Great Whernside is the sixth highest fell in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. At 704 metres above sea level, the views from the summit of Great Whernside are truly spectacular. There are many Great Whernside walking routes to choose from. In this guide, we’re going to talk about the Great Whernside Walk that we did, via Hag Dyke, starting from Kettlewell in the Yorkshire Dales. For completeness, we’ll also talk about the other common Great Whernside walking routes. Additionally, we’ll talk about how to get to and where to stay in Kettlewell in North Yorkshire.
We hope you find this guide helpful. For information about other great nearby walking trails, read our guides about Malham Cove, Consitone Pie and Dib and our Grassington guide (coming soon). Otherwise, read our big Yorkshire Dales walks guide (also coming soon).
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Great Whernside Walk Overview
Just to be clear, Great Whernside and Whernside are two different fells in the Yorkshire Dales. Of course, Whernside is much more popular and visited compared with Great Whernside. That’s because Whernside is one of the famous Yorkshire Three Peaks. People are much more likely to summit Whernside, as part of the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge (guide coming soon), compared with summiting Great Whernside. After all, Whernside is the highest fell in the Yorkshire Dales (736 metres above sea level).
Although, Great Whernside is actually higher than one of the Yorkshire Three Peaks. At 704 metres above sea level, Great Whernside is higher than Pen-y-ghent, which is 694 metres above sea level. So, don’t disregard Great Whernside as Whernside’s measly little brother. In its own right, Great Whernside is a great fell to walk. Of course, Great Whernside now forms part of the newly inaugurated Wharfedale Three Peaks Challenge. This walk also includes summiting Birks Fell and Buckden Pike.
In this guide, we’ll focus on the half-day Great Whernside Walk from Kettlewell in North Yorkshire.
Great Whernside Walk Stats and Map
- Type: Loop
- Distance: 10km
- Time: 3–4 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 500m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Kettlewell, Yorkshire
- Grid Reference for Great Whernside: SE002739
- Ordnance Survey Map: OL30
- Map: Wikiloc
Great Whernside Walking Routes
As mentioned, there are many Great Whernside walking routes. The typical route, also known as the Great Whernside Circular Walk, starts in Kettlewell and summits the fell via Top Mere Road and returns via Hag Dyke. You can find a map of this route here.
The second most popular route variation, also starting in Kettlewell, summits the fell via Dowber Gill Beck and also descends via Hag Dyke. You can find a map of this route variation here.
Personally, Beck and I did a modified version of the second most popular route. As you can see from the map above, we also completed the Great Whernside Walk from Kettlewell. But, we summited the fell via Hag Dyke. In hindsight, we should have summited the fell via Dowber Gill Beck and returned via Hag Dyke. In winter, with snowy and slippery conditions, we didn’t think scrambling down by the river stream was a good idea. So, we chose to descend via a much sturdier and safer trail to the south of Dowber Gill Beck. Needless to say, in summer, descending via Dowber Gill Beck wouldn’t have presented such as problem.
As they say, hindsight is a beautiful thing. But, it was still an adventure!
Of course, this is just scratching the surface of route variations. Here are a few others.
- Wharfedale Three Peaks Challenge: as mentioned, some people will summit Great Whernside as part of a much longer walking challenge.
- Great Whernside and Buckden Pike Walk: this walk is also known as the Wharfedale Two Peaks Challenge.
- Great Whernside from Scar House Reservoir: from Nidderdale, you can even access Great Whernside via a long walk from Scar House Reservoir.
Great Whernside Walk Trail Description
In the trail description below, we’ll tell you about our experience doing the Great Whernside Walk.
Where to Start: Kettlewell
You’ll start the Great Whernside Walk in the village of Kettlewell, which is a charming town in the Yorkshire Dales. Admittedly, free street-side parking is hard to come by. Personally, Beck and I arrived before sunrise to do this walk and we still couldn’t find much in the way of street-side parking.
So, we parked at the Kettlewell Yorkshire Dales National Park Car Park. When we visited, it was a £3 parking fee for under two hours or £5 for over two hours. The walk takes longer than two hours, so you’ll need to pay the higher amount. Of course, the parking fee prices are subject to change.
Kettlewell to Hag Dyke
From the Yorkshire Dales Car Park, we walked through the quaint village of Kettlewell, following a path alongside Kettlewell Beck. Soon, we began to walk uphill, through Hoobank Field, heading towards Hag Dyke. As mentioned, little did we know at the time, that we should have followed the trail to Great Whernside via Dowber Gill Beck. Regardless, we enjoyed a splendid walk up to Hag Dyke, watching the sunrise and the resultant orange glow on the opposite-facing terrain.
Soon enough, we passed by Hag Dyke. In case you were wondering, Hag Dyke is a scout hostel administered by the Ben Rhydding Scout and Guide Group in Ben Rhydding in Ilkley. Certainly, Hag Dyke is a beautifully located hostel.
Hag Dyke to the Great Whernside Summit
After passing Hag Dyke, you’ll continue your ascent up a rocky path. You’ll soon pass a small cairn. It was at this point that we felt the sun for the first time, which was pure bliss. Although we felt relief from the warmth, we were also working much harder as the elevation steepened. Certainly, the final push to get to the summit ridge of Great Whernside had us huffing and puffing.
The views from the trig point and summit of Great Whernside are some of the most sweeping and far-reaching in the Yorkshire Dales.
