PW Day 7 (Trip 3 – Day 1)
Saturday, 1st July 2017 – Malham to Horton – 14.5 miles
After using the car on the previous trip we were glad to be back on the train for this one. The advanced train fares were now incredibly cheap and we managed to do the whole return journey for less than £50 each. We journeyed up to Bradford on Friday night by “Grand Central” express from Kings Cross and then, after a night in a Premier Inn, caught an early morning train to Skipton. The final leg was on a bus and that landed us back in Malham outside the Buck Inn by 10:30am.
It was a bit of a late start and, as we had a lot of ground to cover, we started walking immediately. After a mile or so we left the village behind us and found ourselves at the foot of the spectacular Malham Cove.
We climbed to the top of the cove using the 400 stone steps on the left side. Once at the top we were greeted by the amazing sight of the limestone pavement. Eventually, after taking a few minutes to look around we crossed the pavement and headed off towards Malham Tarn.
Malham Tarn is the highest natural lake in England and looks near perfect. We skirted around it and into the forest on the northern edge. We had a little break overlooking the tarn and then headed on. We passed the old hunting lodge, now turned into a nature study centre, before emerging out of the forest once again into open country.
And so began our climb to Fountains Fell.
Fountains Fell (2,192ft) is the highest point on the PW so far yet the ascent is so gradual it doesn’t really feel like it. It took us about one and a half hours of relatively gentle uphill walking until we finally reached the two cairns that mark the top. We had the picnic lunch we had purchased at Skipton station buffet in full view of our next “opponent”; Pen-Y-Ghent.
Pen-Y-Ghent has one of the most distinctive shapes of any British mountain. Some say it resembles a lion sitting there patiently and daring anyone to come close. We left our lunch spot at 2:30pm and spent the next hour and a half descending Fountains Fell. We crossed over the valley floor and soon we were on the shoulder of Pen-Y-Ghent. The way to the summit from there looks a lot more challenging than it actually is.
The climb up is in total contrast to Fountains Fell. It is short and quite steep and it takes less than 30 minutes. There are two sections that require a bit of scrambling (using both hands to climb up) and one really needs to watch one’s footing in places. It happened to be very windy and that managed to add to the excitement. My wife found it quite scary but made it to the top regardless.
At the trig point (2277ft – a new PW record for us) we had a well-deserved break and a little chat to some lads from Rotherham. The weather had been relatively warm and sunny until now but it started to become colder and eventually started to drizzle. We donned waterproofs and headed down the PW towards Horton. The route down Pen-Y-Ghent is a lot more gradual than the way up. The path is well made and stretches towards Horton in the far distance. It was a bit of slog downhill but eventually we made it to our goal for the day. We were in the Pen-Y-Ghent Café in Horton by 6pm.
The café is a Pennine Way landmark and has a collection of “signing in” books for people who are attempting the route. The books stretch all the way back to 1965. We had tea and coffee in the café and added our details and signatures to the book.
For the night’s accommodation I had booked a farm B&B a mile outside Horton. The owner had agreed to pick us up when we arrived in the village. Unfortunately when I tried the number he had given me the phone went unanswered. After calling 7 or 8 times and a 30 minute wait we gave up and decided to walk. It took us a miserable 30 minutes along the wet and busy main road. It was past 7pm when we arrived.
My wife gave the owner’s wife a piece of her mind as soon as she opened the door. We spent the next day or so debating whether that was actually the best way to complain. We got the excuse that the phone hadn’t rung, but to my wife’s annoyance, no real apology. The place was pleasant enough though. It had just been refurbished and was tastefully decorated. The food was good too and we had some excellent pork for dinner.
PW Day 8 (Trip 3 – Day 2)
Sunday, 2nd July 2017 – Horton to Hawes – 14 miles
We slept soundly and my wife avoided any nightmares about Pen-Y-Ghent. We had a delicious breakfast of locally sourced ingredients complete with homemade bread. Nevertheless, the atmosphere between the owners and my wife was still a bit frosty. We were not expecting them to offer to drive us back into Horton but when they did we quickly accepted the offer.
We set off from the café car park at 8:30am. The weather was a little overcast and cold. It drizzled for the first few miles but then stayed dry for the rest of the day. The sun came out gradually and by the end of the walk it was almost a perfect summer’s day.
The way out of Horton is a bit of a slog along tracks enclosed by stone walls. Although it was relatively early it was actually incredibly busy. Horton is at the centre of the “Yorkshire Three Peak’s Challenge”. The Pen-Y-Ghent Café has a clocking-in machine and walkers challenge themselves to complete a 20–mile circuit of Pen-Y-Ghent, Ingleborough and Wernside within 12 hours.
The route down Pen-Y-Ghent and towards Ingleborough combines with the Pennine Way and we were passed by a group of over 50 walkers in a long line. They had started out at 6am and had already completed their first peak of the day. Eventually the route to Ingleborough branched off to the left and we were quite alone for a while.
The area is also a big centre for potholers and we passed a group getting ready to descend into a cave.
We had a break after 3 miles at the 18th century Packhorse Bridge near Ing before carrying on up the Cam Forest Road. We had some fantastic views of the Ribblehead railway viaduct in the distance. The path was almost all on an ancient packhorse trail. It was stony and uncomfortable although some of it had been covered by modern forestry access roads.
We had now completed 8 miles and had climbed gradually from Horton up to the highest point of the day at Keld Gate. The scenery changed as the track turned into Snaizeholme and headed along a ledge half way up the side of Dodd Fell.
We paused for lunch at this point. The ham sandwiches on homemade bread and the homemade cake were very good. My wife commented that the bread could have done with a bit more salt. I tried to remain neutral.
After lunch we continued along the side of Dodd Fell enjoying spectacular views of the valley below.
Within an hour the path climbed over the brow of Ten End and Wensleydale came into view. Hawes was directly before us and the sun was coming out.
The last two miles were a gradual descent towards Hawes. It was a little tricky with some boggy fields in places but before long we passed through the little “suburb” of Gayle and into the pretty market town of Hawes itself. It was 3:30pm when reached the centre of the town and our goal for the day.
We stayed in Hawes for a couple of hours. We visited two different pubs and purchased fish and chips from the town shop. The guidebooks claim the fish and chips are the best on the whole PW and, to be fair, they really were excellent.
Hawes is linked to the nearest railhead at Garsdale by a shuttle bus known locally as “the little white bus”. It turned up bang on time at 5:42pm and was driven by a Geordie exile called David. David chatted with us for the whole 20 minute journey telling us his life story and how he ended up moving from Newcastle to Hawes 15 years ago.
We boarded the 6:10pm train to Leeds and sat back enjoying the scenery of the Settle and Carlisle railway. It was made even more beautiful by the late afternoon sun. After half an hour we passed Pen-Y-Ghent and my wife managed a reluctant wave. We caught the Kings Cross express at Leeds and by midnight we were back at home. We had now completed the first 100 miles of the Pennine Way!