The Pennine Way (PW) starts in Edale, Derbyshire and finishes in Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish borders, it covers a total of 268 miles and follows what is often referred to as the Spine of the UK.
It winds its way up and over mountains, follows valleys and rivers, crisscrosses reservoirs, plows through farmland (get what I did there 😉), passes through forest, and of course traverses what it is most known for I would say is the sometimes bleak, beautiful and mesmerizing moorlands. All the while making its way Northward.
The Pennine way is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and challenging long-distance trails in the UK, it can be very exposed and it can make you feel like you are completely alone out there thousands of miles away from civilisation, which is amazing right?
My original plan was to head to Wales but logistical issues the night before scuppered that idea.
Instead, I opted to hit the PW nobo, I had a goal of finishing it within the Easter break but was happy if that didn’t pan out.
I had aimed to take it steady covering 15-20 miles a day, but in retrospect should have known I would just lie to myself.
I started the trail in Edale, the official start point at about 09:30 after scoring some pasties from the café next to the train station. I headed out, passing by a fair few people and getting chatting to them along the way. I soon found myself facing Jacob’s ladder where I knew I was in for the first tough climb of the trail and it’s a corker too.
I chilled at the bottom near the river, airing my feet out and eating some sausage rolls (they’re a re-occurring theme on this trail :D). Some of the people I had passed along the way caught me up and began their ascent up the notorious steps.
I decided on taking the Pony track as it isn’t as steep to start with and soon caught them up at the intersection. I got chatting to a couple who were doing the trail in 3 sections, with this one finishing in Horton. It was great speaking with them, and we soon parted ways as I headed to Kinder Downfall.
The wind was relentless up on the plateau and I really struggled to walk a straight line which meant no rest too. I refilled water at Kinder Downfall and cruised on along the ridge before dropping down and back up Mill hill and over to Snake Pass. I quickly made my way over Bleaklow which was still quite boggy. I always forget how bleak, Bleaklow is on the summit, it’s like being on the moon.
Anyway, I scoffed some food up there and cruised on down Torside Clough remembering I camped here last time in 2020, but not today. I was still feeling fresh and knew I had a few more miles in the tank so kept on slaying the miles which came thick and fast.
I cruised along Torside reservoir before heading back into the hilly moors and over Laddow rocks and man was it windy up there. I nearly took the plunge a few times but managed to keep cruising.
I soon found myself at Black Hill which is where I met a couple in 2020 who I’m still friends with now, so the nostalgia was awesome. The weather quickly closed in though and it soon became a hailstorm up there which in shorts was pretty pants. I kept on cruising though and found myself at Wessenden head reservoir where I found a nice spot all cut and fresh so opted to spend the night here.
27 miles walked
I woke up nice and early, packed up, and got to cruising, the wind was pretty bad, and it was foggy so visibility was poor. I soon passed by reservoirs and over the moorland where I got speaking to some guys doing a marathon along the PW.
I thought it would be the first and last I would see of them but as I cruised over Standedge I somehow caught them up. From there we played relay up to White Hill which they said was the halfway point so we’re headed back now.
We parted ways and I kept cruising towards the M62, unfortunately, the little café nearby was closed as they were doing a refurb, so I was unlucky (it is however open now). I cruised on over the bridge and followed the moors, but the weather quickly became very bad, and I soon found myself walking through driving wind and rain with some hail thrown in for good measure.
I found myself debating sacking it off at this point as I was cold, wet, and miserable. However, this is all part of the fun and I cruised along to the White House pub and scored some hot food and a drink. I decided to see if the weather would chill which it did a little bit.
I kept on going making my way past Blackstone edge reservoir and towards Hebden Bridge in the rain. As I got near Todmorden the weather chilled out and the wind dropped which was an absolute godsend.
I reached Studley Pike and was awed by the scale of it like I am every time I’ve been there. I decided to head into the woods for the night as I knew it would be a little warmer and less wet in the dense canopy.
