Stage 4: Chapel-le-Dale to Sedbergh – hiking a Dales High Way
Alex Langfield planned a hike.
October 22, 2020
This leg picks up where the previous left off, striding out high amongst the splendour of Ribblesdale. This time it is Yorkshire’s highest peak Whernside, at 2,415 feet (736m), that has your heart soaring. As you skirt its flanks via a bygone packhorse trail, the iconic Ribblehead Viaduct – surely the most awe-inspiring structure on the Carlisle to Settle line – takes centre stage. You’ll cross from Yorkshire into Cumbria, with crashing waterfalls, magnificent scenery and settlements of great character making this a 15-mile (24km) journey to savour.
As you leave Chapel-le-Dale for Whernside’s south eastern flanks, you’ll pass by an intriguing statue of a surreal figure amongst the shrubs, created by sculptor Charles I’Anson. The track turns north east at the ford over Ellerbeck Gill and gains Whernside’s broad slopes. If the temptation to bag Yorkshire’s highest peak proves too much, a steep path climbs directly towards the summit ridge, beginning some 3,200 feet (1km) along the track.
Staying with the official route, you’ll be thrilled by the sight of Ribblehead Viaduct’s 24 gigantic stone arches that rise some 104 feet (32m) above the moorland. It's an awesome spectacle that’s particularly poignant when you consider the navvies that lost their lives and now rest in St Leonard’s churchyard, back in Chapel-le-Dale.
The route now curves gloriously around Whernside’s bulk, following the railway line for a time in the company of the Force Gill aqueduct and then passing Low Force, a spectacular crashing waterfall, well worth taking your time over to visit. The principal ascent of the day now lies ahead onto Whernside’s north eastern shoulder. On a clear day, the views to the Howgill Fells – tomorrow’s main objective – emerge wonderfully as you crest the rise. Meanwhile, the distant peaks of Lakeland may be visible on the north western horizon, which is fitting as you have now left Yorkshire behind for Cumbria.
There’s still a fair bit of hiking left to do yet, as you descend to the charming cobbled streets of Dent, home to its own micro-brewery and England’s highest mainline station, which is actually several miles further up the valley. There are campsites, inns and B&Bs here if overnighting, or you may just be in need of refuelling. Regardless, there’s still one last ascent over the western end of Aye Gill Pike, boasting yet more splendid Howgill views, before your descent to the town of Sedburgh.
October 30, 2020