir, a beautiful stretch of water and nature reserve, and Grassholme Reservoir, a Local Wildlife Site with a serene atmosphere.
Depending on the conditions, you might find it a little tricky following the path over Harter Fell. If you keep hiking northeast, though, you will struggle to get lost.
Middleton-in-Teesdale has plenty of accommodation options, cafes, restaurants, and shops.
This stage of the Pennine Way is one of the most memorable along the entire trail. So good is this hike that Wainwright described it as “a walk of near perfection”.
Along the way, you see the most iconic landmark on the way, High Cup Nick, an enormous u-shaped valley that is hailed as one of the best examples in England, as well as some impressive waterfalls and spellbinding scenery.
The day begins with a leisurely ascent out of Middleton-in-Teesdale through wildflower meadows alongside the River Tees.
You continue along the river banks until you reach the thundering wall of water, High Force. This impressive waterfall drastically drops 69 feet (21 meters) into the plunge pool below.
From High Force, you continue the ascent past Cronkley Scar before a challenging scramble by Cauldron Snout, a rocky ravine below that the infant River Tees descends through spectacularly.
The next section over the moors might be a little tricky to navigate, but the effort is well worth for today’s climax: High Cup Nick. The view over this gigantic glaciated valley and the scenery surrounding it is breathtaking.
Dufton has a range of places to stay, eat, and drink.
This stage is one of the most challenging on the entire trail. Taking you to the highest point in the Pennines, Cross Fell, get ready for wind, weather and paths that disappear in the heather.
Before you attempt this stage, check the weather forecast and make sure you have adequate clothing, compass, map and charge on your device. England’s strongest wind gust and coldest temperature have been recorded along this stage, so preparation is essential.
It is also worth noting that the fells on this stage were mined. As such, venturing too far off the path could be dangerous, making good navigation doubly important.
It is a long climb out of Dufton to start the day. After six miles of climbing, you reach Great Dun Fell, the second-highest point in the Pennines and home to the Civil Aviation Authority’s air traffic control radar domes.
The trail undulates, climbing slightly, to reach Cross Fell, the highest point in the Pennines. From the summit, you are afforded breathtaking views of the Lake District, the west coast and also the east coast. On a clear day, the southern uplands of Scotland and the Cheviots can also be seen.
Around one mile (one-and-a-half kilometers) later, you arrive at England’s highest bothy, Greg’s Hut. The free-to-use cottage is situated in a remote part of the hills that are prone to bad weather. There are basic facilities at the bothy and it makes for a good emergency overnight stop if the weather closes in.
Navigation around this area can be difficult, even when the weather is good. Make sure you are vigilant and prepared with numerous methods of navigation.
From there, it is a long but gradual descent to Garrigil. Whilst the never-ending Corpse Road miners’ track can be a little monotonous, at least navigation is simple.
The trail is mainly flat for the rest of the hike; passing through patchwork fields all the way to Alston, which has a good range of places to eat, drink, and stay.
Today is a slog, unfortunately. Navigation is tricky, the bogs are relentless, and the scenery is a little dull in comparison to previous days. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel: Hadrian’s Wall.
Wainwright described this stage as dull and complicated. “If the remainder of the Pennine Way was like this, here would be the place to pack it in and go home,” he said. Fortunately, the best stage is yet to come. And, to be fair, Wainwright was being a little dramatic.
From Alston, you follow the South Tyne Trail for the first few miles before joining the Maiden Way over Hartley Burn Floodplain and the boggy Blenkinsopp Common.
Today marks the end of the Pennines, when you reach Round Hill and Wain Rigg. However, the magnificent Hadrian’s Wall is yet to come, which will reward your efforts richly.
Greenhead has a couple of places to stay, eat and drink.
Today is a real gem on the Pennine Way; the highlights are abundant and the landscape is picturesque.
The day begins with a brief descent to the ruins of Thirlwall Castle before a short but sharp ascent to the tall crags of Walltown Quarry, which was excavated by the Romans for stone to build Hadrian’s Wall.
Three miles (five kilometers) later you arrive at Aesica Roman Fort, built to guard Caw Gap where the Haltwhistle Burn crosses the Wall.
Continue past Milecastle 42 and onto the sheer cliffs of Steel Rigg, one of the most iconic sights along the wall.
From most iconic to most photographed, up next is Sycamore Gap; a wonderfully-positioned tree that has appeared in several movies and television shows.
The Pennine Way peels off Hadrian’s Wall just before Milecastle 37 and then it is a long slog through forest, farmland and moorland to Bellingham. Fortunately, you are predominantly descending from the wall.
Bellingham has a good range of places to eat, drink, stay, and shop.
This stage is a walk of two halves; moorland with great views but demanding bogs, and woodland paths that are easy-to-hike but are a tad monotonous.
That said, there are a couple of spectacular waterfalls to see along the way, as well as a stone circle, and the distance is quite manageable, compared to other days.
From Bellingham, it is a gentle ascent through fields to the spectacular Hareshaw Linn waterfall. Designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest do to its rare ferns and lichen, you might spot red squirrel, great spotted woodpecker, badger, and daubenton’s bat in the area.
The next section, which crosses farmland and moorland, can get boggy and the path is tricky to follow in places.
Around the halfway point, the landscape changes from boggy moorland paths to solid woodland paths. Whilst steady footing might make a welcome change, it is a bit of a slog through this next section.
A few miles later, you pass close to Hindhope Linn, a beautiful waterfall in a serene and enchanting dell.
A short time later, it is worth making another slight detour to see the Three Kings of Denmark, a legendary Bronze Age stone circle.
There are a few accommodation options and places to eat and drink in Byrness, but the village does not have a great deal.
This final stage of the Pennine Way crosses some of the most remote hills in England—and it is a marathon push to finish the hike in one day.
There is no obvious way to split this final stage as it crosses through some of the least-populated parts of the country. That said, there are some bunkhouses along the way, as well as two mountain refuge huts, which are well-positioned to split the final part.
A potential option is to get straight to the second mountain refuge hut shown here on day one, without climbing to the summit of The Cheviot. Then retrace your steps briefly the second day, climb the Cheviot, and then continue to Kirk Yetholm.
Depending on your fitness, time restraints, what your accommodation requirements are, and so on, it might take some forward-planning and extra research to tailor this last section to your needs.
It is a long but gradual ascent to The Cheviot along the loneliest hills and emptiest moorland in England. When you reach the 2.674 feet (815 meter) high summit, though, you are at the highest point in Northumberland National Park. On a clear day, you can see the Lake District in the distance and even Edinburgh.
The lengthy descent from The Cheviot to Kirk Yetholm is likely to be an emotional one. If the weather is good, you will probably want it to last forever. For many, though, the driving winds might make you pleased to cross the finish line.
Either way, when you do cross the line—huge congratulations. You have achieved something that is truly incredible.
There are no shops, cafes or anything else on this final section before Kirk Yetholm, so make sure you have plenty of food, water, first aid, adequate clothing and navigational equipment before setting off.