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The Three Peaks, Yorkshire

Updated on September 26, 2012

The three peaks, Yorkshire are Pen-y-Ghent (2267ft), Ingleborough (2372ft) and Whernside (2388ft); small mountains in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, which is an outstandingly beautiful area of England filled with wildlife habitat of national and international importance. It includes areas of limestone woodland, heather moorland, raised bog and wildflower rich meadows. You might see species such as the Northern brown argus butterfly, peregrine falcons, yellow wagtails, cloudberry and common rock rose.

The Yorkshire three peaks are a popular walking challenge, which has the advantage over the national three peak challenge of there not being any driving between the peaks. The whole route is a circular walk and you can even camp near the starting point in Horton in Ribblesdale, or stay in a B+B and give yourself a car free day.

It is geologically exciting too with distinctive valleys, known as dales, limestone pavement and crags and potholes leading to extensive cave systems.

The strong cultural heritage is interesting with archaeological remains from the Palaeolithic onward, stone barns and the dry stone walls of working farms,contributing to the character of the area, remains of small industries such as lead mines and the incomparable Settle to Carlisle railway.

show route and directions
A markerPen-y-Ghent -
Pen-y-Ghent, Yorkshire Dales National Park, Settle, North Yorkshire BD24, UK
get directions

B markerIngleborough -
Ingleborough, Yorkshire Dales National Park, Carnforth, North Yorkshire LA6, UK
get directions

C markerHorton in ribblesdale -
Horton in Ribblesdale, North Yorkshire BD24, UK
get directions

D markerWhernside -
Whernside, Yorkshire Dales National Park, Sedbergh, Cumbria LA10, UK
get directions

Yorkshire Dale's Scenery

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Bastow wood, North YorkshireHunt Pot, Pen-y-Ghentwild flower meadow, North YorkshireDry stone walls near Settle, North YorkshireLimestone crag near Kilnsey, North YorkshirePen-y-Ghent from Horton in RibblesdaleEarly purple Orchid, Bastow woodScaleber Foss, North Yorkshire
Bastow wood, North Yorkshire
Bastow wood, North Yorkshire | Source
Hunt Pot, Pen-y-Ghent
Hunt Pot, Pen-y-Ghent | Source
wild flower meadow, North Yorkshire
wild flower meadow, North Yorkshire | Source
Dry stone walls near Settle, North Yorkshire
Dry stone walls near Settle, North Yorkshire | Source
Limestone crag near Kilnsey, North Yorkshire
Limestone crag near Kilnsey, North Yorkshire | Source
Pen-y-Ghent from Horton in Ribblesdale
Pen-y-Ghent from Horton in Ribblesdale | Source
Early purple Orchid, Bastow wood
Early purple Orchid, Bastow wood | Source
Scaleber Foss, North Yorkshire
Scaleber Foss, North Yorkshire | Source

Three Peaks Record

Set by a fell runner in 1979, the record is two hours, 29 minutes and 53 seconds!

The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge

The official three peaks challenge is a 24.5 mile circular route starting and finishing in Horton in Ribblesdale. It includes the summits of the three peaks. The aim is to complete it in under twelve hours.

The Three Peaks Walk with Dogs

The walk is fairly challenging for the average family dog so make sure you include your pet in your fitness preparation. Ideally complete at least one shorter training walk with them over similar terrain.

Make sure you can control your dog whilst walking through livestock and walking downhill on slippery and rocky terrain - you don't want to be pulled over and wrench or break and ankle!

It is not suitable for giant breeds because there are some difficult stiles which you may need to lift a large dog over and the rocky and precipitous terrain is unlikely to suit them.

If you are taking a small or short legged dog be prepared to carry them over boggy areas and provide help up and down steep rocky slopes.

Do take easily digestible snacks for your dog and some water, although there are plenty of clean streams they can drink from too. A spare slip lead would be handy lest the dog lead or collar breaks.

Don't allow your dog to disturb ground nesting birds or run amongst sheep. It is a good idea to keep dogs on the lead.

An Account of the Yorkshire Three Peaks Walk by completed by Anna and Rachel (humans) and Bob, Bruno and Miele (dogs) on 16th July 2012.

