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Edale to Kirk Yetholm

This is my third time walking the Pennine Way. I last walked it north to south ten years ago, with two of my children, in 17 days. This time, I was walking the Pennine Way as part of my journey from Dover to Cape Wrath. If I was to make it to Cape Wrath in time for my wife to collect me and give me a lift home, I needed to beat 17 days.

I managed to walk it this time in 14 days, and wild camped every night.

Day 1 of Pennine Way: Hay Dale to Bleaklow

I met my eldest son and his friend in the Old Nag’s Head in Edale, the official starting point of the Pennine Way. We had a lovely lunch, and then I had some company for the first few miles of the Pennine Way. Lovely.

Heading up to Kinder Plateau from Edale
My son – I’m jealous of his pack size

We walked up the old Pennine Way route on to Kinder Plateau. We then followed a short way around the edge to the path across Kinder Downfall. Here I said goodbye to my son and his friend. I felt quite lonely as I crossed Kinder Plateau – they had been good company.

The ‘old’ Pennine Way route to Kinder

The route over Kinder Plateau needs careful watching, as there is no distinct path for much of the time. It can be quite disorientating and it’s easy to go off in totally the wrong direction. I chose this route rather than the Pennine Way-directed route around the edge of Kinder and up Jacob’s Ladder due to tradition. I also like the challenge. This was always the start of the Pennine Way years ago (Jacob’s Ladder was the alternative route).

This route is definitely more of a challenge!

I walked on over Snake Pass, along a path that is now mostly flagstones and easy going.

Flagstones make route-finding much easier

It did seem to take forever to get to the A57 though. You can see the road for ages, but it never seems to get any closer. After Snake Pass, the path becomes more interesting up Devil’s Dike.

I camped high on Bleaklow with views of Manchester in the distance. It was a very peaceful spot, with none of the train or road noise that I’d kind of got used to over the last two weeks.

Wild camp on Bleaklow

I had also got to that point again where I didn’t know how I felt. My sole focus for the past few weeks had been getting to the Pennine Way. Now I’d made it I felt a bit lost again. What’s next?

At 9pm I rehydrated a meal (Expedition Foods’ chicken and ham carbonara – it was lovely). The weather was a bit breezy and chilly. I zipped myelf up in my sleeping bag with my down jacket on.

Day 2 of Pennine Way: Bleaklow to Warland

It was typical Pennine Way weather this morning: rain pelting the tent horizontally. I was not looking forward to getting out into it, but had breakfast and was away by 7.45am. This was quite a late start for me. I’d slept really well in the soft ground with my two air mats. Comfy!

My rainy morning view

This morning was the first time on the trip I had to pack my rucksack inside the tent as it was so wet. At least I had plenty of room to sort out. It’s also great to know I can wrap the tent up and the inner will stay dry. This being the Pennines, the rain could last all day. I may be putting the tent up again in the same conditions. Keeping the majority of my stuff dry is now hugely important.

Mizzle. A Pennine speciality.

The mizzle lasted all day with the odd shower thrown in for good Pennine measure. I stopped for a dehydrated meal at 11am, thinking I would stop again mid-afternoon for another meal. I needed to try to eat more calories, as I had lost quite a bit of weight since leaving Dover two weeks ago. It was too cold and mizzly all afternoon to stop, so I was pleased when I came across the White House pub near Blackstone Edge Reservoir at 6.30pm. I enjoyed a lovely meal, great service and a very friendly welcome. All was much appreciated after the day I’d had.

It had felt like a long, rough walk around Clough Edge earlier today. When I got to the dam where the Pennine Way crosses into Crowden, workmen had closed it. I had to detour about two miles around Rhodeswood Reservoir instead. Not the best start to my day, as I really wanted to get some miles in.

Dam at Torside Reservoir closed – I had to detour to Rhodeswood Reservoir

It was a nice walk up Black Tor to Laddow Rocks, following the river all the way to Black Hill.

