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Walk the Pennine Way with a Cicerone guidebook

Cover of The Pennine Way
24 May 2012
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.6cm
1st Published
29 Mar 2010
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The Pennine Way

by Paddy Dillon
Published by Cicerone Press

Guidebook to the Pennine Way National Trail. The 270-mile route from Edale to Kirk Yetholm typically takes around 18 days to walk. Suitable for fit and experienced long distance walkers and backpackers, the book gives a step by step route description of the Pennine Way in 20 stages illustrated with OS mapping and profiles.

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July 2014

Page 42 - Crowden

Facilties are limited to a campsite at Crowden, and there is no longer a Youth Hostel. If indoor accommodation is required, break your journey early at The Old House, which offers B&B and a bunkroom. The main road has a bus service linking Sheffield and Liverpool.

Page 155 - Garrigill

The George and Dragon Inn is currently closed.

Page 182 - Horneystead

Horneystead Farm offers help-yourself refreshments, facilities for drying clothes, with an honesty box for payment.

Page 203 - Auchope Cairn

Duckboards have been replaced by stone-slabs.


The Pennine Way was the first of Britain’s national trails. This challenging trail runs for 270 miles (435km) traversing the high ground between the Peak District and the Scottish Borders.

On its way from Edale to Kirk Yetholm, this National Trail passes through three national parks and a huge Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Although much of the landscape is high and wild, facilities along the Pennine Way are well established. Several well-worn stretches have been paved with stone and are much easier to follow than in previous years.

So how does it take to walk the Pennine Way?

It's a long walk and a hard walk, but one that is well worth the effort. Suitable for fit and experienced long distance walkers and backpackers, most take two or three weeks to walk the way, and on average it tends to work out at around 18 days.

The author Paddy Dillon has also written an inspirational guidebook that looks at each of the 19 National Trails in turn, revealing the charcter and charm of each trail.

  • Seasons
    This National Trail is essentially a summer walk, though it can be completed in spring or autumn, the winter months are solely for dedicated and experienced long-distance walkers.
  • Centres
    Edale, Crowden, Hebden Bridge, Cowling, Gargrave, Malham, Horton in Ribblesdale, Hawes, Keld, Bowes, Middleton-in-Teesdale, Dufton, Alston, Hadrian’s Wall, Bellingham, Byrness, Kirk Yetholm
  • Difficulty
    The Pennine Way is a challenging walk, often across high, exposed moorlands. No problems on fine, sunny days, but some parts can be exceptionally difficult in bad weather. In mist, careful navigation is required, but on the whole the route is well-signposted. Suitable for backpackers and youth hostellers, but ample B&B accommodation is also available. Previous long-distance walking experience is an advantage.
  • Must See
    Peak District National Park – Kinder Scout, Bleaklow and Black Hill; South Pennines – Stoodley Pike and Brontë Country; Yorkshire Dales National Park – Malham Cove, Pen-y-Ghent and Great Shunner Fell; North Pennines AONB – Teesdale, High Cup and Cross Fell; Northumberland National Park – Hadrian’s Wall and the Cheviot Hills.


Wanted: A long green trail
Pennine geology
Pennine scenery
The Helm Wind
Plant life
National Parks
Travel to and from the Pennine Way
When to walk
Food and drink
Money matters
Planning your schedule
What to pack
Waymarking and access
Maps of the route
The Pennine Way
Day 1 Edale to Crowden
Day 2 Crowden to Standedge
Day 3 Standedge to Callis Bridge
Day 4 Callis Bridge to Ickornshaw
Day 5 Ickornshaw to Gargrave
Day 6 Gargrave to Malham
Day 7 Malham to Horton in Ribblesdale
Day 8 Horton in Ribblesdale to Hawes
Day 9 Hawes to Keld
Day 10 Keld to Baldersdale or Bowes
Day 11 Baldersdale or Bowes to Middleton-in-Teesdale
Day 12 Middleton-in-Teesdale to Langdon Beck
Day 13 Langdon Beck to Dufton
Day 14 Dufton to Alston
Day 15 Alston to Greenhead
Day 16 Greenhead to Housesteads
Day 17 Housesteads to Bellingham
Day 18 Bellingham to Byrness
Day 19 Byrness to Clennell Street
Day 20 Clennell Street to Kirk Yetholm
Appendix A Route summary table
Appendix B Useful contacts
Appendix C Facilities along the route


Wanted: A long green trail

You could say it all started on 22 June 1935. An article appeared in the Daily Herald newspaper entitled ’Wanted: A Long Green Trail’, written by the ramblers’ champion Tom Stephenson. ’Why should we not press for something akin to the Appalachian Trail?’ he asked. ’A Pennine Way from the Peak to the Cheviots.’ He imagined that the route would be ’a faint line on the Ordnance Maps which the feet of grateful pilgrims would, with the passing years, engrave on the face of the land.’ Well, the engraving went rather deep in places, even to the extent that you could claim the route was carved in stone, but that is a testimony to the popularity of the route.

