Scenic Ribblesdale cuts through the southwestern corner of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, where the skyline is dominated by a trio of distinctive hills known as the Three Peaks – Whernside (735m), Ingleborough (724m) and Peny-ghent (694m). Easily accessible via the Settle–Carlisle railway line, this is one of England’s most popular areas for outdoor activities, attracting thousands of hikers, cyclists and cavers each weekend.
The busy market town of Settle, dominated by its grand neo-Gothic town hall, is the gateway to Ribblesdale and marks the beginning of the scenic part of the famous Settle–Carlisle railway line. Narrow cobbled streets lined with shops and pubs lead out from the central market square (Tuesday is market day), and the town offers plenty of accommodation options.
The tourist office has maps and guidebooks. Around the main square are several good cafes, including Ye Olde Naked Man, formerly an undertaker’s (look for the ‘naked man’ on the outside wall, dated 1663), which serves superb Yorkshire pudding with a choice of fillings.
Trains from Leeds heading to Carlisle stop at Settle station near the town centre (£12, one hour, eight daily). Those heading for Morecambe (on the west coast) stop at Giggleswick, about 1.5 miles outside town.
A favourite with outdoor enthusiasts, the little village of Horton and its railway station is 5 miles north of Settle. Everything centres on the Pen-y-Ghent Cafe, which acts as the village tourist office, wet-weather retreat and hikers’ information centre.
Horton is the starting point for climbing Pen-y-ghent and doing the Three Peaks Walk; it’s also a stop on the Pennine Way. At the head of the valley, 5 miles north of Horton, is the spectacular 30m-high Ribblehead Viaduct, built in 1874 and, at 400m, the longest on the Settle– Carlisle Line. You can hike there along the Pennine Way and travel back by train from Ribblehead station.
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