Three Peaks Challenge History

The Three Peaks Challenge – comprising Pen-y-ghent 694m (2277ft), Whernside 736m (2415ft) and Ingleborough 723m (2372ft) is one of the oldest established walks in the UK.

The original 3 Peaks Challenge, whether nowadays you call it the 3 Peaks of Yorkshire, the Yorkshire 3 Peaks or just still, The Three Peaks is, by tradition, a grueling 25 mile+ rugged, high mountain walk over a variety of terrains and should not be underestimated. The challenge is to complete the route within 12 hours by any circular route starting and finishing at the same location.

The actual time taken will vary depending on the stamina of the individual(s), the prevailing weather conditions, your knowledge of the route or the quality of your route guide (paper or person) and if you get lost.

Whilst the walking is generally pretty obvious there are long sections of stony track that aren’t the best underfoot, the bog to traverse (or see alternative) & it is very long for a single day’s hike. It also includes three big climbs totaling 1612m (approx 1 mile) of ascent and descent.

As with all mountainous areas, the weather can change rapidly. Low cloud/mist can descend very quickly, especially on the hill tops. Heavy rain can turn a pleasant grassed track into a mud-bath and temperatures & wind can vary dramatically between the hill tops and the valleys. A hot/humid summer day can dehydrate the walker rapidly if enough fluid isn’t taken and dry, hard stony ground can affect tired legs badly.

There is no ‘official’ route, most people tend to take a route that differs slightly from the annual 3 Peaks Race (the race is slightly shorter, doesn’t traverse the ‘nose’ of Pen-y-ghent and goes directly up Whernside from near Winterscales farm).

Most of the walk utilises footpaths and bridleways that are public rights of way. The most common variation of the walk is the route from Pen-y-ghent Side to Ribblehead where, until the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 came into force, most of the common routes had sections of varying length that were technically a trespass, indeed a short section of one of the common routes is still, technically, such.

The challenge was well established for many years when Alfred Wainwright, the renowned compiler of famous Lakeland guides, described the route in his 1972 book, Walks In Limestone Country. Today the basic route more or less follows his ‘recommended’ route.

3 Peaks Area Map

It is run by the Yorkshire Dales National Park, 3Peaks Ranger Service for people walking the three peaks area.

Friends of the Three Peaks

The friends of the three peaksThe Friends of the Three Peaks are a group of individuals and organisations who want to protect and enhance the special qualities of the distinctive and inspirational landscapes of the Three Peaks area in the Dales National Park” href=”” target=”_blank”>Yorkshire Dales National Park.

It is run by the Yorkshire Dales National Park, 3Peaks Ranger Service for people walking the three peaks area.

You can buy merchandise online or from local businesses.


Pen-y-ghent is 694m. Along with Ingleborough and Whernside it forms part of the 3 Peaks walk.


At 736m Whernside is the highest mountain in Yorkshire. Along with Ingleborough and Pen-y-Ghent it forms part of the 3 Peaks walk.


Ingleborough is the second highest mountain in Yorkshire at 723m. Along with Whernside and Pen-y-Ghent it forms part of the 3 Peaks walk.

Pen-y-ghent Cafe

pen-y-ghent cafe
The Pen-y-ghent Cafe has been the starting point of the the Yorkshire Three Peaks Walk for many people over the years. The café operates a clock-in/out system to time the challenge. A clock card machine records the start and end time of walkers. Those completing within a 12 hour period are invited to join the café’s ‘Three Peaks of Yorkshire Club’.

Many people prefer to start the circular walk at various points to avoid the early morning crowds in Horton-in-Ribblesdale & on the first ascent and instead stop at the café for lunch or a much needed break.

Contact Details
Pen-y-ghent Cafe, Horton-in-Ribblesdale, North Yorkhire, BD24 0HE.
01729 860333

Clocking in/out
Those wishing to use the clocking in service can get a card from the café. More likely you will be setting off before opening time and you can post the following details through the door:

  1. Name
  2. Address
  3. Address of your accommodation tonight
  4. Phone Numbers
  5. Car registration
  6. Where your car is parked
  7. Starting Time


The staff in the café will create a card for your return, and will wait after closing time until everyone has returned. Should you not complete the walk or not return to the café for any reason it is very important that you ring 01729 860333 to prevent a search party!

Please Note
Please Note: is not affiliated with the Pen-y-ghent Cafe.