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The Pennine Way - August/September 2004

Ever since I first became aware of the existence of The Pennine Way as a student - almost exactly half a lifetime ago now - it's been something I've intended to get out and do at some indeterminate point in the future. Inspired by the fantastic time I had walking the Coast to Coast in July 2000 I almost got round to it in 2001, but unfortunately Foot and Mouth intervened and the hills were closed. I finally decided to have a go this summer, afraid that if I left it any longer it might soon be too late! Having decided to to give it a try, I then decided to go the whole hog and see if I could manage to carry a tent and all the rest of my kit along with me. I suspect this was a thinly disguised (and ultimately not entirely successful...) attempt to convince myself that I'm not quite as old and crumbly as I increasingly feel... :-)

Anyway, for those unfamiliar with it, The Pennine Way is a National Trail which follows a route of approximately 270 miles from Edale, in the Derbyshire Peak District, to Kirk Yetholm, just over the border into Scotland. It's apparently the oldest of our long distance trails, and it's famous for rain, mud, bogs and deep, deep blisters, but most of all it's famous for the overwhelmingly gratifying sense of personal achievement people are said to experience after dragging themselves dripping, possibly bleeding and even occasionally crying, over hills, moors, limestone escarpments and blanket bogland from one end of the Pennines to the other, typically over a period of 3 weeks or so. That sounded like fun to me - well the bit about 3 weeks away from work did, anyway - so the decision was no sooner made than plans were laid to implement it :-)

I took a trip over to the walking newsgroup, to update myself in relation to the new and improved, lighter, more compact and altogether friendlier camping and backpacking kit I'd been hearing about over the last few years. 50 or so questions, and 3 weeks, later, I was almost ready to go, and 3 weeks after that I'm home again. My feet are killing me, I'm still exhausted and my face looks as though I've been holidaying in a blast furnace, but it was true! I'm now experiencing that overwhelmingly gratifying sense of personal achievement people told me I'd feel if I dragged myself dripping, bleeding and occasionally crying over the hills, moors, limestone escarpments and blanket bogland, from one end of the Pennines to the other :-)

Before going further, it's worth pointing out that there are lots of different ways to walk The Pennine Way. It isn't necessary to carry a tent, or indeed anything more than a daysack. There are organisations that will transport your kit from place to place each day, and even plan the itinerary for you if you wish them to do so. Nor is it necessary to do it all at once: most people I met were only doing part of the walk, and some do it one day at a time over a period of several years, or even longer. It's well worth doing some or all of it, though, in whatever way suits you and brings you greatest pleasure. This is a beautiful country, and nothing I've ever seen has brought that home to me more clearly than the endless succession of varied and breathtaking sights I've enjoyed on an hourly basis during the course of the last 3 weeks.

The walk took me 19 days, because in the end I took what is probably the easiest option and adapted the recommended stopping points over a period of 19 days suggested in the 2 volume National Trail Guide written and published in association with the Countryside Commission and the Ordnance Survey. It's certainly possible to complete the walk faster than that, but for many people even 19 days is quite a challenge (for me it was, at any rate), and to try to finish faster is to risk embarking upon a route march and missing what is for most people the point of being there i.e. to have fun, enjoy the walk, and allow enough time to enjoy the countryside. In an ideal world I'd have liked to have 4 weeks, which would have enabled me to have a few days off to investigate interesting local sites, museums and other similar attractions along the way, and to rest my feet...

I've set out below a description of my experiences from day to day, along with details of the kit I took, the places I stayed and the schedule I followed. The description of what I got up to is very detailed in places, and that detail is largely there for my own benefit, as I'd like to be able to remember for a long time to come precisely what I did from day to day. I've also included some general observations and tips culled from the last few weeks. I hope there's something here that might inspire someone else to get out and have a go at this amazing walk some day, and, for those who've already decided to do it, I hope there might be information here that will help you plan your trip :-)

NB: the distances set out below are close approximations, based upon the information set out in the National Trail Guides mentioned on the Kit List page.

Click on the underlined route descriptions on the right of the table below, in order to read a summary of my experiences on each leg in turn.

My Schedule
Day 0: 2 miles
Day 1: 16 miles
Edale to Crowden
Day 2: 14.5 miles Crowden to Marsden (via Standedge)
Day 3: 15 miles Standedge to Hebden Bridge
Day 4: 10.75 miles Hebden Bridge to Ponden
Day 5: 11.5 miles Ponden to East Marton
Day 6: 10.5 miles East Marton to Malham
Day 7: 14.5 miles Malham to Horton in Ribblesdale
Day 8: 13.75 miles Horton in Ribblesdale to Hawes
Day 9: 12.25 miles Hawes to Keld
Day 10: 14 miles Keld to Baldersdale
Day 11: 13.7 miles Baldersdale to Langdon Beck
Day 12: 12.3 miles Langdon Beck to Dufton
Day 13: 20 miles Dufton to Alston
Day 14: 16 miles Alston to Greenhead
Day 15: 6.5 miles Greenhead to Once Brewed
Day 16: 14.75 miles Once Brewed to Bellingham
Day 17: 14.75 miles Bellingham to Byrness
Day 18: 18 miles Byrness to 18 Mile Bothy
Day 19: 8 miles 18 Mile Bothy to Kirk Yetholm

Top Tips Click here for some useful things I learned along the way.
My Kit List Click here for a list of what I carried.

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