17 miles walked
I woke around 0400 and packed down my gear before heading down into the steep valley where Hebden Bridge sits. I waited for the post office to open and had some breakfast before posting some gear home (my cooker and a jacket). I quickly followed the old PW and up into Heptonstall which I highly recommend as an alternative as it’s so beautiful there. It really does have the feel of an old medieval village still.
I soon found myself at Mays’s shop where I raided her pastry collection and had a drink and chat with her. Mays shop really is something special and is the place to be on the PW, it’s amazing and May is super cool too.
I set off again following the trail towards Gorple reservoir before swerving a right and heading on over to Walshaw Dean reservoirs which looked to be quite low considering it was winter not long ago. I was being chased by the weather at this point and made a beeline for High Withens at the speed of a thousand gazelles, fuelled by Mays sausage rolls.
I soon found myself at the old farmhouse where I scored some shelter (could be a good place for a night if the weather was bad), I chilled chatted to a lady, and then hit the trail again in the rain.
I soon passed by Ponden reservoir and began the ascent into Ikornshaw moors which I remember were very boggy. I bog hopped for this section playing flagstone roulette at the points where they existed. Amazingly, I managed to keep dry feet and didn’t fall in any of the mud.
I stopped at one of the hunting lodges to air my feet and eat some food before heading down into Cowling where I considered sacking it off for the day.
The weather gods were kind to me though as it became bright sunshine which spurred me on for bigger miles and I cruised over the landscape which I noticed had changed from the Peak district moors to more managed farmland which marks the beginning of the Yorkshire Dales.
I soon found myself in Lothersdale and scored some hot food and a quick recharge of the power bank and phone. I decided at that point Gargrave would be the end of my day which was still a fair distance away.
I kept on walking over the endless farmer’s fields and stiles eventually hitting the canal where I stopped for a little while. When I set off again my right foot was hurting pretty badly, and I was soon limping along and debating whether I was badly injured or not.
Within a couple of miles, I could barely load bare, the churned-up fields didn’t help and my feet were soon drenched which made me even more miserable. I kept on plodding forward though and decided to stop for a pint where I got chatting to some cool older dude who offered his front garden for the night. I snapped his hand off at the offer and he even squared me a shower.
I tried getting to sleep around 9pm but the pain in my foot kept me tossing and turning for about 2-3 hours before I drifted off…
32 miles walked
I woke up and immediately packed up and felt my foot, it was a little bit swollen along the top and still painful to walk fast. I opted for a short day with a finish at Malham cove where I planned to spend the night.
I made my way over the farmland and soon found myself walking next to the river slowly winding my way to Malham. I stopped to rest my foot and decided the cold water would do it good so went for a dip (it was freezing).
I chilled at the riverside for an hour or so and checked my foot again which appeared to be bruised, I guess the cold water must have brought it to the surface. It did however feel a little better, so I pushed onwards.
I soon found myself in the beautiful village of Malham where I scored some breakfast and a quick recharge of batteries before making my way towards the cove. It was pretty busy around the cove, and I found myself wondering if I could push further. I climbed to the top and chilled for a bit drying out my tent and any gear that was damp or wet.
After a couple of hours, I thought I might as well try and get a few more miles in and carried on cruising down the PW. I spoke to a couple who asked which way Gordale was, I was happy to help and gave them directions before watching them walk off in the complete opposite direction which I found baffling.
I found myself lost in a crowd of walkers before Malham tarn and spoke to a few of them along the way before heading up onto the hill so I could pass by.
Once at Malham tarn I scored some food and chilled with my feet In the water for a little bit before heading down the trail once more.
I soon realized I had no choice but to hit Fountains Fell as places to pitch were few and far between, so I made my steadily up to the summit where I had a look down some of the open mine shafts up there. I think Fountains fell is one of the most underrated places in the Dales and is so beautiful. I debated walking to the tarn at the top and spending the night there but decided to head on over to Pen-Y-Ghent where that would be the end of the day.
