15 Things You’ll Never Forget About Walking the Pennine Way

Published 17 February 2016

Pennine Way signpost at Crowden
Pointing to the Pennine Way at Crowden

Now there are times when you’re walking the Pennine Way that it can feel a bit of a drudge. That point usually comes after a few hours spent walking over featureless moorland with the rain battering you. Hey, it was certainly like that for me more than once.

But the Pennine Way is oh so much more. Those 268 miles you walk will be one that will remain with you for the rest of your life. And you’ll have memories that may well include some serious memories, such as these:

1. Being burnt to a cinder on Kinder

Greenery growing between rocks on Kinder Scout
Kinder Scout’s gone green

You’re barely out of Edale when you arrive at one of the Pennine Way’s “special” places. Kinder. That place so intertwined with the history of access to the countryside is also a stunning place visually too. Large rocks, tufts of grass and expanses of peat.

It’s all like some sort of alien landscape that’s been plonked on the edge the Manchester suburbs. And if you’re there on a day when the weather is just right, you’ll see Kinder Downfall being blown into the air. A waterfall that flows up when it should be going down? What more could you ask for?

2. The morass that is Black Hill

Walking on stone slabs over Black Hill, next to large peaty pools
Keep firmly to the path when you’re on Black Hill!

“Black Hill’s a morass!” goes the cry. At least it did until flag stones were laid over the hill to prevent erosion. These days Black Hill’s peaty pools can be viewed and admired without the risk of finding yourself up to your waist in bog. However they do serve as a firm reminder that the Pennine Way walker hasn’t always had it so easy.

3. The tall and proud Stoodly Pike

Stoodly Pike monument seen in the near distance.
Standing tall and proud on the hillside is Stoodly Pike

Stoodly Pike’s got a tale and a half to tell. Built as a monument to the defeat of Napoleon, it was left unfinished after the protagonist crept back out of the woodwork. And whilst it was later finished, it collapsed again some years later.

It’s alright now and has been for some time, standing on its imposing position looking down on Todmorden. And you won’t forget visiting it, especially if you dare embrace the dank and dark steps inside that will take you up to the viewing platform.

4. The tourists at Top Withens

A large tree next to ruined buildings.
Absolutely not Wuthering Heights, right?

You don’t often see people on the Pennine Way. It can be very quiet indeed. So when there are people around, you’ll notice it. Especially when they’re tourists who have walked up from a coach parked nearby.

They come to Top Withens because of one Emily Brontë who wrote a book called Wuthering Heights. They come because Top Withens is believed by many to be the inspiration for part of the book. A large plaque at the ruined buildings says it’s all unlikely, but that doesn’t stop people travelling from across the globe to pay homage.

5. Drying out in front of a roaring pub fire

Gloves drying by a roaring fire
Drying out gloves in front of the fire

You know, I’ve heard that some people don’t get wet when walking the Pennine Way. I am not sure I believe that for a minute though.

Still, getting wet has its plus points, and the biggest is having a good excuse to snuggle up to a roaring fire in your favourite hostelry. There are plenty of real fires in pubs on the Pennine Way, and you’re bound to appreciate them at least once on your journey.

6. Gasping as you approach Malham Cove

Malham Cove at the end of a valley.
Malham Cove. It’s stunning.

Malham Cove has to be one of the highlights of the Pennine Way. And when you walk towards it, it just looks breath-taking.

Then you realise the path goes steeply up it. And that’s quite breath-taking too.

7. Gasping as you walk on top of the limestone pavement at Malham Cove

On the limestone pavement at Malham Cove.
Malham’s limestone pavement – a fine part of the Pennine Way

You’ve been stunned seeing Malham Cove from ground level, and you’ve exhausted yourself getting to the top. And then you find yourself overwhelmed. For the limestone pavement at Malham is absolutely fantastic, and calls for some serious boulder hopping as you avoid the cracks.

It’s one of the best bits of the Pennine Way and no mistake.

