Loren Cafferty and rescue springer spaniel Toby have hiked in the Yorkshire Peaks district dozens of times and never tire of the view as far as the Irish sea. She tells Wunderdog about their dog-friendly route
There are few hills in the UK that offer the bounty that Ingleborough so readily serves up. Perched at the very edge of the Yorkshire Dales it has everything to provide a great day out. Small enough that the smallest smalls can have a go at climbing it and big enough to make the most seasoned walker really feel that they have climbed a proper mountain. And it is a dream for four-legged friends.
Setting off from the parking spaces just outside the village of Ingleton there is rarely livestock to be seen and even if you feel minded to keep your pooch on a lead while the road to Hawes meanders behind you, it doesn’t last long. Within five minutes you are strolling up a wide, walled track. On either side of the dry stone barriers are hundreds of sheep, at this time of year the lower slopes are like an ovine nursery school, but you can let the dog run free safe in the knowledge that you can appreciate the gambolling lambs and there is no chance of sheep worrying.
It is a path that Toby and I know well, he needs no instruction having summited this particular hill dozens of times. As we made towards the first climb I was able to appreciate the unique landscape of this part of the Dales. Limestone pavement abounds and there is simply nothing better on a clear day than the incredible contrast between the metallic grey of the rock as it pushes its way through the green pasture and the cobalt sky. Even at this relatively low level there are some incredible views – a moment’s pause allows a glance back towards the cottages of Ingleton, the expanse of the trees and moorland of the Forest of Bowland as its fringes brush the start of the Pennine hills and then the majestic rise of the Dales; Whernside and the 2000ft of Gragareth just in view.
The landscape changes a little as we reach the farm at the wonderfully named Crina Bottom. There are sheep here, tougher fell breeds like the Swaledale grazing languidly as the terrain becomes rougher, so Toby dutifully returns to my side to be put back on the lead. The ground underfoot changes too, there are patches of glorious limestone, full of holes and yet smooth in some places, jagged and threatening like huge barbed wire in others; walking on it feels akin to entering another world.
It is at this point that you really start to feel you are climbing a hill, there is little to no respite from the relentless up. As the farmland melds into moorland and the sheep (with lambs to protect lower down the fell) are absent I allow Toby off the lead once again. He was clearly frustrated with what he considered to be my slow progress and I silently cursed the collie dog that he appears to have somewhere in his lineage. One of the glorious things about rescue dogs is that they can be a melting pot of everything, but as Toby lay, prone, ears and eyes alert as if ready to round me up, I thought, vaguely, and with tongue firmly in cheek, that perhaps a thorough-bred sled dog might have been a better mountain option.
Summit to write home about
With the endpoint firmly in sight, the path snakes visibly up the hillside to the point at which Ingleborough’s geology changes. From miles around this hill is highly distinct. This is in part because of the gritstone cap that lies on its summit, from a distance it looks very much like this cap, dark and brooding, is larger than the fellside beneath that supports it.
Towards the end of the ascent, past a fascinating board that reveals a little of the hill’s history, past the disappointment of the false summit and on to the windswept final climb Toby and I were picking our way through an array of boulders and darker coloured rocks. The path is still well worn and visible, especially since work was undertaken to create steps into the hillside, but overall you need to keep a greater part of your wits about you. Unless you are a springer spaniel. Toby was by this point ranging all over the fellside, leaping from boulder field to boulder field like a crazed free runner. I steadfastly kept plodding on and was amply rewarded as I reached the top.
The unusual summit of Ingleborough never fails to delight. It is, remarkably, a flat plateau. (And please note that if you decide to walk this route in the fog that often shrouds this hill you are likely to need map and compass to make it off the summit safely.) It would easily take you 20 minutes or so to traverse the entire circumference but if you have the time I recommend it. The views are magnificent. The Lake District, the Pennines, the Yorkshire Dales and the twinkling expanse of the Irish Sea all offer themselves up in various directions.
Toby and I chose to retrace our steps but there are various routes off the summit if you wish to make a longer day of the walk. For me, I rather enjoy the return trip. The satisfying passing of easier miles and being able to enjoy the spectacular views without the exertion of relentless up makes for a relaxing descent! At a solid pace with lots of stops for tea, sniffing and exploration the walk was complete well within a comfortable four hours and there was plenty of time to head into Ingleton and reward ourselves. Toby loves cake.