Venturing into the Yorkshire Dales is always an exciting trip, especially when it includes the three peaks. Now you could do the three peak challenge, which entails a hike of all three in under 12 hours (sounds difficult I know, but it is possible!) the three being, Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough. This particular route I want to share is aimed at Whernside.
For this walk I would highly advise bringing lots of layers and waterproofs with you, it may be warm down at the bottom but at the top it gets extremely windy and majority of the time you’ll get heavy rain, what do you expect for Yorkshire!
Now there are a lot of places to park up around the area, there are designated car parks, however these tend to become very busy and cramped around weekends, bank holidays and sunny days so you may have to park up on the side of the road, something I have had to do pretty much every time I’ve been, so just be careful when doing this as cars do whiz by! There is a lovely small pub called the ‘Station Inn’ which is directly opposite, you guessed it, the Ribblehead station, which is always a good place to park near and start your walk.
Once you have walked past the pub and station entrance, you will see a lot of walkers! They’ll all be heading in the same direction (this helps to know you’re on the right path!) this is towards the incredible Ribblehead Viaduct. I remember when I first saw Ribblehead and I was completely overwhelmed, it is a truly fascinating structure, especially if you’re lucky enough to catch a train going past. Ribblehead runs a train every two hours northbound to Carlisle, and southbound to Leeds, so if you’re stuck for a car, there’s always these options!
At this point you will have Whernside right in front of you as you walk parallel to the viaduct, with Ingleborough behind. On a good day, you will be able to to see the top, however more often than not it will probably be covered in low cloud, fear not though the weather changes extremely quickly! Following the path which will also follow the railway line, you will come to the Blea Moor signal box, one of the most remote in England and still in use today. There is also a house you will pass as you walk towards the base of Whernside. Then the ‘path’ becomes more rock jumping and treading round streams, making it a little more interesting! Crossing over a small bridge you’ll see the Blea Moor Tunnel entrance, which if you caught a train through, you’d end up in Cumbria!
FORCE GILL & GREENSETT TARN
Next, you’ll come to Force Gill, a beautiful somewhat hidden waterfall. If you’re doing this walk for the first time, it may come as a surprise as it did for me! It was unexpected, but a lovely place to stop for a drink or snack before you make your way up (remember to take your rubbish with you). This is where you will start the real climb to the top, there are markers on the way to indicate how long you have left, so there are resting spots. Personally I don’t find it a steep walk, however if it is raining I would just be careful with your footing. As you are walking you will start to see the incredible views of the Dales, with Ingleborough just behind and Pen-y-Ghent in the distance. Also by this point I would imagine you’d have had rain, sunshine and wind so it can look different depending on which you have! You will walk past Greensett Tarn, one of the larger tarns in the Dales just before the last upper slope of Whernside. Many people go to visit the tarn, however on a rainy day it can be quite boggy (no one wants soggy boots!)
This is the exciting part when your feet are starting to ache slightly and you’re just wanting to reach the trig point, where you can finally start to see the top! This is also where it can get incredibly windy, so if you like taking photos I would be incredibly careful with your devices!
THE TOP OF WHERNSIDE
And just like that, you’ve reached the top! Go on, get that all important photo by the trig point (its a must). This is a perfect opportunity to take in those glorious views, from here you will be able to see Ingleborough dominating in front, Pen-y-Ghent in the distance and on a good day you can start to see the mountains on the border of the Lake District! My personal favourite part is being able to see Ribblehead Viaduct from above, it may look tiny for here, but it is incredible to see it cut through the landscape. Its aways great to see how far you’ve walked as well, its a brilliant achievement!
From this point there are numerous ways of getting back down, you can carry on following the path towards Ingleborough which will circle round back to Ribblehead from the opposite direction, you can journey down back through Force Gill, however this can get quite boggy! You can simply go back down the way you came up which I would say is the quickest out of the three. Im sure there are many routes back down from Whernside as there are going up, Im still exploring those myself!
Well done! Im sure by now your feet will be asking for a break, and Im guessing food will be on your mind! Just something to add from my experience, visit Ribblehead Viaduct at sunset, It is the most incredible sight to see and a must if visiting. Hopefully now you can see why people love walking in the Yorkshire Dales and if you visit I’m sure you’ll catch the Dales bug in no time.
Jodie O'Connor | @joc_creative