When I do stay overnight at an accommodation, I usually ask to get breakfast as soon as possible to get a good early start. It was the same that day in Alston – good breakfast giving me lots of energy ahead of the day. It was a cloudy, but not overcast day with some sunny spells.
Alston is a small place so I left it within minutes. The trail leads north with River South Tyne to one’s right for the first mile and it was sunny to begin with.
After the first mile, Pennine Way turns west and the walker crosses A689. It was early and not a single car was in sight. Not a bad view from the actual motorway down below here!
Soon the path turns towards the north-west. There are some farmhouses in the area, but these are scattered and the amazing amount of space is all around you with the hills to your left and right. The hills are significant and commanding.
About 1.5 miles after crossing the motorway, one reaches Epiacum, the highest stone-built Roman fort in Britain. See more here: https://www.northpennines.org.uk/location/epiacum-roman-fort/
Soon after passing the Roman fort, the trail descends back down to the same motorway, crosses it and follows it to the north. The views are superb in this part of the world!
For the next 1.5 miles, the route goes along a train line here. To one’s right, there is the Kirkhaugh station first and then, at Bentley, the trail crosses to the other side of the tracks, soon also crossing Thornhope Burn.
I can’t imagine why I have no photography from the next mile but it is one mile from here to the village of Slaggyford, to the north, along River South Tyne, which, as you might remember is the same river that flows through Alston.
It was now cloudier than when I first started. In Slaggyford, I found a bit of wall on which to sit and have my first meal of the day. After 6 miles, it felt like the right distance to do so.
From Slaggyford, it’s further to the north west first to cross a brook that I can’t find the name of!…
The walk takes the hiker further north through lots of fields and grazing areas for sheep but nonetheless it’s very very quiet and feels remote. Knarsdale Common is one mile from Slaggyford and half a mile after that the trail crosses to the other side of Thinhope Burn.
Near Thinhope Burn, where the walker will cross Burnstone Viaduct twice before heading on further north, a short sweet and steeper ascent of 200ft over just half a mile awaited me, but this was on wide farm roads and the views towards the south are not bad!
Now a short distance in the same direction over grassy fields before the trail once again rejoins the same motorway I’d crossed nearer to Alston.
The trail does not cross the motorway this time, however, but rather stays on its left side, then veers off this to cross Glendue Burn and get back up (an impressive steep ascent, but a short one) to higher ground.
Now it’s another 1.5 miles to the north over first some grassland which morphs to moorland (with Byers Fell to one’s left) until the same motorway is to be crossed yet again between the villages of Halton Lea Gate and Lambley.
Now it’s easy walk further north towards Hartley Burn (about 1.5 miles) along pastures and fields.
There is a sharp descent towards the burn and equally sharp ascent on its other, northern, side. Then it’s across a variety of fields past a number farms, now to the north-west.
Past a tiny place called Kellah (and Kellah Burn) where there is a single house, the scenery changes into a grassy and desolate looking place as the path enters Hartleyburn Common turning practically directly north again, leading the way through the moss, the grass and (on that day) the very wet!
After 1.5 miles, very close to the very busy A69, the trail turns sharply right, takes one past Todd Holes and then sharply left again, eventually to cross the motorway. The photo below is just 0.2 miles south of the motorway.
By this stage, I had walked for 17 miles. This is now very close to joining Hadrian’s Wall. Pressing on, just a tiny bit further to the north past a small place called Banktop, I soon turned right (or east) to cross a train line and at Tipalt Burn found myself right next to Thirlwall Castle (on Hadrian’s Wall).
I wanted to take a break for food and drink. There wasn’t that much to go on the day now, but I wanted to have a nice commanding view so I walked up about half a mile and I got it (half way between the Castle and Walltown).
Half a mile east of my rest and sustenance place, in Walltown, one can begin appreciating its Walltown Crags. This is shown in the series of photos below. It’s a lovely recreational area, very pretty in general, with a lovely pond, the rough-looking geologically-striking crags themselves and the fabulous up-and-down walk near. An absolutely stunning place!
Eventually, the trail climbs down from the stupendously beautiful Crags and it’s a flat walk east towards Great Chesters Farm on the Roman Military Way, less than a mile.
At Great Chesters, I needed to step away from the Pennine Way to get to my railway station in Haltwhistle so I could go back home, but, hey, the train station is not exactly near – still over 2 miles to go, this time mostly on minor farm roads and a lot of quickly downhill. On my way I crossed A69 again (that I’d crossed previously just before reaching the Thirlwall Castle) and a single farm, then it was just down the road to Haltwhistle Burn. As you can see below, the views just kept giving until the very end – fabulous views on the descent and then finally a really lovely walk along the Burn before reaching Haltwhistle itself (which, by the way, is in the actual centre of Great Britain!)
All images from this trip can be seen in the video below: