Yorkshire Three Peaks

Yorkshire Dales, UK

Category

Hiking

Type

DIY

Duration

8-14 hours (depending on fitness)

When

Anytime (May to October recommended)

Difficulty rating

7/10

What is the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge?

The Yorkshire Three Peaks has to be one of the best one day challenges in the UK. Taking in the peaks of Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough, you’ll trek over varied terrain, encounter spectacular views in all directions and even encounter a little bit of scrambling.

The energy sapping climbs and dramatic descents are certainly worth the effort. The scenery is spectacular, the geology fascinating and the personal challenge is definitely rewarding and will most likely leave you with a taste for more.

It’s boggy and beautiful and highly recommended as a day hike.

Highlights

  • A rewarding, rocky scramble to the top of Pen-y-Ghent

  • Stunning views from the summit of Whernside, Yorkshire’s highest peak

  • Trek past the spectacular Ribblehead Viaduct 

  • Keep an eye out for Hull Pot, the largest naturally created hole in England.

WildBase rating: 

 

  • Overall: 7/10 A great mini adventure. Stunning scenery and a rewarding challenge

  • Difficulty: 6/10 You’ll get sweaty and be exhausted but with the right prep you’ll love it 

  • Wildness 7/10 Avoid summer Saturdays and you’ll feel a million miles from anywhere

What is it?

  • A circular loop of three of the highest peaks in Yorkshire

  • Total distance: 24.5 miles (39.2km)

  • Elevation gain: approx. 5300ft (1600m)

  • The peaks: Pen-y-Ghent (2277ft/604m), Whernside (2415ft/736m), Ingleborough (2372ft/723m)

 

Who’s it for? 


This is a strenuous trek and shouldn’t be underestimated but it is achievable for anyone with a decent base level of fitness and the right level of preparation. 


Ideal for those looking for their first taste of long-distance hiking or those looking for a physical challenge in a beautiful part of the UK. 

Solo or group: We’d recommend doing this in a small group. 

Like with many of the events listed on WildBase, with the right preparation and training this is very achievable. There’s a great focus on support, safety and hospitality making this an event that shouldn’t be missed.  

Fun fact:

The fastest completion of the challenge is currently 2 hours 46 minutes. And there's an official race every year. If you’re looking to run in the official Three Peaks Race, this takes place annually in April but you’ll need to qualify to take part.
 

Getting there:

 

The traditional route starts and ends in Horton in Ribblesdale.

 

Start and end point: Pen-y-Ghent Café, Horton-in-Ribblesdale, BD24 0HG

 

How to get there:

  • By train – the nearest train station is Horton-in-Ribblesdale (0.3 miles from the start and there’s a direct train from Leeds train station of approx. 1hour 10minutes).

  • Driving – there is a car park at BD24 0HE (£5 for 24 hours).

Where to stay in Horton-in-Ribblesdale:

 

Route Summary:

WildBase recommend completing the traditional anti-clockwise route but it’s also possible to take on this challenge in reverse.

Map required: Ordnance Survey Explorer OL2

GPX: Yorkshire Three Peaks GPX file

Optional: download the Yorkshire Three Peaks app

 

The route is sign posted in places and the trails are generally clear but do not rely on the signs alone.

 

Terrain: a mixture of grass, gravel, rocky steps, tarmac and boggy marshland.

 

Key checkpoints (route description shown below):

  • Horton-in-Ribblesdale (start)

  • Pen-y-Ghent summit

  • Ribblehead Viaduct

  • Whernside summit

  • Chapel-le-Dale

  • Ingleborough summit

  • Horton-in-Ribblesdale (finish)

The Route:

The below description is a guide. Ensure you have the appropriate map and compass to navigate safely. 

