Tales from the Big Trails, in print on 2nd September 2021, available now for pre-order from Vertebrate Publishing. Featuring all 15 National Trails in England and Wales, and the 4 designated long-distance Scotland’s Great Trails. This is the story of the people I meet, the landscapes and coastal scenery and the sheer joy of walking these iconic long-distance routes in the UK. Click on a link below for a copy.
The clue I suppose is in the name. Is this a trail for our 4 legged friends and cyclists, or does it make a good walk too? If you want a different perspective of the Pennines, then this trail will not disappoint. Ideal if the weather conditions are too challenging on the Pennine Way. Having said that, a very pleasant walk full of surprises. This page covers the north and south sections, the Mary Townley and Settle loops.
Time of year
Given that much of the path is good underfoot, this could be tackled at any time of year, except perhaps the depths of winter. Heavy rainfall may lead to difficult stream and river crossings.
Length of walk
In total, and to qualify for the Long Distance Walking Association completion, you must walk the north section (79 miles), south section (71 miles), Mary Townley loop (45 miles) and Settle loop (10 miles). A total of 205 miles. A quick bus connection is possible from Worsthorne and Summit to save repeating a section of the MT loop before heading north or south.
Accommodation is limited on certain sections in the more remote areas in the north. There are a few YHA, hostels and campsites available, but much of the route is near major conurbations, where B&B’s tend to be less for tourists an, therefore, busier in the week. Buses/taxis can be used to rejoin the trail to give access to a wider range of options. Quite a few are pubs are called the Moorcock Inn, reflecting the moorland landscape. Pubs and villages are good and frequent, save the exposed sections.
My expectations of the Bridleway were low, more of a challenge that needed to be completed to finish all the National Trails. However, in hindsight this was a thoroughly enjoyable walk, giving a low-level perspective of the beauty of the Pennines.
The 1st class advanced ticket from Euston to Oxenholme was cheaper than the taxi to the start in a remote nondescript location south of Kirkby Stephen. It was raining heavily, but I was rewarded by the sight of my first red squirrel, running around the farmhouse trees. The going underfoot was very wet indeed with several streams bursting their banks. A long ascent into the moors was rewarded with a fine sculpture followed by a descent into Garsdale and the nights’ rest.
The following morning was spent in the clouds where I met several teams of army cadets and Duke of Edinburgh school kids, both looking lost. After lunch, the sun came out as the Pennine Bridleway intersected the Pennine Way and led behind Horton-In-Ribblesdale to the fantastic view of the limestone pavement at Crummock Dale. A stony descent into a beautiful village at Clapham and a nice hostel/bar home of the local cave/mountain rescue team. Their year in review magazine made for sober reading for the unprepared walkers who had suffered major falls.
Before entering Settle the following day, the loop had to be completed leading almost to Malham Cove. For most of the way, I am accompanied by a Yorkshireman and his dog who talk for England but provides me with an insight into the area. The B&B in Settle is excellent and good sleep is aided by a pint of Theakstons Old Peculiar.
I depart early, which in hindsight is a good thing as I can see snow changing the hills white from the south as I progress in that direction. Sure enough, the going gets tough until the sun emerges. I then turn onto the Mary Townley loop to follow it anticlockwise until I enter Lumb to find a lovely pub, serving steak and chips next to a roaring coal fire. I can barely walk the few yards to the B&B down the road. That rest and calorie uptake are welcome for the 28m walk the following day continuing on the MT loop to Hebden Bridge. The initial section up to Cowpe Moss is glorious, in bright sunlight and barely a whisper of wind to turn the wind turbines over. Soon Stoodley Pike is seen as I progress past another block booked YHA at Mankinholes into Hebden Bridge, which appears to be under reconstruction following the devastating floods that winter. The independent hostel is wacky but great, with the attendant cat called Kipper.
The next day a strong westerly is making progress along the final section of the MT loop difficult, but eventually, I make it to Worsthorne were after a short walk I can catch a bus to Summit to complete the loop and exit onto the south section of the path. The warm bus is welcome as is another Moorcock Inn, with chatty man landlord and another good meal.
In contrast to the previous day, the sun is shining and the wind speed is zero. As soon as the noise of the M62 fades it is blissfully quiet and peaceful. Progress is good past several reservoirs until I enter Padfield, where I recognise the local pub from my first nights stopover on the Pennine Way. The visitors’ book at the B&B shows the landlady has been in business for over 40 years. She must have seen some sights! The following morning ascends again into the moors, where I am buzzed by a Peregrine Falcon taking out a Skylark. It seemed to use me to blindside the poor victim, and the swoosh as it past made me jump out of my skin. The path now becomes a road, for what will become a hard 30 odd miles to the finish on road/cycle tracks. The Horse and Jockey pub in Tideswell is excellent, a 4 poster bed at a decent price, with another superb meal washed down with fine ale.
I speed march along road and cycle track into Middleton Top for an uneventful day to catch the bus to Matlock Bath and a train home. My fitness level now ready for the challenge of Scotland in a months time.
- Day 1 – 10m – Garsdale – Moorcock Inn
- Day 2 – 23m – Clapham – Hostel
- Day 3 – 20m – Settle (via Settle Loop) – B&B
- Day 4 – 23m – Earby – YHA
- Day 5 – 22m – Lumb – B&B
- Day 6 – 28m – Hebden Bridge – Hostel
- Day 7 – 12m – Bus from nr. Worsthorne to Summit – Moorcock Inn
- Day 8 – 25m – Padfield – B&B
- Day 9 – 21m – Tideswell – Pub
- Day 10 – 21m – Middleton Top – Train home