The Pennine Way National Trail is one of the UK’s most famed long distance hiking trails, as well as the first official National Trail to be created in the United Kingdom. Covering over 268 miles, the trail snakes through jagged limestone cliffs, breathtaking heathlands and challenging, but rewarding mountainous peaks.
The Pennine Way walk is chock-full of geological highlights, ranging from the longest canal, Leeds & Liverpool; England’s highest (and most breathtaking) waterfall, Hardraw Force; and the highest mountain range in the Pennine Hills, Cross Fell. There are few places matched in terms of natural beauty, rugged landscapes and remote hiking experiences.
Backpackers should come prepared, walking the Pennine Way is an impressive undertaking and is recommended for more experienced hikers. Tackle the route from south to north, often taking about 2-3 weeks to complete and ranging in up to 3000ft of ever-changing elevation.
If you’re ready for a hiking adventure of a lifetime, grab your compass and hiking boots to hit the Pennine Way National Trail!
Table of contents
The Basics Of The Pennine Way
The Pennine Way National Trail journeys across the backbone of England and was the very first National Trail created in the UK, opening on April 24th, 1965. The hike starts from Edale in Derbyshire and travels almost 268mi to the borders of Scotland in Yetholm. The creation of the trail led the hiking revolution in the UK following the First World War, taking over 15 years to open due to legal wranglers, but eventually opening up the area for countless UK hiking options.
Much of the Pennine Way walk traverses through three stunning National Parks: Yorkshire Dales, Peak District and Northumberland. When trekking outside these lauded parks, hikers will pass through scenic landscapes and English countryside villages filled with pubs and cozy inns.
While exceptionally beautiful, it remains relatively obscure, with typically only 2,000 people a year completing the entirety of the Pennine Way walk. Most trekkers who complete the trail rave about the tranquility of the route, which can often be lost at more popular long-distance trails, with overcrowding becoming an issue. It is not uncommon to hike for days on the Pennine Way without passing another soul, leaving plenty of opportunity for unparalleled wildlife sightings of barn owls, cygnets, corn bunting and a variety of other birds.
Pennine Way Route Information
The Pennine Way National Trail will take you to some of the most beautiful high walking terrain in all of England, traversing over magical heathlands, high peat bogs, captivating limestone scenery, challenging glacial valleys and blooming, wildflower pastures.
The trail takes on average 2-3 weeks to complete in its entirety, though we recommend completing it in three weeks to fully encompass the beauty of the trail, as well as enjoy a few rest days exploring the local towns and taking in the English pub culture. Tackle the Pennine Way route from south to north, ranging in up to 3000ft of elevation at the highest point, Cross Fell Mountains.
While many hikers set out to complete the trail in one go, it is possible to break it down into small sections to be completed at your own pace, until you’ve walked the trail from start to finish.
Here at 10Adventures, we’ve broken the Pennine Way route down into sections, to give you a general itinerary outline. Nature is to be enjoyed and so there are no hard and fast rules on how you’d like to tackle the trail.
Pennine Way Map
On the Pennine Way National Trail, a GPS device with downloaded maps or even a tracklog are very useful tools. That’s why we’ve taken all the guess work out and created our own route map, check it out below!
Pennine Way Accommodation
The Pennine Way walk is well-suited to those who aren’t too picky about their accommodations. While there are plenty of options for cozy inns, cottages and B&B’s, sometimes the best option along the trail involves camping—so come prepared with the correct gear and a can-do attitude! Check out the itinerary below for more detailed information on accommodations.
Other great options to stay in Squamish
Along the route you’ll notice we’ve created Pennine Way sections, but feel free to tackle the trek at your own pace.
Pennine Way Stage 1: Dale to Crowden (10.2mi)
Prepare for a tough and long first day, giving you your first taste of the Pennine Way National Trail! Set out from Edale, where tradition has hikers depart from The Nag’s Head pub, where just across the road you’ll spot a tiny wall and a plaque commemorating the start of the Pennine Way walk. Trek up through the beautiful, but challenging Peak District, hiking flagstone paths and past peaceful sheep pastures. Skirt around Kinder Scout, which is the Peak District’s highest mountain, though keep to Kinder Low and Kinder Downfall. The path descends from Kinder and from here, follow a long paved walkway, crossing over the A57 Road, upwards Bleaklow head and to cap off the day, prepare for a long descent towards the Torside reservoir. From here, the closest accommodation is located in Crowden.
