ViewRanger’s resident hillwalker Oli Reed explains why Yorkshire’s classic walking challenge is both the original, and best, Britain has to offer.
Download the Yorkshire Three Peaks route for free here then follow the steps to purchase the 1:25k Ordnance Survey map to go with it for just £2.99!
As British hillwalking challenges go, it’s hard to beat the Yorkshire Three Peaks.
Unlike the 24-hour rat race of the National Three Peaks Challenge there are no energy-draining car journeys between climbs, and mercifully no pre-dawn starts or mountaintop wild camps like the ones you’ll encounter on the 15-summit mission of the Welsh 3000s. Yorkshire’s legendary hillwalking trial is, in essence, just a really good long walk.
The traditional aim of the challenge is to reach the summits of Pen-y-Ghent (694m), Whernside (736m) and Ingleborough (723m) in a single 24-mile walk that lasts no longer than 12 hours. If that sounds like a long way and a lot of climbing, you’d be right. This is a tough day on the hills and although the ascents are all over reasonably quickly, when you add them together it creates a sizable test for your legs and lungs.
Starting in the sleepy little village of Horton-in-Ribblesdale, the route first climbs towards the rocky outline of Pen-y-Ghent that looms over the valley at its base like a sleeping lion. You then strike out over a classic Yorkshire Dales patchwork of rolling green countryside and drystone walls, before passing the famous Ribblehead viaduct and climbing to the highest point of the day on the sprawling whale-backed expanse of Whernside. A steep descent and spectacular stretch of limestone pavement lie in wait before your final climb of the day onto Ingleborough’s summit plateau, from where it’s all downhill back to the finish in Horton.
Along the way you’ll meet plenty of other walkers, all enjoying what’s become an extremely popular and well-trodden route. The paths are well signposted for the most part and excellently maintained, and I strongly recommend a bacon butty at the takeaway van near the Ribblehead viaduct if you’re lucky enough to find it there as you pass.
Of course the one thing you can’t control is the Yorkshire weather, which can switch from lazy summer sunshine to torrential downpours in the blink of an eye. I first walked the Y3P in April and was greeted by snow on Pen-y-Ghent, hailstone on Whernside, then glorious sunshine on Ingleborough. In fact, it heated up so much on the final descent that we enjoyed our post-walk pint in shorts and t-shirt in the Golden Lion beer garden.
I’ve taken on most of the UK’s hillwalking challenges over the past two decades and can honestly say I’ve enjoyed none more than this. Go with a good group, on a good day and you’ll have a really good day on some jolly good hills.
How good does that sound?
Download the Yorkshire Three Peaks route for free here. On download you’ll be offered to purchase maps – the first map is the section of 1:25k Ordnance Survey maps that covers this route.