Fifty years of some of the best views in England - happy birthday Pennine Way

Pennine Way markerpost.
Pennine Way markerpost.

It’s bleak, boggy and didn’t impress rain-soaked Alfred Wainwright in 1966-67 but for many walkers it is the country’s most impressive long-distance trek by miles.

The 268-mile Pennine Way, probably Britain’s toughest long distance path, is being celebrated next month, 50 years after it became the country’s first official national trail.

For writer Damian Hall, there is much about the trail to celebrate.

Mr Hall, author of guidebook Pennine Way, knows it intimately, having taken part in The Spine, an event for ultra athletes who are challenged to complete the distance in just seven days - in January.

Yes, it can be boggy in places, he admits - but then so is a lot of heather moorland.

His own favourite parts of the Pennine Way include Malhamdale and Pen-y-ghent in the Yorkshire Dales.

“There are many wonderful stretches of wild, remote and spectacular scenery on the Pennine Way.

“The gritty Peak District and totemic Kinder Scout right at the beginning. Malhamdale and its limestone splendour is pretty special, with idiosyncratic Pen­y­ghent nearby.

“The humpbacked Great Shunner Fell, dashing Swaledale and the very welcome sight of the Tan Hill Inn all in close proximity – not forgetting welcoming Hawes and the country’s highest single ­drop above ground waterfall, Hardraw Force just beforehand.”

But his favoured part is the Cheviots because is it remote and he is always happiest when he cannot see any “man-made shapes” for miles on end.

At High Cup - a vast ‘hole’ in the Cumbrian Pennines - there is “the greatest view in England”, he says.

“I can’t believe this cataclysmic chasm isn’t more famous. It it was anywhere else, other than directly opposite the Lake District, it would be a massive tourist attraction.

“But thankfully for Pennine Wayfarers and residents of loveable little Dufton it’s still a relative secret. But everyone needs to see it once.”

Mr Hall says the Pennine Way offers the perfect escape for those wanting to escape the crowds.

“It’s right in the middle of northern England and yet can feel miles from anywhere. And it’s a place for real adventure. It’s simply some of the wildest, remotest and best upland walking in England.

“It’s also our original National Trail, closely linked to the wonderful civil disobedience on Kinder Scout in 1932. It’s the classic, the big one and anyone with any half­ serious outdoor credentials has to have it on their CV.”

Fellow walker Chris Sainty, who is chairman of the Pennine Way Association, has completed the 268 miles on 13 occasions since 1978 - and is eager for more.

His own top spot is Fountains Fell, a mountain in the Dales crossed by the Pennine Way which boasts a beautiful view of Pen-y-ghent.

“The Pennine Way is such a beautiful walk,” says Mr Sainty, author of The Pennine Way - A Walker’s Guide.

“In the 1960s it was the only footpath like it, with tens of thousands of people walking it.”

Like many spectacular sights on our own doorstep, it is particularly treasured by walkers from abroad.

“I have met Dutch and Australians who love it as much as I do. My wife comes first, with the Pennine Way second. We are so blessed for such a small island.”