The Pennine Way follows Crowden Great Brook for a while

The first time I walked the Pennine Way (over twenty years ago). Black Hill was black with peat. It was a really bleak place, and you needed a compass reading to get off the summit. Now it has all been grassed (to protect the peat) and there are flagstones all the way across. As with much of the Pennine Way now, it is far easier to follow the path.

Black Hill – with grass and flagstones protecting the peat

As I descended from Black Hill, I could see a burger van in the distance on the A635, right where the Pennine Way crossed the road. It’s amazing how energy levels increase with the thought of food and a coffee. I was planning to have two burgers, and was perhaps ten minutes away from the van, when I watched it close the hatch and drive off. Days like this are what make walkers – you just have to put a positive face on it and move on. (Actually, I swore, kicked something, and threw my rucksack on the ground. I opened my rucksack and ate two Mars bars and two Snickers bars over the next couple of miles).

So, as I said, the pub on the A58 was extremely welcome. I left there at about 8pm still needing water for coffee and breakfast, so I couldn’t camp until I had found some to filter. I walked about another three-quarters of a mile and camped by the side of the reservoir near Warland.

Camp near Warland Reservoir

Day 3 of Pennine Way: Warland to Withins Height

I woke to a cool, breezy and mercifully dry morning. My spot was very quiet so I had breakfast and coffee, and was away at about 7.15am. I was wearing my Icebreaker shirt and vest with my wind shirt over the top, my neck tube and my thin merino hat. Summer in the Pennines.

The views of the surrounding villages from Stoodley Pike were lovely, even on a cloudy day like today.

Views from Stoodley Pike
Stoodley Pike monument, commemorating the defeat of Napoleon

From there I took the official Pennine Way route, rather than the 2km diversion to Hebden Bridge. I chose not to go that way as it was too early. It is just too depressing walking past closed pubs – and apparently there were 10 of them. The official route did not seem well-walked, so I had the feeling most people divert here.

So what are the top 3 funkiest towns on the planet then?

I did pass an amazing camp spot by the river, near Jack Bridge. Far too early for me, but it made a great spot for an early lunch. It was only 10am, but its my holiday, so who cares?! I made an Expedition Foods’ ham and cheese macaroni meal. Lots of ham. Very nice.

After ‘lunch’ I headed over Heptonstall Moor and the cloud came in. It made this stretch a bit bleak, but from here the day got brighter again and there were even occasional glimpses of the sun.

Walshaw Dean reservoirs felt pretty remote, and then it was on to Withins Heights and Bronte country.

Just for the record…no, it is not Wuthering Heights!

The farm house was derelict but it gave a great impression of what it must have been like to live up here. The views are expansive, but it feels very remote and isolated. Then there was another steep descent into a valley, followed by a very steep climb out – it felt like that’s what I’d spent the whole day doing.

Wild camp at Withins Height

I camped on the descent at about 6.30pm; quite early, but I thought I may have trouble finding somewhere later and my body was telling me it had pretty much had enough. I made a meal and a coffee, and called an end to my day.

Day 4 of Pennine Way: Withins Height to Water Houses

The sky had cleared yesterday evening, so I’d slept with the flysheet open – only to discover it had rained again in the night. I’d slept so well I hadn’t heard it. It was so peaceful up here – funny to think that Leeds, Bradford and Manchester were not that far away.

A lovely peaceful morning

Luckily, thanks to the wind direction and the design of the tent, all my gear in the porch was still dry. After coffee and breakfast, I was away by 6.30am. It was overcast but no mizzle yet. It was another morning of descending into a valley and then climbing straight out again, but levelled out to rolling countryside the nearer I got to Gargrave.

On my way to Gargrave

Just before Gargrave, I followed the Leeds and Liverpool Canal for a little while. This was a nice reminder of earlier in my walk when I followed the Wey Navigations, Grand Union, and Oxford and Coventry Canals. I was very tempted to follow the Leeds and Liverpool Canal all the way into Gargrave, but decided that would be cheating. I stuck to the official Pennine Way through fields.

