In the latest of our series of bite-sized intros to Britain's favourite hills, Alex Roddie turns to the cave-riddled hulk of Ingleborough, probably the finest of Yorkshire's popular three peaks.
Height: 723m (2,372ft)
Personality: A great bulky mass of a hill, whose distinctive layered summit looks out over the surrounding Yorkshire Dales, Ingleborough is a prominent landmark for many miles in every direction. Like many Dales fells, peat bog predominates over its slopes, although the paths tend to be firm underfoot due to the mountain's rocky character. The top 30m consists of a hard Millstone Grit cap, which protected it from further erosion during the last Ice Age.
What's in a name? The 'borough' part derives from the Old English burh, thought to refer to an Iron Age hill fort that once crowned its summit. Although little remains of it now apart from a broken rubble rampart, the flat top ends abruptly above a series of rocky terraces, and it's easy to imagine a more substantial wall marking the edge of the plateau long ago. With commanding views over the surrounding countryside, it must have been an important strategic location.
Hidden gem: Few mountains of any size have as many hidden nooks and crannies as Ingleborough. The hill's geology includes a deep bed of limestone – a porous rock, riddled with caves, into which most of the mountain's watercourses flow. On the ascent from Clapham Bottom, walkers pass the enormous entrance of Gaping Gill, which looks exactly as it sounds. Dozens of caves, potholes and shafts pepper Ingleborough's slopes. Many have been explored; many await exploration. For adventurers who'd rather stay above ground level, the beautiful limestone pavements on both west and east sides of the hill offer stunning views. Be careful, though – it's a fragile natural environment, easily damaged.
Greatest route? From Ribblehead, take the north ridge across Park Fell and Simon Fell before tackling Ingleborough via the short but sweet NE Ridge. Return via Chapel-le-Dale, or for a longer day out descend to Gaping Gill and then return along the Pennine Bridleway across the limestone pavement on the east side of the mountain. I'd avoid the direct route from Ingleton, except in descent – it's a bit of a grind on the way up.
Pub quiz trivia: There are many structures on Ingleborough's summit plateau, including a cross-shaped shelter and an Ordnance Survey trig point, but one of the larger cairns is in fact the remains of a hospice tower built in 1830. Legend has it that the tower was partially demolished during the drunken opening celebrations, and completely destroyed shortly afterwards.
Where to stay? There are many options in Horton in Ribblesdale, or as far away as Settle, but Ingleton has the most choice locally. There is an excellent overview of hotels, guest houses and other accommodation here.
Local pub: The Station Inn, Ribblehead. It has quirky charm, well-kept ales, and excellent pork pies... so pretty much the perfect post-hill pub, in other words.
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