The idea of a footpath from Derbyshire to the Scottish Border area was first mooted by the late Tom Stephenson, Secretary of the Ramblers Association, in 1935. It took 30 years for this idea to come to fruition, and the route was officially opened in April 1965 after years of negotiation with the landowners along the route.
Since then many thousands of people have walked the route, which goes from Edale to Kirk Yetholm. On the way it passes or crosses many of the landmarks of central northern England - Kinder, Bleaklow, Malham Cove, High Force, Cross Fell, Hadrian's Wall, and others. At about 270 miles (430 km) it's a long walk, which takes most people who attempt it between two and three weeks, though it has been run in just a few days! The Peak District section of the walk takes in all the major gritstone peaks of the area.
The Pennine Way starts at The Nags Head in Edale. The current route reaches Kinder Downfall by skirting the southern edge of Kinder to ascend Jacob's Ladder at the head of the Edale Valley, then up to Kinder Low and along the western edge of the Kinder plateau to reach the Downfall.
This is maybe less interesting than the original route which headed up Grindsbrook and over the top of Kinder Scout, crossing to Crowden Brook and upstream to Crowden Head, the highest point of the Kinder plateau, before dropping down into Kinder River, which was followed to the Downfall, but the passage of lots of walkers across the top of the plateau caused a lot of erosion.
After Kinder Downfall the route heads north-west along the edge of the plateau before descending to Ashop Head and climbing up to Mill Hill to follow the long ridge which connects Kinder to Bleaklow.
Approaching Laddow Rocks
The path crosses the Snake road and the old track known as Doctor's Gate and then follows a feature known as Devil's Dike to reach Hern Clough, the upper section of the Alport river. This is followed upstream to the Wain Stones and Bleaklow Head, the high point of this hill. From here the path swings west for short distance to drop into the stream system of Torside Clough, which is descended to Crowden in the Longendale valley.
From Crowden the path follows the west bank of Great Crowden Brook upstream to Black Hill, detouring at Oaken Clough to climb over the top of Laddow Rocks. At the head of the clough, it heads straight up Dun Hill to reach the summit of Black Hill, an extremely boggy area known as Soldier's Lump.
Here the path divides, with the modern advised route heading almost north to drop down to Wessenden Head and follow the chain of Wessenden Reservoirs down to Marsden. However, the original route continued north-west along the watershed to cross White Moss, Black Moss and take an almost direct line to Standedge, where the path leaves the Peak. Again, this route has been abandoned because of the erosion it caused on the soft peat of these hills.
The passage of thousands of walkers along this route have taken their toll, and so much erosion has been caused that the route has been diverted and long sections have had to be paved. This includes some of the most desolate moorland sections, such as the Dun Hill area of Black Hill, and Hern Clough on Bleaklow, which is unfortunate because it detracts from the remoteness of these areas and arguably makes routefinding too easy! However, the alternative is even greater erosion, which has already reached alarming levels in places like Soldier's Lump, Bleaklow Head and some areas of Kinder Scout.
Maps required are the Ordnance Survey 1:50000 sheets 110 and 119. The Dark Peak 1:25000 Outdoor Leisure series map covers most of the Peak District part of the route.