Leeds and Liverpool Canal

For once I timed my arrival in civilisation right, and got to Gargrave for lunch. I stopped at the Masons Arms and ordered a two-course lunch and a couple of pints. Poppadoms and chutney was possibly not the best starter, as I sat there crunching away, but I guessed I had no image left after I’d walked in unshaven and wearing just my vest (my shirt was hanging off my pack).

Gargrave
Not bad for day 4!

I left the pub at about 3pm, heading for Malham Cove. This was an area I was concerned about camping in. From Gargrave the Pennine Way mainly followed the River Aire.

River Aire

Just before reaching Malham there was a very steep climb at Hanlith (Windy Pike). This was a bit of a shock so late in the day, but actually put me at a good height for stunning views of Malham Cove. It was well worth the climb.

Great views over to Malham Cove from Hanlith

The last field I walked through had an alpha cow in it, who was busy showing the others who was boss. As I walked through the field it did walk up to me to see if I was a challenge. I didn’t look it in the eyes, which seemed to work as it let me pass and just followed me a little way.

Malham

Once in Malham itself, I stopped for a pint at the Buck Inn – I was trying to increase my calories in a day as I’d been losing weight. I would have eaten at the Buck but it was a bit too pricey and I had already had a meal. I did appreciate the break and a sit down, though, especially as I knew that night’s wild camp would probably be a stop when it gets dark and be gone as it gets light one.

It was a lovely climb up Malham Cove, and then around to Malham Tarn.

Malham Cove
Between Malham Cove and Malham Tarn

I filtered some water from the tarn and found a place to camp after passing Water Houses. The ground was a little sloped, but I’d had enough and it was almost 9pm. As luck would have it, 10 minutes after I’d stopped, the rain started again. I made a dehydrated meal. Chicken Tikka – a double curry day!

Camped near Malham Tarn

Day 5 of Pennine Way: Water Houses to Dodd Fell Hill

I’m used to picking slugs out of my coffee mug in the mornings, but I am not liking being woken up by them at 1am. That’s just not on. Perhaps it’s payback for the pleasure I get from flicking them off the inner as they crawl up, and the sound they make as they bounce off the flysheet.

Slugs. Noisy little buggers.

But last night one had managed to crawl up my stove, around my saucepan and on to my spoon which was balanced on the top (deliberately so the slugs didn’t crawl on it – well that didn’t work). I have decided that slugs aren’t stupid. This one waited until I was asleep, and then decided to crawl along my spoon far enough to unbalance it, and it fell into my titanium mug, making a hell of a racket.

It had been drizzling all night and I hadn’t slept well, worrying about what the slugs were going to try next. I started packing up at 7.30am (checking everything for sabotage slugs), aiming for Horton-in-Ribblesdale for lunchtime to meet my family. As I set off, it turned to full rain. I sent a prayer to the slug weather gods – you stop the rain and I will stop flicking slugs off the inner tent.

It was WET.

As I headed across Fountains Fell, the rain wasn’t just dripping off my head. It was like looking through a waterfall as I walked. My jacket needs to be more breathable for me to call it breathable – I was soaked inside with sweat. My breathable shoes are great for dry, hot weather, but it is probably best that I don’t write about them in this weather.

Heading for the summit of Pen-y-ghent

It remained a wet and very windy walk over the summit of Pen-y-ghent. I love the climb and bit of a scramble up to the summit, and it was quite busy even in this awful weather.

The scrambly bit at the top of Pen-y-ghent

The summit was so miserable today that I just carried on straight over the top and down the other side. I then met my family walking up from Horton-in-Ribblesdale to meet me. (The original plan had been to meet at the summit of Pen-y-ghent, but the weather was just too awful).

Some damp people at the summit of Pen-y-ghent
Still WET.

We walked back to Horton-in-Ribblesdale together and had a pub lunch in the Golden Lion. The Pen-y-ghent Cafe is a longstanding tradition of the Pennine Way, but it was closed (hopefully a Covid-19 reopening issue, rather than a permanent closure). I resupplied here, and my eldest daughter joined me for the next week. It will be nice to have her company and have time to find out how she’s getting on.

