Please don’t share this blog with anyone. We don’t want people to know about Ingleborough National Nature Reserve. Why? Because it is so beautiful. It is a hidden gem. A diamond. Our diamond. And we don’t want anyone else to visit it. Yes, we are being totally selfish but I’ll tell you about it, but promise, please promise, that you won’t tell anyone else.
I was joined by Debbie Boswell, Discover Ingleborough Officer with the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, on a walk through Ingleborough National Nature Reserve which takes in the stunning Sulber Nick. Many have said that this is the walk with the best views of the Yorkshire Dales. I have to agree. And so does Debbie. We think you might too! This is why this accessible walk has been developed by the Ingleborough Dales Landscape Partnership as part of the Stories in Stone project.
The project focuses on conservation and community projects around the Ingleborough Triangle area. The landscape here at the reserve has such a unique character resulting from the appearance the rocks have due to the effects of successive ice ages and the way people have influenced the land since the ice melted. The main aims for the Stories in Stone project are to ‘restore, protect and celebrate the area’s natural, built and cultural heritage and to ensure that this ancient landscape is protected for future generations’.
Ingleborough (723m) is one of the Three Peaks in this part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Together with Pen-y-ghent (694m) and Whernside (736m) the three Peaks have been made famous by the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge. A 12 hour time challenge has been set to complete the gruelling 26 miles circular walk. Thousands of people take the challenge each year, many raising money for a charity, others on a personal quest to complete the challenge in the given time.
Though there may be hundreds of walkers descending Ingleborough on their way to Horton-in- Ribblesdale – the last leg of their three peak challenge- you would be unlucky to bump into any walkers in this part of the Ingleborough National Nature Reserve. It really is hush hush.
Ingleborough Nature Reserve covers an area of 1014 hectares (2505 acres) and is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its unique limestone features and wildlife. It is a vast area of spectacular limestone pavements and scars along the eastern and southern slopes of Ingleborough. In very simple terms, the Karst landscape of Ingleborough has been created from limestone, a rock that is made up of bits of animal shells.
Over approximately 300 million years these shells have been compacted on the ocean floor and as the layers of shells and mud built up, the lower layers slowly hardened into limestone. This hard sedimentary rock has been eroded away both above ground and below by glacial meltwater, creating the dramatic landscape that we know today in the Yorkshire Dales.
The circular walk through the Inglebrough National nature Reserve is a great wheelchair friendly walk designated a Miles without Stiles route by the National Park. The route requires a sturdy 4×4 all-terrain wheelchair as you will encounter some rocky, uneven ground at time. I took out a TerrainHopper which is a great vehicle for more challenging terrain. The Nature Reserve is easy to find, located between Horton-in-Ribblesdale and Ribblehead.
The walk begins on the bridleway, just south of Selside, where the Pennine Bridleway crosses the main road. Off road parking is available on the opposite side of the road – do take care when crossing as it is a busy road. The start of the walk is on a good tarmac track, which once through the gates, changes into a grassy pathway which remains well signposted throughout.
If you look over the wall, towards the farm building on your right you can see traces of an iron age settlement which now looks like grass covered mounds. Aerial photographs show these more clearly and provide strong evidence that man has farmed this area for well over a thousand years, when the limestone terraces provided good grazing for stock.
And the cows haven’t gone anywhere just yet – you may encounter a few cattle on this walk! Traditional cattle breeds can be seen on this reserve thanks to the NNRs own cattle herd and dedicated farmers in this area. Livestock bulls are traditionally run with suckler cows in the summer. Although these are the more docile breeds, they can still be aggressive and dangerous. Stay close to the edge of fields furthest from the bull. Watch for signs of irritation like head tossing, pawing and foaming at the mouth. Cattle can be defensive when suckling calves so give them a wide berth and don’t let your dogs harass herds. Follow these simple rules and everyone will be safe and the cows will simply watch you walk on by.
As you reach the fencing you look out across a spectacular example of limestone pavement. I personally think this is far more impressive than the limestone pavement at Malham Cove. Limestone pavements are flat areas of rock scraped bare by ancient glaciers and dissolved away by rain water over thousands of years. The cracks in the pavement are called grykes and are home to a number of rare plants. The slabs above are known as clints. I was taught how to remember these at school by saying “Park your bike in a gryke” and “A clint, like an after eight mint” – strange how you remember things!
In the grykes you will find plants such as wood anemone, bluebell, garlic-scented ramsons and many types of fern. These plants thrive in the dark, damp cracks of the limestone pavement. The wild plants provide a haven for a host of different insects and butterflies. Curlew, bats and even roe deer have been spotted roaming along the limestone pavement.
In late spring/summer, the limestone grasslands are full of colourful wild flowers. Look out for early-purple orchid, wild thyme, rockrose, bird’s-foot trefoil, limestone bedstraw, harebell and small scabious. Not forgetting the Yorkshire Primrose.
