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The Pennine Mountains of Northern England
Typical Pennine scenery of Saddleworth Moor looking towards the Wessenden valley

The Pennines are a low-rising mountain range in northern England and southern Scotland. They separate the North West of England from Yorkshire and the North East.

Often said to be the "backbone of England",[1][2][3] they form a more or less continuous range stretching from the Peak District in Derbyshire, through the Yorkshire Dales, around the northern and eastern edges of Greater Manchester, the West Pennine Moors of Lancashire and Cumbrian Fells to the Cheviot Hills on the Anglo-Scottish border. North of the Aire Gap the Pennines give out a western spur into Lancashire, the Forest of Bowland and south of the gap is a similar spur, the Rossendale Fells.[4]

Although the above is a common definition, the Cheviot Hills are not strictly speaking part of the Pennines, being separated by the Tyne Gap and the Whin Sill, along which run the A69 and Hadrian's Wall - however due to the Pennine Way route crossing them they are often treated as such. Conversely, although the southern end of the Pennines is commonly said to be somewhere in the High Peak district of Derbyshire, often Edale (the start of the Pennine Way); they in fact extend south into Staffordshire and Cheshire, as can be seen by looking at a relief map. The true southern end of the Pennines is actually in the Stoke on Trent area, around 40 mi (64 km) south of Edale.

It is an important water catchment area with numerous reservoirs in the head streams of the major river valleys. The region is widely considered to be one of the most scenic areas of the United Kingdom.[5] The North Pennines have been declared an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) as has Nidderdale, while portions of the Pennines are incorporated into the Peak District National Park, the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Northumberland National Park.[6] Britain's first long distance footpath, the Pennine Way, runs the full length of the Pennine chain and is 429 kilometres (268 mi) long.[7]



The first use of the name "Pennines" to describe the mountain range is in the spurious De Situ Britanniae, first published in 1757:[8]

This province is divided into two equal parts by a chain of mountains called the Pennine Alps, which rising on the confines of the Iceni and Carnabii, near the river Trivona [ Trent ], extend towards the north in a continued series of fifty miles.

This book purported to contain the account of a Roman general preserved in the manuscript of a fourteenth century English monk, Richard of Cirencester, and was considered the premier source of information on Roman Britain for more than a century after it was made available in 1749. It was in fact a forgery created by Charles Bertram, an Englishman then living in Copenhagen. In 1853, Arthur Hussey listed several names in De Situ Britanniae that he could not trace to an earlier source, including the "Pennine Alps".[9] However, by that time, particularly in the early 19th century, the name "Pennine Chain" or "Pennines" had become widely accepted.

In his 2004 book Names and History: People, Places and Things, George Redmonds provided a modern assessment.[10] He comments at length on the strange omission of the etymology of the Pennines in the serious literature regarding that area of England, including publications on place-name origins of Derbyshire and Lancashire by respected authors. He finally learns that the origin of the name is from De Situ Britanniae and that "nor do we know any name for the whole range before the eighteenth century." There follows a discussion of the forgery and the fact that a number of its inventions had found their way into the Ordnance Survey maps; and that the true origin of the name was known by serious authors, most of whom simply chose not to speak of it. He also notes that the mountains had been called by various names in the past, and that there were allusional references to the mountains as "our Apennines" as early as the 1630s (and perhaps before that), so likely Bertram simply invented a name that was easy for people to accept as fact.


The names of towns and geographical features retain some evidence of the Celts who were here before, and after, the Romans: for example the town Penrith, the fell Pen-y-ghent, the river Eden, or the name Cumbria. More commonly the local names result from the later Anglo-Saxon and Norse settlements. And in both Yorkshire and Cumbria many Norse words not commonly used in standard English are part of everyday speech: for example, gill (narrow steep valley), beck (brook or stream), fell (hill), dale (valley).[11]

Geology and landscape

Topographical map of the United Kingdom, Pennines centred

The Pennines have been carved from a series of geological structures whose overall form is that of a broad anticline whose axis extends in a north-south direction. The North Pennines are conicdent with the Alston Block, whilst the Yorkshire Dales are coincident with the Askrigg Block. In the south the Peak District is essentially a flat-topped dome. Each of these structures consists of Millstone Grit and the underlying Carboniferous Limestone. The limestone is exposed at the surface to the north of the range in the North Pennines AONB and to the South in the Derbyshire Peak District. In the Yorkshire Dales this limestone exposure has led to the formation of large underground cave systems and watercourses, known as "gills" and "pots" in the Yorkshire dialect. These potholes are more prevalent on the eastern side and are amongst the largest in England; notable examples are the chasms of Gaping Gill, which is over 350 ft (107 m) deep and Rowten Pot, which is 365 ft (111 m) deep. The presence of limestone has also led to some unusual geological formations in the region, such as the limestone pavements of the Yorkshire Pennines. Between the Northern and Southern areas of exposed limestone, between Skipton and the Peak, lies a narrow belt of gritstone country. Here the shales and sandstones of the Millstone Grit form high hills occupied by moors and peat-mosses with the higher ground being uncultivable and barely fit for pastures.