I left my wife and two youngest children at the campsite in Horton-in-Ribblesdale. My eldest daughter and I set off to continue the Pennine Way.

P.S.

Emma here – Mark’s wife. What a difference a day makes! I stayed in Horton-in-Ribblesdale for the night, and climbed Pen-y-ghent with the two youngest children in the glorious morning sunshine before heading home. Here are a few pictures of what it can look like, in the right conditions…

On the Pennine Way – ironically the same photo that Mark took, but 24 hours later
Queuing for the scrambly bit at 8am – we didn’t get up early enough
View from the summit of Pen-y-ghent

After meeting my family for lunch in Horton in Ribblesdale, I resupplied my food, snacks, wipes and meths, and also made some changes of gear. I’d got some new socks, thank God, as the others were smelling pretty bad by now. I was now wearing the Darn Tough hiker socks that I’d walked LEJOG in and a new pair of light hiker socks. My wife had washed my Rohan shirt for me so I swapped back to that. I didn’t really want to, as my Icebreaker merino shirt was still warm and comfortable even when it was wet. However, my wife insisted I change it (I can’t imagine why). I don’t want to admit this, but it was a good decision as the next few days were quite warm, and the Rohan shirt is better than the Icebreaker in those conditions.

Walking to Dodd Fell Hill

My daughter Zoe and I set off back on the Pennine Way. We were aiming for Dodd Fell Hill to camp. The sun had finally come out after the deluge this morning, and the wind had dropped. This lead to a lovely afternoon’s walk through gorgeous scenery, past rivers and little valleys.

Lovely quiet valley
A good spot for a break – you can’t carry that kind of weight very far!

When we reached Dodd Fell Hill, I found the best wild camp spot of the trip so far. We had stunning views from our tents and watched a beautiful sunset. I felt a bit sorry that my wife wasn’t there to see it with me, but she had stayed in the village to climb Pen-y-ghent with our youngest children in the morning.

Great wild camp spot with a beautiful view

Day 6 of Pennine Way: Dodd Fell Hill to Kisdon

I slept well last night and woke to amazing views over the valley. There was a clear blue sky and a cool breeze – perfect. After breakfast and coffee, we packed up and away about 7.45am.

I did notice that I had some slight condensation on my tent (the Notch Li), which had dried before I packed it away. Zoe’s tent (the Terra Nova Pulse) was soaked. I made a note to remember to get it out to dry it when we stopped later in the day – I had got out of the habit of doing that!

He’s back…I wonder what acrobatics are next in his mind?

We followed an old stony track to Hawes, with a fairly steady climb and descent into the village itself.

Track to Hawes

Here we found a lovely upstairs cafe, The Wensleydale Pantry, serving a full cooked breakfast. I highly recommend it – good value and service. Hawes was really busy, with numerous cafes, pubs, accommodation and shops for resupply. It’s a very pretty place.

Hawes

From Hawes, fortified by our breakfast, it was a really steady long climb up to Great Shunner Fell.

Heading up to Great Shunner Fell
The flagstones definitely make navigation easier

There were great views from the top. The stone walls cross here and there are benches so you can sit out of the wind no matter what direction it’s blowing. There were a few people up there, but we were lucky and got a corner bench out of the wind. We made lunch here (dehydrated meals).

A sheltered spot for lunch at the top of Great Shunner Fell
Views from the top of Great Shunner Fell

It was a faster walk down to Thwaite but not overly steep. It was a lovely walk, helped by a glass of my resupply wine that I carry with me in a plastic wine bag. The paths were good with only a few boggy bits to dodge (surprising given the rain yesterday). There were quite a few flagstones over the worst bits.

Path down to Thwaite

There was a cafe in Thwaite, but it was closed when we passed through at 6pm. So we carried on over the river, where I was able to filter some water for camp later.

Thwaite. It was shut.

We climbed steeply for a short time and then followed a nice path around Kisdon.