Our Return From Great Whernside to Kettlewell
As mentioned, we chose not to descend via Dowber Gill Beck, given the snowy and slippery conditions. Instead, we chose to descend via some trails further south of Dowber Gill Beck. Basically, from the summit, we followed the Great Whernside ridge around 700 metres in a southeast direction. We then descended the vast fell, trudging through undefined boggy terrain.
Eventually, we reached the top of Dowber Gill Beck. From there, instead of following it down (and by doing so passing the Providence Pot pothole), we joined a defined trail heading west. This trail provided great views of Dowber Gill Beck and Great Whernside.
Soon, the trail joined Tippering Lane and Whernside Turf Road, as we descended back to Kettlewell.
Planning Your Trip: Useful Things to Know
We hope you enjoyed reading about our Great Whernside Walk adventure. Below, we’ll go through some logistics to help you plan your trip.
How to Get to Kettlewell in the Yorkshire Dales
The easiest and quickest way to get to Kettlewell in Yorkshire is to drive there yourself. If you don’t have your own set of wheels, we recommend hiring a car using Rentalcars.com. You’ll find a wide variety of cars on Rental Cars, which are very easy to book online.
It’s also possible to use public transport to get to Kettlewell. Check out Dales Buses for the latest information about services, departure times and prices. We also recommend using Google Maps to help plan your journey.
Personally, we don’t recommend using public transport to get to Kettlewell. That’s because you’ll likely have a long-winded journey to get there from most places in the UK. Certainly, it’s best to drive to Kettlewell yourself. That way, you’ll have more freedom and flexibility with your trip.
Where to Stay in Kettlewell
Kettlewell is a gorgeous small village in the Yorkshire Dales. Certainly, it would be worth spending a weekend or even longer here. To help you find suitable accommodation, we’ve handpicked the best budget, mid-range and luxury options in Kettlewell.
- Budget – The Blue Bell Inn: this is the most affordable hotel option that you’ll find in Kettlewell. Despite the reasonable rate, you’ll feel like you’re staying in luxury. The Blue Bell Inn has lovely rooms and a fantastic on-site pub, serving up hearty English meals.
- Mid-range – The Racehorses Hotel: this hotel features a nice garden, free private parking, a restaurant and a bar. Certainly, you’ll enjoy a comfortable stay at The Racehorses Hotel.
- Luxury – The Cottage Tea Room B&B: this B&B is the most highly-rated accommodation in Kettlewell. The Cottage Team Room B&B has a fantastic restaurant, room service, snack bar, garden and terrace with sublime views of the Yorkshire countryside.
Other Walks in the Yorkshire Dales
Below, we’ve listed some of the other best walks in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (guides coming soon).
- Three Peaks Challenge: hike the famous Yorkshire 3 Peaks, including Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent.
- Malham Cove: explore the famous Malham Cove, Gordale Scar and Janet’s Foss during the Malham Cove Walk.
- Buckden Pike: take on one of the most well-known and beloved hikes in the Dales.
- Trollers Gill: located near Appletreewick, you’ll find a barely explored limestone gorge.
- Aysgarth Falls: scope out the truly spectacular Lower, Middle and Upper Aysgarth Falls.
- Cauldron Falls (West Burton Falls): a lesser-known waterfall that’s located near Aysgarth Falls.
- Hardraw Force: one of the most famous waterfalls in Yorkshire after featuring in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.
- Cautley Spout: England’s highest waterfall above ground can be seen on a walk via Howgill Fell.
- Ilkley Moor: visit the famous Cow and Calf Rocks at Ilkley Moor.
- Keld Waterfalls Walk: go waterfall chasing in Keld! You’ll see Catrake Force, Wain Wath Force, Kisdon Force, Currack Force and East Gill Force.
- Ingleton Waterfall Trail: of course, you’ll see many waterfalls along this splendid trail too.
Below, you’ll find the most frequently asked question about Great Whernside.
Where Is Great Whernside?
Great Whernside straddles Upper Wharfedale and the head of Upper Nidderdale in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
How High Is Great Whernside?
704 metres above sea level.
How Long Does it Take to Walk to Great Whernside?
From Kettlewell, it takes around two hours to walk to Great Whernside.
These are our five hiking gear essentials for the Great Whernside Walk.
- Merrell Moab Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots: these hiking boots are super comfortable and lightweight.
- The North Face Venture Jacket: a fantastic windproof/waterproof jacket.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack: a great backpack for hiking, which has plenty of space to store your gear.
- The North Face TKA Glacier Fleece Jacket: an excellent warmth:weight ratio fleece jacket that’ll help keep you warm.
- Columbia Convertible Trousers: a value for money pair of water-resistant convertible trousers.
For a longer hiking gear list, read our 66 Travel Items You Must Travel With. For a list of everything else you’d need for travelling, read our Packing Checklist.
- Great Whernside weather: for the latest weather updates, check out Met Office or Mountain Forecast.
- Great Whernside Fell Race: don’t just hike this fell, you can also run and race on it. That’s right, there’s an annual fell running competition held here. Click here for information about the Great Whernside Fell race route.
- Explore other nearby national parks: don’t just stop at the Yorkshire Dales in the northwest of England. Head to the beautiful Lake District (guides coming soon), North York Moors, Peak District and Northumberland National Parks.
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