Campground option: Crowden Camping and Caravanning Club Site
Inn option: The Old House Bed & Breakfast
Pennine Way Stage 2: Crowden to Standedge (13.2mi)
Today is a fairly easy hike, passing small reservoirs and stunning sandstone rocks. Head steeply uphill Crowden Brook, taking in beautiful sights. Continue the ridge of Rakes and Laddow Rocks, before descending over a number of streams along Meadowgrain Clough. Next, tackle Black Hill, marking the border between West Yorkshire and Derbyshire. Follow the pathway down towards A 635 Road, which can be busy, so proceed with caution. Prepare for a steep climb next to Blakey Clough, passing the glistening Black Moss Reservoir and Swellands, until you reach the endpoint of the day in Standedge.
Campground option: Dog Hill Scout and Community Campsite (taxi required)
Inn option: The Carriage House Inn
Pennine Way Stage 3: Standedge to Hebden Bridge (17.3mi)
Head out along the Moorland hills, with a lookout point over urban Oldham and Manchester. Trek along an ancient packhorse road, following further on the Pennine Way passing three picturesque reservoirs. Continue up needle shaped Stoodley Pike monument, which is a favourite viewpoint along the hike. Finish the day in Hebden Bridge.
Campground option: Height Gate Camping Barn
Inn option: Garnett B & B
Pennine Way Stage 4: Hebden Bridge to Cowling (17.3mi)
Today’s trek starts out on a challenging steep climb, but eventually evens out around Colden. We recommend stopping here for a pot of tea at May’s Shop in Highgate Farm. Hike along the Clough Head Hill mowers, before hopping on a clear path along the Gorple lower reservoir. Climb Withens Height End and make a slight downhill trek to Top Withens. Cross through a few small farms to Ponden Reservoir. Pass Bess Hill and Ickornshaw Moor, passing traditional Cowlings huts. Spend the night in Cowling.
Campground option: Squirrel Wood Campsite & Lodges
Inn option: Throstle Nest Farm
Pennine Way Stage 5: Cowling to Malham (18.0mi)
This day crosses the last of the peat bogs and brings you into beautiful limestone territory. Hike through the peaceful rolling hills of the English countryside, before stopping into quaint Lothersdale village. You can stop for a cup of tea or to refuel your pack here, then stroll along the snaking Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Follow alongside the rushing River Aire all the way until you reach locally-loved Malham, where you’ll spend the night.
Campground option: Riverside Campsite Malham
Inn option: Gyhllstones B&B
Pennine Way Stage 6: Malham to Horton in Ribbleside (15.2mi)
Today you’ll arrive at Yorkshire Dales National Park. The park encompasses thousands of square miles and is home to the ruins of Bolton Abbey Estate, a 12th-century monastery, as well as Gordale Scar and five historical arched bridges. Climb the dramatic cliffs of Malham Cove, following the limestone path all the way to Watlowes Valley. Once at Fountain Fell, you’ll be able to see the highest point of today’s hike—Pen-y-ghent peak standing at 2277ft. This section is also commonly referred to as the Three Peaks Walk. Hop over a fence at the top of the hill, this is a great place to stop and enjoy a packed lunch. Continue until you reach B6479 Road, where you can pop into the Pen-y-ghent Cafe to sign the guest book for hikers and grab lunch supplies for tomorrow. There will be little chance to stop tomorrow.
Campground option: Holme Farm Campsite
Inn option: Broad Croft House
Pennine Way Stage 7: Horton in Ribblesdale to Hawes (14.0mi)
After a restful night, pack up and hit the trail through Birkwith Moor, enjoying the Yorkshire Dales scenery consisting of river valleys and rolling verdant hills. The trail climbs to join Roman High Road and eventually intersects with The Dales Way, which is considered the most popular long-distance footpath in Britain. You will start to spot more walkers on this path and it will feel less remote. Follow the edge of Dodd Feel, before descending into the village of Gayle and onward to the busy town of Hawes for the evening.
Campground option: Blackburn Farm Campsite
Inn option: The White Hart Country Inn
Pennine Way Stage 8: Hawes to Tan Hill (16.0mi)
Start the day off on a high note, just a mile up the path you’ll arrive at Hardraw village, home to the famed Hardraw Force—England’s highest waterfall. From here, you’ll leave the rolling green hills behind for the more sparse, but stunning moors of Great Shunner Fell. Today, you’ll arrive in town at Thwaite, just in time to enjoy a warm, tasty lunch. Ascend the cliffs of River Swale, where you’ll walk along the Coast to Coast Trail. Push further along the trail to Tan Hill, where you’ll find the highest pub in England, sitting at 1732ft and the only accommodation around for miles.