I made my way down, being careful not to aggravate my foot, and met a cool guy who was chilling from his bike journey, I spoke with him for a few minutes before heading on to my destination.
I always find Pen-Y-Ghent looks a lot more intimidating than what it is and once I had begun my climb, I was at the top within 20 minutes and eating a sausage roll. I found a place to pitch just off the summit and watched the sunset before retiring into the tent for the night to deal with the aches and pains my body was starting to pay me back with.
19 miles walked
I woke early doors and got to see the beautiful sunrise coming up over the summit of Great Whernside in the distance. I quickly packed my gear down whilst watching it before gobbling down a 500-calorie flapjack.
I soon cruised down from Pen-Y-Ghent and into the rolling hills following the Y3P route for a little bit. After a while, I parted ways with this and carried on towards Dodd fell and the North.
The miles came quick and fast, and any aches and pains of the previous days were left behind as my foot felt much better. I cruised on over Dodd fell keeping pace with a guy on a bike through the ascent before being outpaced on the flat.
Pretty soon I found myself sat watching the clouds overlooking the valleys around Hawes and the stunning views they brought with them until the peace was disturbed by the sounds of Motorbikes coming up the mountain, I watched them cruise by before wondering what the days would bring.
I decided to head into Hawes and score some much-needed food and to stock up the hoard on pastry and snacks for the trail. I chilled outside a pub and wangled a charge for my power bank before hitting the trail again towards Hardraw.
I was tempted to visit Hardraw force for a shower and wash but decided to keep cruising as the miles were flying by today. Before I knew it, I was winding my way up Great Shunner Fell and got chatting to people along the way.
The path was steady, and the weather was good with a nice, chilled breeze to make the miles flow faster. I soon summited and sat at the marker on top hiding from the wind and eating some pastry, chocolate, and flapjacks arguing with myself over whether to pitch here or not.
I opted for the ‘not’ and found myself gliding down to Thwaite and over the top to Keld and to Swaledale waterfall. It was around 7pm by this point and I stunk so had a look around and couldn’t see anyone.
So thought hell yeah. Shower and bath time in the river, a waterfall which I savored, unfortunately, a group of young adults was making their way down so I quickly got out and was in the process of getting dressed before I heard them laughing and telling their mates to look at the half-naked guy. Thankfully they weren’t too mean 😀 😀 😀 and my pride was left intact for the most part.
I decided to head on up to Tann Hill as I was feeling strong still and hoped it wouldn’t be too busy up there (I know insane right?).
The moors between Keld and Tann Hill are exquisitely beautiful, and you feel like you are genuinely light-years from anywhere which is an amazing feeling.
I quickly came into view of the pub and my god was it busy, there must have been a hundred camper vans around there and the carpark was heaving. I was a bit gutted as I doubted being able to spend the night there. As I got closer, I could hear the noise and thought to myself that most nightclubs would be envious of these numbers.
I made it to Tann Hill, sat for a minute and thought I’ll get a drink and head out, but when I popped inside people were packed out to the door and there was no way I was scoring a drink ☹.
Anyway, I thought I could hit a good mile day today so headed down into Bowes fell.
My god was this a mistake and the path quickly disappeared along with the light. I found myself dodging bogs trying in vain to keep my feet dry and considered just sleeping chest-deep in water and becoming a bog witch.
I kept hearing voices whilst traversing the challenging terrain and thought I was being stalked which made me reckless in my bog traversing.
I was praying to the moon Goddess hoping she would light my way which amazingly she did, this made me happy, and I was buzzing that the moon goddess was guiding me through the darkness.
Eventually, I found a raised wooden bridge and decided to chill there and thought I could sleep here if desperate enough, but I would still have to get out of the bog tomorrow so opted to carry on.
I made my way slowly through the terrain and eventually came to the track, which was a godsend at this point, a quick check of my watch put me at 2 am and I decided to find a place to sleep. I found a spot quickly right next to the track and pitched.