It took 30 years of lobbying and hard work to steer the Pennine Way to its official opening in April 1965. As a long-distance walk it is impressive, stretching from Edale in the Peak District National Park onto the gritstone moors of the South Pennines. The way passes through the verdant Yorkshire Dales National Park, then crosses the bleak and remote North Pennines. Not content to finish there, the Pennine Way traverses Hadrian’s Wall and runs through the Northumberland National Park. High in the Cheviot Hills, it finally steps over the border into Scotland to finish at Kirk Yetholm. It measures over 435km (270 miles), involving a cumulative ascent of 11,225m (36,825ft). Most walkers take between two and three weeks to cover the distance, and there are many ways to create a schedule to suit people’s different expectations.

Pennine geology

As a teenager I was not content simply to admire the Pennines. I wielded a hammer and chisel so that I could take great chunks of them home with me!

Pennine geology is relatively easy to understand, though in a few places it becomes very complex. The oldest bedrock is seldom seen on the Pennine Way, revealing itself only around Malham and Dufton. Ancient Silurian slate at Malham Tarn, along with Ordovician mudstone and volcanic rock above Dufton, date back 450 million years. These rocks are revealed only where fault lines bring them to the surface. The Weardale Granite, which underlies the North Pennines, outcrops nowhere and was only ’proved’ by a borehole sunk at Rookhope in 1961.

In the Devonian period, around 395 million years ago, violent volcanic activity laid the foundations of the Cheviot Hills, at the northern end of the Pennine Way. All the lower hills are made of andesite lavas, while the central parts are formed of a massive dome of granite, pushed into the Earth’s crust some 360 million years ago and only recently exposed to the elements.

During the Carboniferous period, around 350 to 300 million years ago, the whole region was covered by a warm, shallow, tropical sea. Countless billions of shelled, soft-bodied creatures lived and died in this sea. Coral reefs grew, and even microscopic organisms often had hard external or internal structures. Over the aeons, these creatures left their hard shells in heaps on the seabed, and these deposits became the massive grey limestones seen to best effect in the Yorkshire Dales today.

Even while thick beds of limestone were being laid down, distant mountain ranges were being worn away by storms. Vast rivers brought mud, sand and gravel down into the sea. These murky deposits reduced the amount of light entering the water, causing delicate coral reefs and other creatures to perish. As more mud and sand was washed into the sea, a vast delta spread across the region.

At times, shoals of sand and gravel stood above the waterline, and these became colonised by strange, fern-like trees. The level of water in the rivers and sea was in a state of fluctuation. Sometimes the delta was completely flooded, so the plants would be buried under more sand and gravel. The compressed plant material within the beds of sand and mud became thin bands of coal, known as the Coal Measures. This alternating series of sandstones and mudstones, with occasional seams of coal, can be seen best in the Dark Peak and the South Pennines. Remnants of the series can be studied on the higher summits of the Yorkshire Dales and North Pennines.

The Carboniferous rocks were laid down in layers, helping to explain what happened next, around 295 million years ago. An extensive mass of molten dolerite was squeezed, under enormous pressure, between the layers of rock – rather like jam between two slices of bread. This rock is always prominent wherever it outcrops, and is referred to as the Whin Sill.

Almost 300 million years are ’missing’ from the Pennine geological record, in which time the range has been broken into enormous blocks by faulting. The Yorkshire Dales and North Pennines display plenty of limestone, as their ’blocks’ stand higher than the Peak District and South Pennines. The entire range was scoured by glaciers during the Ice Age, and many parts are covered with glacial detritus in the form of boulder clay, sand and gravel. More recent climatic changes resulted in the upland soil becoming so waterlogged that thick deposits of peat have formed on most of the higher moorlands.

Sample Route

Crowden to Standedge
StartYouth Hostel, Crowden, SK 073 993
FinishA62 road, Standedge, SE 018 095
Distance20km (12½ miles)
Total Ascent660m (2165ft)
Total Descent480m (1575ft)
TerrainMostly moorland walking, with several stretches paved with flagstones, but a couple of wet and boggy areas remain. One stretch uses a firm path through a valley, passing reservoirs.
MapsOS Landranger 110, OS Explorer OL1, Harvey's Pennine Way South
RefreshmentsSnoopy's snack van might be parked at Wessenden Head. Pubs off-route at Standedge.

