The Pennine Way V: Alston to Kirk Yetholm

Trip Start Apr 01, 2010
Trip End Jul 31, 2010

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Flag of United Kingdom  , Scotland,
Friday, June 18, 2010

Technically, the Pennines end at Alston; an exclusively "Pennine" Way would end here (and would probably start in Dove Dale, not Edale). But the architects of the Way clearly wanted to tie in the Cheviot Hills, and the "Part-Pennine & Cheviot Way" wouldn't have been quite as catchy.

There's a lot of undistinguished farm country in between Alston and the Cheviots - nothing wrong with it, just not very exciting after all the ups and downs. Hadrian's Wall is extraordinary, though, and the Way follows it for about 10 miles. For 300 years, this looming stone bulwark across Britain marked the edge of Roman civilisation. To an American, that feels like an astonishingly long time. How the Wall and its garrisons must have been taken for granted as an institution for generations, and how inconceivable it must have seemed when it was abandoned.

C from northern Afghanistan joined us for Hadrian's Wall with her sister R. Odd how all these Afghanistan friends suddenly saw fit to join us on the PW, the toughest stretch of our trip... We had dinner together in Haltwhistle, a town which fervently declares itself the geographical centre of Britain - a reminder of how far we still have to go before John O'Groats!

The last stretch of the Pennine Way goes through 25 unpopulated miles of the Cheviot Hills. We broke it in half with our first wild camp, on a shoulder of a hill called Mozie Law. The night wind nearly blew our tent down, and the next morning we hiked through gales strong enough to literally blow Fiona off her feet. Still, in the afternoon we crossed the Scottish border, descended to the old gypsy town of Kirk Yetholm, and claimed our free half-pint at the Border Inn. That night we had a final dinner with the PW walkers who had been on more or less the same schedule as us, and whom we'd been seeing since Standedge.

Then, with the Pennine Way finished, the two of us headed off for a much-needed week's rest break with friends and family down in York.
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