Planning a trip on the Pennine Way
Published 29 November 2011. Last updated 9 November 2013
Length: 267 miles, 467 km
Time required: about 3 weeks
Region: Northern England
Start: Edale, Derbyshire
End: Kirk Yetholm, Scottish Borders
When to Walk: May to October
So you're thinking of walking the Pennine Way, eh? Well good for you. It's certainly an experience and as long as you don't end up up to your waist in bog (and is there anyone who has walked the whole thing, who doesn't end up in bog at at least one point?), you'll probably have a good time.
At 267 miles long it is, however, quite an undertaking to do, especially all in one go, and planning a trip can be hard work so here's some help and advice.
In this Guide
- What is the walk like?
- Planning an itinerary
- Finding and booking accommodation
- Getting to/from the Pennine Way
- Guide books and maps
- Know how to use a map and compass
- And finally, and any questions
You may know this already as, after all, the Pennine Way has quite a reputation, but we'll mention it anyway. The simple fact is that the Pennine Way can be a difficult walk.
It passes through a rather remote and quiet part of the country. There's lots of hills, plenty of wild moorland, some long distances and the weather can sometimes be awful. And as for the mud and bog... True, a lot of the worse sections are now paved, however it's one where it's best to be well equipped, especially in the waterproof department.
That said, it is enjoyable and there's no doubt that the sense of achievement when you do it is enormous, however it is probably the toughest and most difficult National Trail that England has to offer. If you're an absolute walking novice, you may wish to try walking a different route first for practise. But then again, you might just want to leap in the deep-end. Just be warned - a walk in the park this is not.
First, lets look at when to walk. From my experience, the Pennine Way is best walked May to September. You can walk it earlier or later, however the weather conditions may not make it a fun experience - even in the summer conditions can be bad underfoot. Walking in late March or early April also runs the risk of snow, especially at the north of the route. Walking during the summer months will give you a more enjoyable walk.
You'll need around three weeks to walk the whole thing. It's not easy to offer set itineraries, as there are several sections which have lots of accommodation options. As such, I have listed a number of "sections" below - some long and some short. The longer ones are day walks, whilst the shorter sections can be either combined in various ways.
Each of the locations listed below has accommodation and a pub unless otherwise noted. Many stops are listed as having limited accommodation however there may be B&Bs/pubs in nearby villages which will be able to pick you up and return you to your walk if you ask them nicely.
Locations with a railway station are marked with a *.
|Section Guide (avoiding the Bowes Loop)|
|3||Standedge||Hebden Bridge *||15||24|
|4||Hebden Bridge *||Ponden||10¾||17¼|||
|5||Ponden||Thornton in Craven||11½||18½|||
|6||Thornton in Craven||Gargrave *||4½||7¼|
|8||Malham||Horton in Ribblesdale *||14¼||23|
|9||Horton in Ribblesdale *||Hawes||13¾||22½|
|11||Keld||Tan Hill Inn||4||6½|||
|12||Tan Hill Inn||Middleton in Teesedale||16½||26½|
|13||Middleton in Teesdale||Dufton||19||30½|||
|21||Byrness||Kirk Yetholm (via the Cheviot)||27½||44¼|
|21||Byrness||Kirk Yetholm (avoiding the Cheviot)||25||40¼|
- The only facilities at Crowden are YHA Crowden and a campsite.
- Limited accommodation close to the trail at Ponden, available at Ponden House and The Old Silent Inn. Alternative accommodation can be found two miles away in the village of Haworth.
- No pub or shop at Thornton-in-Craven. Facilities can be found in nearby Earby.
- Keld is also a principle stopover on the Coast to Coast and because of this, accommodation in the village can often be very short supply. However Thwaite also has some B&Bs and a hotel and is still on the Pennine Way. Alternatively you may wish to push on to the Tan Hill Inn.
- For a totally amazing and one off experience, stay in the most remote pub in Britain. It's amazing. Just make sure you book in advance.
- Penrith station is 16 miles from Dufton and accessible by taxi.
- Slaggyford has limited accommodation and no shop. There is also no pub in Slaggyford village, however the Kirkstyle Inn is a mile away.
- Although a short section, this goes along Hadrian's Wall and it is well worth spending a day on this section and taking in the museums and sights.