Black Hill once had a fearsome reputation among Pennine Wayfarers, with its broad top covered in deep black bogs. The hill now bears a long line of firm flagstones. The ‘black’ has gone, replaced by ‘green’ as the whole top has been re-vegetated. The Pennine Way ‘main’ route originally headed directly to Standedge across appalling bogs, with an ‘alternative’ seeking firm ground via Wessenden. These days, there is only one designated route, which runs via Wessenden. Standedge is completely lacking facilities, so walkers will need to detour off-route to find food, drink and lodgings.

If starting from Crowden, retrace your steps back up the narrow road from the river and turn right as signposted for the Pennine Way. There are short-cuts from the hostel, for those who don't mind missing a stretch of the route. The path rises through gates to reach a small plantation on the hillside. Beyond are slopes of bracken, where the path becomes awkward due to stones protruding from the ground. Heather and bilberry are apparent as the path passes below Black Tor, where a quarried edge bears patchy woodland. The path undulates and crosses a stream, then climbs, steep and rugged, up a bracken slope. When the path levels out, there are fine views along the valley. The climb becomes steep and rugged again, crossing Oaken Clough to pick up a stone-pitched path up to the edge of a heather moorland.

A narrow path wanders along the top of Laddow Rocks, occasionally offering views of gritstone crags that were once popular with rock climbers, but are rarely climbed these days. The crag doesn't look too dramatic, but keep looking back to spot one part that features an overhang. The path rises to around 500m (1640ft), then descends gradually across a slope of grass and bilberry, becoming boggy and over-trodden as it runs parallel to Crowden Great Brook.

Step across a tributary and walk parallel to the main stream on a firm path. Cross another tributary, then when the main stream bites into a shale bank, cross and re-cross the flow to continue. If there is too much water to ford safely, simply climb over the top of the shale bank and pick up the path later. The path gets wet and boggy and walkers often detour too far from the stream, thereby missing the start of a firm, dry flagstone path. This pulls away from the stream, leading to a stile over a fence on Grains Moss.

Simply follow the flagstone path straight up a grassy, rushy slope polka-dotted with bog cotton. Cross a boggy rise at Dun Hill, then the flagstones end for a while. A firm path passes peat hags that are being stabilised against erosion. Another length of flagstones lead over the broad moorland summit of Black Hill, passing through a pool of water at one point, reaching a trig point with a paved ‘patio’ of flagstones around it at 582m (1908ft).

BLACK HILL The summit of Black Hill was for many years trodden to death, leaving not even a blade of grass. The bog was so over-trodden that it was often impossible to reach the trig point, which stood on a firm ‘island’ known as Soldier's Lump. The name derived from a time when Ordnance Survey ‘sappers’ set up camp on the hill while surveying the land. The trig point they planted on the summit was close to collapse after the wholesale erosion of peat in recent years, but it has been stoutly buttressed. The ‘Moors for the Future’ project ( has successfully re-vegetated the summit of Black Hill with grass, bog cotton and bilberry. The Pennine Way has been confined to a single firm, dry, erosion-proof line across the moors.

Laddow Rocks were once popular with rock climbers, but are seldom climbed today

Follow the flagstone path onwards, gently undulating across the moor. When the flags finish, a firm path continues downhill with good views eastwards. When another flagstone path is reached, it swings left to pass grouse butts, where heather dominates over grass, bilberry and bog cotton. The path undulates gently, then features a short, steep descent and ascent while crossing Dean Clough. There is no bridge, so fording after heavy rain will mean wet feet. A lesser stream, rusty red in colour, is crossed before the path climbs to the busy A635 road at Wessenden Head.

Turn right to follow the road with care. If Snoopy's snack van is parked here, then by all means take a break for food and drink, otherwise turn left up the minor road signposted for Meltham and Huddersfield. Turn left down through a gate to follow a track straight down to Wessenden Head Reservoir. There is a fine view down the valley to another reservoir, and a house among trees, with the distinctive profile of Pule Hill beyond. The land from here to White Hill (Day 3) makes up the extensive National Trust Marsden Moor Estate.

Walk straight down a broad and clear path. This makes a couple of loops round little side valleys to reach the dam of Wessenden Reservoir. Follow a track downhill from the dam, catching a glimpse of Wessenden Lodge behind tall deer fences. The track rises gently to reach a signpost. At this point, turn left for the Pennine Way, down a path on a steep slope of bracken. If planning to visit Marsden, however, keep straight along the track and see the later route description.

