Ingleborough from Clapham Walking

Ingleborough may not be the highest of Yorkshire's celebrated Three Peaks, but in many ways it is the jewel in the crown of the entire Yorkshire Dales National Park. Its many attractions include vast swathes of limestone pavement, unusual flora and fauna, astonishing glacial erratic boulders, and some of the finest caves in the UK. These include the Gaping Gill system, home to an enormous main chamber where the surface stream plunges underground down a 98-metre waterfall. You could spend a lifetime on Ingleborough and not see every nook and cranny, but this walk takes in some of the highlights of its southern flanks.

The impressive ravine of Trow Gill  © Chris Scaife
The impressive ravine of Trow Gill
Fetching Map

Detailed description

SD7460669190 Walk into the village and cross Clapham Beck by a narrow stone footbridge, then turn right to reach the Ingleborough Nature Trail. There is a small fee to use this path, which runs through woodland past a small lake and a 19th century ornamental grotto to reach Ingleborough Cave. If you have the time, this impressive show cave is well worth a visit. Immediately after passing the show cave, the track crosses a stone bridge and you can see Clapham Beck emanating from the underworld.

SD7542971099 Continue along the obvious track, very slightly uphill with small rocky crags on either side, to enter Trow Gill. This dramatic limestone gorge pinches in towards a narrow upper exit, and after a short distance the path crosses the wall via a stile. A number of shakeholes in this area are home to cave entrances, many of which link up to the Gaping Gill system. Gaping Gill itself can soon be seen, recognised from afar by the fence around the top. Here, the deep valley of Fell Beck comes to an abrupt end, as the stream disappears underground, not to see the light of day again until its resurgence from Ingleborough Cave. Viewed from underground, Gaping Gill Main Chamber is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular sights in the British Isles. Non-cavers who wish to see it from this perspective should check the websites of Bradford Pothole Club and Craven Pothole Club; both clubs arrange annual winch meets, during which visitors can be lowered down the shaft in a sturdy chair.

SD7514172717 Now return to the main path and follow this uphill. The path steepens towards Little Ingleborough, but from here to the summit of Ingleborough is a walk in the park. Turn left on the summit plateau towards the trig point, cairn and wind shelter; but the actual highest point is marked by the ruins of a tower that was built in 1830 and destroyed soon afterwards. The remains of an Iron Age hill fort and hut circles can be seen to the east of the summit. Far-reaching views can be expected on a clear day, including the Lakeland Fells, Morecambe Bay and Pendle Hill, as well as the surrounding peaks of the Pennines and Yorkshire Dales.

SD7410974552 Head east along a broad, rocky path. Looking down to the left from here, you should be able to see Ribblehead Viaduct on the famous Settle-Carlisle railway. After a short steep descent, go right at a fork in the path, heading towards distant Pen-y-ghent. This is part of the Three Peaks walk and the path is clear and easy to follow. Soon you will be on an area of moorland known as the Allotment, well known to cavers for its wealth of underground delights. These include Nick Pot, whose main shaft - Vulcan - is as high as the main chamber in Gaping Gill. Shortly after passing a derelict shooting hut, take the right fork in the path to leave the Three Peaks walk behind.
Walking amongst the Norber Erratics  © Chris Scaife
Walking amongst the Norber Erratics
© Chris Scaife

SD7683573718 This obvious path heads south through grassland, then cuts through a section of limestone pavement. Ingleborough's limestone pavements are important sites for wildlife, including ferns - even the most casual observer should notice a few different species here. When the Pennine Bridleway is reached, bear right, then immediately left on a grassy path. Follow this downhill, soon arriving at a point where numerous paths lead off in different directions. The most obvious track leads downhill to Crummack Lane, but take a fainter path that rises slightly to the SSW and follow the ridge until a stile leads across the wall to the Norber erratics.

SD7673470009 The Norber erratic boulders, some of which are improbably poised, are the result of melting glaciers at the end of the last ice age, and it is worth spending some time wandering around to inspect this fascinating area. When you feel you have lingered enough, follow the footpath across a large field to Thwaite Lane. This track is now followed back to Clapham via two long, dark tunnels under the Ingleborough Hall Estate.

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Further Routes

by Chris Scaife

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