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Three of the Yorkshire Dales finest peaks - in twelve hours..
At the south-western edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park are three hills that have become famous for walkers all over the country. Ever since a recorded time of 10 hours was set during a walk of all three peaks back in 1887, the circular walk of Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-Ghent has become known as the Yorkshire Three Peaks and is one of the most popular walking challenges in the UK.
It is not necessarily the height that makes the three peaks stand out; Whernside may be the highest peak in North Yorkshire, but Pen-y-Ghent doesn’t even break 700m. What make the three so alluring is Whernside’s height combined with the dramatic southern slopes of Ingleborough and Pen-y-Ghent, which drop abruptly down to the plains below; the natural erosion on these slopes make their sides much steeper than other hills in Yorkshire, and they stand out for miles, surrounded by plains of peat bog, making these three a perfect choice for a long day.
Whatever the original reason for the route, it’s now a classic and set to stay that way. In 2017 over 1000 people attempted it with Large Outdoors. With a road crossing between each hill and easy paths to follow, there are options to just do one or two of the peaks if you’re having a bad day. The whole route is roughly 25 miles, with 1500m of ascent and descent, and usually begins and ends at the village of Horton-in-Ribblesdale. The route is equally as exciting walked clockwise and anti-clockwise.
The walk may be a challenge, but that doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate the landscape around you. The views from the peaks are fantastic, west to the Lake District and Morecambe Bay, south to Pendle Hill and the Forest of Bowland, and north and east to the rest of the rolling fells of the Yorkshire Dales. Ingleborough is a National Nature reserve, which has large areas of exposed limestone pavement. This characteristic rock really does look like a pavement, and the alkaline soil it supports is rich in unique plant-life. Since limestone dissolves readily in water, the ground under your feet is hiding a huge network of natural tunnels; look out for cavers appearing out of the ground on your walk.
The area has plenty of history in it too, from the remains of the hill-fort on the summit of Ingleborough to the Pennine Way which cuts across Pen-y-Ghent, and the Ribblehead viaduct on the Carlisle to Settle railway, which you’ll spend a lot of time looking at on the traverse of Whernside.
Most people aim to complete the walk in under 12 hours, which makes a long but manageable day out. Horton-in-Ribblesdale and surrounding towns have plenty of accommodation, and the nature of a circular walk means there’s little to worry about in terms of transport logistics. The best way to do the challenge is in a small group with a guide who can bring the landscape to life and help you through those last few miles.
Having walked the Yorkshire Three Peaks many times with groups, I can honestly say I never tire of the views as the weather and wildlife are always different. It is an excellent challenge for people who walk regularly but who maybe haven’t done a challenge walk before, but equally it’s a great route for people with experience of walks all over the world.
The Yorkshire Three Peaks certainly has something unique about it; when you see the three hills you may not believe you’ll see the tops of all three in one day, so why not surprise yourself and give it a try!
Large Outdoors offers the Yorkshire Three Peaks as both a guided day walk and also as a fully hosted weekend package with accommodation, meals and of course the chance to complete this great challenge with the support of a guide.
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