Climbing out of Thwaite. It was steep.
Lovely path around Kisdon

We camped here with great views over a small valley. Unfortunately we had to retreat to our tents at about 8.30pm because the wind had dropped, allowing the midges to come out to eat. It was the first time on the whole trip I’d had a problem with flies.

Wild camp near Kisdon

Another walker came past at about 8pm. I would have liked to have chatted to him for longer, and especially get his kit list. He looked pretty light – possibly another gear nerd like me. He had passed me a few days back when I’d been on the phone to my wife, so I couldn’t talk to him.

Day 7 of Pennine Way: Kisdon to Blackton Reservoir

It had been a comfortable, quiet night and I slept well again. I woke at 5.30am, made breakfast and coffee but let Zoe sleep. She was exhausted when we camped last night. I think we’d walked about 18 miles, but it was quite a climb over Great Shunner Fell and she is carrying nearly a week’s worth of food. Knowing her, she’s probably got about 5kgs of snacks too!

Morning sunshine

We were away walking by 7.45am. It was the first time outside of Scotland that I’ve had to wear my midge head net. We walked around the hill and dropped to cross the River Swale near Keld.

Heading to Keld
Filtering water ready for Zoe’s breakfast – MSR Guardian water purifier

The Pennine Way doesn’t go into Keld, and it’s quite a climb to the village. We stopped near the waterfall on a bench so Zoe could have her breakfast. Then we climbed and followed a track out on to the Pennines to Tan Hill.

Tan Hill Inn

We reached the famous Tan Hill Inn at 10.45am during a short shower, so we were glad to go indoors and sit down. It was close enough to lunchtime to stay, as they were serving food from 12 noon. Tan Hill Inn is a popular and busy pub, but the service wasn’t great. The food was fine though, and the fire was alight!

The path from Tan Hill to the A66 crossing was pretty boggy and sometimes hard to follow. Then on a not much better path it was a fair climb over Cotherstone Moor, with good views.

Sleightholme
Wait for me! Trying to keep up with a teenager
Cotherstone Moor

We stopped a little earlier than planned because we passed a perfect camping spot next to the river flowing into Blackton Reservoir.

Wild camp number 21 – a great spot near Blackton Reservoir

Day 8 of Pennine Way: Blackton Reservoir to High Cup Nick

You just can’t beat being woken by sunshine on a tent and the sound of a river flowing nearby. It had been a very peaceful night with no people at all, and no sounds other than the river and a light breeze in the trees. There weren’t even that many birds tweeting about. And amazingly, no slugs for a change.

We were lucky there was a breeze as this spot would have been midgy hell – we were camped in long grass under trees. It helped that it was full sun as well, which midges don’t like. Wusses.

We had coffee and breakfast, and were away about 8am. What is it with teenagers and laying in late?! The wind dropped at this point and the midges came out in force, so we finished packing in double-quick time.

Mickleton Moor

It was a nice walk over Mickleton Moor, and between Selset and Grassholme Reservoirs. We then headed up Harter Fell and into Middleton-in-Teesdale. The Pennine Way follows the River Tees for a little while and we stopped here for an early lunch at 11am.

The walk past Low Force and High Force waterfalls was lovely, and the only time we saw many people.

We stopped again for a second lunch at 3.30pm at Forest-in-Teesdale. After this it was a great climb up by Cauldron Snout and another lovely waterfall.

Then a long slog on a track past a very remote farm at Birkdale.

Birkdale

The track continued most of the way up Rasp Hill, which was hard going this late in the day. Then we followed a path down to Maize Beck to camp at 8pm.

I made coffee and a meal, and even had time for a full wash in the river and do some laundry. It was lovely to be camped here with my daughter, as we camped here before last time we walked the Pennine Way when she was 9 (she’s now 17). I’ve got great memories of her and her brother playing in the river here.

Day 9 of Pennine Way: High Cup Nick to Alston

We woke to drizzle this morning – I was not impressed, as we’d fallen asleep under a clear sky. The drizzle stopped about 8am and the cloud was pretty high level, so we felt hopeful for the rest of the day.

