Pennine Way (North to South) 2024 – Planning

Apologies - this is a long post - and unless you’re planning on walking the Pennine Way in 2024 it’s probably not much use to you. Having said that, although I'll be walking from North to South - the opposite direction to most walkers, the planning process will still be relevant to those following the more traditional route from England to Scotland.

Following a comment on my previous post, I thought it may be useful to describe the (somewhat painful) process of planning and booking the accommodation for this year’s Pennine Way walk. I say somewhat painful because although it wasn’t straightforward by any means, it probably wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. A couple of months ago I’d started the process of booking a traditional south to north route along the same path and given up in frustration at the lack of accommodation in the first two stops. I’d extrapolated that pain, out to another 15 stops and figured I couldn’t face the trauma!

However, once I’d decided I really wanted to walk the route – and decided that I’d actually like to walk it north to south this time, I had another go. I started on 18th December and had it all done and dusted, with the final accommodation confirming, on 2nd January. The majority of that time was spent waiting for people to come back to me. It turns out that I’d picked completely the wrong time of the year to try and book this, as many accommodation providers were taking Christmas breaks. However, if I’d left it any later, I doubt I’d have been able to walk in May.

The border ridge, from my 2014 walk

Itinerary

The first job was to decide how many days I wanted to take walking the route. I already knew I wasn’t going to be a thru-hike, and I was going to do it over two legs. In the end, I settled on an 18-day schedule, broken into two 9-day sections. As it turns out, they are almost identical in length and height gain, which is nice.

My itinerary for the first leg, is as follows:

  • Kirk Yetholm to Byrness – broken into two days, using a shuttle service
  • Byrness to Bellingham
  • Bellingham to Twice Brewed
  • Twice Brewed to ‘somewhere between Greenhead and Garrigill’
  • ‘Somewhere between Greenhead and Garrigill’ to Garrigill
  • Garrigill to Dufton
  • Dufton to Middleton
  • Middleton to Bowes
Total mileage for this leg is 138.6 (223km) with an approximate height gain of 21,400 ft (6,523m)

My itinerary for the second leg, is as follows:

  • Bowes to Keld
  • Keld to Hawes
  • Hawes to Horton
  • Horton to Malham
  • Malham to Cowling
  • Cowling to Hebden Bridge
  • Hebden Bridge to Standedge
  • Standedge to Crowden
  • Crowden to Edale
Total mileage for this leg is 136.9 (220km) with an approximate height gain of 21,900 ft (6,675m)

This schedule is one of the most popular I imagine, it has a couple of long days, but nothing too horrendous and it’s a good compromise in terms of days walking and individual day length and difficulty. It’s the same schedule I used in 2010 (only in reverse of course), and except for the Kirk Yetholm to Byrness leg, which I did in one go last time. It’s one thing doing 25 miles and 5,500 feet of ascent after you’ve been walking for 16 days but trying to do that on day one was only going to end badly for me, so I planned on using the shuttle service being offered by Forest View in Byrness.

For obvious reasons, I started planning the first leg first. May is only five months away, and it’s one of the most popular months in the walking calendar, so I was expecting to find a lot of places already full – the sooner I got booking the better. I would then look to book the second leg (due to be walked in August) – after ensuring all the May accommodation had been confirmed – no point walking the second leg if I hadn’t been able to secure accommodation along the first leg.

I knew I was going to have to be flexible on my start date – I wanted to walk in the middle of May and, if possible, to start on a Saturday. Nine days walking would only need five days annual leave if I could start on a Saturday.

Finding Accommodation

I use a couple of different booking methods for my long walks. My first port of call is Booking.com – it has a useful map feature that allows you to find available accommodation in an area, rather than just searching in a town or village. Many places also have no deposit and good cancellation terms (often just a couple of days before arrival), which is important for me, booking something so far in advance.

Map view on Booking.com

If I can’t find a place in Booking.com, I go to Google Maps and zoom into the area I need to stay, looking for the little pink bed symbols. This can be a frustrating experience, as many of these are self-catering holiday lets rather than B&Bs, so what may initially look like fertile ground, quickly boils down to one or two places if you’re lucky.