Campground option: N/A
Inn option: Tan Hill Inn
Pennine Way Stage 9: Tan Hill to Bowes (13.0mi)
Depart the inn, heading towards scenic Yorkshire Dales National Park. Discover one of the most naturally beautiful parts of the Pennine Way trail—the North Pennines. While incredibly beautiful, this is also the section of trail where your compass will most come in handy. Walk along Sleightholme Moor with caution, it can often be rainy and muddy so be sure to have a raincoat on hand. Descend the hill down towards Bowes, where pubs, cozy inns and shops await.
Campground option: The Old Armoury Campsite
Inn option: Mellwaters Barn Cottages
Pennine Way Stage 10: Bowes to Middleton (17.0mi)
Today’s trek is relatively flat, following along a river over moorland. You’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time, with lots of stone wall ruins passed on this section of the trail. Continue through Harter Fell, then push further into the valley of River Tees. Continue into the town of Middleton to spend the night and enjoy a warm meal. This day is considered the half-way mark of the trail.
Campground option: Leekworth Camping Park
Inn option: Forresters Hotel and Restaurant
Pennine Way Stage 11: Middleton to Dufton (20.0mi)
Set out towards Dufton today, where you’ll trek past some of the best highlights of the entire Pennine Way. Walk alongside the River Tees, which mimics the look of malt whiskey in colour. You’ll first encounter Low Force, a waterfall that descends over a series of jagged steps, then onto Cauldron Snout, another breathtaking waterfall. Trek through the moors along the Maize Beck, arriving at High Cup Nick. This is often noted as a hiker favourite, forming a deep glacial u-shaped valley that is worth stopping and snapping a few photos. From here, you’re only a few miles from Dufton.
Campground option: Dufton Caravan Park
Inn option: The Pennine Potting Shed
Pennine Way Stage 12: Dufton to Alston (20.0mi)
Prepare for a long, tiring day with few remnants of civilization on the trail. Be sure to bring food and a full pack, as this can often be the hardest part of the route, especially if you encounter bad weather. Depart from Dufton, heading towards Knock Fell, Great Dun Fell, over Little Dun Fell and finally Cross Fell—the highest point of the Pennine Way. Push onwards for a tiring trek to the metalled road at Garrigal, where you can stop at a pub for dinner and a quick rest. But the day is not done yet! Continue for another 2.0mi, passing through the South Tyne to the tiny, but pretty town of Alston for the night.
Campground option: Haggs Bank Bunkhouse and Campsite (taxi required)
Inn option: Alston House
Pennine Way Stage 13: Alston to Greenhead (16.0mi)
Depending on the weather, this can be another tricky day on the trail. You’ll pass through mostly countryside for the day, where the trail can become incredibly mucky post-rain. Be sure to have your rubber boots at the ready! Arrive in the aptly named Slaggyford for lunch and to clean up if needed, before proceeding to Maiden Way Roman Road, leading you into Greenhead.
Campground option: Glendale Pool
Inn option: Hydrian’s Holidays Lodges
Pennine Way Stage 14: Greenhead to Once Brewed (7.0mi)
After a few days of hard work, it’s time to enjoy an exciting historical attraction! Today you’ll arrive at Hadrian’s Wall, a once defensive fortification of the Roman province of Britannia that stretches for miles. Hike the Cawfield and Winshield crags section, passing cafes on route (though seasonal). You’ll eventually arrive at the town of Once Brewed. We’d recommend staying an extra day here for rest and leisure time to explore more of Hadrian’s Wall.
Campground option: Winshields Campsite
Inn option: The Twice Brewed Inn
Pennine Way Stage 15: Once Brewed to Bellingham (15.5mi)
After some much needed rest, continue to follow the easterly section of the wall along Steel Rigg. From here you’ll get panoramic views overlooking the Simonside Hills and the Pennines. Depart northwards, entering into the Northumberland National Park, where you’ll walk through Park Forest and encounter the Lowstead—a fortified house that once protected livestock from raiding groups. In the North Tyne, follow a bubbling river bank into the village of Bellingham, which is the perfect spot to grab any supplies for the last section of the trail.
Campground option: Hesleyside Huts (glamping)
Inn option: The Cheviot Hotel
Pennine Way Stage 16: Bellingham to Byrness (15.0mi)
Today is a long section of crossing between heather moorlands and thick forests, until you reach Blakehopeburnhaugh, where you’ll find a pretty riverside path to make the trek easier. Try to get to the village of Byrness early, as there can be limited accommodations as it was originally established as a Forest Commission station.
