22 October 2010

Pen-y-Ghent and the Ribble Way

» An ascent of Pen-y-Ghent via the Pennine Way from Helwith Bridge. Returning from Horton-in-Ribblesdale along the River Ribble.
Distance: 9.1 Miles | Time: 4h 19m | Difficulty: Easy

Since resident loon, Telfaller, had suggested a few weeks back that we take time to do the Yorkshire 3 Peaks at some point Lesley and myself thought it best we revisit Pen-y-Ghent, particularly as I hadn't been up there for the best part of 18 years.  So it was on a cool autumnal morning we made our way in the sunshine to one of Yorkshire's most popular peaks with danger dog extraordinaire, Bonnie, in tow.

A classical view of the your typical Dales traffic management system. Two ladder stiles, for the times when one big-ass gate won't do...

To avoid the crowds - and, yes, there are throngs of people heading up Pen-y-Ghent on a Monday in mid-October, more than Scafell Pike in fact - we abandoned the Fellmobile at the foot of Long Lane, just above Helwith Bridge, and set off up the public byway to meet with the Pennine Way at Churn Mill Hole.

Quick Links: The Map | Photos on Flickr | GPX file for your GPS device

Long Lane is an old pack-horse route running through the pastures of Overdale to Dale Head at the foot of Fountains Fell. Starting off as a classic Yorkshire walled lane it feeds into open grazing land on the top and makes for a pleasant, quiet, 2.5 mile approach to the base of Pen-y-Ghent.


At Churn Mill Hole the Pennine Ways leaves the lane and forks off to the left towards the foot of the peak and the point at which the main route from Horton-in-Ribblesdale filters in. Rather than continuing on to this junction you can branch off the lane earlier where it passes the stone wall  running right the way up to the summit, but this route can be a bit wet underfoot and makes little difference to the distance (it just starts the ascent earlier instead of dropping 20m to have to make it back up - but what's 20m?).

Looking South

The main drag up Pen-y-Ghent is steep but good, stepped for the first third but for a change they're reasonably set and make the going pretty easy. The only downsides to it are a) the foot traffic, and b) it's not all that challenging. 

For a bit of variation we crossed the wall about half way up and found our own way up the rock face to make it a bit more interesting - the usual disclaimers about it not being recommended, being entirely at your own risk, and its representatives accepting no liabilities and so-on apply.

Even Bonnie enjoyed this route once she realised that chasing stones down the scree slope was a bad idea - not dangerous, just that she had to do the climb twice!

Warning: making your own route up to the summit may result in confusion to other mountain users. We clambered up over the edge to be met with a "I'm sorry, but is there is path there? Because it looks like you've just appeared at the top of a cliff face" "Nope, just a cliff " Cue puzzled look "But ... The dog ... How did you ..." and much shaking of heads.

Pen-y-Ghent Side

From the summit follow the signs for the Pennine Way to pick up the path back down to Horton-in-Ribblesdale. This route drops gently down the north-west face, aptly named "Pen-y-Ghent Side" at this point, but Plover Hill is a nicer name and also perfectly valid (once you decide how you're going to pronounce it).

Leaving the peaks, the path slopes down to the valley and the numerous sink holes for which the area is famous for. Just to the left of the route, before it meets the walled lane at Tarn Bar, is the famous Hunt Pot. Popular with cavers, Hunt Pot plunges 60m into the earth. Part of a huge cave system, it's easily accessible, and easy to fall to your doom.

If you dare or, like me, you're not entirely in touch with your own mortality, it's possible to get right down to the narrow limestone ledge that crosses the "abyss" for some stunning photographs. Very slippery there though.

Hunt Pot

As a follow up to a proper look at Hunt Pot, we thought it'd be rude not to have a look at Hull Pot whilst we were there, so rather than making a left down Horton Scar Lane for the village, we turned right and headed in the direction of Marble Quarry Hill.

Hull Pot is supposedly the largest natural hole in the UK, roughly 30m long by 20m wide and deep, but lacks the dangerous appeal of Hunt Pot. If you could successfully plug the holes in it, it would hold in the region of 12 million litres of water (or over 21 million pints of beer).

Hull Pot

Having made the most of the glorious weather to take a sandwich and malt loaf stop, we left Hull Pot and headed down the lane to Horton-in-Ribblesdale. Horton Scar Lane, as it is, is another typical walled lane of the Dales, fantastic views on the horizon and stunning scenery to either side. Dropping down over two miles to the village below, the lane mirrors the original course of the river before it plunged deep underground.

Ruined but Lovely

Entering the village the path opens onto the infamous Pen-y-Ghent cafe, ever popular with walkers as a place for a chat and a bite to eat with a non-alcoholic beverage (but where's the fun in that when there's a couple of pubs to pick from?) and the semi-official start of the Three Peaks walk. From the cafe continue right, along the road, over the hump back bridges and then into the fields on the left, then along the river bank to pick up the Ribble Way. From here it's a gentle 2 miles back to Helwith Bridge and the third pub of the route.

All in the route is just over 9 miles, and about 4 hours to complete. Parking is limited at the start of Long Lane, so look to park in Helwith Bridge if the two spaces are taken.

The Map

OS Maps: Landranger 98 | Explorer OL2

View the trip at | See all the pictures on Flickr | Or go get the GPX file
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