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In 1887, a good old-fashioned British pub and a few beers sparked a walk that would change the face of a small area of the Yorkshire Dales.
In July, Canon J.R.
Wynne-Edwards and D.R.
Smith, both masters at Giggleswick School, climbed the 2,373 feet of Ingleborough and then decided to stop in the Hill Inn for a refreshing drink.
From there the strong brew galvanised them, and they set upon the idea of walking off along Bruntscar and then up Whernside before continuing to Pen-y-Ghent.
The ascent of the Three Peaks took them around eight hours in total, and no doubt led to blisters and a sense of achievement. Their pioneering walk in no small way led to the Three Peaks Challenge that we see today.
This tremendous 25-mile-or-so route is supposed to be completed in 12 hours, and getting in under that time (some fell runners do it in just a few hours) means you have completed the challenge.
But there’s a lot said for taking this one a lot slower.
If you like grand landscapes and great views, with a bit of ascent in your legs, then it’s not to be missed. Ok, a word of note… it’s a busy route on the weekends and in peak summer season because the walk is fairly easy to navigate apart from the summits.
If you’re looking for something different, it’s more than walkable in winter, with some care, an ice axe, and some skill and at navigating at night. Above all, the Three Peaks Challenge is iconic because of its distance, the fact you take in three superb summits, and because you pass some truly awe-inspiring features.
Hull Pot is a chasm as you come off Pen-y-Ghent, and Ribblehead Viaduct was built in 1870, with navvies living in its shadow on the moorland. This epic route begins in Horton-in-Ribblesdale and then picks its way up Brackenbottom to the 2,277-foot summit (694-metre summit) of Pen-y-Ghent.
It’s a pleasant ramble until you cross a stile at the foot of the peak and head upwards.
There’s some scrambling towards the top, but the view at the summit is more than worth it.
From there you descend on the other side, veering off the track to visit the impressive Hull Pot (best seen in the rain when the waterfall cascades into the chasm).
The walk continues to Gods Bridge before landing on Gauber Road and eventually Ribblehead Viaduct and its 24 arches.
Navvies built this impressive engineering feat to carry trains on what is now the Settle to Carlisle Line.
The moor on your right housed the shanty towns where living conditions would have been fairly squalid.
Following the railway line, the path takes a left over the track before it climbs on to Whernside.
This is one of the best ridge walks in the country on a fine day, providing a sense of height that you don’t often get with British mountains! Next on the route is Southerscales and its limestone pavement (and wonderful autumnal sunsets!).
Then, you'll reach High Lot and the steep climb to the summit of Ingleborough.
On a clear day, there is no better sight in the Dales.
Providing you have strength left, the path back down to Horton-in-Ribblesdale is a fine one—landing you straight next to the Crown Inn for a well-earned beer!