Broad skies and wide landscapes, sunshine (yes, there was some!), wide paths and stone buildings blending comfortably into the landscape – these are the Yorkshire Dales. We had just a few days to spare in mid October, so where better to walk than on our doorstep?
Sandwiched between the Howgill Fells and Wild Boar Fell, a pub called The Fat Lamb was our starting point. It was a Sunday morning, bright and clear, and we soon made our way up and over Wild Boar Fell then down past limestone pavements into the Eden Valley.
Sculpture on Lady Anne's Way, Eden Valley
Our route then picked up a section of the Lady Anne’s Way, which runs between Skipton and Penrith. This was a fabulous broad dry grassy stretch of walking high on a balcony route above the valley, with views in all directions. The geology then changed and the going became wetter as we roamed across grouse moor (apparently the largest area of replanted heather moor in the area), finally descending into Wensledale and reaching our pub for the night just outside Hawes. We had covered 15 miles, in one of Britain’s best national parks on a sunny Sunday, and hadn’t seen a single person all day!
Day two started cold with a hint of frost. Hawes was waking slowly to the start of another week. As is often the case, navigating our way out of the town proved to be the most challenging aspect of the day – wrestling our way along a path strewn with recently chopped undergrowth and bushes. This was our Pennine Way
day, another 15 mile day following a section of the trail from Hawes south to Horton in Ribblesdale.
The Easern end of Whernside viewed from West Cam Road
There is an initial half hour or so of climbing up out of Wensledale, and then you find you are following a long mainly level ridge – West Cam Road, leading into Cam High Road, where for a while the Dales Way
and Pennine Way follow the same ancient route used by drovers, Romans and our more ancient ancestors. On its descent towards Horton, the route passes Ling Gill at Ling Gill Bridge, a national nature reserve where numerous species of native trees thrive within this steep sided gash in the hillside. The views once again are tremendous, and this time it was busy – we passed four people during the day!
Trow Gill, between Clapham and Gaping Gill
Having spent the night in Austwick, our third day involved a gently undulating route along lanes towards Clapham, then north above Clapham Beck, up through Trow Gill, finally popping out onto a wide and mainly level limestone pasture. Gaping Gill was the next landmark, as the path to Ingleborough passes right next to the hole where Fell Beck disappears down into a huge subterranean cavern the size of York Minster. After Gaping Gill the mist came down, it was inevitable really, we had had two fantastic clear days, and it was mid October after all. The route climbs in a series of steep sections, finally reaching the summit of Little Ingleborough, about a mile before the final steep climb to the summit plateau of Ingleborough, one of the Yorkshire Three Peaks. From here there are a number of choices. You can descend south west directly towards Ingleton, follow the ridge north east towards Ribblehead, or do as we did and descend steeply (at first) in a mainly northerly direction towards the Hill Inn, passing numerous potholes and sink holes among the limestone pavements of this area.
Those visiting the area using public transport will find there are a number of buses, as well as the Settle to Carlisle train providing options should you need them. By starting at Sedbergh (bus from Oxenholme station), a longer 6-7 day route could take in an initial short day crossing the Howgills to the Fat Lamb, then on to Hawes, Horton in Ribblesdale (with an option of climbing Pen-Y-Ghent), up Ingleborough and down to the Hill Inn, (or Ribblehead), then up Wernside (the third of the Yorkshire Three Peaks) and down to Dent, and finally a morning walk back to Sedbergh. The Lake District, easily visible on a clear day, may be more mountainous and rugged, but swapping the crowded fells for some solitude and exhilarating moorland walking was just great for a change.
Ingleborough, from West Cam Road
Hope you enjoy your trip!
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