Whernside is the highest mountain in the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the highest mountain in the county of Yorkshire. This mountain is also one of the famous Yorkshire Three Peaks. Other than climbing Whernside as part of the long and gruelling Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge, it’s possible to summit this mountain during a much shorter walk from Ribblehead. The Whernside Walk starts from the impressive Ribblehead Viaduct – a popular attraction that people visit even without walking to Whernside.
In this guide, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about doing the awesome Whernside Walk. By doing so, we’ll cover some information about the famous Ribblehead Viaduct. But, for more information about the Ribblehead Viaduct, click here, so you can read the guide that we specifically wrote about the attraction.
Table of Contents
At 736 metres above sea level, Whernside is the highest peak in Yorkshire. Despite being the tallest peak in the area, the mountain is admittedly not as physically outstanding or striking as perhaps the other Yorkshire Three Peaks – Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent. Indeed, Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent are more easily recognisable landforms.
Yet, the Whernside Walk (AKA the Whernside Circular Walk) is just as fun and enjoyable as the walks to Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent. Especially, as the Whernside Walk route features the magnificent Ribblehead Viaduct.
So, exactly where is this mountain located?
Where Is Whernside?
It’s in the southwest corner of the Yorkshire Dales National Park in the northwest of England. To help you get your bearings, please click on the image below to access an interactive map.
Whernside Walk: Route Information
Below, you’ll find trail specs and links to maps for the Whernside Walk.
- Type: Loop
- Distance: 13.4km (8.3 miles)
- Time: 4–5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 460m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Whernside Walk postcode (AKA the Ribblehead Viaduct postcode) – Carnforth LA6 3AT (Blea Moor Road)
- Whernside Walk Map: Wikiloc or ordnance survey
Whernside Walk: Trail Highlights
Let’s talk about the highlights of the Whernside Walk. By doing so, we’ll provide a brief trail description. Admittedly, this walk is very straightforward to navigate. So, as long as you have a map (links above) for directional help, it’s almost pointless for us to provide a thorough step-by-step description of how to do the walk. Instead, we’ll talk about the best bits, to help get you excited about the walk and so you know what to expect.
FYI – most people complete this walk in an anti-clockwise direction. This is what we did and is reflected below.
From roadside parking (details about parking here) in Ribblehead, you’ll follow a flat and narrow path to Ribblehead Viaduct. Indeed, you don’t have to walk far or put in too much effort to reach this famous Yorkshire attraction. The beautiful viaduct forms part of the Settle to Carlisle Railway Line. During your visit, you may see a train or two pass on this breathtaking section of the railway.
After passing the Ribblehead Viaduct, you’ll continue to follow a well-defined trail with Blea Moor off in the distance to your right. In fact, soon enough you’ll pass the Blea Moor Railway Station (AKA the Blea Moor Signal Box).
Afterwards, you’ll arrive at a classic wooden bridge to pass over Little Dale Beck. Personally, when we arrived at the bridge, we faced a confused-looking sheep, unwilling to move. Given the waterway was dry, we simply bypassed the bridge and continued towards Force Gill.
Force Gill Waterfall (Low Force and High Force)
From the path, you’ll see Force Gill (AKA Force Gill Waterfall) to your left. Feel free to leave the official Whernside Walk trail to approach the base of the waterfall. This waterfall is actually one of two main waterfalls formed by Force Gill and it’s known as Low Force.
Essentially, higher up the stream, passing numerous cascades, you’ll find High Force. Personally, we explored Low Force. But, we didn’t follow the faint trail that ventures to High Force. Thankfully, we were able to fly our drone to capture a photo of High Force.
There’s actually a route variation of the Whernside Walk, which accesses the mountain from a trail following beside Force Gill. This way, you can explore both Low Force and High Force. If you’d like further information about the Whernside Walk via Force Gill, read Other Whernside Walks.
Whernside: The Highest Peak in the Yorkshire Dales
After passing Force Gill, the trail begins to gradually ascend and bend left around a series of tarns called the Whernside Tarns. You’ll then commence a steeper climb along the spine of Whernside, which reveals epic views over the Yorkshire Dales and out towards the Lake District. Soon enough, you’ll reach the trig point and peak of the mountain. From Whernside, you’ll enjoy exceptional views of both Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent.
