This was our first walk in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. I had never heard about the Yorkshire Three Peaks before reading about it in a recent Country Walking magazine. We agreed with Wainwright (Wainwright in the Limestone Dales 1991) and decided to take the advice from the magazine – to do a slow walk on the Three Peaks and enjoy it. So I read the magazine article multiple times, studying it with a dictionary and maps.
The mountains of Whernside (736 m or 2,415 ft), Ingleborough (723 m or 2,372 ft) and Pen-y-ghent (694 m or 2,277 ft) are collectively known as the Yorkshire Three Peaks. The famous Three Peaks walk covers a distance of about 40 km (about 25 mi) circuit of all three peaks with nearly 1,600 m (5,249 ft) of ascent and descent. A challenge that many walkers aim for when undertaking the walk is to complete the walk in under 12 hours. (From Yorkshire Three Peaks Wiki page.)
WARNING. This blog post contains a lot of beautiful pictures of Pen-y-ghent and areas around. If you don’t want your future walking experience in this area to be spoiled, READ ON but scroll through the pictures quickly!!
We took trains on two very scenic railway lines from Newcastle to Settle: Hadrian’s Wall Country Line and Settle-Carlisle Line, both operated by Northern Rail. It might be annoying to daily commuters that the trains are so slow. But when our holiday starts NOT from the destination, but from the moment we got on the train in Newcastle Central Station, Northern Rail really is a great choice of transport. I think outdoor lovers agree with me – I could tell by all the big rucksacks on the overhead racks.
We got off at Horton-in-Ribblesdale, one stop away from Settle.
The station was very well looked after. Actually the whole Settle-Carlisle Line was adorable, because it was carefully looked after and dearly loved by local people. We hopped on and off at three stations. Looking on the map, they were at relatively remote places, some were in the middle of nowhere. But such happy stations! It was difficult to believe the line was nearly closed, TWICE! The Settle-Carlisle Line has a lot of interesting stories to tell. Maybe I’ll write a bit more on the day we went to Ribblehead Station – also an award winning visiter centre (with homemade fruit cake!). If you’re interested, click here for more history.
We set off from Horton Station on the west toward Pen-y-ghent, the smallest of Yorkshire Three Peaks.
Horton village, with the main character of Day 1, Pen-y-ghent in the background. It looks miles away and we walked there (feeling a bit proud)!
A country of limestone. There is SO much of it. It looked like a giant emptied a bucket of grit from her garden. Hmmm, I would like a few in my garden…
The first sight of a “hole”, with Pen-y-ghent in the background. The OS map is covered in “pot holes”, “shake holes” and “caves”. And the land was ACTUALLY covered in them!
If you’re like me, wondering the difference between a “pot hole” and “shake holes”, I found a clear and concise explanation on BBC Higher Bitesize. My basic understanding is, “shake holes” are formed first, and enlarged by water usually, into “pot holes”.
We had a look at this following one up close. It’s called Hunt Pot. It’s amazing what water can do over time. There’s a saying in Chinese: “water drops pierce rock” (= persistence achieves success). I wonder if they imagined it at this scale.
On the OS map, you can see “Hull Pot” very close to Hunt Pot. According to Country Walking magazine, Hull Pot is the biggest one in England. We didn’t go, but I had a quick search – it’s not a “pot” at all, if Hunt Pot in this picture is called a pot, Hull Pot looks more like a bath.
Of course, there was sea of purple heather.
Looking back to the path we came up on, and Whernside in the background. (Was that Whernside? I got very confused with all three of them…)
Yes, that gap in the earth is Hull Pot!
After all the hours we walked in the wilderness, we thought we were at the most remote place on earth, then we saw this:
Just to let us know that this was a beaten track! Signs like these are always a welcome sight. For directions of course, but they also comfort me a bit in that I’m not completely helpless if there’s ever a problem.
The final ascent. It suddenly got VERY windy. I nearly took off like a kite again (after taking off on Skiddow last time…). But apparently, Pen-y-ghent is Celtic, meaning “hill of the wind”. So it had to be windy I guess.
We got on the top and had our lunch in the S shape wind shelter. There was a QR code on the trig point. It’s supposed to show you a toposcope. But we didn’t have any signal at all… I prefer real toposcopes.
We went down towards the south, the destination is Settle via Stainforth. And the way down, is PAVED!
We really wanted to know, WHY, HOW, WHO??
A really steep descent. Look at that amazing stone wall.
Did you notice the change of colour of the stones? It was pale grey and it’s pink/red now!
Looking back at Pen-y-ghent summit.
Kept going down. Another classic view looking back at Pen-y-ghent:
I loved the wood deck. Does someone come and sweep it every week? It was so neat and tidy!
And after this, there was a endless walk passing miles and miles of grassy field. We climbed over millions of stone walls. (You can tell I was tired by then…)
But soon Ribblesdale unfolded in front of our eyes and I was full of energy again (thanks to pepperoni). It was really a classic English countryside scene. “Just like on the postcards” said my parents – their highest compliment to any picturesque view. This is currently my mum’s desktop wallpaper – Ribblesdale (feeling proud again).
Is that Ingleborough in the distance?
We reached Stainforth and found the cleanest and tidiest public toilet in a car park. Crossed a bridge over Settle-Carlisle Line, we met River Ribble. This is Stainforth Force.
We actually saw a rope swing over the river from a tree branch on the other side. A group of teenagers not far down the river showed us how to have fun with it…*splash splash*
The path followed all the way along the river and we arrived in Giggleswick just after 8pm. We started from Horton at about 1.30pm. It was a 6 and a half hour walk. The climb up Pen-y-ghent was fairly early on in the walk, which I was very glad about. I wouldn’t want to climb up steep stone steps after hours of walking. The magazine suggested walking it the other way round. I guess it’s partly because Day 2 starts from Horton in the route suggested in the magazine.
We stayed in Harts Head Hotel in Giggleswick, right next to Settle. There was a restaurant on the ground floor and our room was on the first floor. We didn’t go downstairs for dinner, because as soon as I touched the bed, I couldn’t get up again!
All photos copyright Rong Fu.