The Pennine Bridleway runs through fantastically diverse countryside, starting in the White Peak area of Derbyshire and finishing, for the present, on the edge of the Howgill fells in Cumbria (205 miles, 330 Km).
The Trail was designed from the outset to cater for the needs of horse riders as well as for walkers and mountain bikers. There are gates throughout and light controlled road crossings where any particularly difficult roads are encountered. In a limited number of places, horse stiles are present to prevent motorcycles attempting to access the route.
The route traverses a great variety of landscapes from open moorland to steep-sided wooded river valleys and passes thorough both the Peak District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks. A good scattering of reservoirs, originally constructed to service the canals and the needs of the developing industrial cities of the north, add variety to the landscape. Evidence of the industrial heritage of the South Pennines is present in the form of derelict mills, dismantled railways, soot blackened gritstone walls and tall ivy-covered chimneys. Many sections of the Trail follow old packhorse or drovers routes, some dating back to medieval times, which criss-cross the moors. Other sections were negotiated and constructed specifically to link existing bridleways or byways and so provide a continuous route.
The Trail has two potential starting points in Derbyshire, the main one being at Middleton Top visitor centre on the High Peak Trail near Wirksworth. The second start point, which is recommended for horse riders, is at Hartington Station on the Tissington Trail. This route avoids a difficult section of the High Peak Trail with low walled embankments. A horsebox park with turning area has been provided here along with a shelter and watering point.
The Trail passes through Derbyshire and the Peak District heading northwards across the moors of Tameside and into Oldham clipping the edge of the village of Uppermill. Heading onwards past a chain of reservoirs and the busy Hollingworth Lake the Trail visits the moors of Rochdale before joining the 47 mile (75.6 Km) Mary Towneley Loop in the South Pennines, the first part of the Pennine Bridleway to be officially opened. From the top of the Loop the Trail heads across the hills towards the quaint village of Wycoller in Lancashire before taking a breather across the slightly flatter landscape of the Ribble Valley. Then into the stunning limestone landscape of the Yorkshire Dales and the 10 mile (16 Km) Settle Loop. Heading northwards the route visits the walled lanes around Austwick before heading to the more isolated and sparsely populated Cam and Dent fells. The final push after the Mallerstang valley is the climb up and over Wild Boar Fell before a welcome decent towards the village of Ravenstonedale in Cumbria.
The process of agreeing, creating and constructing new sections of Trail can be a long one and unfortunately there is still a gap of approximately 5 miles in the route in Derbyshire where the final line of the Trail is still under negotiation. Discussions are also still underway regarding the route leading to and from the busy A65 crossing in the village of Long Preston in North Yorkshire just as the Trail crosses into the Dales.
In Derbyshire the section in question lies between Monks Road, north of Hayfield and Bottoms Reservoir, south of Tintwistle. Most of the agreements required for the missing section of Trail are now in place and work has begun to construct the route but is unlikely to be completed until summer 2015 at the earliest. An interim route has been provided for walkers and a separate interim route provided for mountain bikers but unfortunately due to the lack of any suitable options, it is not possible to recommend a safe interim route for horse riders. Riders are therefore advised to finish at Hayfield where there is a car park (or off Monks Road where there is a lay-by) and box round to the Torside car park on the Trans Pennine Trail in the Longdendale valley. A lovely section of the TPT can then be followed to rejoin the Pennine Bridleway near Bottoms Reservoir before heading north to the Pegasus crossing of the A628.
In Long Preston from the junction of the B6478 with Back Lane, walkers and cyclists can find their way to and across the A65 using the existing network of roads & public rights of way to make use of the light controlled crossing in the centre of the village. If considering using the existing roads on horseback use of a section of the A65 cannot be avoided. The road carries holiday traffic as well as HGV’s so is quietest early morning or evening.
The Pennine Bridleway can be tackled in a number of different ways on horseback, as well as on foot or by bike: