Exploring the Pennine Way

A journey through nature and history

by Sue Talbot

One of Britain’s most iconic long-distance hiking trails, the Pennine Way stretches for 268 miles through the beautiful landscapes of Northern England. This rugged and challenging trail offers hikers an immersive experience in nature, as well as a chance to delve into the rich history and heritage of the region. From its stunning wilderness to historic landmarks, the Pennine Way leads you on a captivating journey through time.

High Cup Nick, an enormous glaciated chasm dug into the stone on the Pennine Way.
Three walkers posed together outside the Nags Head pub at the start of the Pennine Way in Edale.

Beginning at Edale in the Peak District National Park, the trail traverses through the breathtaking vistas of the Pennines, a range of hills often known as the backbone of England. Dramatic moorlands, cascading waterfalls and deep valleys are just some of the awe-inspiring sights that unfold along this trail. Each step brings you closer to nature’s wonders.

Meet the wildlife

The Pennine Way is a mecca for wildlife lovers, providing opportunities to spot rare and indigenous species. The trail heads through the Yorkshire Dales National Park, with its lush meadows and limestone pavements, home to diverse birdlife, including the elusive golden plover and peregrine falcon. Further along the route, the North Pennines, designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, offers a sanctuary for mountain hares, black grouse and red squirrels.

A large brown ground-dwelling bird, the red grouse, stands on moorland.

The varied landscapes along the Pennine Way provide a haven for nature lovers, reminding us of the importance of conserving these delicate ecosystems.

A fascinating history

But the Pennine Way is not just about the natural beauty that surrounds it; it is also a gateway to the region’s fascinating history. Along the trail, you’ll encounter remnants of ancient civilisations and witness the imprint of human activity through the ages.

One such historic landmark is Hadrian’s Wall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was constructed by the Romans in the 2nd century AD. This colossal fortification originally stretched from coast to coast, marking the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire. As you walk alongside the remains of this remarkable monument, you can’t help but feel a sense of awe and wonder at the engineering achievements of the past.

A walker in a blue coat walks alongside Hadrian's Wall, which stretches out ahead for miles.
Two slices of dense cheese on a pink background.

In addition to Hadrian’s Wall, the Pennine Way takes you through quaint villages and market towns that are steeped in history. The small town of Hawes, nestled in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, is famous for its historic creamery and the production of the renowned Wensleydale cheese. It’s fascinating to learn about the cheese-making process, and you’ll also have the chance to sample a variety of flavours, connecting with a tradition that has been passed down for generations.

These encounters with local heritage add another layer of richness to your hiking experience and give you the opportunity to connect with the people and traditions of the region.

Share your journey

While the Pennine Way provides an opportunity for solitude and contemplation, it is also a trail that fosters a sense of camaraderie amongst fellow hikers. Shared experiences and stories are exchanged at the various hostels and B&Bs dotted along the route, creating a unique community spirit.

A herd of sheep clamber the steep flank of a ridged hill.
A tired but exuberant walker takes a well-deserved break after a steep climb on the Pennine Way, sheltering behind loosely stacked rocks with far-reaching views over the exposed moorland beyond.

Whether it’s swapping tips on the best routes or offering encouragement during challenging sections, you’ll find yourself surrounded by like-minded walkers united by their love for the outdoors and their shared journey.

Undertaking the Pennine Way is not without its challenges, as the trail can be demanding at times. Varying weather conditions, steep ascents and remote sections means you’ll need to be physically and mentally prepared.

Yet it’s these challenges that make the journey all the more rewarding. The feeling of accomplishment when you reach each milestone, such as the crossing into Scotland or reaching the summit of Cross Fell, the highest point on the trail, is indescribable.

Sue Talbot

Adventure Travel Blogger

Sue Talbot is an adventure travel blogger and iPhone photographer who’s often found hiking up the Lakeland fells or swimming in fairy pools. Her outdoor adventures and photographs can be found on her blog, Lifehop, and also her Lake District Lovers Facebook page.

Read more blogs by Sue Talbot

Interested in walking the Pennine Way?

Contours Holidays offer several versions of the Pennine Way walking holiday: the full route, half route options and a short walking break. Find your holiday here:

With an expanse of pretty fields behind them, three fluffy brown and white cows peer curiously at the camera.

Originally published 07/12/23

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