If you’re looking for the ultimate challenge during your Yorkshire cottage holiday, why not consider taking on the famous Yorkshire Three Peaks? This popular but challenging walking route takes you up three peaks in the Pennine range, taking in some beautiful scenery along the way.
What is the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge?
The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge is to climb the 3 largest peaks in Yorkshire, consecutively and within 12 hours. The three peaks in question are Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough. It’s a combined distance of 24 miles (not far off a marathon) and an ascent of 1,585m – not a challenge to be taken lightly! However, the sense of achievement is incredible and participants get to enjoy some of the most spectacular scenery in Yorkshire.
You can complete the challenge as part of an organised event or as a self-organised group. While a self-guided walk means you can take your time and plan your own schedule, the organised events mean you’ll have a guide and will be able to share the experience with like-minded walkers!
The Walk & Three Peaks
There are three places where you can start the challenge, all allowing you to complete the peaks in a different order. These are:
- Horton-in-Ribblesdale — BD24 0HE (the most popular option, very busy but lots of parking)
- Chapel le Dale — LA6 3AR (limited free parking, usually quiet)
- Ribblehead — LA6 3AS (some free parking)
The three peaks are arranged in a triangle, with the River Ribble and two B roads between them. It’s a circular route and marked in some areas, although we wouldn’t recommend relying on the markers to navigate, especially when the route is quiet – so make sure to bring a map and compass!
The usual starting point is the Pen-y-Ghent Café in Horton-in-Ribblesdale, which has a system for walkers starting and completing the walk. You record your names and the time on a clock card at the beginning of the route and again when you finish. As well as being incredibly satisfying, this is a good way for people to keep track of who’s out and about on the peaks!
The first peak of Pen-y-ghent can be completed in less than an hour. The route follows a gentle path that runs alongside a dry-stone wall most of the way, then climbs steeply just below the summit. There are also some fantastic views over Ribblesdale all the way to Lancashire. The top is often crowded with walkers, but still a good place to stop and enjoy a rest in the fresh air.
There is a long walk across a grassy plain to Whernside, the next peak on the route. This footpath here is well used and can get very muddy and boggy. There are a few short, sharp slopes, which can be quite slippery, so make sure to watch your feet! Further on, the trail passes through a farmyard and onto a road, which it follows for about half a mile. Here you’ll be able to spot the famous Ribblehead Viaduct, built in1870. Crucially, there is often a burger van here for those who need a quick refuel!
The route up Whernside follows the nearby railway line before rising up across grassy moorland. The path sweeps around the back of the mountain, so you approach the summit from the opposite side from which you started. The summit is a 3km long ridge, providing plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful scenery. On a good day you can see as far as the Irish Sea! The descent is rather steep and passes through some farm properties – one of which is home to a tea shop, where you can stop for tea and a quick snack.
The last peak, Ingleborough, is perhaps the most picturesque, with its flat top and limestone surroundings. To climb it, you must enter the Ingleborough Nature Reserve, which is home to many creatures including roe deer and bats. After this, a short steep climb will take you onto the summit ridge, which leads onto a huge plateau. Although this is also a popular spot for people to rest, the large space means it feels a little less crowded.
After this, the long route back to the start takes you across a boulder field, before a gentle walk across the untouched Yorkshire countryside. Eventually you’ll find yourself back ato Pen-y-Ghent Café, where it’s time to clock in and check your time! Make sure to reward yourself with a big cup of tea and a slice of cake – you’ll have earned it!
What do you need?
When taking part in a challenge like this, it’s important to be well-prepared. Although you may balk at the idea of carrying everything with you for up to 12 hours, there are some things which you really do need to bring along. Take a look at our suggestions below:
Good quality walking boots – make sure they’re comfy and weather proof, with some good grip. It’s also important to break them in before you get started!
Lots of layers – The Great British weather is famously unpredictable, so make sure you have lots of layers which you can add and remove as needed. Be sure to include with a good waterproof jacket.
Anti-chaf trousers/leggings – For obvious reasons!
Good socks – You’ll be putting a lot of pressure on your feet all day, so good walking socks can make a huge difference.
Back pack – Make sure it’s comfortable, secure and won’t hurt your shoulders.
Make sure to pack…
A packed lunch
Sugar-rich snacks (Jelly babies, Lucozade etc.)
First aid supplies (tissues, paracetamol, plasters etc)
Lots of water
Compass and map
What facilities are there along the way?
There are pubs, cafes and toilets along the route, although opening times vary. There are also some food trucks dotted along the way, making the most of the many walkers. There are roads at various points along the route, so you could arrange to meet a friend or family member to top up your water bottles.
Can children do the challenge?
Older children and teenagers may be able to attempt the challenge, but it is up to parents to judge their fitness and ability. Although there are no specific rules preventing younger children taking part, it’s worth keeping the length and steepness of the route in mind.
Can I finish after one or two peaks?
Yes, there is car access between the peaks so you can arrange to be collected. Please keep in mind that mobile phone signal is rather unreliable on some sections of the walk.
Can I walk in trainers?
We wouldn’t recommend it! There’s likely to be wet and muddy sections on the walk which will stain your shoes and leave you with wet feet! Trainers also may not have the right grip for you to safely climb and descend the steeper sections.
Can I take my dog?
Dogs are welcome throughout the route but must remain on the lead, due to crossing working farms. It’s also a long walk with some steep sections, so older dogs may prefer to wait for you at home!
Still feeling up to the challenge? If the Yorkshire Three Peaks is still on your list, then book yourself a cosy holiday cottage in Yorkshire today! After all, after conquering the majesty of these Yorkshire mountains, you’ll need somewhere special to rest your tired feet… not to mention toast your success!