Lake District walk - Ireby and Gregareth
- Credit: John Lenehan
Reach your peak on this tough walk up Gregareth from the tiny village of Ireby
Those who hold with the re-working of the county boundaries will tell you that Gregareth is the highest mountain in Lancashire at 628 metres/2060 feet. There are plenty of higher peaks within the traditional county of course, but size isn't everything and there are plenty of reasons to climb Gregareth, as I have done many times.
Its summit is 200 metres west of the county border between Lancashire and North Yorkshire, but confusingly it's been in the Yorkshire Dales National Park since 2016. Locals insist it's in Lancashire so I will go with them on the matter. I have only ever reached the summit from the Leck House Farm side and wanted a different way, so I worked out a route to climb Gregareth from Ireby, a lovely little hamlet just off the A65 near Cowan Bridge.
1. Leave the car and walk up the street with the stream that flows through the village on the right. Pass Rose Cottage on the left and then turn right and cross the bridge over the stream then turn left. Go straight up the lane, passing to the left of a house called Shearings and reach the gates of Over Hall. Pass through a stile to the side of the gates and follow the track up to Over Hall. As the track turns left into the grounds of Over Hall, keep straight on to a metal gate with a footpath sign. Go through the gate and straight on uphill then keep left passing Over Hall on the left.
Keep a wire fence on the left, there is a footpath sign on one of the posts, and follow the path as it passes between the wire fence and now a wall on the right. The path is pretty rough and indistinct but keep following it to a metal gate with a footpath sign on it and then carry on and go through another metal gate then follow the track as it goes between two walls. The track gives way to a field, at this point bear diagonally left towards a metal gate in a wall and to the left of this a wire fence by the stream.
Note: The name Ireby is supposed to mean Town of the Irish Vikings.
2. Stand at the wire fence at the stream and to the left is a small gate/stile. Go through this and then turn sharp right and, now with the stream on the left and the wire fence on the right, follow the very indistinct path keeping the stream on the left and now a wall on the right. Eventually reach a wider path that goes uphill right away from the stream then turn right and follow the wall on the right with open moor on the left. Keep going uphill for what seems forever but keep following the direction of the wall. Eventually a wall appears on the left but bearing right to meet with the wall the path follows.
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3. A stile/gate appears on the right. Go through the stile and turn left and, with the wall now on the left, follow this to a ladder stile on the left crossing the wall. Cross the stile then turn right and keeping the wall on the right carry on until to the left you can see the triangulation pillar that marks the summit of Gregareth. Bear diagonally left away from the wall to reach the triangulation pillar and the summit.
Note: The views looking back and right on the way up from Ireby are stunning, particularly the ones to Ingleborough and Whernside.
4. Reach the summit Triangulation Pillar then turn around and take the path that leaves at an angle heading downhill south west, bearing right and follow this downhill, it is a little indistinct but relatively easy to follow.
Note: The whole of Gregareth and surrounding fellside are riven with caves and potholes. Names like Big Meanie, Lost John's Cave, are well known potholes. Leck in particular is a popular caving area. Just further north of Gregareth summit is the Bull Stone which is the county boundary marker. It is a glacial erratic.
5. Reach the stone pillars of the Three Men of Gregareth, there are two sets of these but the ones more to the south are the correct ones. There is also a small stone pillar to the south of these. I don't know why the other set are there or who built them but they are of a more recent date in construction. Leave the three men and carry on downhill over rough ground with loose rock in places bearing diagonally left to reach the gate into the road going to Leck Fell House then turn left. Follow the tarmac road downhill.
Note: The Three men were built, as were many similar piles of stones on high fells and mountains, to warn off marauding Scots who in the past raided the area stealing cattle. The stone were meant to resemble giants on the fells.
6. A track joins the road from the left with a sign saying: 'Warning Forestry Operations'. Turn left and take the track and follow this downhill through woodland to reach a tarmac road at Todgill Farm, then follow the road back into Ireby.
Start and finish: Ireby. Parking is very limited, we parked near the telephone box.
Distance: 7.4 miles/11.9 km
Terrain: Tough walking up to Gregareth on moorland and very boggy in places. The descent from the Three Men of Gregareth is very rocky in places and care needs to be taken. Good boots and walking sticks if unsure on rocks are best. Full wet weather gear will need to be taken as there is no shelter anywhere on the route.
On a clear day the views are stunning but in mist or low cloud it would be easy to miss the summit trig point on Gregareth so a map and compass must be taken and navigational skills are needed.
Map: OS Explorer OL2 Yorkshire Dales Southern and Western Areas.
Facilities: No public toilets on route.
Refreshments: This depends on the direction taken to Ireby. It could be from Kirkby Lonsdale on the A65 or from the other direction on the A65 from Ingleton. There are excellent places to eat in both villages. We came via Settle and Ingleton and ate atNew Inn at Clapham, which was excellent. My friend and I both had the pie of the day and it was a completely homemade full steak and ale pie, not a pot dish of steak with a crust on top. This, with chips, veg and gravy, made a great end to the walk. 01524 251203.