In the New Year, my thoughts tend to be about my plans for walks in the year ahead but recently, as well as making plans to continue my LEJOG hike in April, I have been looking back through my blogs of some of my favourite walks. I have walked in many spectacular areas and enjoyed most of them, but to date, I think my favourite thru-hike was the Pennine Way. I have tackled this twice, once in 2014 when, because of a bout of shingles contracted around three weeks before I starting the hike, I was forced to retire just before the halfway point at Keld. In hindsight, I really wasn't well enough to attempt the walk as I had barely recovered from the illness and I reluctantly finally arrived at this conclusion and retired with the intention of returning to Keld to continue the walk the following year.
As it happened, I re-started the walk from Edale in 2015, setting off with a friend who unfortunately got injured and had to pull out at Middleton in Teesdale. From this point, and as the Pennine Way headed into the more remote terrain of the Northern Pennines, I found my enjoyment of the walk increasing with every mile. I relished the lonely, wild moors and hills and found that I disagreed profoundly with the many opinions I had read that this was a boring route across featureless bogs with little to recommend it. For me, it had that extra ingredient of wildness that simply wasn't present on other long distance hikes I had walked previously. By the time I reached the Cheviots, the weather turned and I spent over ten hours on the final day battling a combination of driving rain, mist and flooded peat bogs as I crossed the lonely hills to the finish point at Kirk Yetholm. I saw only one other person on this section and despite the challenging conditions, I thought it was a fantastic finale to what had for me been the best through hike I had ever walked.
I have since walked most of the Cape Wrath Trail, which is also a spectacularly remote and tough route, but I have yet to do this as a continuous hike. I will re-acquaint myself briefly with the Pennine Way in the spring as I continue my hike to John O'Groats as I intend walking the section from Mill Hill to Gorple reservoir before heading off on a more westerly route towards the Lake District. I know however, that when I leave the Pennine Way, a part of me will be fondly remembering that epic trip along this iconic trail in 2015.