Forrest Mallard - May 13, 2021

Pennine Way National Trail
England / Scotland
Start: Edale
End: Kirk Yetholm
Distance: 431 km
Time: 14-21 days
Difficulty: Strenuous


Pennine Way National Trail Scotland England Map

It’s a cliché to call the Pennine Way the ‘backbone of England’, but it’s true – a 431-km ‘long green trail’ that runs from the town of Edale in the Peak District north via the Yorkshire Dales and the Tyne Valley, Hadrian’s Wall and the Cheviot Hills to the Scottish border at Kirk Yetholm. It was Britain’s First national trail, and remains its most loved. Forty thousand feet of accumulated elevation gain await you if you hike it right through, yet despite its deserved reputation for being the toughest of Britain’s long distance walks its mostly gentle gradients are easier on the joints than ascending on shorter, steeper slogs. Here your biggest concern is and always will be the weather. A series of fine days and you’ll have an adventurous, pleasant three weeks. If the weather turns nasty – and this is the high moors so you bet it will – this Jekyll and Hyde trail can suddenly begin to loom as a genuine obstacle, though not as a test of physical strength. On the Pennine Way the challenges are far more subtle – challenges born of logistics, of mental toughness. And loneliness.

Pennine Way National Trail Scotland England 05

Like most things in life worth having, the Pennine Way wasn’t just dumped in our laps. It had to be fought for. In 1935 Tom Stephenson was journalist working as the ‘rural correspondent’ for the Daily Herald newspaper when a letter arrived on his desk written by two American women

enquiring whether there might be a long distance trail anywhere in the UK similar to America’s Appalachian Trail that they might be able to walk during an upcoming holiday. Stephenson was all too familiar with the answer. In the 1930s much of northern England remained in private hands, and the famous mass trespass at Kinder Scout in Derbyshire in 1932 – when over 400 men and women protested against the lack of access to open country owned by landed gentry – became one of the most successful acts of civil disobedience in British history. ‘Our request, or demand’, said the group’s spokesman Benny Rothman, ‘for access to all peaks and uncultivated moorland is nothing unreasonable’.

Pennine Way National Trail Scotland England 07

Nothing unreasonable indeed. Three weeks later, 10,000 ramblers held a rally in Castleton demanding the same rights that put live of the Kinder Scout protesters into prison, and in the years that followed walkers’ continual lobbying and cajoling of MPs eventually paved the way for the establishment of a network of national parks and long distance trails that would forever open up Britain’s woodlands, moorlands, dales and chalk downs to its people. It also had to be waited for. The Perrine Way wouldn’t open in its entirety until April of 1962, but when it did it was Tom Stephenson, then 72 years of age, who wrote its First guide book. And the route that was chosen would follow – with remarkably few deviations – the path Stephenson himself had mapped.

It begins in the land of the ‘Dark Peaks’ Kinder Scout, the high, wild, bleak north of the Peak District, a land of Millstone Grit-covered limestone with a soil that every winter is saturated with water, a moorland plateau full of sphagnum bogs and the blackest of black peat. Coming off the plateau you descend past reservoirs with fabulous views over Manchester down Into the Calder Valley and its woodland river valleys before climbing again, this time over the Haworth moors of WestYorkshire. This is Bronte country. Stop to visit the family vault in Haworth and lament the fact that within eight brief years after the publication in 1847 of Jane Eyre, Agues Grey and Wuthering Heights, all of their three authors – sisters Charlotte,Anne and Emily – were dead.

Pennine Way National Trail Scotland England 06

You now head into North Yorkshire into the rolling farmlands of the Aire Gap, a pass carved byIce Age glaciers between the Craven Fault and the Yorkshire Dales’ limestone uplands, a corridor between Yorkshire and Lancashire. Some serious hills now lie ahead of you – Fountains Fell and Pen-y-Ghent, before ancient droving roads take you to Hawes and over Great Shunner Fell to the delights of Swaledale, arguably Yorkshire’s most beautiful dale. A further ascent takes you to the 17th-centuryTan Hill Inn, at 1,732 ft England’s highest pub with its gorgeous stone-flagged floors and roaring fireplace. The moors continue to the Stainmore Gap and on to Teesdale, one of England’s most picturesque valleys, before the emptiness of Stainmore Common takes you from east to west across the watershed of the Pennines into the Eden Valley, followed by a long day’s walk over the peaks of the Pennines to Alston and the Maiden Way, a 20-mile-long Roman road that later reverted to a drover’s trail.

