Last January, as we started to plan our West Highland Way trip and first ultra-marathon, we discovered the Spine Race. The Spine Race is along the entire length of the 216 mile Pennine Way from Edale to Kirk Yetholm, in Winter. We followed the competitors online each day and was left awed and inspired.
After completing the WHW we decided we were ready to attempt the Pennine Way. The following September we planned a week of walking and camping from Edale in the Peak District to Malham Cove in the Yorkshire Dales.
We travelled on the train from Ely to Sheffield. The flat lands became hillier with every 15 mins of travel, and the sky changed from bright sunshine to pouring rain. Our first night was staying in a camping barn in a field shared with a flock of sheep. The barn is a stone brick building with a high roof. Inside there was a wooden bench and on a raised platform we set up our camp mats and sleeping bags. We headed to the Nag’s Head for dinner and then bedded down grateful not to be getting our tent soaked on the first night. Nearby a wedding could be heard in full swing and eventually the rain clouds cleared and the stars came out. We watched the Sheffield to Manchester trains shuttle back and forth over the noise of the sheep calling to each other. It is in times like this that Max and I question whether our lives are too comfortable and too complicated.
Unfortunately, I was unwell at the beginning of the walk, had a high temp and lost my voice. The rain was coming down again and we began the hike of what we did not realise then, would be our hardest day of walking of the entire trip. The way from Edale had the greatest amount of ascent, the worst visibility and hardest navigation. This Way was nothing like the West Highland Way, which I now view as an easy well marked stroll in comparison to the Pennine Way of trudging through ‘paths’ of river beds and creeping along edges and across high moor lands flooded in fog. 16 miles with packs took us 9 hours and left us exhausted, with DOMs and feet full of blisters. The day was incredible. The views stunning and the landscape left us feeling like what we were, soft southerners.
The following two nights we camped. Day two was a beautiful walk especially along Lagan crags, but ended with more blisters and full tummies having feasted on an incredible turkish meal at The Carriage House. We had turned off the Pennine Way so that we could pass through Marsden to get supplies. Stopping at a butchers for directions I purchased a pork pie that blew my mind! Since that pie I have been inspired to make pastry and hope to make my own mini meat pies for future trips.
Day 3, unknown to us, would be our last day of through hiking. The Way had beaten us. I was still unwell and had a temperature that was not letting up after struggling to sleep while camping (flood lit campsites – I struggle to sleep in light). With feet in agony, blistered like we had never had before, we walked to Makinholes and left the Way. The youth hostel did not open to 5pm so we had three hours to kill. We found the kitchen was open so let ourselves in. It was at this point we decided a rest day was required so I could get over my illness. The next day we walked to Todmorden and caught a train to Hebden Bridge. We loved the friendliness of the town and all their coffee shops, locally grown food and sense of community. We were falling in love with the North.
The next day we took a train to Leeds and then up to Gargrave where we had an aibnb in a beautiful home run by a truly lovely lady. Free of our packs we walked south on the Pennine Way until the light was threatening to fade before retracing our steps home to fish and chips. The final day we caught the bus to Malham and walked to Malham Cove and onto Malham Tarn before walking all the way back as the rain came on in to Gargrave.
The walking in the Yorkshire Dales was beautiful and much kinder to the feet compared to the peaks as well as being better way marked. Absolutely in love West Yorkshire we cannot wait to return for week 2 of this Way. The peaks, however, have rooted themselves in our souls and are calling for a much sooner return…