Subtitled: Soggy, Foggy, Boggy and Doggy

This account does not aim to serve as a route map or instruction manual for the three peaks walk, rather I hope it gives you a good flavour of the experience in quite testing conditions, so that you can decide for yourself whether you could realistically consider taking the walk, would rather tackle one peak in a day (each is a good walk by themselves) or just prefer to enjoy our experience from the comfort of your armchair.

Summary (it wasn’t summery!)

Humans walking in aid of Hear and Now a voluntary organisation being set up to provide free counselling to folk in Burnley. Dogs walking in aid of RSPCA East Lancashire branch (former home of Bob).

Map reader and route master – Anna

Reporter and photographer – Rachel (AKA Nettlemere)

Dogs - Miele the golden retriever, Bruno labrador and Bob the terrier

Weather forecast was intermittent rain throughout the day. Full Route distance 23 – 26 miles depending on variation. Our Mileage 22+

Preparation – over the course of 2 months we all prepared for the walk by regularly going up Pendle Hill near our homes in Lancashire and putting in a fair bit of mileage on foot. For example I did a couple of five hour hikes with the dogs over similar terrain to what I expected from the three peaks. Human fitness on the day was reasonable but room for improvement. Dog fitness – Miele youthful retriever and full of beans, Bruno 11 year old Labrador, plenty of stamina, Bob 4 year old short legged terrier who doesn’t like rain; he was our biggest query as to ability to complete the course. Hence back up car sited at base of second peak in case any of us were injured or flagging markedly.

Other walkers on the day: We met three groups of men – a three, two and a 1 doing the 3 Peaks. We suspect the 3 didn’t complete, but the 2 and 1 did. We met 2 women who had walked from Stainforth up Ingleborough and were going a couple more miles. 1 fell runner coming towards us – we didn’t enquire as to his route. A couple of groups of Duke of Edinbrough students not doing the 3 Peaks. There were no other dogs.

Route taken. Horton in Ribblesdale start. Up Pen-Y-Ghent (PYG) across moors to Ribblehead viaduct (Ingleborough tantalisingly in view on occasion). Up Whernside, up Ingleborough. Return to car.

Pen-y-Ghent summit (P1)
Pen-y-Ghent summit (P1) | Source

Pen-y-Ghent

7.45am: We start at Horton in Ribblesdale. It is overcast with PYG summit in cloud. Overall visibility is reasonable and the route straightforward to follow, but very steep and quite a scramble in places. With only little legs, Bob needed a brief lift up rocks too high to jump up. We achieve PYG summit (P1) in good heart. Rain started as we made our way down.

Hull Pot Beck (P2)
Hull Pot Beck (P2) | Source
Black Dub Moss - although we weren't 100%sure at that point! (P3)
Black Dub Moss - although we weren't 100%sure at that point! (P3) | Source

9.45 Advised through internet forums to avoid an especially boggy patch, we detoured a little taking a slightly longer route. We crossed the fast flowing stream (P2). I fell in – now sodden to the waist. We hit the moor and the cloud has come down. Visibility down to 20ft in places and the rain is persistent (P3). It is impossible to see where the path is due to boggy conditions. Three men attempting the route with a Sat Nav are quite disorientated and heading in totally the wrong direction. Our map and compass wins the day. I get knee deep in mud. Bob sodden and shivery needs carrying for a mile or 2.

We make it across the moor to a clear track which proves to be the one we were aiming for. It is still raining but there are tantalising glimpses of Ingleborough which we pass quite closely (P4,5,6). The view back to the moors shows how low the cloud was (P7). It is 12.30pm and we suspect we may only complete two of the 3 peaks at this stage.Miele and Bruno excepted, we’re somewhat disheartened.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Sighting Ingleborough (P4)IngleboroughPen-y-Ghent
Sighting Ingleborough (P4)
Sighting Ingleborough (P4) | Source
Source
Ingleborough
Ingleborough | Source
Pen-y-Ghent
Pen-y-Ghent | Source
Ribblehead aquaduct (P12)
Ribblehead aquaduct (P12) | Source

Ribblehead Viaduct

Hurray – we can see the Ribblehead viaduct (P8,9) which is the bottom of Whernside. The Ribblehead viaduct is a phenomenal feat of engineering and part of the world famous Settle to Carlisle line. Construction of the line began in 1869 and took seven years to complete. We can understand why having covered some of the terrain on foot.

