Stage 13 of the Pennine Way is 22 miles from Greenhead to Bellingham. It’s one of the most beautiful days on the Pennine Way which includes 8 miles alongside Hadrian’s Wall. Other highlights include Wark Forest, Shitlington Crag as well as Bellingham itself.
The day starts by following Hadrian’s Wall east for 8 miles. It should be impossible to get lost during this section, just don’t miss the Pennine Way sign that points you north in 8 miles! Parts of Hadrian’s Wall are incredibly picturesque as it rolls over the hills. Although I appreciated how picturesque it was, I also understood I’d be walking up and down these sometime quite steep hills.
Ups and Downs on Hadrian’s Wall
When you consider all the ups and downs of Stage 13 of the Pennine Way collectively, it’s one of the days with the most ascents. For this reason, make sure you have a good breakfast and bring plenty of snacks. Of course, Stage 11 Cross Fell has the most ascents.
Walltown Crags is one of the best preserved parts of Hadrian’s Wall. In fact, Roman soldiers incorporated the natural rock formations into the wall here. The result is a massive natural fortress.
Milecastle 39 / Sycamore Gap
Milecastle 39, also known as Castle Nick is a former fort on Hadrian’s Wall. You’ll see these every Roman mile but Castle Nick is one of the best preserved. It was in use until the 4th century. Shortly after Castle Nick is a top Instagram spot called Sycamore Gap. A single Sycamore tree lives with a dramatic backdrop behind it. Maybe it’s the most photographed tree in the country!? After the sycamore gap keep alert for the Pennine Way sign which points you north and away from Hadrian’s Wall.
Heading North from Hadrian’s Wall
The Pennine Way follows Hadrian’s Wall for 8 miles before heading further north. I walked a few hundred meters north before looking back at the Wall. Above, I share a photo of the imposing wall which was the North West border of the Roman Empire. Not only is this an intimidating sight but the weather in this part of the world is not the friendliest either.
Wark Forest is a definitely a beautiful place to walk through. However, this was the boggiest part of the Pennine Way. No matter which shoes you have on it’s likely you’ll have wet feet at the end of the day. When I entered Wark Forest I had ideas of seeing owls and deer but I was soon concentrating on nothing but getting through the boggy terrain. Finally, I entered Wark Forest from a semi-paved road and later exited on this same road therefore consider taking this semi paved road around it if it looks boggy when you visit.
Ladybird on the Pennine Way
After passing through Wark Forest the weather was misty and raining and my feet were wet from the constant bogs. However, a ladybird sighting lifted my spirits.
After Wark Forest and before Shitlington Crag there is a tuck shop which you may consider visiting.
When you arrive at Shitlington Crag there are panoramic views of Bellingham and you know you’re coming to the end of this 22 mile day.
River North Tyne
Before arriving in Bellingham the Pennine Way crosses and follows the River North Tyne for a short while. Although I was ready to eat and organise my accommodation, I still took the time to appreciate the beautiful river. In fact, I was hoping for a kingfisher sighting but no such luck.
In Bellingham you’ll find takeaways, bakeries, pubs, restaurants and supermarkets. As a matter of fact, Bellingham is the last stop on the Pennine Way where you can visit the supermarket. As a result, I recommend you stock up on supplies to get you through the next 2-3 days and over the Cheviots to Scotland. Maybe even treat yourself to a huge pub meal to stock up on energy too?
Where to Stay in Bellingham
Bellingham has a decent amount of hotels and B&Bs to choose from. However, I chose a camping option at Demesne Farm Campsite and Granary Cottage. Although it’s a farm, it’s located in the centre of Bellingham and you easily access shops and restaurants.
Stage 14 – Bellingham to Windy Gyle