The Yorkshire Three Peaks

Heading towards Whernside, alongside the iconic Ribblehead viaduct

Heading towards Whernside, alongside the iconic Ribblehead viaduct

The Yorkshire Dales offer some of Britain’s finest walking, not least of which are the three peaks of Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-Ghent. We’re not suggesting that you tackle the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge, but each of the three makes a cracking day out. Here’s our advice about enjoying them.

The weather

Whichever peak you tackle, you need to consider the weather. The Dales can have all four seasons in one day and, although they aren’t really mountains, the peaks are high enough to be cold on top and often lost in cloud. If in doubt, turn back and save them for a better day.

Whernside

The highest and arguably the most appealing of the three, it has much visual interest and is easy to explore.

The picturesque aqueduct on the way up Whernside

The picturesque aqueduct on the way up Whernside

There is limited roadside parking at grid 768 794 on the B6255 (which is widely regarded as the most scenic drive in the UK) so get there early. The map on Walk4Life shows the circular walk along well-maintained footpaths. Points of interest are:

  • The Ribblehead viaduct. Take a short detour off the trail to see this iconic structure up close. Listen for Tapping Willy under arch 13! The area to the right of the trail (Blea Moor) was the work camp during the construction of this stretch of line and, by all accounts, resembled nothing so much as a Wild West frontier shanty town.
  • Blea Moor signal box and tunnel. The trail crosses the railway close to the tunnel entrance. The line of the tunnel is marked over Blea Moor by the tops of seven vertical shafts sunk to speed up the digging of the tunnel.
  • The aqueduct over the railway.
  • Force Gill waterfall

On a clear day, linger at the triangulation pillar on the top of Whernside. The view can be breathtaking. And even better if you’re lucky enough to see a steam train crossing the Ribblehead viaduct far below you.

Pen-y-Ghent

There are several walks around this area. We suggest a circular walk from Horton in Ribblesdale. See this map.

An easy scramble up the south-east corner of Pen-y-Ghent

An easy scramble up the south-east corner of Pen-y-Ghent

Hull Pot, just off the route back from Pen-y-Ghent

Hull Pot, just off the route back from Pen-y-Ghent

Park in the pay & display car park (2015: £4.50) Walk the route anticlockwise; there is an easy scramble up Pen-y-Ghent and a gentle descent along the Pennine Way back to Horton. On a fine summer day, you might like to continue along to Plover Hill and descend onto the Pennine Journey path to take you back to Horton.

Be sure to take a digression to see Hull Pot, an impressive collapsed cavern, possibly the biggest natural hole in Britain. Only accessible by abseiling, sadly.

On returning to Horton, be sure to patronise the excellent Pen-y-Ghent cafe. Usually busy with three-peakers, as this is the official start and end point.

Ingleborough

Whichever way you tackle Ingleborough – and there are several – don’t attempt it in bad visibility unless you really can use a map & compass. Our preferred route is from Clapham. See this map.

The Pothole Clubs' winch, which lowers you down into Gaping Gill

The Pothole Clubs’ winch, which lowers you down into Gaping Gill

Ingleborough has a distinctive flat top

Ingleborough has a distinctive flat top

Park in the pay & display (2015: £4.50) and pay the modest charge for admission to the Ingleborough estate (2015: 65p). The trail passes Ingleborough Cave, a popular visitor attraction for the less energetic. Continue through Trow Gill and up past Gaping Gill to the top of Ingleborough. Take special care to take the correct track coming down off the flat top of Ingleborough; you need to be heading east, not north!

Ideal time for this trip is either the Spring or August Bank Holiday week, when the local caving clubs set up a winch over Gaping Gill so you can visit this vast subterranean cavern. But get there EARLY!
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