Self-Catering Lodges set within a delightful 5 acre site near the Three Peaks in the Yorkshire Dales

The Three Peaks Challenge

The viaduct, Park Fell, Simon Fell and Ingleborough from Ribblehead.

Walking the classic circuit of Yorkshire’s “Three Peaks”, whether as a personal challenge with friends and family or to raise funds for your favourite charity, provides an unforgettable day in some of the country’s finest scenery.

We love the individual characters and rugged beauty of Pen-Y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough and, having run, walked and even skied them, know each one intimately. As a member of the local Mountain Rescue Team, Peter also goes to the aid of those few who are unfortunate enough to get into difficulties. We hope you find the following helpful whether you’re planning the walk, or just love the area.

The route.

Pen-Y-Ghent dominates the view to the the East of Horton-in-Ribblesdale and is the first peak to be climbed on an anti-clockwise circuit from the village. The simplest way out of Horton is to head East on the road out of the village from the Golden Lion pub (at the South end of the main street) and turn left immediately after the river bridge on a tarmac-ed road leading past the village Primary School and, after 3/4 of a mile or so, to Brackenbottom farm where a left turn leads through a gate onto pasture land. The path heads left (North East, then East) from the gate and climbs along the wall line to meet the Pennine Way on the ridge to the South of Pen-Y-Ghent. A sharp left (North) turn leads to a short, steep scramble up the East face of the hill and onto a paved path leading to the summit marked by a Trig Point and a sheltered seating area. Views to the East take in Fountains Fell above Malham while to the North West and West, the route to Whernside and the bulk of Ingleborough offer a dramatic panorama.

The scramble to Pen-Y-Ghent summit

Leaving the summit, the path follows the Pennine Way for a time, passing through a stile in the ridge wall and heading West down paved steps and a Northerly trending track hugging the side of Pen-Y-Ghent before an obvious dog-leg to the left (West) leads down and towards Whitber Hill, leaving the Pennine way as the route crosses a track from Horton to the chasm of Hull Pot. Until a few years ago, the path continued straight on at the dog leg and through the notorious Black Moss, a boggy area where the unwary Three Peaks walker could easily find themselves waist deep in peat and sphagnum moss.

The view towards Ribblehead from Pen-Y-Ghent 

From Whitber Hill the path undulates over moorland, re-joining the Pennine Way for part of its journey before turning left (North West) off the track, through a gate and towards a coppice above High Birkwith farm. A stile next to a metal gate brings the walker into a field where the track hugs the right hand wall for a short distance before turning sharply left, then right and over a plank footbridge across a stream.

The path through fields is muddy in places and leads to an attractive arched, wooden bridge at Nether Lodge from where the route follows a wide gravel track, over a river bridge and round a hairpin bend to the 17th Century Lodge Hall which boasts leaded, stone mullioned windows. Shortly after the Hall, the track becomes tarmac-ed and climbs steeply for a short distance up to the B6479 road from Horton to Ribblehead. The route follows the road for a mile or so and caution is needed as there is no pavement and it’s a favourite for speeding motorbikes.

Ribblehead viaduct

Ribblehead offers the promise of refreshment at a kiosk at the road junction or The Station Inn and there’s an idyllic picnic spot next to the headwaters of the river Ribble. Crossing the B6255, the path runs parallel with the towering arches of the viaduct and follows the line of the Settle to Carlisle railway, renowned as the country’s most scenic. A century and a half ago, the area was home to the navvies who built the viaduct and Blea Moor tunnel just up the line and lived in a series of shanty towns bearing colourful names including “Jericho” (after which the 2016 ITV series set in the area was named), “Sebastopol” and “Inkerman” (in reference to the then recent Crimean War) and “Batty Wife Hole” (named after a stream resurgence in the limestone). The path crosses the railway line by way of an aqueduct which is as unexpected to the casual walker as it is picturesque. From the aqueduct, the line of Blea Moor tunnel can be traced from its mouth and under the hill by a series of spoil heaps marking ventilation shafts. Steam trains still travel the line from time to time and when they do, their passage through the tunnel is betrayed by a series of smoke clouds rising from the mouths of the shafts.