Pennine Way National Trail Scotland England 04

After paralleling Hadrian’s Wall for some 11 miles the trail leaves the Pennines behind as it enters Northumberland Forest Park, a section that brings another day of solitude on the moors until you reach Byrness at the foot of the Cheviot Hills. You now have the final stage all before you, and it is not for the faint-of-heart – a bleak, unpopulated, inhospitable, 26.5-mile stretch at a minimum through the Cheviot Hills, including a series of summit-col-summit-col switchbacks of Beefstand Hill, high in the midst of an endless sea of rolling moorlands. If you’re running out of daylight by the time you reach Border Ridge your best option if you’ve a tent is to camp wild at Davidson’s Linn. Better still to depart Byrness before first light to allow enough time to enjoy your approach to Kirk Yetholm and The Border Hotel, the Pennine Way’s official terminus.

Pennine Way National Trail Scotland England 01

You’ll need to think about logistics. Head south to north so the rain and wind will mostly be at your back. Allow three weeks, not two, or you’ll be rushing it, and that’s not why you’re here. Warm, waterproof clothing and decent walking boots are a must, as are a compass and a 1:25,000 scale map. And even though many of the very worst sections of mud and bogs are now paved, prepare for mud and bogs nonetheless so you’ll be able to trudge through whatever this trail can throw at you and not let conditions detract from the beauty and majesty of the wild countryside that surrounds you.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Hi! I'm Forrest Mallard

In 2005, I moved to Quito, Ecuador with $35 in my pocket and a small handful of online clients. Fifteen years and five continents later, there were moments of absolute glamour, as well as a number of brutal rough patches. But I always felt that a horrible day of travel is infinitely more preferable than a great day at the office. Oh the stories I could tell, and I will try to do that here in Tramposaurus Treks. You'll have access to the good times, the horrifying times, and a few well-deserved moments of travel glamour.

Read more


Sign up for the monthly newsletter, with the latest travel news and special offers, and receive bonus gifts to get you started.

    reasons to subscribe

    Save on your hotel -


    Travel Planning Resources



    April 24, 2021

    Art Nouveau in Budapest

    Art Nouveau defines Budapest in much the same way as skyscrapers define New York. Here is a guide that will...

    Read more
    October 30, 2020

    Haunted Hikes

    A thorough list of haunted trails from around the world that I have discovered through the years. From haunted British...

    Read more
    July 12, 2020

    Hidden Gems of Seward

    Seward, Alaska - a breathtaking land shaped by glaciers, and nestled between mountains and ocean. Well-known as the 'gateway' to...

    Read more
    June 10, 2020

    Hidden Gems of Tallinn

    Put on your walking shoes, hit the streets, and discover the Hidden Gems of Tallinn, Estonia. Secret places only the...

    Read more
    May 29, 2020

    Slovenian Mountain Trail

    This stunning, long-distance trail winds across the mountains of Slovenia. The trail passes through this country’s best scenery, including the...

    Read more
    May 29, 2020

    Camino Francés

    The French Way (Camino Francés) and the Routes of Northern Spain are the courses which are listed in the World...

    Read more
    September 3, 2021

    Planeterra Trek Challenge

    Planeterra Trek ChallengeVirtual EventRegistration: $25Web: Planeterra Launches Second Annual Virtual Trek ChallengeCommunity tourism non-profit, Planeterra, launched its second annual Planeterra Trek...

    Read more
    July 26, 2021

    Camino Portuguese

    The Camino Portuguese is one route of the Camino de Santiago network. The bulk of this Camino passes through Portugal.

    Read more
    July 21, 2021

    Edie [2019]

    Grande dame of British entertainment, Sheila Hancock (aged 84), climbed through the Scottish Highlands for the filming of this movie.

    Read more