10 wonderful day-walks along the Pennine Way
Our guide to enjoying hikes along this National Trail
1. Kinder Scout, Peak District - Best for… Rambling history
Start at the very beginning. That is, the beginning of the Pennine Way and, in a way, the beginning of rambling itself. The Mass Trespass up Kinder Scout in 1932 was a key moment in opening access to the British countryside. A strenuous 12.5-mile circular from Edale takes in this pioneering plateau, offering high moorland views en route. Climb via the nose of the Nab, then trace the southern edge of Kinder Scout. Join the Pennine Way at the grassy knoll of Swine’s Back. Detour to admire the wild waters of Kinder Downfall. Then follow the National Trail back to Edale, to finish with a drink at the Nag’s Head pub.
2. Mankinholes, South Pennines - Best for… Manmade marvels
Make a moderate 7.4-mile loop from the West Yorkshire hamlet of Mankinholes for a varied slice of the South Pennines. The first half of this route combines a 19th-century water-wheel tower, an ancient packhorse track, the Rochdale Canal and the Yorkshire-Lancashire border. It picks up the Pennine Way at Warland Reservoir, following the path along the dam. Up ahead, views open up to the outcrop of Stoodley Pike. It’s a worthwhile 2-mile add-on, along the escarpment, to reach the obelisk-topped hill. Then take the Calderdale Way to dip down across the moor to return to the start.
3. Malham Cove, Yorkshire Dales - Best for… Lovely limestone
The landscape around Malham was first formed 330 million years ago, when it lay at the bottom of the ocean. Now it’s a striking expanse of limestone cliffs, gorges and sinkholes, sprinkled by waterfalls. A tough 7-mile circuit from Malham village explores all this glorious geology. Head north to Janet’s Foss falls, which tumbles into a mossy, woodland pool. Then continue, above the chasm of Gordale Scar, to Malham Tarn, Britain’s highest lake. Return along the Pennine Way, via the mighty amphitheatre of Malham Cove. Weave across the rock pavement, mull over the mysterious water sinks and be dwarfed by the cove from below.
4. Pen-y-ghent, Yorkshire Dales - Best for… Walking with Wainwright
This moderate 8-mile trail uses the Pennine Way to head north up 694m high Pen-y-ghent, one of Yorkshire’s famed Three Peaks. But to return, it uses part of the Pennine Journey. This is the route hillwalker Alfred Wainwright took in 1938, on his hike from Settle to Hadrian’s Wall and back. Begin at the small car park near Dalehead farm and be prepared for the steep haul to the summit. Good views reward the effort. Then pick up the Pennine Journey. Descend to Horton-in-Ribblesdale, a lovely spot for tea and cake, before striking across fields to reach the end.
5. High and Low Force, Teesdale - Best for… Raging water
Wait until after a rainy day to tackle this 8-mile ramble in Upper Teesdale. It passes Low Force, which can be impressive after a downpour. And it passes High Force, which is impressive most of the time. Here, the River Tees plummets 21m in a thundering torrent, forming one of England’s most spectacular waterfalls. From Bowlees Visitor Centre, follow the Pennine Way west along the river, crossing footbridges and enjoying close-ups of the cascades. At Forest-in-Teesdale, return east, picking across streams, stiles and sheep-grazed fields.
6. Langdon Beck, Teesdale - Best for… Wildflowers
Short but sweet, this easy 2.5-mile loop encompasses stream edges, farm tracks and stepping stones to explore little-tramped countryside. This is the edge of the vast Upper Teesdale Nature Reserve, home to rare black grouse, golden plover and ring ouzel. Keep an eye out for blue gentian, a delightful spring flower that’s a remnant of the last Ice Age. Start the loop at Langdon Beck YHA. This small, isolated hostel sits a quarter of a mile off the Pennine Way, just past its halfway point. Pick up the National Trail to walk southeast along the stream, turning at tiny Forest-in-Teesdale to walk back across open fields.
7. Cross Fell, Cumbria - Best for… Wild highs
At 893m, flat-topped Cross Fell is the highest point in England outside of the Lake District. And it looms over some of the country’s wildest, harshest, remotest lands. That means it’s best to save this challenging 16-mile circuit for a good-weather day. Start in Kirkland, following the old Corpse Road that used to carry the dead from Garrigill to Kirkland. Then pick up the Pennine Way to go over Cross, Little Dun, Great Dun and Knock fells. From Knock village, the Pennine Journey completes the loop. Just before the finish, look out for the medieval farming terraces, curiously known as the ‘Hanging Walls of Mark Anthony’.
8. Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland - Best for… Roman rambling
This 10-mile circuit follows both the Pennine Way and one of the finest sections of the Hadrian’s Wall Path. Head east from Steel Rigg, tracing the remains of the Roman barricade via milecastles, mighty crags and far-reaching views. The lonely tree at Sycamore Gap is the spot for a photo. Beyond the top of Hotbank Crags lies Housesteads, where the remains of a fort sprawl across the escarpment. The return journey runs past the even more extensive site of Vindolanda, where a museum displays treasures from past excavations. Continue up to Winshield Crags, the wall’s highest point at 345m, before completing the loop.
9. Cheviots, Northumberland - Best for… Straddling nations
The Cheviots’ Border Ridge is where the Pennine Way finally cosies up to Scotland. Walking here, you’re on the edge of two countries, with sweeping views across both. The first task is getting to the remote trailhead at Wedder Leap, deep in Upper Coquetdale. From there, strike north to join the Pennine Way at Windy Gyle, a 619m summit topped with a Bronze Age cairn. Then trace the ridge west, Scotland to the right, bulbous Cheviots to the left. Shortcuts are possible. For instance, you could drop down the Blind Burn to shave off more than half the distance. But if you’ve got time, walk the full, fabulous route, returning via Deel’s Hill and the magical Coquet valley.
10. Hethpool, Northumberland - Best for… Valley views
Get away from the world on this testing 9.7-mile tramp. For most of the route, you’ll be roaming the quietest, wildest, least-spoiled expanses of Northumberland National Park. Start in the secretive College Valley, a virtually traffic-free dale where wildlife thrives. Hike up to the ramparts on Great Hetha. Summit grassy Saughieside Hill. And stride across the silent heather moorland to top 549m Black Hag, the route’s highest point. From here, hop over into Scotland, finally picking up a bit of the Pennine Way. It’s a fine section, over Steer Rig, to the base of White Law. Then pick your way back into England, back to Great Hetha and home.
We’ve got ideas for hundreds more wonderful walking routes across England, Scotland and Wales, long and short, easy and challenging. Search for routes on our website. Or join a guided walk with a local Ramblers group. Find your nearest Ramblers group and choose a walk that suits your pace, fitness and interests.
All images © Getty
Explore the impressive fells, moors, valleys and villages of Lancashire’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Turn your hobby into a walking holiday: set off on these multi-day hiking trails, for a wonderful week’s walk.