WESSENDEN RESERVOIRS The Wessenden Reservoirs are piled one on top of another in a narrow valley. Construction was financed by a consortium of mill owners in Marsden, whose mills were located beside the River Colne. The reservoirs were completed in 1800, shortly after the opening of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. The mill owners jealously guarded their water supply and weren't keen for any of it to be used to be used by the canal company.

Cross a footbridge and climb steeply up a rugged path on a slope of heather. The gradient eases at a stone-built structure, where there is a view down the valley to Blakeley Reservoir. The path is almost level as it reaches a stream. Cross over and climb up stone steps, then continue along a flagstone path through bracken. A length of stony path is followed by more flagstones, and Black Moss is surely misnamed when masses of white bog cotton nod in the breeze. Pule Hill is seen across Swellands Reservoir, while the Pennine Way crosses a dam on Black Moss Reservoir, where there are a couple of sandy beaches.

BLACK MOSS AND SWELLANDS RESERVOIRS These two reservoirs, along with four others, were constructed on the high moors to supply the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. A system of drains catches little streams and feeds the water into the reservoirs. Black Moss Reservoir has a dam at either end, being constructed on a broad moorland gap. The dam of Swellands Reservoir broke in November 1810, sending a deluge of peaty water down to Marsden, where it caused great damage in what was called ‘The Night of the Black Flood’.

Overshoot the end of the dam before turning left. The path follows a fence to a corner. Keep straight ahead before turning right up a flagstone path, going through a gate in a fence from grassy moorland to heather moorland. Walk downhill and go through another gate, back onto grassy moorland. The flagstones end at a small stream, where a left turn leads up a track on a stout embankment overlooking Redbrook Reservoir, another feeder for the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. The track leads up through a gate, crossing a crest parallel to the busy A62 road, which runs through a deep cutting. Descend to the roadside beside Brunclough Reservoir at Standedge, at 387m (1270ft). The Peak District National Park ends beside the main road.

STANDEDGE There are no facilities where the Pennine Way crosses the road at Standedge, so extra distance must be covered in search of accommodation, food and drink. Following the main road is not recommended, as it is too busy. Walkers heading for one of the two nearby pubs – the Great Western and the Carriage House – should note that these were the buildings seen closest to Redbrook Reservoir. A direct approach from the Pennine Way is possible, though the ground is boggy underfoot. Anyone heading further off-route can either catch a bus, or if they insist on walking, can use the following routes to reach Marsden or Diggle.

A Pennine Wayfarer forges through heather above Redbrook Reservoir near Standedge

Off-Route to Diggle

Diggle lies 2.5km (1½ miles) off-route, with a descent of 180m (590ft). To reach it, don't cross the main road at Standedge, but walk between the road and Brunclough Reservoir. Walk down from the reservoir to a clear track to find a Pennine Bridleway signpost. Turn left down a track marked for Diggle, passing a derelict house. Turn right at a marker post and stay on the clearest path downhill, passing a spoil heap and reaching a house on the hillside. Continue down a walled and fenced track past fields, reaching a tarmac road at the Diggle Hotel. Turn right at a road junction to cross a railway then turn left to walk into Diggle.

DIGGLE The village has two pubs, a shop and a couple of places offering accommodation. Buses run through the village, linking Manchester, Standedge and Huddersfield. The entrances to the railway and canal tunnels can be seen fairly close together.

Walkers heading off-route to Marsden can reach the town by descending a flight of 211 stone steps

Off-Route to Marsden

Marsden lies 3km (2 miles) off-route, with a descent of 140m (460ft). After passing Wessenden Lodge, simply follow the clear track down through the valley. Pass Blakeley Reservoir and follow the track onwards past Butterley Reservoir. Turn left when a road is reached, and while this could be followed into town, turn left down a flight of 211 stone steps instead. Turn right to follow a track through a wood before passing between tall mills on the outskirts of Marsden. Turn left down a road and pass a small roundabout. Follow Fall Lane and fork left to pass through a tunnel. Turn right along Towngate to follow a river into the town centre.

MARSDEN Pennine Wayfarers started visiting Marsden many years ago when it had a youth hostel, but there are other accommodation options. The town has a post office, shops, pubs, cafés and a tourist information centre (tel: 01484 845595). Regular daily buses link Marsden with Huddersfield, Standedge and Manchester. Regular daily trains link Marsden with Manchester and Huddersfield. To learn more about the various tunnels under Standedge, take a stroll to the Standedge Tunnel Visitor Centre.

