- The National Trails
- Cleveland Way
- Cotswold Way
- England Coast Path
- Glyndŵr's Way
- Hadrian's Wall Path
- North Downs Way
- Offa's Dyke Path
- Peddars Way / Norfolk Coast Path
- Pembrokeshire Coast Path
- Pennine Bridleway
- Pennine Way
- South Downs Way
- South West Coast Path
- Thames Path
- The Ridgeway
- Yorkshire Wolds Way
Trail Information and FAQs
We have tried to provide answers to the most common questions about the Trail here. If you can't find the information you are looking for please contact us directly and we'll do our best to help.
About the Trail
The Pennine Bridleway is a 205 miles (330 Km) long National Trail running through the Pennine hills from Derbyshire to Cumbria. It has been specially designed for horse riders, and is also great for mountain bikers and walkers. The route was opened in stages with the full 205 mile route opened by Martin Clunes in June 2012.
The Trail includes 2 large loops. The first is the Mary Towneley Loop in the South Pennines that was the first section of the Trail to open back in 2002. This is 47 miles long and makes a great weekend’s walk or ride although some mountain bikers like to try and do it in a day! The 2nd Loop is the 10 mile Settle Loop in the Yorkshire Dales. This makes an excellent days walk or horse ride and can be extended by using the bridleway network to take in the village of Malham too.
Derbyshire to the Mary Towneley Loop is approximately a 5 day horse ride/walk. The Mary Towneley Loop is usually a 3 day horse ride/walk. From the Mary Towneley Loop to Cumbria is approximately 6 days walking/riding. Cycling the route can take anything between 1 and 14+ days depending on fitness, motivation and whether or not you stop to take in the scenery.
There isn’t an official record. The Trail is definitely not one to rush, in addition it is illegal to race bikes on a public bridleway so we’d don’t encourage you to try to set a record.
The route runs through the Pennines so expect hills and changeable weather! The most southerly section follows the High Peak Trail, a reclaimed railway line where the surface is relatively level but after this there are more changes (and challenges) in gradient and surface. The South Pennine valleys (crossed by the Mary Towneley Loop) are particularly steep.
The route follows a variety of surfaces including minor roads, aggregate tracks, grassed stone tracks, stone setts and worn causey flags. Some of these have been newly created specifically for the Pennine Bridleway but some are ancient highways such as drovers roads or packhorse trails that have been in use for centuries. The route is not a particularly fast route for horse riders due to the stoney nature of some of the tracks however there are still opportunities to canter.
As the route progresses northwards through the Yorkshire Dales it becomes more remote and the settlements are fewer so Trail users should be sure to carry to supplies and be prepared for all weather conditions.
Exploring the Trail
Walkers can easily access the Trail by public transport. If you are planning to travel by train with your bike we recommend that you check first – not all trains carry bikes and some restrict the number they will carry.
There are a number of places along the Trail that are suitable for short stay horsebox parking. These are shown on the Plan Your Visit page. We don’t recommend that you leave horseboxes overnight in rural car parks. Many of the farmhouse accommodation providers are able to arrange secure horsebox parking – check the accommodation details on the map.
See the Public Transport page for more information.
The best time to complete the Trail is April to October, when the weather is most favourable. However the route itself can be steep and exposed, so be prepared, especially if you are planning a journey of a day or more.
Most people start in the south. The southern section of the Trail offers an easier and gentler start to a journey and the National Trail handbook for the Derbyshire to the South Pennine section and the Cycling Guide for the Mary Towneley Loop to Cumbria section are both written heading south to north.
The route is well signposted and waymarked, but we recommend that you take maps and where available, guide books with you as it is still easy to miss a turn if travelling fast or chatting. Visit the Maps and Guide Books page to find out more.
Remember this is the Pennines, weather can change quickly so take warm, waterproof clothing with you even in summer. In some sections there are very few facilities so make sure you carry food and water with you.
Make sure that you are carrying some form of identification and an emergency contact number. If you are on horseback consider tagging your tack in case you and your horse are separated.
If you are cycling the Trail make sure you carry a puncture repair kit, spare inner tubes and brake blocks.