The landscape of the Pennines is generally upland areas of high moorland indented by the more fertile valleys of the region's various rivers.


The Pennines constitute the main watershed in northern England, dividing the eastern and western parts of the country. The rivers Eden, Ribble, and Mersey all rise in the Pennines and flow westwards towards the Irish Sea. On the other side of the watershed, the rivers Tyne, Tees, Wear, Swale, Ure, Nidd, Calder, Wharfe, Aire, Don, and Trent also rise in the region but flow eastwards to the North Sea.



Kielder Water

Ladybower Reservoir and many other smaller reservoirs


The mountains are not very high and are often referred to as fells. The highest is Cross Fell in eastern Cumbria, at 2,930 feet (893 m) while other principal peaks include Mickle Fell 2,585 ft (788 m), Whernside 2,415 ft (736 m), Ingleborough 2,372 ft (723 m), High Seat 2,328 ft (710 m) and Wild Boar Fell 2,324 ft (708 m), both in Mallerstang, Pen-y-ghent 2,274 ft (693 m), and Kinder Scout 2,087 ft (636 m).

Character Areas of the Pennines

The Joint Character Areas of the Pennines

England has been divided into areas with similar landscape character. These were called Joint Character Areas (JCAs), but are now called National Character Areas (NCAs). The NCAs are a widely recognised national spatial framework but the boundaries of the NCAs are not precise and many of the boundaries should be considered as broad zones of transition.[12]

The Pennines have eleven National Character Areas. These are: -

  1. Border Moors and Forests[13]
  2. Tyne Gap and Hadrian's Wall[14]
  3. North Pennines[15]
  4. Howgill Fells[16]
  5. Yorkshire Dales[17]
  6. Bowland Fells[18] alongside the Bowland Fringe and Pendle Hill[19]
  7. Southern Pennines[20], including the West Pennine Moors
  8. Dark Peak[21]
  9. White Peak[22]
  10. South West Peak[23]
Croasdale Forest of Bowland.

The Bowland area of the Pennines is dominated by a central upland landform of deeply incised gritstone fells. There are vast tracts of heather covered peat moorland and blanket bog on these fells. The lower slopes of the fells are dotted with stone built farms and small villages and are criss crossed by drystone walls enclosing reclaimed moorland pasture. Cloughs, steep sided wooded valleys, link the upland and lowland landscapes. To the south-east of the area are extensive coniferous plantations and the eastern limestone areas support high quality species rich meadows.[24]



It is a relatively sparsely populated region by English standards.


The main economic activities include sheep farming, quarrying and tourism.

Main Settlements

The summit of Cross Fell with Great Dun Fell in the background.


The three main gaps in the Pennines have always afforded communications links between the areas to the east and west. These gaps are the Tyne Gap between Carlisle and Newcastle upon Tyne along which the A69 road and the Tyne Valley railway run, the Stainmore Gap between the Eden Valley in Cumbria and Teesdale in County Durhsm and the Aire Gap linking Lancashire and Yorkshire via the valleys of the rivers Aire and Ribble. The Pennines are also traversed by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and the M62 motorway. In many places, the Pennines remain a formidable barrier to be crossed by tunnel or roads which may be blocked by snow for several days in winter.

Rail services are operated along the Huddersfield line between Huddersfield railway station and Victoria and Piccadilly stations in Manchester. The name of the train-operating company First TransPennine Express comes from such journeys - its trains connect the North West with the North East.

There are three trans-pennine canals built during the Industrial Revolution which, as the name suggests, cross the range in various locations:


A prehistoric settlement on Harkerside Moor in Swaledale.

Early inhabitants

The area contains many examples of Bronze Age settlements, and evidence of Neolithic settlement (including many stone circles or henges, such as Long Meg and Her Daughters.)[25]

Celtic and Roman times

The Pennines would have come under the tribal federation of the Brigantes. This tribal federation was made up of mainly small tribes who inhabited the Pennines and cooperated on defence and external affairs. The Brigantes later evolved into an early form of kingdom.

During Roman times, the Brigantes came under Roman domination. The Romans exploited the Pennines for the natural resources and wild animals found there.