- Limited accommodation, no pub and no shop. YHA Byrness has a small shop.
Breaking the walk up for several trips
If you want to do it all in one go you're going to need about three weeks (and don't forget to include rest days in your planning!) however if you're not able to dedicate that amount of time it is possible to split it up in to several sections.
Public transport connections are better in the southern section of the route meaning you can chunk things up more easily, and the following are some suggestions where good public transport is available - more information on public transport is detailed below.
- Edale to Hebden Bridge - 42 miles
- Hebden Bridge to Gargrave - 26½ miles
- Gargrave to Horton-in-Ribblesdale - 20¼miles
- Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Dufton - 70¾miles
- Dufton to Kirk Yetholm - 97¼miles
After passing the Tan Hill Inn, there are two options for the Pennine Way. One is to keep on the main route, but the other is to follow the Bowes Loop. After several rural sections with few facilities, many will welcome the opportunity to village of Bowes which has accommodation, pub and a small shop.
|The Bowes Loop|
|12a||Tan Hill Inn||Bowes||8½|
|12b||Bowes||Middleton in Teesdale||12||19½|
The final section of the Pennine Way is the most difficult to sort accommodation for. The final 25 mile (bit more if you go to the Cheviot) stretch goes past no B&Bs and certainly no pubs.
However the Pennine Way walker does have a number of options:
- stay two nights at Kirk Yetholm - most people seem to do this, partly because the local B&Bs are very good at promoting this service. The B&B will pick you up at an arranged location and time and they'll drive you to the village and you can pop to the lovely Border Inn. The next day they'll drive you back and you can continue on to Kirk Yetholm. Note that the pick up points will be a couple of miles off route.
- stay two nights at Byrness - naturally this works in the same way as staying in a Kirk Yetholm B&B. Both the Byrness Hotel and YHA Byrness can arrange this. Again, the pick up points will be a couple of miles off route.
- stay at Barrowburn Farm - the farm has a camping barn and a cottage and can be accessed by turning off at Windy Gyle (about 15 miles from Byrness). It's extremely remote, rather basic and very isolated however it's a great experience. And the food's good too.
- stay at Mounthooley bunkhouse - the turn off for this YHA affiliated bunkhouse is a short way after the Cheviot and a couple of miles off route. If you're prepared for a long first day and a shorter second day, Mounthooley is a possible option. Note that like Barrowburn, Mounthooley is remote and there are no nearby pubs or shops.
- stop at a bothy - the National Park operates two shelters. The first is at Yearning Saddle, about eight miles from Byrness. The second is Auchope, about seven miles from Kirk Yetholm. Both are basic shelters so if you plan to stay overnight you'll need food and a sleeping bag. Both are also marked on the Ordnance Survey maps and are on the trail.
- do it all in one day - if you're a glutton for punishment, this is an option. However you'll need to be very fit to manage it.
Note: on some older web pages you may see mention of Uswayford Farm which was a popular stop-over point and slightly closer to the Pennine Way than Barrowburn. However the B&B closed in 2010 when owner Nancy left. An attempt was made to re-open it however this did not happen and as such there is no longer any accommodation at Uswayford Farm.
There was a time when you could do the entire Pennine Way spending pretty much every night under the roof of the YHA, however hostel closures and sell-offs means that's no longer possible.
Stepping into the gap have been a number of independent bunk barns, many associated with local pubs.
It's probably wise to try and book each hostel a few days in advance - or at least book it on the morning you intend to arrive there. Don't forget that YHA hostels can book beds for you anywhere in the YHA network.
Most hostels and bunk barns are very often (but not always) well spaced for a days walking and an itinerary is listed below. Note some are self-catering only, however bedding is always provided.
All distances shown below are approximate and are the distance travelled along the Pennine Way.
|The Hostel Based Itinerary|
(YHA Edale 1 mile away)
|2||Crowdon||Mankinholes, near Stoodley Pike|
(YHA Mankinholes 1¼ mile away)
(YHA Haworth 2½ miles away)
|4||Ponden||Thornton in Craven|
(YHA Earby 1½ miles away)
|5||Thornton in Craven||Malham|
|6||Malham||Horton in Ribblesdale|
(Golden Lion Bunkroom)
|7||Horton in Ribblesdale||Hawes|
|8||Hawes||Tan Hill Inn|
(Tan Hill Inn)
|9||Tan Hill Inn||Forest in Teesdale|
(YHA Langdon Beck 1 mile away)
|10||Forest in Teesdale||Dufton|
(Greenhead Independent Hostel)
(YHA Once Brewed)
(SYHA Kirk Yetholm)
- To break up in to two days, stop overnight in a B&B near Standedge.
