Published 29 November 2011. Last updated 6 May 2013
Length: 267 miles, 467 km
Time required: about 3 weeks
Region: Northern England
Start: Edale, Derbyshire
End: Kirk Yetholm, Scottish Borders
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, 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.
You may know this already as, after all, the Pennine Way has quite a reputation, but we'll mention it anyway. Fact is that the Pennine Way can be a difficult walk.
It passes through a rather remote and quiet part of the country, across wild moorland. There's lots of hills, some long distances and the weather can 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.
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 of the National Trails. 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.
The Pennine Way generally takes just under three weeks to complete.
There are a number of options on the route so it's not easy to offer a set itinerary. As such, what is listed below is a number of "sections". Some are obvious 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 will be B&Bs/pubs in nearby villages which will be able to pick you up and return you to your walk.
Locations with a railway station are marked with a *.
|Section Guide (avoiding the Bowes Loop)|
|3||Standedge||Hebden Bridge *||15||24|
|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|
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.
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 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:
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)
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 2012. 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:
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:
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.
Whilst not 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. Wainwright's original book has recently been updated by Chris Jesty, along with Wainwright's other pictorial guides and can be a fascinating read.
For maps, you have two options. Firstly Harveys publish strip maps for the route - three in total:
Alternatively if you'd like Ordnance Survey maps, you will need the following:
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!)
My favourite is Pennine Walkies, Mark Wallington's hysterical account of walking the trail after deciding his dog, Boogie, needed the exercise.
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.
Oh and don't forget 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.
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.