If you fancy a walk in the Yorkshire Dales, why not put yourself to the test and see whether you can qualify for the Three Peaks Club. Afterwards, visit a local pub for a well deserved pint
The Yorkshire Dales are so easily accessible from most areas of the UK and offer a range of beautiful landscapes from valleys to peaks. They provide safe walking for all abilities. The three highest peaks are conveniently located within one area and a 25 mile circular route has been devised, taking in all three - ie Penn y Ghent, Wernside, and Ingleborough.
Start and finish is at the café/shop in Horton in Ribblesdale - if the route is completed within 12 hours this qualifies you to join the Three Peaks Walkers club. On both occasions that I have completed the walk, I managed to get well within this time without too much trouble (he says from the comfort of his chair and looking back several months!).
On my first attempt I made the mistake of thinking I was fit enough to do the walk without much training - in my defence, Suffolk doesn't offer many relevant training opportunities. You do need to consider some serious training in order to get the most out of the event.
Penn y Ghent
The first hill is a short walk from the village and you start climbing almost immediately. It's a relatively short, sharp shock before you find yourself on top of Penn y Ghent. It's then a matter of a gentle descent across open moorland - the route is easy enough to follow but crosses some quite boggy areas, so the right gear is essential. Eventually the public road is reached and a section of road walking is necessary - this brings you to the famous Ribblehead Viaduct which carries the railway line from Settle to Carlisle. It is possible that you will see "The 4th Peak" at this point, being a tea van parked in the layby - a cuppa never tasted so good!
The route follows the railway line and then turns to start the long climb up Wernside. I found this section to be quite hard going but there are some great views looking back towards Horton - a good excuse to have a breather and take some photographs. There is a stone windbreak/shelter at the summit where you can sit to take in the vista. Follow the route along the ridge before taking great care on the precarious and steep path down - this section will test any dodgy knees and needs to be taken at an easy pace. You'll need some serious will-power not to go into the Old Hill Inn pub (www.oldhillinn.co.uk; 01524 241256) when you cross the road before the walk in to Ingleborough.
Now, walk on and towards the final, and for me, the biggest challenge - Ingleborough. This peak comes at that distance when marathon runners "hit the wall" - this is true for the three peaker too, in two ways. Firstly, the physical exertion so far takes its toll and secondly, you have to climb a wall! There is steep rock wall that, at first glance, seems to be unclimbable. There is, however, a winding, stepped route that eventually brings you to a plateau before rising again to the peak. This is a desolate place, especially if the weather is bad so come prepared. I'm sure it could be quite pleasant on warm day but I've never been that lucky yet.
Don't be fooled into thinking at this stage that you're nearly home - there's a bit more to do! The route passes through some interesting limestone scenery - that is if you have the will left to enjoy such things. Eventually the landscape becomes more agricultural and, at last, Horton comes into view. You pass over the railway line along the main street and back to the café - mugs of tea all round!
Post walk drinks anyone?
The cafe is about 200m from the Crown Hotel and pub (www.crown-hotel.co.uk; 01729 860209) and it is necessary to pass the public car park; it sounds ridiculous now but I found it necessary to drive the rest of the way to pub - getting in and out of the car was a challenge though! The Crown has two bars with a central servery and is very warm and welcoming - mine's a pint of Old Peculiar please!
Where to stay
I always use Dales Holiday Cottages (Ingleborough View which sleeps seven; there are additional units at the same location. I have also stayed at the very nice Holiday Cottage at Selside Farm which sleeps six. The area is also blessed with many other excellent pubs and hotels. The Crown Hotel at Horton (mentioned above) offers accommodation but I have not stayed there personally. The Buck Inn, Malham also offers accommodation but is a fair distance from Horton and may not be the best located base for the walk.
Where to eat
Take a trip to Malham and try the Buck (www.buckinnmalham.co.uk: 01729 830317), an old coaching inn which offers good food (evening meals from £20 per head; bar snacks from under £10). The Lister Arms, Malham (www.listerarms-inn.co.uk; 01729 830330) is another inn offering good food from as little as £20 per head. Both pubs are situated in the jewel that is Malham (from where you can enjoy some more fantastic walks).
If you want to go further afield, I can highly recommend the New Inn, Appletreewick (www.the-new-inn-appletreewick.com 01756 720252 ) for some great food and ale. The menu is quite extensive and caters for all tastes & pockets.
On both occasions I have organised my own sponsorship and raised money for a charity that I'm involved with locally - there are also organised charity events which use the Three Peaks walk.
The Yorkshire Three Peaks is a challenging walk but it is hugely rewarding. I would recommend that you take time to get fit and also purchase the necessary basic kit - ie waterproofs; boots and the relevant maps. If you are minded to you can join the many walkers who return year after year to try and better their previous time for the walk. It can also be used as a vehicle to raise money for charity. Go on, you know you can do it!