We can’t see Whernside due to cloud. I get excited because it appears to be brightening back towards PYG (P10) although the rain continues. We pass the manned Blea Moor signal box – a great job if you’re a bit unsociable and then cross the rather lovely aquaduct (P12) and pass the waterfall (P13). Intermittently the rain stops briefly and I imagine that thinner areas of cloud are about to break and reveal sunshine. Disappointingly, no glimmer of sunshine ever gets to us.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Ribblehead viaduct (P8)Ribblehead viaduct with freight train (P9)The waether is looking brighter (P10)Blea Moor signal box (P11)Whernside Waterfall (P13)
Ribblehead viaduct (P8)
Ribblehead viaduct (P8) | Source
Ribblehead viaduct with freight train (P9)
Ribblehead viaduct with freight train (P9) | Source
The waether is looking brighter (P10)
The waether is looking brighter (P10) | Source
Blea Moor signal box (P11)
Blea Moor signal box (P11) | Source
Whernside Waterfall (P13)
Whernside Waterfall (P13) | Source
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Whernside view (P14)Whernside summit (P15)Ingleborough again (P16)
Whernside view (P14)
Whernside view (P14) | Source
Whernside summit (P15)
Whernside summit (P15) | Source
Ingleborough again (P16)
Ingleborough again (P16) | Source

Whernside

The walk up Whernside is a clear path and long rather than steep, but I flag. Anna maintains team morale. For most of the way the view is cloud (P14). We reach the summit of Whernside (P15) On the way down Anna flags a little and I maintain team morale. Bob is gritting his teeth and buckling down in spite of the weather. Bruno and Miele are full of beans. We can see Ingleborough ahead (P16) – the final peak, but should we do it?

We reach our backup car. Body parts are holding up and all dogs are still game. It is 5pm so time isn’t an issue, but visibility is, despite a distant patch of sunshine (P17). We discuss whether it would be safe to continue.



Ingleborough summit cairn (P18)
Ingleborough summit cairn (P18) | Source
Ingleborough summit approximately (P19)
Ingleborough summit approximately (P19) | Source
View from Ingleborough Summit (P20)
View from Ingleborough Summit (P20) | Source

Ingleborough

Knowing we have the backup car and can turn back if necessary, we bite the bullet and head up Ingleborough with fortitude. Ingleborough is steady for a stretch and then steep. My pace slows to less than 1 mile an hour and I run out of fortitude. Bob requires some boosts to get up the rocks. Anna maintains team morale. Miele decides it’s time for a game with a plastic bottle. Is her energy endless?

We get to the top of Ingleborough. The rain has stopped. The only problem is that visibility is so poor that we can’t see the Triangulation point, which is the official summit, despite wandering around in a moderately intelligent fashion. Hence P18 and 19 are us by one of the cairns at the approximate summit. (There is nowhere to place the camera for a joint shot on time delay.) P20 is the view from Ingleborough.

We also can’t tell where the path down towards Horton in Ribblesdale begins so make the sensible decision to return the way we came. The descent is particularly precarious and hard to judge where to safely place our feet. Bob finds it wearisome and a bit nerve-wracking, but continues bravely. Anna slips; one foot in the air, the other sliding downhill for 4ft. Amazingly she keeps her balance, however loses a little morale. I am making random huffs, puff, grunts and groans, but take up the morale maintaining baton.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Cloud obscures Ingleborough (P21)Distant Pen-y-Ghent in shaft of sunlight (P22)Pen-y-Ghent obscured by cloud (p23)Black cloud is looming closer (P24)
Cloud obscures Ingleborough (P21)
Cloud obscures Ingleborough (P21) | Source
Distant Pen-y-Ghent in shaft of sunlight (P22)
Distant Pen-y-Ghent in shaft of sunlight (P22) | Source
Pen-y-Ghent obscured by cloud (p23)
Pen-y-Ghent obscured by cloud (p23) | Source
Black cloud is looming closer (P24)
Black cloud is looming closer (P24) | Source

Would you do the Three Peaks Walk?

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At last we are near the bottom of Ingleborough and so is the cloud cover as we look back (P21). Surprisingly for about a minute ahead PYG is glimpsed in a single patch of sunshine (P22). I look back towards Ingleborough again and that cloud is chasing us (P23). Ahead PYG is again obscured. With just a mile to go it is a race to make the backup car before the cloud reaches us.

