The Yorkshire Three Peak Challenge
The premier hike in the Yorkshire Dales; tackle the famed peaks of Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough on this epic outing
Route Start Location: Horton in Ribblesdale
|38.81 km||1477 m||10 - 13 hours|
Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.
Activivity Type: Epic Walk
Summits and Places on this Route
Public toilets are located in Horton-in-Ribblesdale. Little else exists along the route other than a diversion to the Station Inn or Hill Inn.
The overall distance and ascent is probably the greatest challenge on this walk so prepare accordingly. The flat top of Ingleborough can be a navigational challenge in the mist. Otherwise, paths are clear throughout though you do need to be able to navigate and cope with conditions in the high fells.
Parking : Horton - BD24 0HF or Ribblehead - LA6 3AS
Depending on your starting point, there is a small car park in Horton-in-Ribblesdale. The alternative is the Ribblehead road junction
Horton train station on the Settle-Carlisle line is close to the typical starting point. Alternatively, using the station at Ribblehead allows you to avoid the often crowded village.
The Yorkshire Three Peak Challenge
No Yorkshire Dales list would be worth its salt without including one of the most famous and popular walks in the country, the Yorkshire Three Peaks. Traditionally done as a challenge walk (the aim is to complete the 40km distance in under 12 hours), the three peaks route traverses three of the Dales’ best hills and some of the best natural landscape in England.
The traditional starting point is the village of Horton-in-Ribblesdale but the popularity of the route means the village often becomes overcrowded during the spring and summer months. Pen-y-ghent is your first objective followed by the long walk towards the head of the valley. From there you’ll tackle Whernside and Ingleborough in quick succession before descending back into Hortin-in-Ribblesdale.
Alternatively, starting at Ribblehead is equally as rewarding and a more logical route, taking on the big two fells first and using Horton-in-Ribblesdale as a rest stop around halfway. There is ample parking at Ribblehead and it saves clogging up the village of Horton.
Wherever you decide to start, pack and prepare for an absolute epic. Completing the route, regardless of time, is an achievement of which to be proud.
The Yorkshire Three Peak Challenge full Route Description
1 – From the car park in Horton, turn right and follow the main road through the village, passing the famed Pen-y-Ghent Cafe – the traditional starting point of the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge. After the road bends left around the church you will come across two side roads on the left – turn left into the second one. Follow this lane past the primary school and along the walled lane until you reach a wooden signpost pointing the way to Pen-y-ghent (SD 81690 72247).
2 – Following the direction of the sign, head through the first gate and turn left through the second to start climbing up a wide, eroded path alongside a drystone wall. Continue up the hill following the wall crossing a couple of small areas of limestone pavement. As you climb, the whole of Pen-y-ghent will come into view. Keep following the path until you reach a set of stone steps which climb to a gate and the Pennine Way, running at right angles to the path from Horton.
3 – Take a left on to the Pennine Way (SD 83621 72783) which is followed all the way to the summit. The path leads towards the nose of Pen-y-ghent before swinging slightly to the right where it begins to climb more steeply. A short set of rock ‘stairs’ will need to be negotiated before a respite.
4 – A final, steeper section through a large boulder field leads to some modest scrambling towards the stop where the path may become a little vague. Once past this steeper area, the gradient flattens and the main paved path is easy to follow once again. Follow this path as it makes the final gradual ascent to the summit. The summit has a fine curved shelter built into the wall and the obligatory trig pillar. One down, two to go.
5 – Cross the wall and, at the gated stile, follow the sign for the Yorkshire Three Peaks. The path heads north first, descending along the west side of Pen-y-ghent. At the fingerpost turn left and descend gradually over 1.5km to a path crossroads at Tarn Bar (SD 82293 74281).
6 – Continue straight on, following a path over Whitber Hill to reach a clear track. Turn right and follow this for 1.5km and then cross a stile, taking a path to the left towards Birkwith cave. This emerges onto a rough tarmac track (Cam Road). Turn left and then right onto an unsurfaced track towards Nether Lodge, crossing Coppy Gill.
7 – At Nether Lodge, cross the footbridge over Cam Beck and bear left as the path swings around the north side of the buildings. Follow the long access track up to the B6479, crossing the River Ribble and then heading to Ingman Lodge. Turn right onto the road and follow this to a road junction at Ribblehead – the road can be busy and you need to take care. During the popular hiking seasons, there is usually a refreshments trailer parked at the Ribblehead road junction.
8 – Opposite the road junction is a path which heads towards the Ribblehead Viaduct before it joins a wide track which runs parallel to the viaduct. Follow the track and then bear right as the track sweeps left. The bend is lined by large rocks and marked with a footpath sign bearing ‘Whernside 4 ½ miles’ (SD 76094 79478). The 24-arch Ribblehead viaduct is the crown jewel of the Settle-Carlisle railway line.
9 – Follow this path which continues parallel to the viaduct to a set of rough steps. Climb these and continue, following the path for approximately 2km with the railway line on your left. You will need to cross both Hare Gill and Little Dale Beck via the ford or footbridge.
10 – Shortly after crossing Little Dale Beck, the path sweeps across a bridge over the railway. You will notice some ingenious Victorian engineering here as Force Gill is carried over the railway using a series of cascades. To the right, the railway line disappears into the Blea Moor tunnel, the longest tunnel on the Settle-Carlisle line. Once across the bridge, pass through a gate and keep following the path with the stream on your left until you reach a fork at SD 75710 82443.
11 – Cross the stile to take the left fork (signed Whernside) and start along a steeper, narrower path which swings round in a wide arc while climbing all the way. Eventually, you will reach the main ridge of Whernside accompanied by a broken drystone wall. Follow the ridge to the summit. The trig point can be found through a narrow stile. Two down, one to go.
12 – From the summit, continue along the ridge as it descends, gradually at first and then more steeply as it crosses High Pike. Just as the steepness begins to subside the path turns left (SD 73444 80243) and begins a very steep descent to Bruntscar Farm. The path may not be obvious as you approach but is well worn and paved with steps in a few places. You will cross a couple of stiles on your route downhill towards the farm.
13 – At the path junction with the Dales High Way, turn right then immediately left, passing the barns to reach the tarmac access road for the farm. Follow the access road (Philpin Lane) to the B6255 Low Sleights Road. Turn left onto the road and follow it a short distance past the Hill Inn before taking a right through a gate. The path leads out onto a level grassy path.
14 – The passes through the limestone pavement at Southerscale Scars as it climbs gradually towards Humphrey Bottom. Areas of wooden boardwalk will help you to avoid any wet feet along this section. The gradient steepens as the path approaches the flank of Ingleborough. A final, very steep section emerges onto a saddle between Simon Fell and Ingleborough.
15 – Turn right and make the final ascent to Ingleborough’s summit plateau. You will find the cross shelter, trig pillar and cairn approximately 250m to the west across the flat summit – your third and final peak of the day.
16 – From the summit, retrace your route back to the saddle. Follow the path east as it descends through some boulders to find a bridleway branching off the right (SD 74480 74694). Follow this path, the Dales High Way, as it descends the eastern slopes of Ingleborough. You will pass a dilapidated shooting lodge before reaching a gate. Bear left at the next path junctions where you will shortly enter an area of limestone pavement.
17 – Squeeze through some narrow gaps between the limestone pavement and a drystone wall and descend until you reach a crossroads of paths with a fingerpost (SD 77763 73489). Carry straight on into Sulber Nick, emerging on the slopes above Horton-in-Ribblesdale. The path crosses a few fields as it makes the final descent back into the village.