Finally, I have to account for B&Bs who have not registered themselves with Google and so will not appear on Google Maps. I will use Google search to find ‘Alston B&B’ or ‘Alston hotel’ or something similar. This may throw up a couple more providers who have a website.

Beyond this I figure people just don’t want to be found. If you’ve not registered with Booking, or Google and you don’t have a website, then you just don’t want guests!

First Leg – Kirk Yetholm to Bowes

There are certain stops along the route that I knew would only have limited beds, so I needed to start with them, and leave the bigger towns and villages until later.

I started with Byrness – not least because it’s the first stop, but also because there is only one option for accommodation there, and this would determine the dates I needed to find in the other stops along the route.

They aren’t in Booking.com, but I already knew about them, so I found their email address and emailed them. I asked for the dates they had free (for two nights and the shuttle) in May. I got an ‘out of office’ response, they were away on holiday for the whole of December! Not a great start.

Fortunately, within a couple of days I got an email back from them, with the dates they had free. One of these was Saturday 11th – so I tentatively pencilled this in as my start date.

Bellingham had a couple of options with availability (and a couple without), but email responses from one of them ruled them out on price. I’m not prepared to pay £110 for one night. The other option had the 13th free – happy days – I emailed back and asked them to pencil me in.

The next stop is Twice Brewed (TB) and there’s only a couple of options here. One was booked for nearly all of May and one so expensive I nearly choked on my tea. I noted the name of the expensive one, only because they had the 14th free, and I moved on.

Beyond Twice Brewed there are a couple of options. I’d already decided my next stop but one would be Garrigill (rather than Alston), simply to reduce the mileage I would need to cover over Cross Fell. There’s about 28 miles between TB and Garrigill.

In 2010 I’d stopped in Greenhead, but that’s only 7 miles or so from TB, so I looked for somewhere that would balance out the 28 miles a bit better. Booking.com wasn’t much help, but Google Maps identified a couple of options at around the 12-mile mark, near Hartleyburn. One of them didn’t have a website or an email address, but Kellah Farm have a website with an online booking page. I checked the dates and prices, they had the 15th free, and the price was pretty good.

The rest of the section fell like dominoes.

Garrigill only has one stop, East View, but they’re on Booking.com. 16th May sorted.

Dufton only has one real option, unless you want to use the hostel. The Pennine Potting Shed has a website and an online booking page. It had loads of dates, including the 17th May.

Middleton on the 18th May was sorted easily via Booking.com

Bowes only has one option, the Ancient Unicorn, but it’s on Booking.com. 19th May booked, even though I may end up not using it.

Whitley Pike, between Byrness and Bellingham

Filling in the Gaps

I still had a gap – Twice Brewed. I didn’t want to pay £120 for one night and I know there’s a regular and frequent bus service along the Wall, the AD122, which would serve me as well as it serves the Hadrian’s Wall walkers. I checked the most recent timetable and although there’s a chance that will change between now and May, I doubt it will be radically different. The AD122 stops outside the hostel and runs into, amongst other places, Haltwhistle. There aren’t many places, but I did find somewhere on Booking.com and the price was right, so I booked it.

I don’t really like to rely on public transport, but it seems it’s become a necessity. Most of my previous 5 or 6 walks have needed buses or even a taxi. It’s just part of the process now for me.

Crag Lough, on Hadrian’s Wall section

Second Leg – Bowes to Edale

The second leg of the journey was somewhat easier, and yet somewhat more challenging. I chose another Saturday in August – the 17th – mostly as it’s the middle one and started in Keld, which is always a bottleneck for walkers. The Pennine Way, Wainwright’s Coast to Coast and my own Herriot Way all use Keld, so I knew it would be the place to start, to put a stake in the ground to work out from.

I got lucky I think. My first choice, Butt House wasn’t available, but I got a single room in Keld Lodge! Off to a good start.

Hawes has loads of accommodation and I booked the Fountain on Booking.com.

Horton was a bit more tricky, but I have a room in the Crown, booked via email.

Malham is too expensive, there wasn’t a room in the village for less than £120 I don’t think. I widened my search a little bit and found the Victoria in Kirkby Malham. I’ve drunk in here a couple of times and it’s a lovely pub, and it’s only about 3 miles beyond Malham, so not a great stretch. It’s still the most expensive room of the whole walk, at £94, but that’s cheap by the looks of the local competition.