Whernside

The path starts to climb in earnest after the aqueduct. After a mile or so, a sign post (which is near the half-way point of the walk) marks the point at which the route turns left (North West) across a stile before curving further to the left and climbing steeply towards the Whernside ridge. To the left (South) of the path below the ridge is a pool and peat bog at Greensett Moss in which lie the remains of a Second World War bomber which crashed on a training flight.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Greensett Moss on Whernside

The route follows the ridge to the summit which is marked by a Trig Point on the West side of the ridge wall, reached through a narrow stile. Also on the summit are sheltered seating areas on either side of the wall. The views to the North and West take in the Lake District peaks and, on a clear day, the Isle of Man. To the South East, the unmistakable sleeping lion of Ingleborough captures the eye.

Ingleborough from Whernside summit

Continuing on the East side of the wall, the path follows the ridge for a further mile or so before turning left (South East) towards Chapel-le-Dale. Care is called for on the top section which drops down very steep steps before reaching a gate after which the gradient eases as the route follows a flagstone path towards Bruntscar.

Coming off the fell, after a gate, the path soon makes a sharp left turn onto a farm track leading through fields to Philpin Barn which sells refreshments and offers customer toilets. Half a mile or so further on is the hamlet of Chapel-le-Dale with its historic pub, The Old Hill Inn. The track from Philpin Barn joins the B6255 where the route turns left (North East) onto the road and past The Old Hill Inn to a stile on the right leading into the field immediately beyond the pub. A short climb leads to a farm track with a gate on the right heading South through the clints (limestone blocks) and grikes (eroded clefts between them) of the extraordinary limestone pavements for which the area is famous. On the left before the path reaches the fell proper is the vast inverted conical depression of Braithwaite Wife Hole, one of the largest of the sink holes which pepper the area.

Ingleborough

A gate leads onto the fell and a path of stone slabs and a wooden boardwalk climbing through the moorland of Humphrey Bottom to the base of the steep zig-zags which tax legs heading for the summit of Ingleborough. Turning right (South West) on reaching the ridge, the effort is rewarded with views back to Whernside and across to Morecambe Bay on the final stretch to the Ingleborough plateau. Reaching the Trig Point and cruciform shelter (built in 1953 to commemorate the Queen’s Coronation) requires a traverse of the plateau. Simple and rewarding in good weather, the featureless, steep sided plateau can be disorientating in poor visibility when good navigation is called for. Crossing the plateau is not necessary to continue the walk as the route requires a re-tracing of steps from the Trig point back along the same route to leave the plateau. Near the Trig Point and shelter is a pile of rocks which is all that’s left of a 19th century observatory which burned to the ground during its opening night celebrations!

Ingleborough summit

Shortly after leaving the top, a standing stone points the way (East) towards Horton. Stone slabs followed by a short, but steep and muddy section, lead to a rocky, gravel track heading South East. The depression marking the entrance to Gaping Gill, at 322 feet deep one of the largest pot holes in the country, can be seen to the right. For the intrepid, caving clubs offer a ride into the depths on a winched chair on certain Bank Holiday weekends. The trip is always popular and queues start forming at the pot hole entrance from 7am.

The track crosses a stile and drops through limestone pavement to a finger post signed for Horton at the start of Sulber Nick, a groove in the landscape forming part of the Craven Fault geological system. The walking is often easier on top of the right hand (Southern) lip of Sulber Nick as the track in the bottom is frequently muddy and uneven. From Sulber Nick, the path dips and rises through a nature reserve and fields until Horton station (where the path crosses the railway line) and the village are reached marking the end of walk and completion of the Challenge.

 

View towards Ingleton

Planning your day.

The “challenge” for the Three Peaks walk is to complete the circuit in under 12 hours. At a steady walk with occasional stops, expect to take around 10 to 12 hours although it can take less time (the record for the 24.5 miles is an astonishing 2 hours 46 minutes and 3 seconds, set by Andy Peace in 1996), or longer.

The sketch below shows the split times for a Three Peaks circuit which took 12 hours.

The closer to mid-Summer you undertake the walk, the more daylight you’ll have for a long day in the hills. The most popular place to start is Horton-in-Ribblesdale and it’s common to see walkers setting out from around 6.30am. If you are planning an early start, please bear in mind that the locals are still trying to sleep! There’s a Pay and Display car park on the main street in Horton with the added bonus of the only public toilet on the route. It is also possible to park in some places on the road and sometimes a farmer’s field at the North end of the village is available for parking for a small charge.

