Tuesday rolled round, and with it our third peak of the trip: Whernside. The diamond in Yorkshire’s crown, Whernside is the highest of the Yorkshire Three Peaks – and arguably the peak with the best views. From the lofty heights of 736m above sea level, the summit offers views of the Lake District and Morecambe Bay on a clear day – and if you bring your binoculars, you might even spot Blackpool Tower!
Arriving into Ribblehead just past 10am, we left the station and made a beeline for the spectacular Ribblehead Viaduct – sadly today it was sans locomotives à vapeur, but it made for some scenic photos nevertheless.
John Sydney Crossley’s design features 24 arches, each spanning 14m, which combined give the viaduct a length of a 4x100m relay race 32m above the valley floor. The 1.5 millionth brick was laid in 1874 bringing the project to completion and heralding the opening of one of Britain’s most scenic railway lines. Number crunching aside, the viaduct is a Grade II* listed structure which served as the inspiration behind the 2016 ITV period drama Jericho.
Passing under the viaduct, we made our way towards the foot of Whernside. Following the marked footpath, we passed Gunnerfleet Farm (and a whole host of adorable cows) before turning onto The Scar in the direction of Broadrake.
Beyond the fields of buttercups and grazing cows, Ingleborough dominated the horizon. Today’s visibility was a far cry from Ingleborough’s cloudy summit yesterday!
With 1¾ miles to the summit, we decided to have a quick refuel before making our way up the steep south-eastern slope of Whernside. One last glance back towards Ribblehead confirmed that today’s weather forecast was – by a large margin – the best of the three days: gone was the hazy mist of Pen-y-ghent, the interminable clouds and downpours of Ingleborough and in their place, blue skies, fluffy white clouds and unsurpassable visibility.
Leaving the outcrops of woodland and buttercup-laden pastures behind, we made our way up the rocky track turned stone-slabbed path towards the ridge. The characteristic peaks and plateaus of Pen-y-ghent and Ingleborough were behind us, whilst Whernside’s ridge loomed ahead. Once up, the jagged crest of Whernside continuously had us thinking we were approaching the summit, when in fact there was still another kilometre or so to go!
Whernside’s summit offered little shelter from the chilly breeze that comes with being atop Yorkshire’s highest peak, so we didn’t stay at the peak too long. Whilst at the top, however, we did encounter a couple of groups doing the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge and a fell runner whose friend could run the whole thing in under four hours. My mind was blown – how could anyone run a distance comparable to a marathon through bogs, along rocky outcrops and up mountains in less than four hours?!
Looking south (above), we had an unobstructed view of Pen-y-ghent, Ingleborough and the Ribblehead Viaduct. From our lofty perch, the viaduct looked like part of a collector’s train set – a tiny train line wiggling through the dales. To the north (below), a smattering of miniature houses and trees lined the valley, stretching from Deepdale Head to Dent.
Descending from the summit, we continued along the ridge before veering right to join Dales High Way a kilometre or so further on. En route, we passed Greensett Moss, a small expanse of water with a mirror-like surface. The path stretched out in front of us and filaments of fluffy white cloud unfurled across the bright blue sky.
Behind us, the clouds were giving way to blue skies over Whernside. The warm, sunny weather felt like a decent dose of compensation for the outdoor power shower dished out by yesterday’s rain clouds.
Once on Dales High Way, we spotted a number of waterfalls feeding into the Aqueduct further along the route.
Continuing along Blue Clay Ridge, we spotted the Ribblehead Viaduct peeking out from behind the trees.
We ended up stopping to take a few lot more photos, before returning to Horton-in-Ribblesdale, ready to return to Leeds the following day. One day, I’ll have to return to see if I can do the challenge within the twelve-hour limit!