Weekend Walk: Great Whernside

Autumn sun on the flanks of Great Whernside above Kettlewell.
Autumn sun on the flanks of Great Whernside above Kettlewell.
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Not to be confused with Whernside, which is Yorkshire’s highest summit and one of the famous Three Peaks, Great Whernside is nevertheless a challenging climb.

In winter it is important to leave plenty of daylight for the descent. The route starts from Kettlewell on the floor of Wharfedale and provides a shorter though more strenuous way to the 2310ft high summit than the popular route from Park Rash Pass on the Coverdale road. The outward leg involves a mile of pathless walking over a somewhat boggy plateau below the summit ridge, and is best done after a hard frost when there is some crunch underfoot. It should not be attempted in poor visibility. The return is by way of a former farmhouse called Hag Dyke, now a hostel run by the 1st Ben Rhydding Scout Group at Ilkley. Carrion crows, jackdaws, starlings and meadow pipits are virtually the only bird life in winter.

1. From the car park walk towards the bridge. Don’t cross it but turn right to walk with Kettlewell Beck on your left. Continue ahead past St. Mary’s Church, walking up Scabbate Gate.

2. Leave the track by forking right to follow a faint path which soon runs up the left side of Dowber Gill Beck. It is used by potholers to access the entrance to Providence Pot, a pile of stones with a metal hatch near the top of the Gill.

3. When Dowber Gill Beck runs to the right, bear left to follow the course of Hag Dike Gill Beck, which springs from a boggy plateau below the summit ridge. From here, aim for the higher ground in a line that roughly continues the course of the beck. A left turn will then be required on the summit ridge to arrive at Great Whernside’s cairn and trig point.

4. To descend look for a path leading down from the summit crags. It crosses the boggy plateau to reach Hag Dyke, a Scout centre. From here an easily followed green lane leads down to the road back into Kettlewell.

Difficulty rating: 4 stars

Distance: 5 miles

Hours: 3 hours

Map: OS Explorer (1:25000) OL30 Yorkshire Dales Northern & Central, or Landranger (1:50000) 98 Wensleydale and Upper Wharfedale.

Parking: Kettlewell (pay and display).

Public transport: Kettlewell is served by 72 buses from Skipton to Buckden. Skipton is on the Airedale Line from Leeds & Bradford. For times check www.wymetro.com or call 0113 245 7676.

Refreshments & toilets: Kettlewell.