By 9am we had packed up our reasonably dry tents and were on the move again. This felt like a half day to me after my more usual 6am starts! As we didn’t need to drop into Dufton only to climb out again, we went cross-country from Maize Beck across Dufton Fell to re-join the Pennine Way at Knock Old Man.

Heading cross-country to Knock Old Man

This route was easier going than I expected. There was a sort of path along the river to Great Rundale Tarn, and then it was cross-country through long grass to join the path again at Knock Old Man.

The sort-of path along the river to Great Rundale Tarn

The route was fairly up and down over Great Dun Fell, Little Dun Fell and then finally on to the summit of Cross Fell (the highest point of the Pennine Way). The mizzle started again with a vengeance here, and the wind picked up to about 20mph+. This made crossing the summit quite difficult.

Cross Fell – it was WET.
Summit of Cross Fell

It was so windy, that when I stopped for a wee, it never hit the ground… we were very glad to make it into Greg’s Hut for lunch and a coffee.

It was still windy and mizzly when we left Greg’s Hut. I’d been chatting to a guy called Johnny who had set off from Alston that morning. He had been at the hut for a while, worried about whether to continue to Cross Fell summit and Dufton, or turn back to Garrigill. I tried to give him the confidence to go on, but it wasn’t going to be easy for him with such a head wind and mizzle blowing into his face. He was fit as his home was Edale, but it was still going to be hard work. I hope he got on OK.

Heading down from Cross Fell to Garrigill

It seemed a long walk to Garrigill and we were looking forward to a drink and maybe a meal in the pub. It was a fairly rough, stony track all the way down. The pub was shut when we reached the village, so we had a snack on a bench and carried on walking towards Alston. I felt sad to see the pub and nearby shop so run down, as 10 years previous they had been so busy.

Pub in Garrigill. It was shut….
…so we carried on towards Alston

We found a camp spot in an empty field along the way.

Wild camp

The weather cleared in the evening, enough to allow our things to dry off a bit. However, the wind dropped too, and this brought the midges out. I have a midge head net in my pack ready for Scotland (I’m carrying it already because it’s so light), but I’ve been surprised at how often I’ve needed it in the Pennines. It makes a big difference to my sanity while I’m putting my tent up, and then I can zip the inner up to keep the little buggers out. I don’t know how people in tarps survive. We retreated into our tents and the rain started at about 8pm.

Day 10 of Pennine Way: Alston to Greenhead

The rain woke me in the night, and it continued falling heavily. We had breakfast, packed up as much as possible inside the tents and then headed off.

Walking to Alston

We were roughly following the river in sheep fields all the way to Alston. When we arrived there we found only one small shop open (plus a Spar shop in a garage on the way in). It was a lovely little tea shop that sold all sorts, and best of all had two seats so we could eat in.

Tea shop in Alston. And it was open!!

We had breakfast rolls, coffees and hot chocolates as they were such good value.

Refuelling with hot chocolate and breakfast rolls

We left Alston in the rain again, so took the easiest route to Lambley along the Pennine Journey route and a disused railway line. It took us under the impressive viaduct at Lambley. From there, we walked a short way up the A689 to join the Pennine Way again.

Viaduct at Lambley
Lambley viaduct

We were straight into bog hopping. The path dropped into a lovely hidden valley with a river racing through it, fit to burst its banks with all the rain. It was impossible to keep dry feet over Blenkinsopp Common. At one point, we were wading nearly knee-deep in water which was impossible to bypass.

Blenkinsopp Common – impossible to avoid getting wet feet!
Blenkinsopp Common

The Pennine Way goes round the village of Greenhead, but we followed the Pennine Journey route again to take us into the village. I had arranged to meet my wife here at the pub, and Zoe would go back with her.

Spot my youngest children running up to meet us – and another shut pub!

However, the pub was shut (it looked closed down). After re-arranging to meet the next day, I carried on on my own to camp near Hadrian’s Wall.