If you are riding the Trail we recommend that you carry a horse boot in case your horse loses a shoe. It is also worth carrying a collapsible bucket – there are troughs and streams but access to water in some places can be tricky.
Phone reception can be patchy in the Pennines, don’t rely on being able to use your phone to help you navigate.
Wi-Fi is available at some accommodation and pubs/café’s along the route.
The entire Pennine Bridleway follows a series of defined Rights of Way along which you have a legal right of access.
An acorn is the symbol of the National Trails and it will be found at regular intervals along the Trail.
When using the Pennine Bridleway you will see the following symbols on the Trail or on connecting paths, which can be used by vehicles, horse riders, cyclists or walkers as indicated.
The yellow arrow indicates a path for use by walkers The word 'footpath' and/or a yellow arrow indicates a path for use by walkers only and where, without the landowner's permission, it is illegal to cycle, ride a horse or drive a vehicle.
The blue arrow indicates a path which can be used by walkers, horseriders and cyclists The word 'bridleway' and/or a blue arrow indicates a path which can be used by walkers, horseriders and cyclists but where, without the landowner's permission, it is illegal to drive any vehicle.
The purple arrow indicates a right of way which can be used by walkers, horse riders, cyclists and carriage drivers. The works restricted byway and/or a purple arrow indicates a route that can be legally used by walkers, horse riders, cyclists and carriage drivers.
The red arrow indicates a right of way which can be legally used by walkers, horseriders, cyclists, carrige drivers and motorists.The word 'byway' and/or a red arrow indicates a right of way which can be legally used by walkers, horseriders, cyclists, carriage drivers and motorists.
Users will see variations of the black arrow way marker on the cyclists’ and walkers’ interim route around Glossop and the link from Torside.
To report a problem on the Trail go to the Report a Problem page. From here you will need to identify where the problem is on the map and add some details. If you want to be informed about progress to resolve the problem please add your email address.
Trail staff aim to resolve problems as quickly as they can, but some things do take a long time. Please be patient if you do not see immediate resolution.
Who can enjoy the Trail
The National Trail has been developed in particular for cyclists and horse riders, although it is of course open to walkers too. All users share the same path, so it is important that everyone is considerate of others. Cyclists must give way to walkers and horses.
Genuine mountain bikes are required for cycling the Pennine Bridleway but if you don’t own one it is possible to hire one, check the interactive map for cycle hire shops close to the route.
- The varied terrain along the route means you may be more comfortable if your bike has some suspension, good brakes & off-road tyres.
- If planning a multi-day trip, ensure the accommodation you book into has secure bike storage.
- Undertake a thorough check of your bike before setting off on your trip and pack a small tool kit, chain splitter/quick link, puncture repair kit, spare inner tubes, bike pump, lubricant and brake blocks.
- You will also need a helmet, cycling clothes, gloves, waterproofs and glasses/goggles,
Nothing on the Pennine Bridleway should deter competent riders and fit horses. It is worth noting parts of the route are exposed and many stretches follow stone tracks so the riding is not fast.
- If you are planning a multi day trip, take time to check your tack before setting off and have your horse reshod at least a week before departure.
- We recommend you carry a horse boot in case your horse loses a shoe on route.
Although troughs and stream allow access to water on the route, it is worth carrying a collapsible bucket to draw water from additional sources inaccessible to a horse.
Your dog is welcome on the Pennine Bridleway. There are no awkward stiles to encounter and many stretches of the route are enclosed although in places the Trail crosses open moorland where sheep may be grazing or ground nesting birds breeding so please ensure you have your dog under control. Dog owners need to be aware of cyclists using the route who may be travelling at speed and ensure that their dog is under control should they meet horses on the Trail.
Cows with calves are very protective and can be aggressive towards dogs. Try to avoid walking close to cows with calves, if you encounter any aggression release your dog, do not try to pick it up.