Staying at Pinecroft, allow about 20 minutes to drive to Horton. The time is the same whether you go clockwise around Ingleborough (via Chapel-le-Dale and Ribblehead) or anti-clockwise (via Austwick and Helwith Bridge).

If you’ve already done the walk in the conventional anti-clockwise direction from Horton, reversing it gives a completely different perspective. For some, an overnight or Winter circuit can add to the challenge and provide remarkable memories although relevant experience and appropriate equipment are, of course, essential.

Whenever you do the walk, it’s a genuine challenge but is entirely “do-able” by anyone who is healthy and reasonably fit. There’s no substitute for training and the fitter you can get beforehand, the more you’ll enjoy your day. If you can, find hills to train on; hill-walking is the best training for hill-walking!

The popularity of the Three Peaks Challenge is such that on Summer weekends the route gets busy – great for meeting like-minded walkers but if you prefer more serenity, consider a week day or starting somewhere other than Horton. Ribblehead, Chapel-le-Dale or Ingleton offer alternative start / finish points. Each has some free parking although this is very limited at Chapel-le-Dale. Ribblehead and Chapel-le-Dale are on the classic route but an Ingleton start adds to the overall distance.

Food and drink can be bought at a kiosk or The Station Inn (with customer toilets) at Ribblehead or at Philpin Barn or The Old Hill Inn (both with customer toilets) at Chapel-le-Dale. If you’re planning a trip outside the Summer months it’s worth checking opening hours beforehand.

If you have a support team with a vehicle, the best places to meet are at Ribblehead and / or Chapel-le-Dale. For larger, organised groups, it’s sometimes possible to agree parking (for a fee) with the owners of High Birkwith Farm between Pen-Y-Ghent and Ribblehead or Philpin Barn at Chapel-le-Dale. Any such arrangements should be agreed well in advance of your planned trip.

Mobile phone signals are patchy on the summits and often non-existent elsewhere so if you want to keep in touch with your “followers” it’s best to try on the tops.

As with any trip into the hills, checking the weather forecast beforehand is essential. There are any number of forecast providers to choose from but the Mountain Weather Information Service gives a particularly relevant online forecast. As with any upland area, weather in the Dales can change quickly and there is often a dramatic contrast between conditions in the valleys and those on the summits.

If you are unlucky enough to need rescue, dial 999 and ask for the Police; once put through to them, ask for Mountain Rescue. Bear in mind that from call-out to the team’s arrival on scene can take an hour or (sometimes considerably) longer depending on your location so it’s important that your group has adequate clothing / shelter for a prolonged wait.

Ingleborough from Pinecroft

What to take.

The detail of your kit list will depend on the time of year you do the walk and the weather forecast but the following is suggested as a minimum – even on a Summer’s day, the summits can serve up a cocktail of freezing rain, hail and gale force winds  – as well as the hoped for blue skies and sunshine!

  • walking trousers / shorts – not jeans;
  • walking boots or fell-running shoes;
  • comfortable, wicking thermal layers;
  • waterproof jacket with taped seams and hood;
  • waterproof trousers with taped seams;
  • warm hat ;
  • warm gloves;
  • map (either Harveys Superwalker Yorkshire Dales Three Peaks or Ordnance Survey Explorer OL2 Yorkshire Dales Southern & Western Areas, both of which are at 1:25,000 scale; the Harveys map is printed on waterproof paper and is the less bulky of the two while the OS mapping is more detailed);
  • compass;
  • powerful torch and batteries to last several hours;
  • whistle;
  • first aid kit including blister plasters;
  • food rich in energy;
  • water;
  • sun cream;
  • mobile phone;
  • ruck sack large enough to hold all of the above;
  • (within your group) at least one survival bag and, ideally, an emergency group shelter (like a tent without poles).

© Peter Maxwell 2018

And finally…

Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions about completing the Three Peaks Challenge, or about other walks or activities in the area and please let us know how your challenge goes. We always love to hear about our guests’ adventures in the Dales and to see your photos. You can use Facebook, Tripadvisor, Google Reviews or contact us at lodges@pinecroft.co.uk or on 015242 41462.