38 miles walked
I woke up around 5 am in thick fog and wet, my kit was pretty damp as well and I thought this needs to clear as it’s going to get grim if I can’t dry it all.
Luckily, I was meeting John from Robustours to crush some miles in the morrow, so I only had a short day to Middleton today. I soon found myself at the bridge of the Gods and the A66 crossing where if you pay attention someone has written on the little sign that this is the official halfway point.
I kept on going with visibility being poor and soon ended up with wet feet, but with it being a short day I wasn’t too bothered and headed on towards Middleton. I watched some Guys at the reservoir fishing and wondered if they were cold sat there barely moving before eating some more food and carrying on.
I spoke to another guy in the moors somewhere (or it might have been a mirage at this point) who was going SOBO, and he said I wasn’t far off Middleton now. This spurred me on, and I just about made Middleton as the clouds broke and the weather cleared, almost like the trail Gods were guiding me.
I headed into Middleton and scored a hotel room which was huge, and I took full advantage of doing some much-needed gear cleaning and admin before scoring some resupplies and then heading to the pub for a pint. I met another PW walker there who was staying nearby with her friend, they were doing a section and it was great speaking to them before they headed on back to their air B&B.
The day passed quickly, and I soon found myself laying in a soft comfy bed drifting off before being woken by the Sun.
13 miles walked
I was up dead early and was out of the hotel before 7am, I scored some breakfast and headed to the river where the PW crosses through and the place I was waiting for John.
I spoke to a few people who passed through whilst I was waiting, and some were doing either section of the PW or the whole thing which is soo cool.
I love hearing people’s stories and the adventures and trials they have faced along the way, it’s what makes thru-hiking special…. well apart from the beautiful things you see I mean.
John arrived around 0930 and his personality shone through straight away, he is so upbeat it’s impossible to be miserable around him. We headed on up the river Tees where John filled me in on all the local stuff and best places to get shots, history of sites, and whatnot.
He’s very knowledgeable which is amazing and runs his own outdoors business so if you want a quality ML who will take you to new heights, he is the man (Robustours).
The miles rolled by, and we soon found ourselves chilling at High force waterfall and devouring some calories, I can say firsthand that corned beef and cheese wraps are not a nice combo. Trust me on this one!
We chatted and made our way over the hills and through the valleys with John’s knowledge made following the trail seamless. We soon found ourselves traversing the little boulder field before Cauldron Snout waterfall.
We chilled at the bottom of the waterfall watching people scramble up and down and eating more food 😀 before making our way up to the top and to Cow Green reservoir where John said his goodbyes as he had a long walk back. It was amazing having him join me for the day and I was buzzing from the company.
I quickly annihilated some miles across the back of Warcop ranges towards High Cup Nick and made it there in no time. It was quite windy looking out across the huge glacial valley, but my god is this place stunning. It is just such an awe-inspiring place it’s hard to even comprehend in words. If you haven’t visited, you need to. No ifs or buts, just do it as it will blow your mind.
I sat chilling and eating more pastry whilst chatting to some people before heading along the PW. I knew what was next and that was Cross fell. The toughest part fo the trail as the climb is just savage and never-ending. I was hoping I would win at flagstone roulette up there as it is notoriously boggy.
I slowly made my way over to Knock Fell and chilled there for a while until my legs recovered a bit before heading on. I was quite nice up here and the weather was kind, and I was indeed winning at the roulette…so far.
I made my way to Great Dun Fell and found myself trying to catch up to the people in front who stopped at the top. I looked at the Golf center for a while (I know it’s not a golf centre) and then headed down to Little Dun Fell where I lost all my chips at the roulette and got my feet soaked.
Eventually, I hit Cross Fell which is the highest point of the trail and cruised on down to Gregg’s hut which is an absolute lifesaver.