We followed the fence along until we reached the wall. It is through this gate that the coast-to coasters pass as they march on towards Horton-in-Ribblesdale. Alas, it is not possible for us to travel through the small gap in the wall, but here we paused a while to look across the dales to the majestic peak of Pen-y-Ghent.
The views really do take your breathe away. It is no wonder that the Yorkshire Dales are referred to as “God’s Own Country”. Turning our backs on Pen-y-Ghent we walked back toward Ingleborough on top of Sulber Nick. There is footpath that runs in the bottom of this rock formation, but this is very rocky and narrow, so it is best to stay on top of the fault line.
Once back at the signpost, we followed our tracks back to the start of the walk. There are stunning views from here over to Crummockdale with Pendle Hill in the distance. On this very clear day we could see for miles.
Are they the best views in the Yorkshire Dales?
I think you’d agree when I say they take some beating.
This walk gives you the feeling of being remote, wild and free. It is truly a walk for all, whether you are in a wheelchair, with a dog, or were just looking for places to walk near Selside. The Reserve is designated as access land, giving people the right to visit without charge whenever they wish, so there are no charges or membership subscriptions to this beautiful area. Visitors can come and go as they please.
Around 90% of Ingleborough is Open Access land and it can be visited year-round. A network of public tracks and trails allows visitors to explore the area at their leisure. We highly recommend to amble along this walk without a time constraint so you can take in the views, the wildlife and that feeling of freedom that comes with being in the hills of the Yorkshire Dales.
The nearby town Horton-in-Ribblesdale has public toilets in the carpark, with an accessible toilet too (RADAR). There are a couple of pubs in the village, but I haven’t yet checked them out for accessibility – watch this space, there is pub hopping to be done! We finished our walk with a perfect pint in The Station Inn at Ribbleshead. The bar area is wheelchair accessible although please be aware that there are no accessible loos in the pub. It is worth the short drive from Selside up to Ribblehead, if not just for the pub but for the stunning views of the iconic Ribblehead Viaduct.
There is plenty of off street parking in the lay by, and in the summer months the tea van is usually parked up here too. Thanks to the National Park Ranger Service, a new path has been laid from the roadside right up to the viaduct, which is excellent for wheelchair users. There are information boards near to the viaduct and there is a listening post on the path. It’s a great little resource for finding more out about the history and landscape of this area.
Always in search of a nice cuppa, The TOG team had heard on the grapevine of a place called Elaine’s Tearoom where only the most refreshing cups of tea are served and the most wholesome homemade food can be found. Tucked away in the tiny hamlet of Feizor, not far from Selside and Horon-in-Ribblesdale, you can find the lovely Elaine Knowles ready and waiting with a steaming brew and a slice of freshly baked cake.
The tearoom is well off the beaten track but you’ll have no trouble finding it. From the A65, towards Settle, see the road sign for Feizor and follow the quiet and narrow road into the hamlet. There is parking near to the tearoom and accessible toilets have been built in the outbuildings. You are guaranteed a warm welcome from Elaine and a full belly when you leave!
Also not far away from Ribbleshead is the Ingleborough Nature Trail and show cave, which again, is wheelchair accessible. For more information about this walk, please see our wheelchair friendly walk section. Walking with wheels around Ingleborough is a really great destination for wheelchair users wanting to explore the countryside.
We had the absolute pleasure of staying at Lundholme Farm Accommodation in Ingleton which has self-catering cottages, one of which is wheelchair friendly (please note that disabled guests need to have enough mobility to transfer from their wheelchair onto a portable shower stool and have to shuffle a few paces into the shower as the bathroom is not quite a full roll in wetroom).
The wonderfuly Malcolm and Hilary, owners of Lundholme Farm, also have a touring caravan site on the farm and they have built an accessible shower and toilet block for their visitors with disabilities. This working farm is the perfect place to come back to after a day out in the Dales.
In the nearby market town of Settle the William the Fourth Guest House has a ground floor accessible room, with en-suite wetroom. This is an a different option to self-catering or caravanning accommodation and great for visitors who have little or no mobility. Jackie and Chris are perfect hosts and will do as much as they can to make your stay with them enjoyable.
As well as by car, the Ingleborough Triangle area can be reached by rail either the Ribblehead or Horton-in-Ribblesdale stations, both located on the splendid Settle-Carlisle railway. There are wheelchair spaces on the trains too! It is best to pre-book assistance when travelling on this train as Ribblehead Station is unmanned. Travel assistance can be booked through Northern Rail Passenger assistance.
So you can see why now that we don’t want to share this walk. Maybe when you have visited the area, you won’t want to share it either! Ssh! Let’s keep this our secret!