Jonathan Smith runs Where2walk, a walking company in the Yorkshire Dales. Jonathan has written his own book, the Dales 30 which details the highest mountains in the Dales. He also runs one-day navigation courses for beginners and intermediates. Join his Learn a Skill, Climb a Hill weekends in the Dales. To find out more details on any of the above visit his website,

MOST visitors to Ribblehead either take a short walk to the viaduct, take a quick photo and return to their car or take the much longer hike up Whernside, the highest mountain in Yorkshire.

This walk however takes the best of both in a five mile flat walk full of history, dramatic scenery and continual interest.

Most of the parking at Ribblehead is at the T junction just to the east of the Station Inn. When I visited last week there were only a few cars and a school van taking children to the nearby caving system of Thistle and Runscar.

Take the main path towards the viaduct at Ribblehead, it should take little more than five minutes to reach. It is worth reading up on the viaduct as it is probably the most iconic site in the Dales, both visually and for its historic interest.

The bare facts are that the viaduct is 104 feet long, has 24 large stone arches and was built between 1870 and 1875. Of human interest are the remains of the ‘navvy’ camps near the track; it was a major undertaking where sadly hundreds of people died either on the construction or through disease in the temporary camps.

Do not cross under the viaduct but carry on alongside the east side of the Settle to Carlisle railway. The imposing bulk of Whernside is to your left, at 2,415 feet the highest mountain in Yorkshire.

The track you are on is the main route up this popular mountain, the direct route of the past neither appealing or acceptable from a conservation angle.

One mile on from the viaduct is Blea Moor station, busy in the past but disused now. Arriving here at dusk is a spooky experience, I advise bringing company!

The excellent path carries on alongside the railway for a further one mile, crossing and re-crossing the river of Little Dale Beck till it arrives at a bridge over the railway. This is the furthest point of the walk today but the path carries on uphill to climb Whernside or cross in to the neighbouring Dentdale.

The bridge over the railway is an excellent spot to look in to the start of the Blea Moor Tunnel, 1.5 miles linking through to Dentdale. It is another example of a fantastic Victorian engineering project, built 500 feet under the moors and accessed by seven ‘mining’ shafts from the land above.

Having waited for a train to emerge from the tunnel (!) turn round and retrace your steps to Blea Moor sidings.

Just beyond the sidings there is a tunnel under the railway and a track which leads to the west.

Follow the lane past Winterscales Farm to a second farm at Ivescar keeping to the steep slopes of Whernside on your right. From here, turn left down the farm track for 500 metres before turning left and returning towards the viaduct and your car (or pub).

This little detour adds variety to the walk and a different perspec-tive of the viaduct completing a very pleasant few hours’ walk.

Fact File:

Distance: Roughly five miles

Height to Climb: 125m (410 feet).

Start: SD 766793. There is plenty of parking near the T junction of the road to the east of the Station Inn.

Difficulty: Easy. The route is all on well made tracks and easy to follow.

Refreshments: The Station Inn at Ribblehead serves food and hot and cold drinks and seems always to be open!

Be Prepared:

The route description and sketch map only provide a guide to the walk. You must take out and be able to read a map (O/S Explorer OL2) and in cloudy/misty conditions a compass. You must also wear the correct clothing and footwear for the outdoors.