Hadrian’s Wall

It was hard knowing my family were so close. They were staying in Hexham for a few days to resupply me before heading home. I was missing everyone, but I have got this far wild camping every night so I am sticking to the plan. Before I climbed Snowdon on my LEJOG, I had to stay in a B&B for two nights due to a storm. I had been so close to walking the length of the country, wild camping every night. I am determined to achieve it on this walk from Dover to Cape Wrath.

A difficult wild camp – back on my own again, and I knew my family were close by

Day 11 of Pennine Way: Greenhead to Bellingham

It was 6.50am, I was out of the tent and packing my rucksack when someone shouts out, ‘Morning!’ It was a chap in shorts and T-shirt with a dog, wandering past down a very steep hill. There was no path to speak of. I guess he was the farmer out for a morning walk, as that was the only building in his direction and he definitely wasn’t on a footpath. He was also definitely local as it was a cold, misty morning.

A misty, cold start on Hadrian’s Wall

I had breakfast, coffee, packed up and was away by 7.15am. I never start the day with coffee at home, but I love a treat while I’m camping.

Beautiful views of border country

It was an enjoyable walk along Hadrian’s Wall with hardly a breeze, sunny spells and very warm. The views were great. Although I was grateful for the sun, it made the many steep climbs along this section a little bit harder.

The day quickly warmed up!

There was a drinks van in a car park I passed, but he wasn’t opening for another 20 minutes or so. I carried on, and put what I saved on a latte cappucino thing towards paying off my mortgage.

I was too early for a coffee

A little later I passed another parking area with an outside tap for filling water bottles. Very useful – thank you, Northumberland National Park!

A beautiful walk along Hadrian’s Wall

I made it to the Pennine Way turn-off north at 12 noon, and stopped for lunch. It had been a busy stretch of the walk, with lots of day walkers and families walking a stretch of Hadrian’s Wall. Just as I’d rehydrated my meal, my wife and three of my children roll up – enjoying their own walk along Hadrian’s Wall after a visit to Housesteads Roman Fort! It was lovely chatting to them for a while, then it was time for me to head north.

The path through the woods and across Haughton Common was really boggy, all the way to Warks Burn.

Mud.

Just after crossing the river and climbing the hill, I came to a farm – Horneystead. They had a shed open with a toilet, hot and cold drinks and a hiker box. There were seats inside and out, and I was extremely grateful. I had a coffee and actually remembered to fill my water bottles too. I left them all my loose change, without even bothering to count it – I was just so grateful that they trusted people enough to use their barn.

Walkers’ heaven at Horneystead

The path on from Horneysteads was easier going, through fields, tracks and very quiet roads.

The Pennine Way, heading for Bellingham

I passed Shitlington Hall and climbed through Shitlington Crags to pass the transmitter and camp.

Shitlington Crags
Shitlington Crags

I had had enough by then, as it had been hard going along Hadrian’s Wall. Bog hopping had sapped all my energy.

Once I’d set up my tent, a number of cyclists raced past heading for Bellingham. They only spotted me beside the track once they were level with me, so my tent can’t stand out that much.

Wild camp number 25

I’d camped high but there was very little breeze, so the midges were out in force. I retreated to my inner tent and slept well.

Day 12 of the Pennine Way: Bellingham to Troughend Common

I woke to a dry morning – just – and walked off the hill into Bellingham.

Walking into Bellingham

The path was in the fields next to the road, and then I followed the road itself for the last mile or so into the village. I had arranged to meet my wife here at 8.30am, and she was there dead on time. She was staying in a static caravan in Hexham, and she took me back there so I could have a proper meal, a rest and a shower. (Editor’s note – it was not in that order. The shower definitely came first). I was also able to sort out my gear and maps for Scotland. She then dropped me back in Bellingham – at exactly the point she had picked me up – later in the afternoon.

Bellingham village

Emma dropped me back in Bellingham at about 6pm. I walked until 8.45pm and camped up on top of Troughend Common.

Troughend Common
Wild camp on Troughend Common

Day 13 of the Pennine Way: Troughend Common to Windy Gyle

I’d been only just warm enough last night, wearing my Inov-8 merino hoody and placing my down jacket over my sleeping bag. The morning was breezy with broken cloud.

