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In good weather Cross Fell must also be striking, but I’m not gifted with that and it’s up here that I get an old-fashioned soaking. And slightly lost.

But I soon meet another wayfarer, who I team up with to find the path.On most walks, the World Heritage-listed Hadrian’s Wall would be the highlight and I march along it for eight memorable miles.

But the last two days, in the Cheviot Hills, are the best of the lot.

Giant, cartoon hills of grass-covered volcanic rock, with hardly a soul about. Bliss.  

I reflect that despite the Pennine Way’s notoriety I only had a soaking twice in 16 days, and I only got lost for a few minutes. I had blisters. And the squelching noise of the bogs is still in my ears.

But it’s a small price to pay. To walk the Way is to understand that despite Britain’s pandemic of cars and tarmac, you can still find wild, remote and plain beautiful places on this island that offer a giddy sense of liberation.

And that’s a very fine thing.

 

Eat, drink, sleep

The Old Nags Head is the semi-official starting point of the Way. Stuff yer face – you’ll need extra padding on the windy moors. Two courses of pub grub for £10.  

The best fish and chips along the trail can be found at The Chippie in Hawes. Try the special: fish, chips, mushy peas, bread and butter, and a pot of tea, for £8.50. (Main Street, Hawes, DL8 3QL, tel. 01969 667663)

England’s highest pub, Tan Hill Inn is in the middle of bleedin’ nowhere. Pints from £3.  

The Border Hotel, Kirk Yetholm, is the traditional end point where you can get a certificate.

Better still, you’re entitled to a free half-pint if you walked it in one go. How do they know claimants are genuine? “Oh, you can tell,” said the barman. Pints from around £3. 

Dufton YHA is the finest hostel on the Way, if not the most inviting and homely in the country. Beds from £19.40pn. 

The bothy Greg’s Hut is a Pennine Way institution and a very welcoming sight if you’ve had a wet day on Cross Fell. Free.  

 

Damian Hall is the author of the National Trail Pennine Way guide. nationaltrail.co.uk/pennineway

 

Photos: Damian Hall; Thinkstock; VisitBritain Images


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Britain’s most gruelling hiking trail: the wild, lonely and beautiful Pennine Way
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