Other than where the Trail follows public roads, motor vehicles also have rights where the route follows public byways. Some of these byways are however subject to Traffic Regulation Orders whereby motor vehicles have been banned from using them, notably the section in the Peak Park between Rushop Road and South Head and various routes in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
As the route is a bridleway there are no stiles and the minimum width between gateposts is 1.5m. In some locations however, and particularly on the Mary Towneley Loop some of these gates have horse stiles incorporated preventing access to motorcycles. Unfortunately these also prevent access to wheelchairs. Where possible these horse stiles are shown on the interactive map, however this information may not always be up to date. Please contact the Trail Team for the latest information.
Because the route threads its way through the Pennines, it is hilly and the gradient can be steep in places. The surface is also variable with some rough or loose sections.
The southernmost section of the route follows the High Peak Trail, a former railway line which should be suitable for wheelchair use and which is accessible from a number of car parks. The gates on this section are also fitted with catches that can be operated from a low level. The High Peak Trail links to the Tissington Trail which is of a similar standard.
What is special about the Trail
Several of the local authorities along the Trail arrange volunteer activities, some of which may be on the Pennine Bridleway. If you are interested in volunteering contact us so we can put you in touch with the right people.
The Pennine Bridleway is one of the 15 National Trails in England and Wales. National Trails are designated by the Secretary of State and are administered by Natural England and Natural Resources Wales, and managed by the local authorities and National Park Authorities whose area they pass through.
Most National Trails have a dedicated Trail Manager responsible for maintaining the high quality standards on the Trail. National Trails are waymarked with the distinctive “acorn” symbol.
National Trails are special because they pass through some of the best landscapes, and they are managed to a very high standard. Because of this you can be confident that any journey you make along a National Trail will be one of the best you have taken.
The Pennine Bridleway is the only National Trail specifically designed to be used by equestrians although since the idea for the route was conceived mountain biking has really taken off and the Trail offers a fantastic challenge for cyclists too. The Trail provides an amazing long distance, largely off-road ride/walk through the Pennines following old drove roads, packhorse routes and new sections of bridleway. The route passes through varied and beautiful countryside following a succession of different types of tracks and surfaces. It is by no means easy but well worth the challenge and completing any or all of the route will provide a real sense of achievement.
Highlights of the Trail include the flora and fauna in the vibrant, clean and green Chee Dale Nature Reserve; stunning views over the Kinder plateau either side of the exhilarating yet peaceful Roych Clough (one of Britain’s classic mountain bike rides); panoramic views of the Pennines and valleys in Calderdale, Rochdale and Lancashire; the 6 compartmented water trough at Mankinholes where packhorse ponies stopped for refreshment; the Rochdale Canal. New trails link with old to zig zag up, down and across the Lancashire moors on route to the village of Wycoller with its ancient packhorse bridge. The north Lancashire stretch offers a more pastoral scene and a bit of a breather before reaching the Dales. The Yorkshire Dales section features classic limestone landscapes, including great views of the nationally important Malham Tarn and the peaks of Ingleborough and Whernside; from Dales villages to remote open uplands via enclosed grassy tracks and wide drove roads with glimpses of limestone pavements, impressive viaducts on the Settle to Carlisle railway, and a prizewinning new bridge. The views just keep coming once up on Lady Anne’s Highway with views along the Mallerstang valley and a final push from the High Dolphinsty to the Cumbrian village of Ravenstonedale.
Maps, guides, certificates and merchandise
There is a DVD available featuring the Mary Towneley Loop. “Looping the Loop - A Journey in the South Pennines on the Mary Towneley Loop” is 78 minute long film showing the local history and culture of the area whilst also capturing the remote beauty of the route. Find out more on the Pathways Productions website.
How to add information to the Trail map
Anyone can add information to the website. We hope that people who have enjoyed the National Trails will want to share their good experiences and that businesses will promote their services by adding information to the map.
You can add information to the map. This includes:
- Points of interest or attractions
- Services - for example shops, pubs, vets, cycle hire shops etc
- Details of your accommodation business
- Events - for example farmers’ markets, village fetes, guided walks
- Information to help horse riders or cyclists such as busy road crossings or water points
To add content you will need to sign up – click the join button in the top right corner. You’ll need a username and an email address. We won’t give your email address to anyone, we’ll only use it if you need a password reminder or if we need to contact you directly. For more information read our data protection policy.
Once you’re signed in you can add information to the map by clicking here.