The Pennines a range low hills of height 1,500 to about 2,500 feet in height. Often said to be the "backbone of England", they form an unbroken range stretching from the Peak District in the Midlands, through the Yorkshire Dales and West Pennine Moors of Lancashire and Cumbrian Fells and the Durham Dales to the Cheviot Hills on the Scottish border. Their total length is about 250 miles (400 km).
The hills themselves are not very sizeable the highest point being Cross Fell in eastern Cumbria (2930 feet). Other principal peaks include Mickle Fell (2,585 ft) Great Whernside (2,415 ft), Ingleborough (2,372 ft), Pen-y-ghent (2,274 ft), and Kinder Scout (2,087 ft).
Much of the Pennines are characterised by whale back hills, often with extensive featureless plateaux at around 2,000 ft. A good example is Kinder Scout which has an extensive summit plateau with a deep layer of peat moss. Strangely eroded gritstone tors protrude from the surface and the peat is riven with "groughs" - erosion channels. Navigation is difficult even in good visibility as there are few clear features to orientate against. There are few clear ridges or other terrain features.
Some parts, particularly in limestone regions, are high farmland with extensive field systems, some dating back hundreds of years.
Getting ThereEase of access is variable, the southern and western hills are easily accessed from the UK motorway network. Since this page is intended to be a general introduction to what is a large and diverse area I have simply supplid a link to the Google map showing the general layout of the Pennines. (Hopefully more specific area information can be added over time).
Some parts of the northern pennines are infrequently visited and less easy to access. Generally access is not a problem, though care should be taken in winter particularly in more remote regions as these hills are prone to sudden changes in weather, poor visibility and heavy snowfall at times due to the maritime climate in the UK.
Red TapeNone. Respect private land and farmland.
Walking and climbing are allowed on most open areas, though please check guidebooks and local notice boards and websites for any local access restrictions - particularly during the nesting season, lambing, and during the grouse and pheasant shooting season.
External LinksBouldering on yorkshire gritstone, an excellent site
Peak District National Park website
Yorkshire Dales National Park website
Skiing in the Pennines!- Bizzare , yet true.
Walking the Pennine Way
A link to the Google map of the region - the Pennnines are the hills that run up the centre of England from south of Sheffield (roughly parallel with Crewe) bounded by the M6 and the A1, to past the very top of the image
CampingCampsites are available throughout the Pennines, though more popular areas such as the Peak District will have better and more extensive facilities. Again due to the area covered by this page for local details hopefully information will be supplied on other pages.
The geology of the Pennines is paticularly interesting. The area is dominated by extensive deposits of gritstone and limestone, which in the North Pennines has led to the formation of large underground cave systems and watercourses on the eastern side. Examples are the chasms of Gaping Gill (over 107 m/350 ft deep) and Rowten Pot (111 m/365 ft deep). The presence of limestone has led to unusual formations in the region, such as the limestone pavements of the Yorkshire Pennines.
Farmland in the limestone regions is richer than the gritstone areas, and there is a marked difference in the landscape between the different rock types. Limestone regions are characterised by Rich farmland, green grass and woodland with dry limestone valleys. Gritstone areas are less fertile, and are characterised by a lower field line rougher terrain and heather moorland and bog. This difference is marked even in place names eg. "the White Peak" - meaning the limestone regions, and "the Dark Peak" - meaning the gritstone areas.
On top of the limestone lies gritstone, a rock which is unique to the area. Gritstone is a sedimentary rock composed of coarse sand grains with inclusions of small stones. It is a coarser version of sandstone. It was laid down in the late (upper) Paleozoic era, in the Carboniferous period, in delta conditions. It erodes into wonderful shapes, and varies in texture from area to area. Some grit is grey and smooth, in other areas where iron content is high it can be a red colour. In some places it will have lots of pebbles. Sofer gritstones will heavily erode by way of water and frost action.
It is quarried for building material and most buildings in the Pennine gritstone areas are constructed out of it, and it can also be used as a roofing material. British gritstone was used for millstones, to mill flour and sharpen blades, giving rise to its other common name of millstone grit.
The Pennines are one of the birthplaces of modern rock climbing. There are literally thousands of routes to choose from, and there is a ethic of traditional climbing, firmly without bolts on gritstone. On limestone there are bolted areas, and some traditional crags.
The rock is much enjoyed British climbers. The rough surface providing outstanding friction in cold condition allows climbers to stand on or grip the subtlest of features in the rock.
The rock can be painfully rough and is particularly punishing for clumsy or inexperienced climbers who will find their fingertips reduced to blood. Good technqiue is important. The rock is renowned for desperate holdless top-outs, rounded breaks and deep cracks. Bouldering on gritstone can be superb and technical.