- Alternatively, there is also a bunk house at the Green Dragon Inn, a mile or so away at Hardraw
- Alternatively Keld Bunkhouse is available four miles earlier, however it only has only ten beds and is liable to be full of people walking the Coast to Coast. The Tan Hill Inn does have more room and is a more reliable option for the Pennine Way walker. Advance booking of either is highly advisable.
- For more sensible walking distances, break at the town of Middleton in Teesdale and stay in a B&B.
- Small YHA affiliated bunkhouse. Booking highly recommended.
- A YHA affiliate, also known as Forest View Walkers Inn
- You may see references to the closure of Kirk Yetholm hostel. It did close in 2011 however re-opened in August 2012. It's worth staying in the village at the end, especially as the Border Hotel does excellent food and is a great place to celebrate your achievement.
Note: you may still see references to YHA hostels in Keld and Blackton. Keld is now a hotel and Blackton is only available for group hire. Maps may also show other bunkhouses however many have closed, be camping barns or available for group hire only.
The information above is correct October 2013. Corrections, additions and clarifications welcome.
If you're planning on doing the Pennine Way all in one go you'll probably want to factor in a rest day or two. The main recommendations are:
- Hebden Bridge - a bit early on but this Yorkshire market town has a seriously quirky reputation due to an influx of writers, painters and new age activists in the 1970s and 1980s. There's plenty to explore and enjoy, as well as having regular rail services to Manchester and Leeds
- Malham - a popular place for walkers Malham is a lovely place and has a range of walking routes to enjoy.
- Horton-in-Ribblesdale - with the three peaks of Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-ghent Horton is a mecca for walkers. The Pennine Way goes over Pen-y-ghent however a rest day can easily be spent exploring the other two peaks or spending some time on the stunning Settle to Carlisle railway line which passes through the village.
- Hawes - this small market town has the Dales Countryside Museum, waterfalls, walking routes and the Wensleydale Creamery.
- Bowes - on the Bowes Loop you can spend the day visiting Bowes Castle and other nearby attractions.
- Greenhead/Once Brewed - the Pennine Way runs along part of Hadrian's Wall and highly recommended is to do the short distance between Greenhead and Once Brewed in one day and spend the rest exploring the Roman ruins, museums and visitor centres.
The Pennine Way is well served by accommodation providers of all kinds and you should have no trouble in finding somewhere if booking in advance.
There are two main accommodation guides, one published on the official Pennine Way website and the other published by the The Pennine Way Association. The latter only includes accommodation providers who are a member of the Association and so is smaller.
Due to the limited amount of accommodation in some areas it's advisable to book, however if you don't want to spend three weeks with a rigid itinerary many people report having few problems just turning up and finding a bed. The Pennine Way is also well served with campsites and camping barns if you prefer to do things that way.
The Pennine Way is amazingly well served by hostels and bunkhouses. A pretty comprehensive list is available in the Hostel Itinerary section above.
Just walking the Pennine Way not hardcore enough for you? Well why not do it in style and camp?! The Pennine Way is pretty served by campsites, and a number of farms and pubs also offer camping. A full, up to date list of facilities can be found on the Pennine Way website accommodation guide.
The remote countryside for much of the route may appeal to some as perfect for wild camping. However it should be said that conditions on the Pennine Way can often be less than hospitable with plenty of bog and mud to be found, especially in wet weather which means finding a suitable campsite may be difficult. Running water can also be hard to find (unless it's raining!) Under English law you are not legally allowed to wild camp without permission of the landowner.
Given the fact that this is a walk between Derbyshire and the Scottish Borders chances are that you're not going to arrive in Edale or Kirk Yetholm by car unless you have some very tolerant friends or family. You'll want to get there by public transport instead.
Useful services are available at or near the following locations:
- Edale - on the lovely Hope Valley line roughly half way between Sheffield and and Manchester. Trains usually run every two hours, with an hourly service on Saturdays.