8. Ling Gill Bridge

The author sitting besides Ling Gill Bridge on the Pennine Way.
Ling Gill Bridge – a spot for contemplation

There are many bridges on the Pennine Way. There are narrow ones, and wide ones. Old ones and new ones. Ostentatious ones and subtle ones.

Ling Gill Bridge, near Horton-in-Ribblesdale, is firmly in the narrow, old and subtle categories. But it’s absolutely lovely, and a fine spot for quiet relaxation and contemplation. Miss it at your peril.

9. Knowing that you won’t be alone in not being able to see the view from Cross Fell

A walker checks a map next to a huge stone cairn on a cloudy hilltop.
Anyone seen the path? It’s around here somewhere…

I once read that Cross Fell is covered in cloud around 300 days of the year. It’s stuck in my mind ever since, even if I can’t for the life of me remember where I read it meaning I frequently worry that I’ve simply made that statistic up.

Still knowing that fact (or is it a myth?) is comforting to know that you’re not alone when you find yourself at the highest point on the Pennine Way, absolutely unable to see a thing.

10. A pint in the mighty Tan Hill Inn

Supping a pint at the bar of the Tan Hill Inn.
A pint in the Tan Hill Inn

I’m going to be blunt. If you plan your Pennine Way walk and don’t try to spend the night in the highest pub in England, you’re doing it all wrong. Yet every year loads of Pennine Way walkers arrive at this remote, isolated pub well before noon, and as part of a long day walking. So at best they pop in for a coffee. Or at worst, walk on mournfully by.

Don’t do it. Stay the night. The place is amazing. You won’t regret it. For at the Tan Hill Inn, the welcome is always warm, and the experience always enjoyable. It’s the pub you may only ever visit once, but which you’ll never want to leave.

11. The stunning majesty of High Cup Nick

A person stands at High Cup Nick
High Cup Nick.

Mere words cannot do justice to High Cup Nick, near Dufton. So we’re simply not going to try.

12. The spectacle of High Force

High Force waterfall on the River Tees.
High Force always puts on a good show.

Who doesn’t love a good waterfall? And the Pennine Way has plenty to admire, but none are as mighty as High Force near Middleton-in-Teesdale. As the water cascades down its 22m drop, it just oozes drama, and there can be few spectacles quite like it.

And even better, the best fews are from foot. Motorists have to drive to a nearby car park and get a reasonable view. But those that have put the effort in and have walked the Pennine Way to see it, are the ones who really get to see it at its best.

13. Walking with the Emperor Hadrian

Turret 39B on Hadrian's Wall, seen from above.
Walking along Hadrian’s Wall, with its turrets and milecastles.

Walking along Hadrian’s Wall. It’s like walking with history or something.

Out here in this remote part of Northumberland, it’s hard not to imagine the centurions of old, huddling around fires watching as the rain comes down as they look out of their turrets, and firmly dreaming of Rome.

14. Leaving England for the last time

Signpost and a stile over a drystone wall, at Black Hag, on the border between England and Scotland.
Crossing the border into Scotland

Most of the Pennine Way is in England, but right near the end it pops over the border into Scotland. And then returns to England. And then goes back into Scotland. And back into England. And so on, and so on, and so on.

However there’s a point, a mere four and a half miles from Kirk Yetholm, where it leaves England for the very last time. It’s a poignant point in your walk, providing confirmation if it was ever needed, that your journey is nearly done.

15. Celebrating at the Border Hotel

The two of us standing outside the Border Hotel in Kirk Yetholm.
Grinning like loons outside the Border Hotel

Some people get to the end of the Pennine Way at Kirk Yetholm and have a quick pint in the Border Hotel, then go on their way. Others get the first bus out of there that they can. But the sensible ones celebrate their achievement in style. And they do it in the Border Hotel.

And there is much to celebrate. After all, a 268 mile walk across the backbone of Britain. has been completed. That final beer – or three – is much deserved. It’s the last pub on the Pennine Way, and one that thoroughly deserves to be savoured.

You can read about my own Pennine Way journey elsewhere on this site.

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