There are over 300 long-distance hiking trails in England, but none is more famous, nor possibly more challenging, than The Pennine Way.
Covering a distance of just over 250 miles, the route follows the spine of the Pennine Mountains, northern England’s continental divide. The trail heads north “seeking out the most dramatic ridges and sweeps of moorland…ending across the Scottish border at Kirk Yetholm.”
We joined the route where it entered the Yorkshire Dales. These beautiful remote valleys became endeared to Americans with the publishing of All Creatures Great and Small and other books by the Yorkshire veterinarian, James Herriott.
The Dales, with their old grey farmhouses, green fields and stone walls, evoke a sense of being lost in time. Herriott once said, “I think that the American people like my stories because they are reaching out for the simple things…old unspoiled Yorkshire and a way of life so different from their own.”
Once leaving the Dales the Pennine Way enters the northern Pennines where expansive moorlands and dramatic drops. The route stays high along wide open moors which would be impossible or at least miserable to cross if not for the incredible trail work placing stones or boardwalks along sections of peaty bog. Mileage between villages and accommodation is long and will test endurance.
Most B&B or farm accommodation along this portion of the route catered to tired walkers and was a highlight of the trip. People took us in after a long day, soothed our aching bodies with tea, scones and cold beer, gave us lifts to the pubs, washed our muddy clothes and practically tucked us into bed. Not only were the people generous and welcoming, they were always eager to fill us in on bits of local history. It was here that someone explained why the British drive on the “wrong” side of the road. Drivers of old-fashioned carriages held their swords with their right to ward off an attack, therefore seating them on the right. In America, the actual steering was done off the left as we see today. The french, we were told, followed suit…just to be different from the English.
HOW IT STACKS UP
As with Offa’s Dyke, this is not a long-distance trail to cut your teeth on. It’s difficult with plenty of bog, wind and long days. Open moorland on windy days is not my cup of tea. I get enough wind in Estes Park. The accommodations on the upper portion of this trip were, however, outstanding. Either that or I was just glad to arrive.
The Pennine Way