Once you’ve taken in the views, it’s time to climb down the mountain. The gradual decline soon transitions into a steep descent, as you meet a set of winding steps. Eventually, you’ll reach a T-junction. You’ll want to turn left, whilst continuing to follow ‘Viaduct’ signs to return to Ribblehead Viaduct. Certainly, one of the highlights of the walk is arriving back at the Ribblehead Viaduct after following a series of farmland trails.
You’ll actually walk underneath the Ribblehed Viaduct, before returning to Blea Moor Road, in Ribblehead, to complete the Whernside Walk.
Our Experience Doing the Whernside Walk
Personally, Beck and I really enjoyed this walk. Certainly, it’s one of the best walks in the Yorkshire Dales. Having started the walk early (roughly 6am), on a weekday, we encountered little foot traffic throughout the adventure. Although, keep in mind, this trail can get very busy during summer and on the weekend.
When it comes to day walks of the Yorkshire Three Peaks, each walk is unique and deserves to be trodden. It’s hard to say whether one Yorkshire Three Peak day walk is better than the other. With this in mind, you’ll have to do a day walk to Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent to make that judgement for yourself!
Other Whernside Walks
The Whernside Walk from Ribblehead is the most popular and easiest route up Whernside. But there are other walks that involve reaching this mountain. As mentioned, the Whernside Walk via Gill Force is a more challenging walk following a less-defined trail. Whilst, others combine climbing two Yorkshire Peaks – Whernside and Ingleborough. If you’d like more information, click here to find out more about the Whernside and Ingleborough Circular Walk.
Of course, the ultimate walking challenge involving Whernside is the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge.
The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge: Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent
As mentioned, Whernside is one of the famous Yorkshire Three Peaks. The famous Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge is a well-known 38km (23.5 mile) day hike, which summits all three mountains. To find out more about this challenge and to find out about our experience doing the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge, click here.
How to Get to Whernside
To do this walk, you’ll need to get to Ribblehead. The quickest and easiest way to get to Ribblehead is to drive there yourself. If you don’t have your own set of wheels, we recommend hiring a car.
If you don’t have your own car, you should hire one using Discover Cars. Personally, we use Discover Cars and highly recommend them for finding your ideal car hire at an affordable price. Booking online is super easy and the free cancellation policy is great.
Of course, it’s possible to get to Ribblehead by using public transport. Simply, catch a train to Ribblehead Station. From Leeds, you can get the Northern Line train heading to Carlisle. From Ribblehead Station, it’s a short walk to get to Ribblehead Viaduct to begin the Whernside Walk. Indeed, this walk is much more accessible than many other walks in the Yorkshire Dales.
We recommend using Google Maps and Trainline to help plan any journeys using public transport.
Trainline is one of the best online platforms for booking trains. By using Trainline, you can easily find the best available prices and times for your journey. We always use Trainline to book our train journeys in the UK and in Europe.
Where to Park For the Whernside Walk
If you’re driving to Ribbehead, you’ll want to know about Whernside Walk parking. Strictly speaking, there isn’t an official Whernside Walk car park as such. Basically, there’s ample roadside parking here on Blea Moor Road. Literally, this parking area is located opposite Ribblehead Viaduct. You’ll catch your first glimpse of the viaduct from the roadside parking.
Where to Stay
Given Ribblehead is a tiny village, there isn’t much in the way of accommodation. The most well-known accommodation option in Ribblehead is the famous Station Inn. Otherwise, there are some lesser-known B&Bs such as the Gauber Bunk Barn and Den and the Ashes Farm Bed & Breakfast Holiday Cottages.
If you’re struggling for accommodation in Ribblehead, we recommend staying in the beautiful nearby village of Ingleton. Basically, if you’re travelling north to reach Ribblehead, you’ll likely pass through this pretty village. Because Ingleton is a much bigger village, there are way more accommodation options. So, Ingleton may end up being the ideal place to stay for the Whernside Walk.
Below, we’ll talk about the best budget, mid-range and luxury options in Ingleton.
Budget – Ingleton Hostel
Mid-range – Craven Heifer Ingleton
This beautiful country inn is one of the most affordable private room accommodation options in Ingleton. Additionally, Craven Heifer Ingleton is one of the most highly-rated options in the village.
