What To Do

Ribblehead Viaduct


Distance:  5 miles (8km)
Time: 2½ hours
Terrain:  Tracks and quiet lanes, with a section rough moorland of over a mile,
and a half mile along a busy roadside verge.
Parking: Limited parking on the verge to the right of the B6255/6477 cross roads at Ribblehead – public transport option is  strongly recommended.
Parking at the station is for rail customers only.
Refreshment:  Station Inn, Ribblehead (toilets available for customers)
Public Transport: Settle-Carlisle line from Leeds, Skipton or Settle to Ribblehead – 2-3 hour service, daily. Ingleton Pony bus on summer Sundays.
Start:  Ribblehead Station   Map: OL 2

Ribblehead Viaduct, the most famous railway viaduct in England, and dominates this first part of this walk, its massive scale dwarfed by the huge outline of Whernside. The return section crosses the edge of Ingleborough National Nature Reserve.

By far the pleasantest way of reaching Ribblehead is by train as the journey forms an integral part of the day’s experience.  The beautifully restored Station now contains a small but fascinating Visitor Centre dedicated to the history of the Settle-Carlisle Railway.

From the Station drive head down to the B6255 turning right past the Station Inn over the cattle grid to where a public bridleway signposted bridleway left, leads along a stony track towards the great Viaduct itself.

Built between 1870 and 1874, and a quarter of a mile (402 metres) long, its 24 great stone arches, rises up to 104 feet (32 metres) above the wild moorland traversed by the railway line. It is a magnificent feat of Victorian railway engineering, a high point of the Settle-Carlisle line and a major landscape feature in its own right, within the spectacular setting of the Three Peaks. In particular the immense whaleback shape of Whernside here forms a magnificent natural backcloth, landscape and engineering both on a heroic scale.  As various small interpretive panels will confirm, you pass the site of the Batty Moss Shanty Towns where, during the building of the Viaduct and nearby Blea Moor Tunnel, over 2,000 navvies and their families lived in shanty towns, in conditions which had much in common with America’s wild west.

Follow the stony track under the awesome central arches of the viaduct, with the great flat topped, stepped summit of Ingleborough asserting its presence seen through the arches ahead.

Keep ahead towards the outbuildings of Gunnerfleet Farm, through a gate before reaching and crossing Winterscales Beck.  At a T-junction turn left along the farm track through another gate and along a shallow valley. This soon joins the farm road from Ivescar.  Keep left again, over another bridge before ascending a low hillock and winding down to Low Sleights Road, the main B6255.

Turn left once more, and walk along the road on the right hand side care to face often fast moving traffic, for 200 yards (180 metres) to where, on the right, a stile signed to Colt Park, leads into a farm track.  Follow this track alongside the wall past a barn, but after 150 yards (120 metres) opposite a small limestone pavement outcrop (GR 754 781) a faint track bears off left, heading almost due east before ascending the gentle curve of the hillside over rough grazing and limestone outcrops.  You will see a ladder stile in the wall ahead. Keep the same direction, now winding your way through limestone pavement known as Sleights Pasture Rocks, a small plantation to your left, making your way carefully between the deep clints of Fell Close Rocks.   As you come around the hillside the characteristic shape of the third and smallest Peak, Pen y Ghent comes increasingly to dominate view to the south east. Continue over further stiles ahead (763781), now contouring round towards a cottage and plantation, through a pedestrian gate into New Close, before descending slightly to join a track at Colt Park, on the edge of an especially beautiful corner of the Ingleborough National Nature Reserve.

Turn left into the farm track which winds between walls, crosses the bridge over the railway line to emerge at the main B6479 Gauber Road.   Turn left here.

There is now an unavoidable half mile along this busy road.  Walk on the right, single file, to face the traffic.  For most of the way there is a grassy verge as sanctuary which broadens in places, passing Gauber Farm and a layby. As the Viaduct comes back into view, some hundred yards (80 metres) before the junction, bear left along the wallside across an area of open common land back to the welcoming Station Inn – a popular walkers’ pub with good food and local real ale available most times of the day, whilst awaiting your train  – and also the only local toilets (for customers only).  It’s also the only pub I know which has times of departing trains posted above the bar.

If you have an hour to spare before your train, you might also have a stroll around the waymarked trail through the fascinating Ribblehead Quarry Nature Reserve, reached along the old quarry access road immediately to beyond the railway line.  Make sure you keep to the marked paths around the quarry and keep children, especially, well away from the steep quarry faces.

Walk taken from Walks around Three Peaks, by Colin Speakman
and published by Dalesman Publishing priced at £2.99.

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The information given in this walk has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a general guide. Whilst all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that details were correct at the time of publication, the author and Country Publications Ltd cannot accept any responsibility for inaccuracies. It is the responsibility of individuals undertaking outdoor activities to approach the activity with caution and, especially if inexperienced, to do so under appropriate supervision. The activity described in this walk is strenuous and individuals should ensure that they are suitably fit before embarking upon it. They should carry the appropriate equipment and maps, be properly clothed and have adequate footwear. They should also take note of weather conditions and forecasts, and leave notice of their intended route and estimated time of return.