The Yorkshire Three Peaks Walk is a well known walk, often completed by groups as a demanding charity event. It takes in the summits of Pen-y-ghent (694 metres – 2,276 feet), Whernside (736 metres – 2,415 feet) and Ingleborough (723 metres 2,372 feet) all in one circular, continuous route. There is no set starting point, but most people start and end at Horton-in-Ribblesdale, and walk the peaks in the above order. The walk is 24.5 miles long and takes in over 5,000 feet (1,600 metres) of climbing. The walking is over a variety of terrains, and is generally well signposted, but if you don’t walk on a day when other groups are participating it may be advisable to take an O/S map. Traditionally, the walk should be completed within 12 hours for you to be able to join the “Three Peaks of Yorkshire Club”, which is run from the Pen-y-ghent Café in Horton-in-Ribblesdale. If you manage to complete the walk within 12 hours, and have used the antique clocking machine in the Café or have left your details with them, you will be invited to join the “Three Peaks of Yorkshire Club”, in which case you can buy items such as badges, ties and t-shirts to demonstrate that you completed the feat.
This 43 mile drive takes you through the villages and roads surrounding the 3 peaks, through some classic Dales scenery and to some of the most isolated areas in The Dales, if not in Britain. Railway enthusiasts will also be able to enjoy several encounters with the Settle to Carlisle railway line, and some magnificent views of the iconic Ribblehead viaduct.
For some unique photographic perspectives of the Dales and villages covered by this drive , have a look at our sister website- Yorkshire-Photography.com.
Settle is a small market town in the foothills of the Pennines and on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. The town stands beside the largest outcrop of limestone in Britain – in a region of scars, cliffs, caves and potholes.
Immediately overlooking the town is Castlebergh, a 300 feet limestone crag, to the east is Malham, and the town is the largest in the area with easy access to the 3 Peaks. Settle has a population of around 2500 and is just off the A65 which links the town with Skipton to the South and Kendal and the Lake District to the North. It was granted a market charter in 1249 and continues to hold a market every Tuesday. In 1875 the Settle to Carlisle Railway was built by a huge army of around 6000 navvies who worked to extend the line across the bleak and inhospitable moorland of the Dales. Large camps were established to house the navvies, many of them Irish, and many of these became semi permanent townships with post offices and even schools as the workers’ families followed them in their work. The camps in the area were called Inkerman, Sebastapol, Jericho. And Batty Green, the remains of which can be seen at nearby Ribblehead. Life expectancy amongst the workers in this harsh and sometimes violent environment was often short. A plaque in the church at Chapel-le-Dale records the workers who died-both from disease and. The railway opened to goods traffic in 1875 and to passengers the following year when Settle Station opened along with a goods warehouse, cattle pens, signal box and water cranes. The Settle to Carlisle line runs to this day and is a popular tourist attraction as it runs through some beautiful Dales countryside and across Ribblehead Viaduct. Settle is one of a number of Dales towns which are popular with the motorcycling fraternity and most weekends will find the market square full of bikes and bikers.
Head out of town along the B6480 towards the A65, passing the turn off to Austwick
Austwick is a village in Craven, just off the A65, with a population of just under 500 people living in 212 residences of many eras, with some cottages dating back to the 16th century.
The area is famous for its geological features, not least the ‘Norber erratic boulders’ and limestone pavement at Oxenber Hill, overlooking the village. The area was first settled around 4000 years ago and prehistoric, bronze and Iron Age remains have been found nearby. The village economy has typically been based on agriculture and textile manufacturing though a document from the 12th century mentions a slate quarry in the area. At the time of the Domesday Book of 1086 Austwick was at the head of 12 manors extending in a Northern direction along the line of the present A65. The village retains a Lord of the Manor to the present day. The village has a pub, The Game Cock, and a hotel The Traddock.
Just past Austwick, take the right turn to Clapham
Clapham is situated at the base of Ingleborough, one of the 3 peaks, and there are 3 routes from the village leading to the summit. The church in the village, St James’s, was originally dedicated to St Michael and was in existence in the 12 Century though most of the present church dates from the 19th century. A nature trail from the village leads over Fell beck, past the saw mill and to Ingleborough Cave with its floodlit stalactites & stalagmites, and Gaping Gill, England’s deepest drop waterfall. The cave system is open to the public daily in Summer and at weekends in Winter months.
From Clapham, take Old Road out of the village, past the New Inn pub, across the bridge and immediately right with Clapham Beck to your right. It’s a lovely tree lined lane past stone cottages. Follow the roads as it swings left and becomes a narrow country land bordered by drystone walls and offering some fantastic views with the lower slopes of Ingleborough climbing away to your right. After about a mile the road passes the hamlet of Newby Cote and ascends gradually through classic Dales landscapes. The road eventually arrives at Ingleton and the B6255.