Early Middle Ages

The Pennines were a major obstacle for Anglo-Saxon expansion west. Even when they were conquered they still retained a distinct Semi-Celtic identity, which can be traced in place names today.[citation needed] During the Dark Ages the Pennines came under a number of Celtic and Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. It is believed that the north of the area first came under the kingdom of Rheged. There were later three kingdoms which were solely based in the Pennines though.[citation needed] These were: The Kingdom of the Pennines and later the Kingdom of the Pennines broke up[citation needed] and was succeeded by Dunoting/Kingdom of the North Pennines and The Peak/Kingdom of the South Pennines.

During Norse times the Pennines were lightly settled by Viking Danes in the east and Norwegian Vikings in the west. The Vikings left a lot of influence on placenames, even though they did not settle in great numbers. When England was unified the Pennines were incorporated into England.

Other history

The Pennines were the major route for the Jacobite attack on England. They also became highly exploited in the Victorian age.


The language used in pre-Roman and Roman times was British. During the Early Middle Ages, the Cumbric language developed. However, little evidence of Cumbric remains, so it is difficult to ascertain whether or not it was a language in its own right or simply a dialect of Old Welsh. It is also uncertain as to the extent of the region in which Cumbric was spoken.

During Anglo-Saxon times (the area was settled by Anglian peoples of Mercia and Northumbria, rather than the Saxon peoples of southern England) Celtic speech remained in most areas of the Pennines longer than it did in the surrounding areas of England.[citation needed] Eventually, the Celtic tongue of the Pennines was replaced by early Middle English in the 12th Century.

In Norse times, Viking settlers brought their languages of Old Norse, Old Danish (mainly in the Yorkshire Dales and parts of the Peak District) and Old Norwegian (mainly in the western Pennines). With the eventual consolidation of England by the Saxon kingdom of Wessex, the pure Norse speech died out in England, though it survived in the Pennines longer than in most areas[citation needed]. However, the fusion of Norse and Old English was an important part of the formation of Middle (and hence, Modern) English, and many individual words of Norse descent remain in use in local dialects, such as that of Yorkshire, and in local place names.

Norman French had little effect on the language of the Pennines though.[citation needed] All of the above languages have had an influence, either large or small on the modern placenames of the Pennines. The modern language of the Pennines is English.

Folklore and customs

The folklore and customs are mostly based on Celtic[citation needed] and Viking[citation needed] customs and folklore. Many customs and stories have their origin in Christianised pagan traditions.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Poucher, W.A. (1946), The Backbone of England. A photographic and descriptive guide to the Pennine range from Derbyshire to Durham., Guildford and Esher: Billing and Sons Limited .
  2. ^ Edwards, W.; Trotter, F.M. (1975), The Pennines and Adjacent Areas, Handbooks on the Geology of Great Britain (Third ed.), London: HMSO (published 1954), p. 1, ISBN 0 11 880720 X .
  3. ^ "Pennines -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2008-02-28. 
  4. ^ Dudley Stamp, L (1946), Britain’s Structure and Scenery, The Fontana New Naturalist Series (1960 ed.), London and Glasgow: Collins .
  5. ^ "Writer inspired by beauty of Pennines celebrates its views - Yorkshire Post". Retrieved 2008-10-13. 
  6. ^ "Designated Landscapes Index". Natural England. Retrieved 2007-12-02. 
  7. ^ "Trail stats, Pennine Way". National Trails Homepage. The Countryside Agency. Retrieved 2007-08-03. 
  8. ^ Bertram, Charles (1757), "Chapter XXXIII", in Hatcher, Henry, The Description of Britain, Translated from Richard of Cirencester, London: J. White and Co, 1809, p. 51, 
  9. ^ Hussey, Arthur (1853), "A Renewed Examination of "Richard of Cirencester"", in Urban, Sylvanus, The Gentleman's Magazine, XXXIX, London: John Bowyer Nichols and Sons, pp. 270 – 273, ; discussing the so-called Iter VII: "... Alpes Peninos ..." not traced (to any earlier source).
  10. ^ Redmonds, George (2004), Names and History: People, Places and Things, Hambledon & London, pp. 65–68, ISBN 185285426X  A Major Place-Name Ignored
  11. ^ Gunn, Peter (1984), The Yorkshire Dales. Landscape with Figures, London: Century Publishing Co Ltd, ISBN 0 7126 0370 0 
  12. ^ "National Character Areas". Natural England. Retrieved 2009-12-10. 
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ > "The Landscape of The Forest of Bowland Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)". Page managed by the Information Management Team in the Strategic Planning & Transport Section, Environment Directorate, Lancashire County Council. 06 June 2007.>. Retrieved 2007-12-07. 
  25. ^ Out of Oblivion: A landscape through time
  • Arthur Raistrick, 'The Pennine Dales', Eyre Methuen Ltd 1968, ISBN 041326760