I had breakfast and was away at 6.45am. The paths were boggy so I was grateful for the waterproof socks I’d picked up yesterday. If nothing else, at least I had warm feet!

I’d made a wrong turn somewhere and had to cross this to get back to the Pennine Way

Soon I realised I had made the wrong choice of path to follow, and I was actually on a sheep path. I had to cross some rough heather to get back on to the Pennine Way.

Back on track

After a steep climb and a better surfaced-path, I joined a good forest track. However, it seemed to go on forever. Just before Bryness there was a nice path to the camp site, and I saw my first red squirrel of the trip. I stopped for lunch at the second bridge just before the climb up on to the Cheviots.

Starting to climb into the Cheviots

At 12 noon I started the climb, knowing it would be 25 miles before I descended again into Kirk Yetholm. Initially the climb was steep, then steady over some tops. It was very windy, but luckily the Pennine Way had turned. The wind was on my back and it blew me to Lamb Hill mountain refuge hut for 3.45pm.

Best avoided, I think

I stopped here and made dinner with some wine my wife had resupplied me with – just to lighten my load, of course. I had needed to add 3kgs of water to my pack before I started the climb to the Cheviots as there’s no water up here.

Lamb Hill mountain refuge hut

It looked like rain as I went over Windy Gyle at about 6pm, and I didn’t want to start the next day wet. I set up camp at the next available spot, although I did have to be a bit inventive. I placed myself between lumps of grass.

Wild camp at Windy Gyle

Luckily the rain didn’t come to much, even though I could see it throwing it down in the next valley. It was a lovely evening and the sky cleared for amazing views from my sleeping bag. I felt very lucky to be there, and I was really looking forward to starting the Scottish National Trail tomorrow. It felt like a massive milestone had been achieved getting here. I was also pretty chuffed that I’d beaten my previous record of walking the Pennine Way in 17 days. This time, I’d walked it in 14.

The view from my sleeping bag

Day 14 of the Pennine Way: Windy Gyle to Kirk Yetholm

Wind and rain woke me at 6am. This was not good, as I still had some high tops to do today.

Wet and windy this morning

It was a very wet and windy walk over to Auchope mountain refuge hut. When I got there I was soaked to the skin and it was only 9.30am. I stopped for coffee, breakfast and a warm up. It had taken me longer than I expected to walk over Score Head and round the 743m cairns.

Auchope mountain refuge hut

I left the hut at 10.15am, thinking I only had to climb The Schil (601m) then it was only a few miles, and a steady descent, into Kirk Yetholm and the start of the Scottish National Trail. This walk was starting to get real.

The Schil, in the clouds

It was a really boggy path to The Schil and then a nice walk on a grassy path down. I chose the low level route off the Cheviots as I’ve done the main high level Pennine Way route before.

Starting to descend off the Cheviots

It was a nice walk around the side of the valley to join the road into Kirk Yetholm. One last surprise in store was a steep descent to the pub, and then I had made it.

Road into Kirk Yetholm

I stopped at the Border Hotel and was glad I did. Great service, good food and very good beer. It had been mizzly all morning, but as soon as I entered the pub it started chucking it down, and continued all the time I was in the pub.

The end of the Pennine Way…and the start of the Scottish National Trail

It made me really feel for a young lady I’d met earlier in the day, heading off up into the Cheviots. I loved her attitude to hiking and her nerve to do it on her own, and camping too. Good luck to her and I hope she lets me know how she got on. She had a day ahead of her in this weather!

Kirk Yetholm

But now my attention must turn to the last, and greatest, challenge of my walk from Dover to Cape Wrath: the Scottish National Trail.

Further reading:

The Pennine Way – Cicerone guidebook

Harvey Trail Maps – The Pennine Way (South)

Harvey Trail Maps – The Pennine Way (North)

One Man and His Bog by Barry Pilton (a book about walking the Pennine Way I’ve blogged about before here)

Mark Webb – about me

My 11 wild camping rules

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