Entrance to the Huddersfield Canal tunnel at Diggle, cut beneath Standedge between 1794 and 1811

STANDEDGE TUNNELS There are actually four tunnels under Standedge, all measuring a little over 5km (3 miles) in length. A narrow canal tunnel was constructed first, between 1794 and 1811. It was the highest canal in Britain at 147m (645ft) above sea level, but also the deepest underground, lying 145m (638ft) below Standedge. A single-track rail tunnel was cut between 1846 and 1849, followed by another one between 1868 and 1870. A twin-track rail tunnel was built last, between 1890 and 1894. Dozens of transverse tunnels link all four tunnels together, primarily between the rail tunnels and the canal tunnel, for the purpose of extracting waste. The Standedge Tunnel Visitor Centre is only a stroll from Marsden, open throughout the year except Mondays (free entry, tel: 01484 844298,

The detour to Marsden leaves Pennine Wayfarers in a quandary. Do they walk back to Wessenden to pick up the route to Standedge? Catch a bus? Short-cut to Standedge? The following route is a direct short-cut, measuring 3km (2 miles) back to the Pennine Way, with an ascent of 150m (490ft).

Leave Marsden by walking along Towngate, climbing beside the churchyard to reach the main A62 road. Cross the road and climb a short way up Old Mount Road. Turn right as signposted ‘public footpath’ and follow a track towards an isolated house. Turn left beforehand as indicated by a marker post. The way is overgrown for a bit until a stile is crossed. A deep-cut, rushy groove climbs up a grassy slope, with fine views of Marsden and its mills. Keep to the left of the groove to follow a track up to a farmhouse.

Go through gates to pass the farmhouse and climb straight up another grassy slope. Pick up and follow another path in a groove, passing through a gate and climbing to join a broad, clear, stony track. Follow this straight ahead, gently uphill, with fine views back to Marsden, as well as to Black Hill and the moors above Wessenden. The track levels out and rejoins Old Mount Road, which itself drops down to another road.

Cross the road to reach a public footpath sign, and drop down a little to cross a stream. Climb a little and keep right, watching for a grassy path and a marker post. Simply walk straight ahead, gently up the moorland slope, always following the grassy path. After crossing a crest, Redbrook Reservoir comes into view. The path runs along an embankment, and there is a prominent notch where a stream crosses. Beyond this is a clear track, which is the Pennine Way, leading directly to Standedge at 387m (1270ft).


The Pennine Way Day 1 Edale to Crowden (start) Day 1 Edale to Crowden (continued) Day 1 Edale to Crowden (finish) Pennine Way profile The distinctive profile of Pen-y-Ghent as seen across a limestone pavement near Dale Head (Day 7) Walking the Pennine Way in winter is reserved only for the most experienced long-distance walkers The Pennine Way starts, whatever the weather, at the Old Nags Head in the village of Edale Looking towards Blakeley Reservoir as the Pennine Way climbs high above Wessenden Ponden Reservoir, where a few facilities lie just off-route, including a daily bus service to Haworth The remarkable amphitheatre cliff of Malham Cove can be inspected from bottom to top

The Ordnance Survey covers the Pennine Way on 10 Landranger maps at a scale of 1:50,000. The sheet numbers are 74, 80, 86, 87, 91, 92, 98, 103, 109 and 110.

Linear extracts from these maps are reproduced throughout this guidebook, with the route highlighted.

For greater detail, eight Explorer maps cover the route at a scale of 1:25,000, and the sheet numbers are OL1, OL2, OL16, OL21, OL30, OL31, OL42 and OL43. Any or all of these maps can be ordered from the Ordnance Survey.

Harvey publishes three maps covering the Pennine Way on water-resistant paper at a scale of 1:40,000. These are Pennine Way South, Pennine Way Central and Pennine Way North ( The relevant maps for each stage of the Pennine Way are listed at the start of each day’s walk.

Saving a sheep from April snows near Castleshaw Reservoir. (Sheep shown 25% saved.) (photo by Michael Rosefield) April snow near Marsden (5/4/12) (photo by Michael Rosefield) Sunset over Pen-y-Ghent (photo by ANTHONY LEWIS) Looking westwards to Pen-y-Ghent (photo by ANTHONY LEWIS) Views across the Yorkshire Dales Trow Gill Whernside and the viaduct at Horton in Ribblesdale A snowy view towards Ingleborough Tilly patiently waiting for a snack Up early on the pennine way (photo submitted using Cicerone Explorer iPhone app)

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'The text is accompanied by OS mapping and the book contains lots of full colour photographs. If you are planning to walk the Pennine Way this book is well-recommended.'

(Strider 117, August 2010)

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