Unfortunately, the people doing the Pw in front of me had left all the candles burnt out, and not bothered taking rubbish with them or sweeping the floor so I opted to do this even though I was dying.
After about an hour I heard the door go and wondered if it was the Cross Fell demons and ghosts coming for me, but it was a cool dude named Rob. Turns out Rob had started in Middleton as well that morning and ran all the way there, he was planning to run to House steads in the morning and was training for Junes Spine race which is amazing.
We chatted and told each other our stories before retiring for bed before the sun was down. It gets cold in Gregg’s hut on the night too 😀 and I was pretty chilly, so I imagine Rob was in bits, poor guy.
Anyway, I was feeling the pain when I laid down and it was like knives been twisted in my joints all over my body so it took a couple hours before I drifted off into dreamland.
31 miles walked
I woke up in pain and needed to get moving, unfortunately, the weather was poor up there and it soon started raining. I said my goodbyes to Rob knowing he would fly by me in a few minutes.
I headed on towards Alston in the rain and as I said Rob cruised on by, I tried upping the pace for a while to keep him in my sights, but he was too quick and was soon gone. I flowed down the track towards Garrigill and noticed my feet were feeling tender now. I knew my body was under strain at this point and cracks would start showing.
I crossed the fields and the river before heading into Alston where I sorted my feet out by cutting the blisters that had formed and wrapping them up. It took a few miles of pain before I was into the groove again, but I kept going towards Hadrian’s wall.
The weather cleared by mid-morning, and I was glad for the sun, I followed the Pw and noticed that the path was getting less signposted and a lot wilder now that I was heading into Northumberland which meant with my added tiredness I was making errors and getting off track.
Eventually, I cruised through Slaggyford and kept heading North with the intention of sleeping at Hadrian’s wall. The wall never seemed to get any closer though and the track became quite wild with bog city going on around Greenhead area.
I was charging my phone on the power bank and somehow managed to break the charging cable, which I was gutted about. John offered to drop me one out (what a legend, its miles out of his way) which pays testament to his character, but I said I should be fine as I’d drop off and get a new one as the trail always provides.
I made it to Hadrian’s wall and thought I could sleep near Walltown which is where I had pitched when doing Hadrian’s Wall trail last year and chilled at the pond airing my feet for an hour.
I felt refreshed after the rest and thought, this could be a good mile day, so I cruised on along Hadrian’s wall enjoying the roman battlements or remains of anyway. I fantasized about being a centurion on the wall and wondered how tough they must have been back then. Pretty soon I was nearing the end of the wall and got to enjoy a beautiful sunset as I headed north into Kielder.
I plodded along the trail up to Kielder in darkness managing to avoid any bogs and keep my feet dry, I was in a fair bit of pain by the time I reached Haughtongreen bothy and was glad for the shelter.
I walked in to see a guy sat in complete darkness with no lights on barring the fire which was closed making it pitch black. I absolutely shat myself when he spoke 😀 but he was cool enough and even lent me a charging cable, the trail always provides!
We chatted for a little bit before I retired for sleep which did not come easy. I was in utter agony, and it took me around 3 hours to drift off, I was almost crying at one point from the pains in my joints, feet and body. Eventually I drifted off into slumber town.
38 miles walked
I woke up before the sun and knew I only had a short time left before my body gave out, so I headed on out towards Bellingham knowing I needed to make it to the Cheviots today.
I cruised along the bogs and even kept dry feet through Kielder which is almost unheard of. I hit the small diversion where some trees are still collapsed along the trail, I couldn’t face the extra miles so dived on through. It turned out it’s literally like 20-30 metres of felled trees and that’s it, so it was a good choice. I made my way over the hills and fields before hitting the Pit stop which is amazing.
I scored a drink, some nice conversation where we swapped stories and recognized ‘Impalas’ sticker on the fridge 😀 before heading on out to Bellingham where I needed some supplies.
