Walk: Ingleborough, Yorkshire

Walk the second highest peak in the Yorkshire Dales, a mountain pockmarked with cavernous sinkholes, rumbling rivers and labyrinthine limestone paving

Ingleborough-1555053

Ingleborough (723m) is the highest of the Yorkshire Dales’ Three Peaks and has always been a favourite. It was the very first summit I climbed as a schoolboy walker and introduced me to the wonders of limestone landscapes. 

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Mind the gap: beneath the moorland of the Dales are hundreds of miles of limestone caves, some surfacing with vast sinkholes ©Alamy

This eight-mile route to the summit and back takes you to a mysterious chasm and a famous pothole.

1. Falls to cave

Leave the village of Clapham, soon passing Clapham Falls. The artificial cascade was created by the Farrer family in the 19th century as an outfall for the dammed Clapham Beck. Continue following the line of the stream up to Ingleborough Cave, just one of many hallows carved out of the limestone – it is quite spectacular and open to the public, with an admission charge. Beyond the cave, the way swings round to the right to enter the deep cleft of Trow Gill, where a bit of a scramble leads you through a gap overlooked by a steep rock face. 

2. Beneath the earth

You will soon emerge into the open, where a clear path heads up towards the crest of Ingleborough. But there is one more surprise in store: one of Britain’s most famous and dramatic potholes, Gaping Gill. Water tumbles from the chasm opening to the floor, plunging 105m into the depths of the mountain. It’s the highest single-drop waterfall in Britain. 

A broad track heads off to the lower peak of Little Ingleborough, reached at the end by a rock staircase. 

Light from above inside Gaping Gill cave in Ingleborough, Yorkshire Dales National Park (England).
A view from below of the dramatic Gaping Gill waterfall on the flanks of Ingleborough ©Getty
3. Up and down

A long ridge leads away to Ingleborough itself, dipping down to a saddle before climbing to reach the summit.

4. Paving the way

Up here is a magnificent limestone pavement – a maze-like layer of loose stone slabs – home to a variety of alpine plants, including yellow and purple saxifrage. Wide-ranging views stretch out across a patchwork of little fields in the valley, over to the distant, dark hulk of Pen-y-Ghent. With luck, you will also hear the distinctive calls of two of the native birds; the keening cry of the curlew and the sweet song of the meadow pipit. Spend some time enjoying the scene before returning to Clapham.

Footpath along Pen-y-ghent
An Autumnal Pen-Y-Ghent ©Ghetty

Enjoy a drink and something to eat at the New Inn – it was actually new in the middle of the 18th century. There are also a number of places to stay, including the cheap and basic Clapham Bunkhouse.

For more information on exploring Ingleborough’s spectacular walks and views, go to The Yorkshire Dales National Park website. 

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Main image ©Alamy