The village of Ingleton is situated in the foothills of Ingleborough on the edge of the Dales. It’s situated at the junction of two rivers-The River Twiss from Kingsdale and River Doe from Chapel-le Dale combine to form the River Greta at Ingleton. The Ingleton Waterfalls walk is a popular local trail. The trail is 4.5 miles long and leads through ancient oak woodland and fantastic Dales scenery via a series of stunning waterfalls. Ingleborough (2,373 feet/723 m) is one of the peaks on the famous Yorkshire 3 Peaks circuit and can be accessed from the village. The areas limestone lends itself to caving and there are a number of popular caves in the area including White Scar Caves along and the 365 ft (111 m) deep cavern of Gaping Gill. Ingleton used to have 2 railway stations, the last closed in 1954, but it retains its 800 foot (240 m) long Viaduct with 11 arches across the River Greta. The stations were at either end of the viaduct and were owned by 2 separate rail companies who were involved in a series of disputes in the 1800’s. This resulted in passengers having to walk the length of the viaduct to get a connecting train, and the companies generally made sure their timetables didn’t coincide, often resulting in a lengthy wait! Ingleton has a number of accommodation options and is popular with cavers and walkers throughout the year.
At the B6255 junction turn left towards Ingleton village. Follow signs to the village centre. There, cross the stone bridge over the River Doe, passing Bridge End B+B, then across another bridge, this time crossing the River Twiss. The road leads past the entrance to Ingleton waterfalls walk, under the viaduct and up a hill.There, look for a right turn signposted Thornton in Lonsdale. Follow the road to pass a caravan park and arrive in the village at St Oswald’s Church and the Marton Arms pub.
Thornton in Lonsdale is a village of just over 300 inhabitants with a grade II listed church, St Oswald’s, with a tower which dates back to the 15th century. The church was the location of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s marriage to his first wife Louisa Hawkins in 1885.
Turn right here by the church along Thornton Lane. Follow this pleasant lane as it heads up between hedgerows and begins to climb after passing farm buildings. Look back for some great views stretching for miles on a clear day. The road continues to climb as it travels through what’s known as Kingsdale with the River Twiss eventually coming into view on the right and the steep slopes of Keld Head scar to the left. This is a classic Dales drive, bordered by drystone walls through what becomes a harsh and inhospitable terrain in the winter months. The road becomes very narrow as it passes an isolated farm and approaches Cluntering Gill bridge –be prepared to pull off the road if faced with an oncoming vehicle. Past the bridge the road climbs, providing great views back down the valley from which you’ve just travelled. Eventually this long straight lane begins a gentle descent into the valley as it winds its way into Deepdale. The road is very narrow here, and even has a gate blocking its route- it really has the feel of being on a farm track rather than a public right of way. Follow the lane as it passes the scattered farm buildings and cottages of Deepdale and heads up into Dentdale.Eventually arrive at a T Junction. Take the road left signposted Gawthrop and Sedbergh.Follow the lane as it arrives by the campsite in Dent.
Dent is one of the most remote villages in the Dales. Situated in Dentdale, it’s also one of the only villages which is officially outside the Yorkshire border, as it sits in Cumbria. It boasts the highest railway station in Britain at 1150 feet above sea level, and roughly equidistant between Leeds and Carlisle. The station is actually situated about 4 miles from Dent at Cowgill. Cowgill is also home to the Dent Microbrewery which specialises in real Yorkshire Ales, which can be sampled in one of the village’s pubs The George and Dragon and The Sun. (There’s also the Sportsman Inn at Cowgill) Dent was the birthplace in 1785 of the Geologist Adam Sedgwick, who was schooled at nearby Sedbergh and was one of Charles Darwen’s teachers in Geological studies. A large memorial stone to Sedgwick stands in the village today. Dent’s church, St Andrews originated in the 12th century, was rebuilt in 1417, restored in 1590, and again in 1787, and has altar flags made from local black Dent marble. There’s also a Heritage Centre in the village which explains the history of the area including tales of the ‘Terrible Knitters of Dent’, the most prolific hand knitters in the Dales .In the 18th century knitting was carried out in the village by men, women and children and some farmers became famous for their party piece- knitting with one hand while milking a cow with the other!
Arriving in Dent, take a right turn by the George and Dragon pub. Head out with the church on the left to soon cross the stone bridge over the River Dee. The road bends right with fine views of Dentdale opening up before you. Follow the road down the valley with the slopes of Aye Gill Pike to the left. The road runs parallel to the river on the right and it can be glimpsed occasionally though is often obscured by trees. Eventually arrive at the co-joined villages of Cowgill and Lea Yate.