Once in Bellingham I scored some medical gear for my blisters, and some alcohol to clean the wounds I was nursing. Next was to stock back up on some much-needed food which was to the bakeries horror as I wiped them out of most of it :D.
I sorted my feet out and headed on over the fields and hills towards the forest above Byrness and the Forest View Inn. I had been speaking with Ollie who runs the place and he had said to pop on by so that was my aim for now. I ended up with wet feet which by this point were in pain as were my legs which were covered in weird bruises like the blood vessels had burst as well as blisters from the Sun.
I cruised on over the vast undulating landscape before the weather closed in and it started absolutely belting it down for about 3 hours. This did nothing for views or my mood and made the journey slower.
Eventually, the weather broke which was amazing and I could enjoy the lush forest track to Byrness. Or enjoy it for a while anyway before I started wondering if I was gonna be walking this forever.
I debated giving the Forest view a miss but a message from Ollie made me drop in and I was soo glad I did. I met a lady who was gonna be finishing the same day as me which was proper cool. On top of that Ollie squared me away big time, he offered me food, drink, recharged my phone and even offered me a place to kip along with medical tape for my feet. So the place to be on the PW is the Forest View Inn in Byrness.
After a while chilling, I opted to head to the first mountain hut in the cheviots as I knew I didn’t have long left until my body failed. We said our goodbyes and I cruised on up the steep hill out of Byrness before coming into the beautiful Cheviot Hills which are amazing.
I made my way over the hills and soon found myself walking in the dark which was cool and is always a completely different experience. I eventually made it to the mountain hut and laid down for the night before crying myself to sleep through the pain in my body.
35 miles walked
I woke up knowing I would be finished soon and that spurred me on through any issues I was having with my failing body. One thing that is worth noting is that water is sparce on the Cheviots so make sure you carry enough from Byrness.
I soon found myself climbing into the mountains proper and sat in the cairn shelter atop Windy Gyle which weirdly enough was pretty darn windy. I ate most of the remaining food here and headed towards the Cheviot not knowing if I would take the detour and ascend. As I neared, I decided I didn’t have the energy for it and took the very very steep descent to the second mountain hut where I had a little rest.
I was soon back out loving the views, but the heat was punishing up there. I carried on regardless using my buff as a bandage on my leg to keep the sun off the scorched flesh. Eventually I found myself cruising out of the hills and towards Kirk Yetholm which made me kind of sad as I knew my trip was nearing its end.
I chilled a the bottom for a while before growing the courage to face the last mile or so down the road. the walk along the road was quite simply brutal, all the other climbs descents, challenges were nothing in the face of this minor road and slight hill. I think the residents and council know this too as there are numerous benches along this small section and I am not afraid to say I used them all.
I eventually dropped into the town proper and scored my certificate and half a pint at the Border Hotel.
All thoughts of regret about the trial finished when I saw Charmaine and Elyas as they had both travelled up to meet me at the trails end which was the most emotional and beautiful thing I had seen on the trail.
18 miles walked
I started the trail at 0930 11th April – 1315 20th April total time of 9 days 3 hours and 45 minutes which was never my intention and is the toughest thing I have done on the trail so far. The range of things you see along the PW is truly amazing, the hills, fields, forests, people, and weather all vary massively, and it truly is one of Britains toughest, best and most beautiful trails.
A special thanks to:
I’d like to thank all the people who I met along the way, people I spent time with on the trail and the ones I spoke to via social media. Without you Guyz I don’t think I would have finished and your support and advice were amazing.
Thank you to Montane for squaring me with some gear for the trip it was all amazing. Although I think I may have ruined some of it :D.
Thank you to Hiiker for having an amazing mapping system on their app as it made logistics and route finding so much easier meaning more miles per day.
And most of all thank you to Charmaine for coming up to meet me at the end with Elyas, this was the most special thing I could have hoped for.
My next challenge will be the Wainright round in August where I am attempting all 214 Wainrights in 18 days which consists of 326 miles and 111k of ascent.
Thank you everyone and happy trails