Yorkshire Dales Walk - Ingleborough
This route is not easy but the effort is worth it to experience Dales walking at its very best, says Terry Fletcher
As a strong candidate for Yorkshire’s finest hill and one of the iconic Three Peaks, Ingleborough is among the most climbed summits in the Dales. On a busy weekend its flanks can be swarming with hikers setting off from Horton, Clapham and Ingleton. It does, however, have a quiet side and this walk makes use of the scenic Settle-Carlisle railway for a linear traverse that makes maximum use of quiet paths and as fine a section of ridge walking as is to be found anywhere in the county.
The train can be caught anywhere along the line, alighting at Ribblehead at the foot of the 23-arched Batty Moss viaduct before walking over three summits to arrive back at Horton-in-Ribblesdale Station. Those who do not wish to watch the clock and timetables can drive to Horton and then take the train to Ribblehead. Alternatively it is possible to use cars at both stations but that seems an unnecessarily fiddly arrangement when the S&C can take the strain.
The route is not to be underestimated. It climbs to 2,375ft (724m) and feels like a long day out in true fell country. It can be tricky to find the correct way off the summit in bad weather so the route is best avoided in poor visibility unless you are confident with map and compass.
From Ribblehead Station walk down to the Station Inn and then downhill to the junction with the Horton road. Follow this leftwards for a little over half a mile to a row of cottages on the right hand side and a footpath signed to Sleights. This leads behind the cottages to cross the railway by a bridge and then past an old lime kiln. The track winds on through scrub woodland and boulders with the upturned pudding basin of Park Fell ahead.
At a farmhouse go through the gate directly ahead to pass behind the buildingsand continue up the track following the line of the wall towards the summit. The next section promises an unremitting climb but its bark is worse than its bite and is enlivened by the expanding views across to the other two members of the Three Peaks trinity, the crouching lions shape of Penyghent to the south east and the whaleback ridge of Whernside to the north west.
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At the top of the slope continue to follow the wall until the trig point comes into view and beyond it the flat summit of Ingleborough. From the trig point Ingleborough and the intermediate summit of Simon Fell are obvious in front but the path is also marked by small green painted posts and the surrounding views are as fine as anyone could wish for. This is Dales walking at its very best.
Care is needed to pick a way dry shod across a boggy col before the climb to the top of Simon Fell.
After crossing a subsidiary top the track curls round to the left. Keep an eye out for a gate and stile on the right which lead to a climb beside a wall on the left.
Crossing the bald summit the bulk of Ingleborough fills the forward view, throwing down one last challenge. The wall-side path reaches a gate at the foot of a stone staircase which is climbed to the summit plateau where the large cross-shaped shelter provides an ideal place to stop for refreshments and to admire the amazing panorama which now includes Pendle Hill.
The plateau is a stony desert where tracks are hard to discern so from the shelter it is necessary to almost retrace your steps to the rim making for the familiar shape of Penyghent to the east. From a cairn on the lip is easy to pick out the clear path – part of the Three Peaks round - snaking across the fellside. Drop down the ridge until it is possible to take a fork on the right which leads to the broad well-trodden Penyghent-bound track. This is a piece of navigation which, while quite straightforward on a clear day, would demand a high degree of competence with map and compass or GPS in mist or poor visibility.
Once located the path is almost impossible to lose. In contrast to the first half of the walk on grassy trods this section gets so much traffic that the surface has been reinforced and stiles have had to be built in pairs to cope with the traffic.
Shortly after a gate at a fork in the path take the left hand branch, still heading towards Penyghent. Eventually the track crosses the new Pennine Bridleway and carries on straight forward into Sulber Nick. After the long descent from Ingleborough the path, with almost abrupt suddenness tops a small rise and Horton-in-Ribblesdale Station appears at your feet.
By now you will feel you have earned one of the pint mugs of tea in the Penyghent caf� or perhaps a pint of something stronger in one of Horton’s pubs but as you enjoy your reward it is a salutary thought that you have topped just one of the Three Peaks in what feels like a big day out. The best fell runners cross all three and the 20-odd miles in between in around two and a half hours.
Start: Ribblehead Station
Finish: Horton-in-Ribblesdale Station
Distance: 9 miles
Time: 5 hours
Terrain: A high fell walk over rough terrain and with steep climbs and descents best avoided in poor visibility
Refreshments: Caf� and pubs in Horton