Cowgill is a small village which is actually over the border from Yorkshire in Cumbria. It’s about 9 miles South East of Sedbergh, by the River Dee and close to the Settle to Carlisle railway line (The nearest station is at Dent). The village has a 17th century pub, with accommodation, The Sportsman’s Inn. The village church St John the Evangalist, built in 1837 is a grade II listed building.
Arriving at the sign for Cowgill follow the road round to the right and over the river. If you’re a fan of riverside drives, the next stretch is a delight as the road hugs the River Dee, passing by the Sportsman’s Inn, before crossing again at the hamlet of Stone House. Follow the lane and eventually the 10 arches of Dent Head viaduct come into view on the left. Built for the Midland Railway Company between 1869 and 1875 the viaduct is 100 feet high and 199 yards long. The road passes under the railway and enters a moorland environment as it heads towards the B6255 road. Arrive at the road with a sign showing 7 miles to Hawes to the North East and 10 miles to Ingleton to the South West. Take the right turning towards Ingleton. We’re now back on a wider, 2 lane road as the B6255 travels through a bleak moorland landscape. Eventually, on the right, the iconic sight of Ribblehead Viaduct with Whernside rising behind it comes into view.
As its name suggests the Ribblehead Viaduct carries the Settle to Carlisle railway line over the River Ribble. It’s a famous Yorkshire landmark and a feat of engineering – Ribblehead viaduct is made up of twenty-four arches rising to 104 feet above the valley floor at its highest point. The north end of the viaduct is 13 feet higher in elevation than the south end due to the incline as it crosses a distance of half a kilometre. It is constructed from over 1.5 million bricks and limestone blocks which weighed up to 8 tons. Every sixth column is thicker than its neaighbours, so if one fell it would only take 5 others with it, not the whole viaduct.
Construction took place between 1870 and 1874 and around 1000 mainly Irish navvies worked on the project, living in makeshift camps which eventually took on the appearance of small towns with shops and schools. (The remains of one of these camps can still be seen via undulations in the countryside surrounding the viaduct). The building of the viaduct came at a cost and the churchyard at nearby Chapel-Le-Dale had to be extended to accommodate the bodies of those killed in accidents or by disease. The Viaduct continues to carry rail traffic to this day, though there isn’t really a village at the location, though the nearby Station Inn provides B+B accommodation and camping.
Approaching the viaduct on the B6255 look for a left turn signposted Horton in Ribblesdale and Settle. Take this road, the B6479. Again, it’s a good 2 lane road which heads through a moorland landscape and passes over the Settle to Carlisle railway line, with Pen-y-ghent coming into view on the left. The road winds its way through the hamlet of Selside to arrive at Horton in Ribblesdale. Follow the road as it swings round to the left to enter the village with Pen-y-Ghent directly ahead.
Horton in Ribblesdale is a small village of around 500 inhabitants and has a station which is a stop on the Settle to Carlisle line. It’s a popular starting and finishing location for the 3 Peaks walk and the Pen-y-ghent Cafe is the home of the 3 Peaks of Yorkshire club. The café operates a clock-in/out system to time, to aid the safety of walkers. A clock card machine records the start and end time of walkers and those who complete the challenge in 12 hours qualify for membership of the club. The village also has two pubs, The Crown Hotel and The Golden Lion, a couple of campsites, and a parish church. Horton is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, with ‘in Ribblesdale’ being added in the thirteenth century , presumably to distinguish it from other towns across England with the same name –Horton being a common term originally meaning a farm on muddy land. In addition to the 3 Peaks, The Pennine Way and Ribble Way also pass through the village, and it’s also popular with cavers and pot holers with Alum Pot and the Long Churn caves close to the village.
Follow the road through the village and over the bridge crossing the River Ribble, and out passing the church towards Settle. The good straight road heads down the Ribble Valley to a junction at Helwith Bridge. Follow the road round to the left here, signposted Settle. After a couple more miles the road then passes Stainforth.
The hamlet of Stainforth, is situated to the east of the River Ribble with Little Stainforth to the west, across a 17th century pack horse bridge which was once an important stopping point on the packhorse route through the dales between Lancaster and York. The village sits beneath Stainforth Scar, 2½ miles north of Settle and 3 miles south of Horton-in-Ribblesdale, and is the sight of Stainforth Force waterfall, close to the bridge.
Continue along the B6479 as it follows the Ribble along the valley. It then crosses the Settle to Carlisle railway line and passes through the hamlet of Langcliffe before arriving back in Settle.
Circular walks that can be completed in conjunction with this drive –
The route drive direction is very well written.
Is there a website from where I can download the route like I am able to do for the lake Districts shown below?
I want to explore Yorkshire.
Hi William – Not on this website at present- maybe something I could look at for future. I’ve not found that anywhere else either as yet. Hopefully an old style print-out plus map should suffice for now!
Hi, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your description of the road trip. May I know how long the entire trip would take?