Despite already having walked from Bentham station to Ingleton with my heavy bag in the morning, I decided at 4pm that I would tread the Roman Road up to Chapel Le Dale and then climb Ingleborough - one of the Three Peaks after which this part of the Yorkshire Dales is named - from Souther Scales.
The walk made me realise how unfit I'd become; it took me a long time to get to Chapel Le Dale, although I did take my time enjoying the scenery.
Sheep and birds
There were plenty of sheep along the Roman Road, and at intervals one would stand waiting for me, in the middle of the road and still as the large limestone rocks that dotted the landscape. It would look away as I approached but the moment I passed this silent sentry, it would turn around and face my back, following my path for a short distance, as if sending me on my way.
When I got tired, I stood still for a minute with the wind on my back, listening to the nagging flock and intermittent birdsong. It was nesting season and you could spot delicate chicks of various colours, darting before your eyes for a moment before they disappeared.
At Souther Scales, I decided to ascend Ingleborough regardless of the time, but I was barely halfway up when it occurred to me that I may not be able to get back down before nightfall, so I decided to turn back. Besides, I was out of water. Finding a pub at the bottom of hill - Old Hill Inn - I downed two large glasses of Coke before settling down for dinner. The food was decent.
While waiting for the cab, I had a short chat with one of the bar staff. She had lived in Moscow and Zagreb, studying languages. We were exchanging observations about Croatia when she was interrupted by a billing problem and then my taxi arrived.
On the second day, I decided to take it easy and do the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail. This is a 4.5-mile walk with 16 waterfalls along the way, according to the leaflet. There is an entrance fee. It was a good way to recover from my exertions of the day before.
As this was the Easter weekend, most of the restaurants were packed by the time I got there at around 8.30pm. I was lucky to find a seat at the bar in the Wheatsheaf, which served up a nice curry. The sausages were supposed to be excellent too, I was told. Everywhere I had been, people were asking for Black Sheep so even though I normally don't drink beer, I decided to get a pint. It was good indeed.
Ingleborough and Ribblehead
After my failed attempt the first time, I thought I'd set off at sunrise to go up Ingleborough via a more direct route. I was on the peak by 8.30am. Apart from the runner who overtook me on my way up and was already coming down before I reached the top, I saw no one else during the climb. On the summit, there were more sheep, and a man, possibly in his 60s. He's local, but has a daughter who is a musician at the London Symphony Orchestra. He said, "They go all over but the base is in London. She can't wait to come back here for a walk."
As it was still early, I decided to walk to Ribblehead to see the viaduct. Heeding the man's directions, I followed the ridge round Ingleborough before descending on the other side. It was a pleasant walk, which took me past the trail I had taken the other day but did not complete. It looked much nearer from the top.
You could see the Ribblehead Viaduct all the way along the ridge but it was a lot more impressive up close. I made the requisite coffee stop at the Station Inn, which had a 'loo with a view', before walking down the main road to Chapel Le Dale and back to Ingleton - thus completing my 18-mile circular trip, all in time for afternoon tea. (Instead of tea, I had a pork pie from Perasons of Ingleton, the 'North of England pork pie champions'.
Peppe the Italian
Making it a point to have dinner earlier, I went to La Tavernetta, also known as Peppe's Italian. It was a very small operation - one chef, his assistant and a very efficient waitress. There were three four-seater tables and two tables-for-two, but they also did a takeaway business. The menu design can be described as 'faded-garish' but it was very informative.
For example, did you know that spaghetti alla carbonara was was invented during WWII for the Allied troops, because the American soldiers stationed in Italy missed their breakfasts? It's basically bacon and egg with pasta.
I got the mushroom starter and rigatoni all' amatriciano, and finished it up with a tartufo nero. It was the best meal I had in Ingleton.
White Scar Cave
If you plan on visiting the White Scar Cave, it would be useful to note that tours start every hour on the hour, and you can only buy tickets ten minutes before. Unequipped with this information, I ended up spending forty minutes in the cafe reading a copy of the Cave Rescue Organisation's annual publication, Rescue 2010 - Incidents attended during 2009. Here are two examples from the booklet:
9. Feb 4 Wed 23.07 Crag Hill, Ease Gill, Cumbria - Mountain Rescue
Two walkers (m) were reported to be overdue on Crag Hill, above Ease Gill. Lengthy investigation by CRO and two Police forces eventually determined that they were both safe at home.
19. Apr 04 Sat 04.55 Ingleborough, North Yorkshire - Mountain Rescue
A party of three (m, 18, 18, 17) walked from Bentham to the summit of Ingleborough to watch the sunrise. Unfortunately heavy rain, low cloud and a failed torch resulted in their becoming wet, cold and unable to find their way off the summit plateau. They called the Police for assistance before losing their mobile phone signal. Located by a CRO search team at first light, making their way down towards Crina Bottom.
There were 88 incidents altogether in 2009, and I read every one of them while waiting.
The walk itself was educational and it would be a good family activity but I've seen more impressive limestone caves in France. However, there was a good story about how Hilda Guthrie became the discoverer of one of the most spectacular caverns in Britain:
In 1971, the group of cavers known as the Happy Wanderers found the cavern while trespassing on private land over the White Scar Cave after a night of drinking at the Heifer Craven in Ingleton (still operating). Being the smallest person in the group, Hilda was sent to squeeze through the tunnel leading into the cavern. Here's the interesting bit: Hilda was only a teenager then, and was there only as the tag-along girlfriend of one of the cavers.
Bridge End Guest House
Carlos and Suzanne, who ran the Bridge End Guest House, were about to go shopping in another town for bicycle spares when I came back from White Scar Cave to pick up my bags. They had been excellent hosts during my stay in Ingleton: Suzanne made a mean breakfast, and Carlos was always helpful - he lent me his Ordnance Survey map and even offered to drive me part of the way if I wanted to explore further afield.
The guest house is in a great location too, as close as you can get to the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail, walks down the Roman Road and Ingleton Pottery (which is also an attraction) so check it out if you're heading this way.