One Saturday in the spring of 2003 I set out on the train up to Yorkshire to walk part of the Pennine Way.

It ws the third occasion within six weeks that my plans were thwarted. The Leeds - Carlisle train broke down in the platform and, after some considerable time, all the passengers were herded into the front two coaches. But we left Leeds nearly an hour late and I knew there wasn't going to be time to complete the planned walk.

So I fell back on an alternative plan. I hopped off the train at Ribblehead to climb Whernside. This hill is one of the celebrated Three Peaks, and the highest summit in Yorkshire at 2416 ft. It forms a long ridge overlooking the head of Ribblesdale from the northwest, and there are two ascent routes. Together these form a very pleasant circular walk out and back from the railway halt, lasting about four hours. The whole walk overlooks  Ribblehead viaduct, just north of the station - one of the most famous examples of British railway engineering, it consists of 24 stone arches rising roughly 100 ft above the valley floor and was completed in 1875.

Click on any of the thumbnails for a full-sized image.

The initial approach is along a rough track under the viaduct that gives access to a couple of farms laying beside Winterscales Beck. The route is quite intricate and you need to keep a close eye on the OS map. The route passes beside Gunnerfleet farm and crosses the beck at Ivescar, after which it turns right for Broadrake and then ascends the Whernside ridge itself by a direct and pretty steep path.

The path reaches the ridge at a spur known as Selside, roughly a kilometre southwest of Whernside itself. The viws are magnificent up here, particularly across to Ingleborough and down into the bowl of Ribble Head itself. From up here you can truly appreciate the lonely, inhospitable country which the Settle-Carlisle railway line crosses.

The route runs along the ridge to the summit of Whernside. Despite its elevation the ridge carries a path so broad and well maintained that you could probably drive along it. A stone wall runs along the crest. At the summit itself the wall is formed into a pair of recesses with a gap between them, and the Ordnance Survey's trig pillar lays right alongside. The place is a natural lunch halt for walkers and it's very unlikely that you will have it to yourself.

The route off the summit continues along the crest of the hill to the northeast. You're heading for the outlier of Knoutberry Hill, and to your right is the lonely tarn of Greensett.

At Knoutberry Hill the path descends from the ridge to the east, crossing an area of wild moorland. The channels to your right are the feeders of Force Gill. The scenery is magnificently wild.

Our path joins a significant track, here forming part of the Craven Way, to descend the spur of Slack Hill back towards the railway.

The route crosses the railway by an overbridge just south of the portal of Blea Moor Tunnel. From here the rest of the way back to Ribble Head lays alongside the railway, a distance of around two miles.

Finally, having passed Ribblehead Viaduct again and rejoined the outward path, the route reaches Ribblehead Station in good time for the train back to Leeds.

This page last updated 12th January 2005