Cowling had nothing. Not even somewhere that’s expensive, or already booked – there’s no beds in Cowling for walkers. I found Rye Flatt B&B at Laneshaw Bridge, a couple of miles down the road. I may be able to get a bus, but if not, it’s not too far to add to the day. I may be able to get a lift back to the walk the next morning too.

Hebden Bridge had a few places, but none really matched both dates and price for me. I ended up finding the Cross Inn in Heptonstall on Booking.com. Heptonstall is an easy diversion from the Pennine Way route, just outside Hebden Bridge.

Standedge also has nothing – just like Cowling – and just like Cowling I’ve found somewhere close enough to suit. Diggle is about 3 or 4 miles from the path and there may be bus options I can use, and possibly a taxi the following morning. The Diggle Hotel was sorted by email following a Google Maps search.

Crowden has the hostel, but I won’t use a hostel. Other than that there’s nothing. In the end I found the Norfolk Arms in Glossop on Booking.com. I will probably have to rely on bus and or taxi to stay here, but it was the final piece of the jigsaw so I grabbed it like a drowning man snatching at a life belt.

I don’t need accommodation in Edale.

9 thoughts on “Pennine Way (North to South) 2024 – Planning”

  1. Great to hear you’re walking north to south. About 10 years ago, I stayed at Dufton YH. It was the best YH i’ve stayed at – why? Quiet. Whenever I stay at YH I always wear earplugs. Malham was the worst for noise.
    The PW is hardly done these days. The C2C is where most people go. The PW will give you solitude the others can’t match!

  2. Hi Stuart. Looks like your plans are filling in nicely. As you note, Booking.com offers flexibility in terms of cancellations and dates changes. This has proved increasingly useful as I’ve personal circumstances seem to be alerting more often these days.

    Pleased to hear you had no issues with accommodation in Dufton. Last time there, the only BB in the village closed the day I checked out of it.

    FYI I’ll be walking north of you in May. As you head south out of Kirk Yethom I will be heading east from Oban on the TGOC.

    Looking forward to hearing how the “reverse” PW goes.

    1. Great to hear you’re on the TGO – let’s both hope for a decent weather window! Dufton is one of those places that really needs a B&B – without one you’re pretty stuffed and you’d need a taxi to/from Appleby. Apparently the hostel is quite difficult to book as well now, as they tend to prefer block bookings rather than individual beds. Fortunately, someone has taken on the baton and although it’s only three beds, it is something at least.

    1. Hi Jools, Airbnb is an absolute last resort for me – too inflexible in my experience and too many additional charges. Hostels on the other hand don’t even register as a last resort. I’ve had too many bad nights in hostels – the worst being the Once Brewed hostel stay in 2010 on the Pennine Way, where I said
      "Never again! I promise never again! I will never stay in a Youth Hostel ever again. It was a freakin’ nightmare last night. Of the 69 people in the hostel [..] at least 50 were kids between the age of 7 and 13"

      1. I so know what you mean. I have recently finished sorting nine nights accom for an upcoming walk and used the same as you- a mix of Booking.com and Google. However I also found a dearth of halts in a handful of locations and Airbnb dug me out of an almost unassailable hole. Unlike you, I am a fan of YHA as I find them used to mud-bedaubed wanderers walking over their threshold, without a raised eyebrow. Also reasonably priced (getting less so more recently). Though they do have their faults, not least the inability to book in until five and their increased preference for ‘entire hostel bookings’.

        1. To which I would add – you also don’t know if your stuff’s safe. A private room in a B&B is obviously no problem, but in a shared room of bunkbeds… I’d be very wary of leaving a bag full of kit when popping out for a pub evening meal!

          1. I think they all have dedicated lockable cupboards beside the beds now. Just need to take a little padlock. Though I tend to book a private room when I can

      2. My advice for walking long distance paths, if you are new to it.
        You don’t need a mobile phone. Take one for emergencies, and a spare battery, but leave it switched off. Also note in some areas, it may not work, even for an emergency call.
        My 1st pennine way walk was 1975. I navigated by compass, with guidebook containing maps. I had a whistle and a torch in case of emergency.

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