Whernside and Gragareth Walking

This Three Counties walk begins in North Yorkshire, before crossing into Cumbria and then Lancashire. Whernside is the highest peak in North Yorkshire, but is rarely as busy as its Three Peaks companions Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent. On this circuit, it is reached by a long, broad, leisurely ridge that overlaps little with the Three Peaks walk itself. Across the valley, Great Coum, Green Hill and Gragareth form a ridge of similar proportions, which includes the highest point in Lancashire. In between is tranquil Kingsdale, with grassy hillsides punctuated by limestone scars, home to a number of caves. Perhaps the best known of these is Yordas, a former show cave that featured in the works of Romantic poet William Wordsworth and artist J. M. W. Turner, and one that - in normal weather conditions - is perfectly accessible to walkers armed with nothing more technical than a helmet, light and pair of wellies.

The long, leisurely approach to Whernside from the south-west  © Chris Scaife
The long, leisurely approach to Whernside from the south-west
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Detailed description

SD7069079025 Go through the gate and walk uphill, with Yordas Wood on your right-hand side. After crossing the wall high above the wood, turn left to join the Turbary Road. This track passes some dramatic potholes, including Bull Pot, Jingling and Rowten. Shortly after passing a fenced hole known as Kail Pot, turn left to follow the path downhill to the Kingsdale road.

SD6913375718 Now turn left and walk along the road a short distance, then go right along the track, crossing Kingsdale Beck by a footbridge. Pass through a gate, then continue along the lane until you can take a track that curves uphill to the left. When the steepness subsides, there is a fork in the path, but both ways soon reunite. A little farther on, there is another fork - take the fainter, grassy path that leads to the drystone wall on the left, and follow this all the way to the summit. This is a gentle and scenic approach to Whernside, passing a number of shakeholes and areas of exposed limestone. Looking to the left, you should be able to see the broad Gragareth ridge and, to the right, the imposing form of Ingleborough rising steeply above its vast limestone pavements.

SD7392581412 From the summit of Whernside, turn left and follow the path down to the road, passing many more shakeholes. Turn right to walk along the Kingsdale road for a few minutes, then take the obvious left on to Occupation Road. Follow this old routeway around a couple of wide meanders, then with the summit of Great Coum almost due west, follow the wall uphill to the summit.

SD7004483576 Head south, alongside a wall, passing the unassuming County Stone, which marks the point where Cumbria meets Lancashire and North Yorkshire. The next high point on the ridge is the aptly named Green Hill. Stay on the ridge as far as the trig point on the more dramatically named Gragareth. There is some debate as to which of these is the highest point in modern-day Lancashire. On the OS maps, Green Hill is marked as 628m and Gragareth as 627m, but recent surveys have suggested that there is a higher point on Gragareth, so if you're after the County Top, just make sure you reach the summits of both.

SD6870579304 You may want to savour the views one last time before descending. From Gragareth, on a clear day, you should be able to see Morecambe Bay, the Lakeland fells, the Howgills and the Forest of Bowland, as well as the surrounding peaks of the Yorkshire Dales. Return north-east to cross the wall and now follow the path downhill, back to the road. To see Yordas Cave, head back uphill a short distance, into the wooded gully, to the obvious entrance where carved stone steps lead underground. If you came prepared, you can follow these steps into the Main Chamber - over fifty metres long, with walls more than ten metres apart. At the upstream end of the chamber, a large calcite formation known as the Bishop's Throne is on the right, and the Chapter House waterfall cascades in just around a corner on the left.

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Further Routes

by Chris Scaife

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