Mid-range – The Wheatsheaf Inn
You’ll want to stay at The Wheatsheaf Inn if you want to stay at the most popular accommodation option in Ingleton. Indeed, this B&B is an excellent place to stay.
Below, you’ll find the most frequently asked questions about the Whernside Walk.
Where to Start the Whernside Walk?
To do the walk described in this guide, you’ll start the walk from Ribblehead.
How Long Is the Whernside Walk?
The Whernside Walk time is approx. 13.4km (8.3 miles), taking around 4–5 hours.
Is Whernside a Hard Walk?
Personally, we rated the walk as moderate difficulty. Given the length, accumulated elevation gain and sometimes rocky terrain, we think moderate is a fair rating. Of course, as always, judging difficulty is very subjective.
What Is the History Behind the Ribblehead Viaduct?
The viaduct was built between 1869 and 1874, during which, hundreds of men lost their lives. To find out more about the fascinating history of Ribblehead Viaduct, read here.
How Many People Died Building the Ribblehead Viaduct?
Around 100 men lost their lives during the construction of the viaduct. But, sadly, the worker’s wives and even children lost their lives during the project too. This was often because of the outbreak of disease that would spread through the shanty town set up for the project. So, the viaduct may have cost closer to 200 lives!
Can You Walk Across Ribblehead Viaduct?
No, you can only walk underneath it.
Can You Drive Under the Ribblehead Viaduct?
Given the Ribblehead Viaduct location is away from roads, it isn’t possible to drive underneath it.
Was Ribblehead Viaduct Used in Harry Potter?
No, the Ribblehead Viaduct in the Yorkshire Dales was not used as a filming location in Harry Potter. The Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland was used as a filming location in Harry Potter.
What to Wear and Take
Below, you’ll find our gear essentials for the Whernside Walk.
Osprey Skarab 30
The Osprey Skarab 30 is our go-to hiking backpack for day hikes. This well-designed unisex backpack is comfortable and spacious, so you’ll have plenty of space to pack everything without feeling the strain on your upper back.
Osprey Ultralight Raincover
A waterproof backpack cover is an absolute must when you’re adventuring outdoors. The Osprey Ultralight Raincover Medium is a high-quality waterproof cover that’ll keep your backpack bone dry.
GRAYL Reusable Water Bottle
The GRAYL GeoPress is the best water filter bottle that allows you to purify 710mL (12 ounces) of water. This bottle will make water safe to drink wherever you’re hiking.
BUFF Original Ecostretch
The BUFF Original Ecostretch is a great option when it comes to multifunctional headwear. We use the Ecostretch as a neck gaiter to keep the sun off our necks and it helps us keep warm in cooler climates.
To find out more about all of the gear that we use and recommend, read our guides about our favourite hiking gear, travel gear and camera gear. Otherwise, read our comprehensive travel packing checklist.
Other Yorkshire Dales Guides
Best Villages to See in the Yorkshire Dales
- Grassington: Everything You Need to Know About Grassington
- Hawes: The 16 Best Things To Do In Hawes
- Ingleton: 10 Awesome Things To Do In Ingleton
- Masham: Everything You Need to Know About Masham
- Buckden: The 5 Best Things To Do In Buckden, Yorkshire
- Keld: The 5 Best Things To Do in Keld, North Yorkshire
- Clapham: The Top 13 Things To Do During A Visit to Clapham, Yorkshire
- Ribblehead: 15 Awesome Things To Do In Ribblehead
- Visit White Scar Cave: in between Ribblehead and Ingleton, you’ll find White Scar Cave – a famous show cave in the Yorkshire Dales. Beck and I think White Scar Cave is the best show cave in the Yorkshire Dales. Yes, we rate White Scar Cave as better than Ingleborough Cave and Stump Cross Caverns!
- Other Whernside mountains in the Yorkshire Dales: confusingly, there’s also a Great Whernside and Little Whernside in the Dales. We did the lesser-known Great Whernside Walk and highly recommend it.
- There are many brilliant national parks to explore in England: there’s much natural beauty to see and experience in England. Make sure to check out the North York Moors, Lake District (coming soon), Peak District and South Downs national parks.