Campground option: Border Forest Holiday Park (taxi required)
Inn option: Forest View Walkers Inn
Pennine Way Stage 17: Byrness to Kirk Yetholm (26.0mi)
You’re almost there! This marks the last, and longest day of the Pennine Way. Prepare for an entire day’s trek and a detour to the boggy fell of Cheviot if you desire (though this will add distance). Spend the day climbing through desolate moorland, dropping down into Cheviot Fells, then onwards to your final destination—Kirk Yetholm. This old borders market village sits in the middle of nowhere, but is full of charm, making it the perfect last stop on your incredible Pennine Way walk!
Note, if the entire day feels too daunting, feel free to break it up over two days and spend the night wild camping if needed.
Campground option: Kirkfield Caravan Park
Inn option: The Border Hotel
After The Trail
You’ve made it! Celebrate with a warm shower, delicious pub food and a good night’s rest. Most hikers choose to stop by or spend the night at The Border Hotel, where upon completion of the Pennine Way walk, the owner will present you with a certificate and a free Alfred W. Beer to congratulate you on a job well done. Depending on the time you arrive, you might even be able to celebrate with other fellow hikers and swap tales and photos of the route.
Food On The Pennine Way
Half of the fun of The Pennine Way is the remote beauty and the feeling of being the only person on the planet—but that also means you’ll often be hiking for hours without civilization and restaurant options. You will pass through a few quaint towns mid-day for lunch, but for a large majority of hiking the Pennine Way, you’ll need to carefully plan a packed lunch and snacks to ensure you stay properly fuelled.
On the bright side, every evening of the trek ends in a small village or town, so you’ll have ample choice of pubs for a warm dinner and a pint or two. During these town visits, we recommend ordering a sandwich for the next day or packable lunch meals from the local grocer or your place of accommodation. Be sure to plan ahead, as you don’t want to find yourself on the trail starving and depleted—same goes for carrying ample water.
If you choose to spend the night camping, ensure you bring proper food storage, as this could attract animals. After dinner, food should be stored either in your tent or in a tree to keep mice and other animals away from your pack.
Best Time to Do The Pennine Way Walk
The Pennine Way walk is best to do when the weather is warm and dry, so we recommend tackling the trail from May until late September. Recently, rainfall has been fairly moderate during May and June, though it can be tricky to plan year to year with the unpredictable rain of the Pennines. The sunniest month is typically June, so this is probably the best month to walk the trail—plus wildflowers are in full bloom and daylight hours are long. Come prepared, as temperatures can drop to ‘arctic’ levels at the highest point—Cross Fell—even in the height of summer.
Interesting Facts About The Pennine Way
The Pennine Way has a long and fascinating history that few know about. Here are five fun and quirky facts about this trail:
- The original idea for the Pennine Way was first suggested by avid hiker and journalist, Tom Stephenson in an article for the Daily Herald, dating back to 1935. He titled the story ‘Wanted: A Long Green Trail’.
- The Pennine Way was very much inspired by the Appalachian Way in the US and the UK decided to build its equivalent.
- The record for the fastest completion of The Pennine Way is 61 hours, 35 minutes, completed in July 2020. The record-setter, Damian Hall ran the entire trail, beating the current record by three hours. Just a week prior, runner John Kelly broke the record that had previously been unbeaten and held for 31 years by Mike Hartley.
- Alfred Wainwright proposed a free beer to any walker who completed the full Pennine Way trail. Upon his death, this promise cost him almost £15,000. The tradition continues and you can still enjoy a free beer at The Border Hotel upon completion.
- The limestone pavement above Malham Cove is one of the highlights of the route. It appeared in both Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and the Steve Coogan series The Trip.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to walk the Pennine Way?
On average, it takes most hikers three weeks to complete the Pennine Way, though those of exceptional fitness can do it in about two weeks. We recommend three weeks to enjoy some rest days exploring the local villages and seeping in the stunning English countryside.
Is the Pennine Way easy to navigate?
Trail markings are not exceptionally prevalent on the Pennine Way. But if you carry a GPS and compass, as well as follow our GPS route, you should have no problem navigating the trail. Just be sure to come prepared, as it is unlikely you’ll spot many other hikers along the route.
Where does the Pennine Way start and finish?
The hike starts from Edale in Derbyshire and travels almost 267.2mi to the borders of Scotland in Yetholm.
How far can you walk in a day?
The recommended longest day on the Pennine Way is 26.0mi, but this largely depends on fitness level and experience. We recommend just going at your own pace and feel free to take longer rest days if needed.
Can you wild camp on the Pennine Way?
English law states you are not legally allowed to wild camp without permission of the landowner, but that being said, most of the landowners along the Pennine Way are open to the idea if you pitch late in the evening and depart early.