- Hebden Bridge - several services an hour mostly running between Leeds and Manchester, plus hourly services to Blackpool and York.
- Gargrave - a short journey from Leeds, trains also run to Carlisle and Morcombe. Services are sporadic.
- Horton-in-Ribblesdale - on the Settle to Carlisle line, trains run through to Carlisle or Leeds roughly every two hours or so.
- Dufton - there's no station at Dufton however Appleby on the Settle to Carlisle line is a few miles away. More useful however is 13 miles away at Penrith which sits on the West Coast mainline and has regular services to London, Crewe, Carlisle, Glasgow and Edinburgh. There is very limited public transport from Dufton, which means you'll probably want a taxi.
- Byrness - the tiny village is connected to Newcastle by the 131 bus which runs once bus a day (except Sundays) and is operated by Peter Hogg, and also by a daily National Express service which runs from Wrexham to Perth via Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle.
- Kirk Yetholm - buses to Kelso run at various intervals from just outside the Border Inn. From Kelso there is a two hourly bus service to Berwick-upon-Tweed where railway services regularly run to London, Leeds, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh amongst other destinations.
Many other locations on the Pennine Way have bus services although they may not be particularly useful to the walker, nor frequent.
Guidebooks and maps are a must on the Pennine Way. Whilst there are plenty of signs, there are plenty of opportunities to lose your way on the route.
A brand new official guidebook was published by Aurum Press in July 2012, replacing the previous two volume version.
Fully updated, it contains information about the trail and (more importantly) Ordnance Survey maps at the 1:25,000 scale. The maps usually show plenty of the area surrounding the route, meaning you don't really need to take any other maps with you.
Whilst not the best ideal for navigation, Wainwright's Pictorial Guide to the Pennine Way offers Wainwright's own particular take on the walk as well as plenty of history and information. It is a fascinating read.
Wainwright's original book has recently been updated by Chris Jesty, along with Wainwright's other pictorial guides to ensure it's up to date.
If you'd like to take maps with you, there are a couple of options. First is the A-Z Adventure Series maps. These excellent map books contain Ordnance Survey mapping at the 1:25,000 scale. They're the same size as a folded map so will fit well in your map case, and are a lot easier to change the page for in high wind. The books also contain a full index of places and fells so finding where you want to go is easy.
Alternatively Harveys publish three strip maps which cover the whole route. These are Harvey's own mapping, at the 1:40,000 scale. The three maps are:
Alternatively if you'd like Ordnance Survey maps, you will need the following (deep breath):
- Landranger (1:50,000): 74, 80, 86, 87, 90, 92, 98, 103, 109, 110
- Explorer (1:25,000): OL1, OL2, OL16, OL19, OL21, OL30, OL31, OL42, OL43
Finally, the Pennine Way's fame means that there have been more than a few books written about it.
Most recent is Walking Home - poet Simon Armitage's tale of his journey walking home down the Pennine Way (yes, he walks North to South!) Simon acts as a modern day troubadour, trying to arrange a gig every evening and passing round a hat at the end of his performance.
My favourite is Pennine Walkies, Mark Wallington's account of walking the trail after deciding his dog, Boogie, needed the exercise.
Frequently hillarious, Wallington also has the amazing experience of walking the route with barely any rain, and doesn't fall in any bog at all. Frankly, I suspect he made it all up.
Now out of print, but often available second hand is Barry Pilton's One Man and His Bog must surely win the award for best name.
Quite why Barry decides to walk the Pennine Way, the reader is never quite sure, but if he hadn't, the world would have one less funny book.
Finally don't forget another out of print book. It's the cartoon based Laughs Along the Pennine Way. It's by Pete Bog so it must be good.
Whilst the route is sign posted, there are several parts of the Pennine Way that are difficult to navigate and you'll need to know how to use a map and compass.
There are several online guides like How To Use A Compass, and you may also find training courses in your area - many YHA hostels host them for example.
Knowing how to use a map and compass together will really help you and will (hopefully!) stop you getting lost - guide books can only tell you so much in text form.
The Pennine Way is a great challenge to do and I hope the above have given you some useful information to help plan your trip.
So all that is left to do is to get your boots on and get walking! Have fun, and if you have any questions or comments, just leave a comment below.