After staying overnight at an AirBnB in Gargrave (battling for space in my guest’s bed with the house cat), following a pretty easy hike the previous day, today’s hike was about to be tougher with several proper ascents and a mountain scramble, but I was going to treated to a selection of some of the finest views in Yorkshire.
The route takes the walker north away from Gargrave and for the first few miles it is relatively easy and flat. I was treated to lovely weather for most of the day. The initial stretch from Gargrave to Malham is hilly in places, but goes along River Aire as well and it is a gentle, relaxing walk with lots of friendly cows and sheep along the way. As you can in the images below, one can appreciate the hills on the horizon whilst walking all this time.
River Aire accompanied me all the way to Malham, which I reached about 6.5 miles in after setting off from Gargrave. The area was getting visibly more hilly and mountainous when approaching Malham, which was a beautiful sight to behold, particularly as it was sunny. The blend of the grey of the hills with the fresh green hues of the farmland grass proved for a real spectacle.
In Malham, I stopped for half an hour at a cafe (The Old Barn) and a piece of cake, hiding away from the only rainy time that day, before setting back en route. Just outside the village of Malham is the overwhelming, overpowering Malham Cove.
It is an astonishing, monumental natural formation, making one feel truly small and inconsequential when approaching it. The steep path soon ascends sharply up towards the famous Limestone Pavement.
The Limestone Pavement, at about 300m, is an astonishing sight and an astonishing place; feels slightly like being on the Moon or something. The look of this place is a little unreal. Some well-known films were shot here, including The Wuthering Heights with Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche, one of my favourite movies of all time, so it felt extra special being here!
One has to be careful not to fall into the cracks in between the “slabs”!
Once my soul was properly nourished during my time at the Pavement, I went back on the trail. The scenery was to change almost entirely within the next 30 minutes! The first section takes one upwards walking between a long stretch of crags until turning sharply right to start descending towards the waters of Malham Tarn.
The gentle, grassy, children-friendly banks of Malham Tarn are entirely different from the rugged area of Malham Cove and the crags I had only just passed! The trail half-circles the lake before leaving the short-distance-walker-friendly area for the remote Fountains Fells. I was approaching one of the most spectacular views I had seen in Britain yet: behind the fell hides the mighty Pen-y-ghent peak.
The way up is what many walkers will call “a long hard slog” – continuous climb for about half an hour, with little let-up, but not particularly steep. I remember marvelling at the enormous expanse of the views here – wherever one looks, you can see all the way to the horizon. The views stretch for miles. I am still promising myself to come back here, with a book, and read her for an entire day. It is remote, quiet and delightfully calm. My kind of place.
Then, all of a sudden, when one reaches about 650m, the enormous, wild, glorious Pen-y-ghent comes into view. It comes as a surprise, without warning, and has every feature of “monumental”. I stopped for a while to admire its shape, its domination over the landscape, its beauty.
The trail now descends down towards Pen-y-ghent to reach the quiet Silverdale Road, which, following a huge 2-mile arch, took me to where the actual climb towards the peak of the fell (the second photo below). In the third photo below, you can see what the final scramble up involves – the final ascent is about 1 mile and 600ft up.
One does take some rest on the top! From here, I could finally look towards the north. It is impossible to describe, yet again, the enormous space that one is surrounded by; not blocked by anything, the view here stretches easily for 10 miles in any direction. One truly feels to be surrounded by greatness. Yet again, nature working its magic, makes the traveller feel small and insignificant. In so doing, a feeling of elation in one’s heart is produced. An unsurpassed emotion.
Now, the final, albeit long (3 miles) descent towards my destination that day, the village of Horton in Ribblesdale, began. The road down weaves itself through the moorland, like a thin thread.
The last stretch was rather tough on my somewhat tired legs by now. The stony road is not easy to walk, particularly as the final descent is rather steep – going down can actually be tougher on the knees than going up! It was now hot again and the village came into view soon, with the gorgeous landscape surrounding me everywhere and anywhere I looked.
Horton in Ribblesdale has a train station with connections to Leeds, which is how I got back home to Hull by that evening. This photo was taken from the train station. If that isn’t the best place to wait for your train at, I don’t know what is.
All images from this trip can be seen in the video below: