Every year thousands of people drive up and down the country to complete the ‘Three Peaks’ challenge of Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Mount Snowdon. But did you know that Yorkshire has its own version? And to celebrate Yorkshire Day I thought today would be the perfect time to post about it. According to many the Yorkshire Three Peaks are actually more challenging than the Three Peaks challenge itself, as the walk is an unrelenting 24.5 miles, with no rests in the car in between peaks and only the food and drink you can carry as you walk!
The Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge usually starts from either the Ribblehead Viaduct (visible as a tiny feature in the photo on the right!) or from the villages of Horton-in-Ribblesdale or Chapel-le-Dale. There are pros and cons to starting in each location, and if you want to save on parking, roadside parking by the viaduct is free. The peaks themselves are Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-Ghent. Ingleborough is my favourite of the three as it has both spectacular views and a bit of history, with some saying that it was the site of an Iron Age hillfort. I always keep my eyes peeled but alas I haven’t found any Iron Age artefacts yet!
When preparing for the Yorkshire Three Peaks, make sure that you prepare properly. The official Three Peaks website has an excellent kit list which I would recommend using to pack your bag before you set off. Make sure that you take plenty of energy boosting food with you such as bananas, flap jacks and pasta pots. Chocolate bars will only get you so far! I didn’t take enough food when we did it and after the first two peaks I sat and had a cry because I was hungry and tired and didn’t have enough food! Don’t underestimate how long it will take you to do the walk – depending on your fitness levels and preferred walking pace, it can take anywhere between six and twelve hours, or longer. The plus side of being slightly slower or setting off later is that towards the end you will have the hills mostly to yourself, and if the weather plays along, a beautiful sunset.
Most people tackle the route by first climbing Pen-y-Ghent, before proceeding on to Whernside and then finishing off with Ingleborough. We actually preferred the reverse order – the climb up Ingleborough in this direction is much easier, and you get the two bigger mountains out of the way before starting the soul destroying walk between Whernside and Pen-y-Ghent. Soul destroying because for a relatively flat part of the walk it seems to last forever! I very clearly re-call feeling like we had to be walking in the wrong direction because Pen-y-Ghent just didn’t seem to be getting any closer, no matter how long we had been walking towards it for. Bear in mind that the traditional route up Ingleborough will be closed for the second half of 2020 while they repair the path so you will need to follow the diverted route.
Dog friendly rating – 3/5. Most dogs will absolutely love spending all day walking with their owner! However, there are a few things you need to take into account before you decide to take your pup on this challenge. Only fit adult dogs should take on this challenge, as it would be far too long for a puppy’s delicate joints, and probably a bit too much for an older dog. There are both sheep and cows on this walk, as well as one short-ish section of road walking, so your dog will probably need to be on the lead the whole way. This is fine if your dog walks nicely on the lead, but it will be a bit of a drag if you are getting pulled in the opposite direction on such a long walk! Be aware that this walk is very popular so if your dog is nervous around strangers they might find this walk stressful.
If you are reasonably fit and have the stamina to be on your feet all day, the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge is definitely achievable. The view from each of the mountains is spectacular, and if you are lucky, you might see the steam train cross the Ribblehead Viaduct on the Settle to Carlisle railway. It’s a perfect walk for those seeking a challenge without having to worry about the logistics of the national Three Peaks challenge. However, all three peaks are also great for tackling on their own, if you don’t fancy taking them all on together. Read on below to find out some of my favourite routes.
Like I said before, Ingleborough is my favourite of the Three Peaks. At 723m it is the second highest peak in Yorkshire and in my opinion gives the best views looking out over the viaduct and towards Pen-y-Ghent. You can also find a huge limestone plateau to the west of Ingleborough known as White Scars. This is just as impressive as Malham in my eyes (even without the dramatic clifftop) and much less crowded!
My favourite walk to Ingleborough is the Mud and Routes walk which starts from Clapham. There is a car park in the village or alternatively if you are happy to leave your car at the side of the road this can be done for free (please be considerate of local residents when doing this). This route is not as popular as those starting from Ingleton and Horton-in-Ribblesdale and also takes you past the Ingleborough cave, Trow Gill and Gaping Gill. When you reach the summit make sure you see if you can find the remains of Iron Age huts which are supposed to be up there – I’ve never managed it but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there!
Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. There are a few places where you could let your dog off on this walk, but it will probably need to be on the lead for most of the day. The route above is a slightly gentler approach which is better suited to dogs than the route from Chapel-le-Dale, however, make sure to keep them well away from Gaping Gill. There is water at the start of the walk for dogs who like to paddle!
When we walked up Whernside on its own it was one of those beautiful crisp winter days, where the sun shines, but it is absolutely bloody freezing. Whernside is the highest peak in Yorkshire at 736m but I actually found this one to be the easiest. The approach when walking from the Ribblehead viaduct is fairly gradual with no prolonged steep climbs – be prepared to be buffeted about on the top though if the wind is up! The route we took which was very enjoyable is available on Walks in Yorkshire. Parking is free by the Ribblehead viaduct and this does tend to fill up quickly, especially at weekends and on sunny days.
Keep a look out on your ascent for Force Gill waterfall (pictured below) which hundreds of people pass but very few go to investigate. On the day we visited it was so cold that the waterfall was partially frozen which was stunning to see. I have also heard that if you take a pair of binoculars up to the summit with you that you can see Blackpool tower on a clear day! I have no idea if this is true on not so if anyone has tested this theory and can let me know one way or the other, let me know in the comments.
Dog friendly rating – 3/5. Dogs will need to be on the lead for most of this walk – while you could probably let your dog off on the track at the start, I didn’t want to risk this with it being so close to the railway line. Make sure that you pick up any poos and take them home with you to dispose of properly (triple bagging tends to help stop the smell in the car).
I have deliberately saved Pen-y-Ghent until the end, as I recently found out that Pen-y-Ghent isn’t actually the third highest peak in Yorkshire. I took this news badly as this means that I have another peak (Great Shunner fell in Wensleydale) to add to my list. Pen-y-Ghent is part of the official ‘Three Peaks’ but I wonder how many people know that at 694m it’s actually the 9th highest peak in Yorkshire? If you’re interested in knowing more about Yorkshire’s highest peaks, the 40 highest are listed on Atlas & Boots.
The most popular route to the top of Pen-y-Ghent is from Horton-in-Ribblesdale (full route on Walks in Yorkshire). There are a number of paid car parks in the village as well as a few pubs to re-fuel after your walk! This is a lovely walk and popular with families – lots of Yorkshire folk take their children here for their first ‘proper’ walk.
Dog friendly rating – 3/5. There are sheep throughout this walk so you will need to keep your dog under close control, especially at lambing time. Make sure to take plenty of water for your dog if it’s a hot day like it was when we climbed Pen-y-Ghent – there is no water on route so you will need to carry it with you.
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