External links

Redirecting to Pennines

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

PENNINE CHAIN, an extensive system of hills in the north of England. The name is probably derived from the Celtic pen, high, appearing in the Apennines of Italy and the Pennine Alps. The English system is comprised within the following physical boundaries. On the N. a well-marked depression, falling below 500 ft. in height, between the upper valleys of the Irthing and the south Tyne, from which it is known as the Tyne Gap, separates the Pennines from the system of the Cheviots. On the N.E., in Northumberland, the foothills extend to the North Sea. On the N.W. the Eden valley forms part of the boundary between the Pennines and the hills of the Lake District, and the division is continued by the upper valley of the Lune. For the rest the physical boundaries consist of extensive lowlands - on the E. the vale of York, on the W. the coastal belt of Lancashire and the plain of Cheshire, and on the S. and S.E. the valley of the river Trent. The Pennines thus cover parts of Cumberland, Westmorland and Northumberland, Lancashire and Yorkshire, Cheshire and Derbyshire, while the southern foothills extend into Staffordshire and Nottinghamshire.

The Pennine system is hardly a range, but the hills are in effect broken up into numerous short ranges by valleys cut back into them in every direction, for the Pennines form a north and south watershed which determines the course of all the larger rivers in the north of England. The chain is divided into two sections by a gap formed by the river Aire flowing east, a member of the Humber basin, and the Ribble flowing west and entering the Irish Sea through a wide estuary south of Morecambe Bay.

The northern section of the Pennine system is broader and generally higher than the southern. Its western slope is generally short and steep, the eastern long and gradual; this distinction applying to the system at large. In the north-west a sharp escarpment overlooks the Eden valley. This is the nearest approach to a true mountain range in the Pennine system and indeed in England. It is known as the Cross Fell Edge from its highest point, Cross Fell (2930 ft.), to the south-east of which a height of 2780 ft. is reached in Milburn Forest, and of 2591 ft. in Mickle Fell. This range is marked off eastward by the upper valleys of the south Tyne and the Tees, and, from the divide between these two, branch ranges spring eastward, separated by the valley of the Wear, at the head of which are Burnhope Seat (2452 ft.) and Dead Stones (2326 ft.). In the northern range the highest point is Middlehope Moor (2206 ft.), and in the southern, Chapel Fell Top (2294 ft.). It is thus seen that the higher elevations, like the steeper slopes, lie towards the west. Cross Fell Edge terminates southward at a high pass (about 1400 ft.) between the head of the Belah, a tributary of the Eden, and the Greta, a tributary of the Tees. This pass is followed by the Tebay and Barnard Castle line of the North Eastern railway. The hills between the .Lune valley on the west and the headstream of the Eden and the Ribble on the east are broken into masses by the dales of tributaries to the first-named river - here the chief elevations are Wild Boar Fell (2323 ft.), Whernside (2414 ft.), and Ingleborough (2 373 ft.). The Ribble and Eden valleys afford a route for the main line of the Midland railway. Well-marked eastward ranges occur here between Swaledale and the river Ure, which traverses the celebrated Wensleydale, and between the Ure and Wharfe. In the first the highest points are High Seat (2328 ft.) and Great Shunner Fell (2340 ft.); and in the second Buckden Pike (2302 ft.) and Great Whernside (2310 ft.). There is then a general southerly slope to the Aire gap.

The southern section of the system calls for less detailed notice. Heights exceeding 2000 ft. are rare. The centre of the section is the well-known Peak (q.v.) of Derbyshire. Both here and throughout the system the summits of the hills are high uplands, rounded or nearly flat, consisting of heathery, peaty moorland or hill pasture. The profile of the Pennines is thus not striking as a rule, but much fine scenery is found in the narrow dales throughout; Wensleydale, Wharfedale and other Yorkshire dales being no less famous than the dales of Derbyshire. In the parts about Settle below Ingleborough, in Derbyshire, and elsewhere, remarkable caverns and subterranean watercourses in the limestone have been explored to great depths. In Ingleborough itself are the Ingleborough cave, near Clapham; the chasm of Gaping Ghyll, over 350 ft. deep; Helln or Hellan Pot, a vast swallow-hole 359 ft. deep, only exceeded by Rowten Pot (365 ft.) near Whernside; and many others. Malham Tarn, near the head of the Aire, is drained by a stream which quickly disappears below ground, and the Aire itself is fed by a brook gushing forth in full stream at the foot of the cliffs of Malham Cove. A notable example in Derbyshire is the disappearance of the Wye into Plunge Hole, after which it traverses Poole's Cave, close to Buxton. There may also be noted the remarkable series of caverns near Castleton. Lakes are few and small in the Pennine district, but in some of the upland valleys, such as those of the Nidd and the Etherow, reservoirs have been formed for the supply of the populous manufacturing districts of Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire, which lie on either flank of the system between the Aire gap and the Peak. (For geology see ENGLAND and articles on the several counties.)

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