 

Stage details 

 

  1. Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Pen-y-Ghent summit (steps 1 and 2)

  2. Pen-y-Ghent summit to Ribblehead Viaduct (steps 3-5)

  3. Ribblehead Viaduct to Whernside summit (steps 6 and 7)

  4. Whernside summit to Chapel-le-Dale (step 8)

  5. Chapel-le-Dale to Ingleborough summit (step 9)

  6. Ingleborough summit to Horton-in-Ribblesdale (steps 10 and 11)
     

  1. Walk south out of the village passing the Golden Lion pub and church and cross a small stream. Then turn left up a minor tarmac road. Follow this up towards Brackenbottom and just before reaching some buildings take a footpath on your left signed to Pen-y-ghent.

  2. Climb steadily up through fields with Pen-y-ghent ahead of you. The final section of the route to the summit is steeper for a while before reaching the trig point and shelter.

  3. Cross the wall at the summit and follow the clear path heading roughly north. This zigzags down, passing the gash of Hunt Pot, to reach the head of a walled lane.

  4. Carry straight on to follow the path over Whitber Hill to reach a clear track. Turn right and follow this for 1.5km (1 mile) and then take the path on the left towards Birkwith cave. This emerges onto a rough tarmac track, turn left and then right onto an unsurfaced track towards Nether Lodge.

  5. After Nether Lodge follow the long access track up to the B6479. Turn right and follow this to Ribblehead – the road can be busy and you need to take care.

  6. From the road take one of the paths that head towards Ribblehead viaduct. Keep the viaduct on your left and follow an obvious path which runs alongside the railway.

  7. After 2.5km (1.5 miles) the path crosses over the railway besides an aqueduct. The path now starts to climb towards Grain Head. Leave this path by taking the signed route to the left which climbs slowly on to the ridge, which is then followed up to the summit.

  8. To descend continue to follow the ridge path southwards for 1.5km (1 mile) and then turn left on the signed path down to Bruntscar. Follow the lane towards the valley to reach the B6255. Turn left, go past the Old Hill Inn, and then right on to a level grassy path. Take care as this road can be busy and traffic fast moving.

  9. This goes through a number of fields and then through an area of limestone pavement and past the shakehole known as Braithwaite Wife Hole. The obvious path continues towards Ingleborough climbing gently at first and then steeply to reach the summit plateau.

  10. In poor weather it is easy to leave the plateau in the wrong direction. If needed from the trig point use a bearing of 070’ until the ground starts to steepen, then follow a bearing of 100’.

  11. From the summit plateau follow the path east heading towards Horton-in-Ribblesdale. This drops slowly towards the valley. Continue past a ruined cottage and keep on the main path. This crosses another major path and continues along the obvious feature of Sulber Nick – a small straight valley. There are then only a few fields to go before the path reaches Horton train station with the car park – and pub – a short distance further on. 

Route credit

Food and water

 

  • Water – we’d recommend carrying a minimum of 2-3 litres (more on a hot day)

  • Food –high energy snacks e.g. energy bars, bananas, flapjacks, boiled eggs, chocolate to keep you going for 12 hours or more.

  • Refreshments en route (don’t rely on these being available):

    • Burger van at Ribblehead Viaduct (peak season)

    • The Station Inn, Ribblehead

    • Philpin Snack Bar after descent from Whernside (weekends only, peak season)

    • The Old Hill Inn (between Whernside and Ingleborough)

Safety First

  • Visit the Mountain Rescue site before you take on the challenge.

  • Right kit: ensure you carry all of the recommended clothing and equipment with you.

  • Weather check: check the weather conditions before you go.

  • The paths are generally good but you do need to be able to navigate and cope with the varied conditions in the high fells. If you’re not confident or comfortable with navigation we can help arrange a guide for you.

  • Familiarise yourself with exit points from the trails.

  • Carry a fully charged mobile.

WildBase note:

The clothing, equipment and food listed are recommendations based on our experience. Kit choice is very personal so make sure you train and prepare with the kit you’re going to use on the day and make sure you have tested everything you’re going to take.

 

Let us know if you’ve taken on the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge. What did you think? Would you do it again? What are your top tips?

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