Yorkshire Three Peaks: Pen-y-ghent

Living on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, it would have been rude not to have attempted the Yorkshire Three Peaks. So attempt it we did – though not within the challenging twelve-hour time frame! Instead, we booked ourselves a pitch at Holme Farm campsite for three nights, with the aim of doing a peak a day.

As the train approached the sleepy, picturesque village of Horton-in-Ribblesdale the steep slopes of Pen-y-ghent loomed in the distance. The origins of the fell’s name are uncertain, though given the similarities between the Cumbric language (a form of Old English) and the present-day Welsh language, Pen-y-ghent is thought to mean ‘Hill on the Border’ or ‘Head of the Winds’. After pitching our tent (and thereby claiming the neighbouring picnic bench) we left the campsite and, following the advice of a local, opted for a south-side ascent of Yorkshire’s 3rd highest peak – a modest 694m high.


Turning right, we passed the small parish church, St. Oswald’s, with its overgrown graveyard before turning left to pass the school en route to Brackenbottom. From here, we followed the marked footpath along Brackenbottom Scar.


Looking back towards Horton-in-Ribblesdale we could see Horton Quarry – a limestone quarry still in use today – and the plateau of Ingleborough on the horizon. From here, our second peak looked like a long way away!


As we neared Pen-y-ghent, we came upon remnants of a limestone pavement – which was pretty, though nowhere near as impressive as that at Malham Cove!


Joining the Pennine Way, we came face-to-face with the final 200m ascent: a short, sharp, steep climb to the summit! The path is well-marked, and consists of an innumerable number of small steps – the sort that tire your legs out ridiculously quickly, especially if your legs (like mine) don’t want to make long strides! – and a tiny bit of clambering where the path didn’t quite suffice. Nearing the summit, we spotted some rams stretching out right on the edge of the cliff – definitely not a sunbathing spot I’d choose!


When we reached the summit, there were plenty of picnickers already up there braving the chilly breeze – a shame the current bun wasn’t working at full wattage!

After enjoying our own picnic, we made our way back to Horton-in-Ribblesdale via the Pennine Way; this is the longer of the two most well-trodden routes linking Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Pen-y-ghent’s summit, but it was nice to get different views on the return leg. The open moorland stretched on forever, with more limestone outcrops and gullies coming into view on our descent.


Besides spiky emerald-coloured thistles, we also spotted obscure cotton-wool esque plants – which looked like cotton bolls, but couldn’t have been as they’re not exactly native to British moorland!


We passed grouse butts (though spotted no grouse on this occasion), sheep and cattle as we neared Horton-in-Ribblesdale; the calves were still in the utterly adorable phase, before they inevitably become hefty 100-odd stone cows (or bulls).

Once back in Horton-in-Ribblesdale, we wandered round the village before returning to our tent as a light drizzle descended on the dales – not quite the weather we had in mind, since we still had to cook our dinner! After an evening spent watching the Germany vs. Ukraine match at the Golden Lion (the better of the two pubs, by a long margin), sleep came easily before our early rise for the second peak: Ingleborough!


  • This route requires the OS Explorer OL2 (Yorkshire Dales Southern & Western Areas) map – I’d highly recommend photocopying the key sections of the map, as these huge maps can be a royal pain to refold in the wind/ rain!
  • Whilst there are two inns in Horton-in-Ribblesdale, Holme Farm campsite is a great option for those on a budget – it worked out at £4 each per night, and loo roll, washing up liquid and sponges were all provided, much to my surprise! The only downside was that it cost an extra £1 for a shower . . .

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