8.45pm, thirteen hours after we started walking we reach the backup car for a second time, having reached the summit of each mountain. Gladly shedding rucksacks we heft weary dogs into the car. We are all sodden, but it was nice to beat that final cloud and not get rained on again.

Distance wise we saved two or three miles returning the way we did, but I hope you’ll agree that we completed the Yorkshire three Peaks to a satisfactory standard given the conditions.

I should add that on a clear day the views are far reaching, varied and stunning. Even on our walk visual highlights included distant shafts of sunlight illuminating Pen-y-Ghent and lovely Ribblehead aqueduct. Please don't let our wet and cloudy walk put you off from visiting the Yorkshire three peaks to enjoy the scenery for yourself.

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    • Nettlemere profile image
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      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Thank you for visiting and sharing it Marcy - always lovely to see you.

      Hi Matthew - we certainly wouldn't have picked to walk down that way, but a work colleague had recently told us how he walked the wrong way off Ingleborough in poor visibility and ended up doing a lot of extra mileage and we weren't keen on that option either! Hopefully I go back soon and try Ingleborough the better way.

    • Matthew Kirk profile image

      Matthew Kirk 5 years ago from Liverpool

      Just read the whole thing properly today - you had a rough time of it, I can't believe you went down Ingleborough that way! Was much easier the other side, in fact that part of the walk is one of the easiest. Glad you survived!

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      Oh, your photos so look like everything I've visualized in that area. The mist, the gray-green colors, the entire feel of everything. Thanks for sharing this! Voted up and up!

    • Nettlemere profile image
      Author

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Good luck with that CyclingFitness - I wouldn't like the thought of having to carry my bicycle over any of that terrain! I hope you do a hub all about it.

    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 5 years ago from Nottingham UK

      I'm hoping to do the cyclo cross version myself next september. Now that looks hard!!

    • Nettlemere profile image
      Author

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      I feel the same too Frazle, there's such a lot of different scenery packed into a relatively small country, it's impossible to see it all. Thanks reading and commenting.

    • Frazle profile image

      Frazle 5 years ago from England

      A thorough and engaging read. Some lovely photos. It is sad how much of England I am yet to enjoy.

    • Nettlemere profile image
      Author

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Cat R - thank you for reading - it's a great place to take a camera - although a damp day can be a bit disastrous on the electronics. I didn't protect my backup camera enough and it has ceased to function!

      Horatio - you've been missing out if you've never visited the area. Thank you for visiting my hub.

      Kitty - it is the place to go for calm and peaceful - except on sunny spring and summer weekends when lots of people tend to decide to attempt the three peaks. Even so, there's space in the Dales for everyone. Thank you for reading and voting.

    • kittyjj profile image

      Ann Leung 5 years ago from San Jose, California

      It sounds like a great place to walk and it looks so calm and beautiful. I love to go there. But first I need to prepare myself by doing some shorter walk. Excellent hub! Voted up and useful.

    • Horatio Plot profile image

      Horatio Plot 5 years ago from Bedfordshire, England.

      What a great place. Lovely Hub. What fantastic pictures. I've never been, but want to now.

    • Cat R profile image

      Cat R 5 years ago from North Carolina, U.S.

      Stunningly beautiful. Would love to take my camera out there!

    • Nettlemere profile image
      Author

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Thank you Kashmir - it is a beautiful place, even in the rain.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Congrats on completing this challenging hike looks like a very beautiful place in the photos. Well done !

      Vote up and more !!!

    • Nettlemere profile image
      Author

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      molmin and aviannovice - thank you so much for visiting and for your congratulations too.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Sure sounds like a great hike, and very picturesque, too. Bravo on your accomplishment!

    • profile image

      molmin 5 years ago

      I applaud your determination, stamina and ability particularly given the conditions! Well done on a fantastic achievement and all for great causes. Excellent!.

    • Nettlemere profile image
      Author

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Well done Matthew - excellent achievement!

    • Matthew Kirk profile image

      Matthew Kirk 5 years ago from Liverpool

      Done the challenge in 8 hours! Wet and boggy conditions - have the certificate at home! :) Best walk in Yorkshire!