I’ve always loved limestone scenery. It’s amazing how mildly acidic rainwater can sculpt massive landscapes. Caverns, potholes, gorges and cliffs – so much to see and enjoy. Not to mention enigmatic dry-valleys, rivers that disappear only to pop up again miles distant.
As a youngster, growing up in Manchester, I was fortunate to have the White Peak just a short train-ride away. In the summer holidays I’d go with friends and camp around Castleton or Buxton and spend days exploring the limestone hills and gorges.
Sadly, the Derbyshire peak has become unbelievably busy and best avoided on summer weekends. The beauties of Dovedale are better left until winter – though once you progress a mile or so from the carpark, you can enjoy the caves, tumbling river, and white pinnacles, wooded slopes and soft moorland beyond.
If the Peak was my first love of limestone country, the Yorkshire dales took it to a whole higher level.
There’s just way too much to talk about. It’s limestone at its finest. I could write fifty or more posts (and I probably will) – but if you want a taste of the best, take a look at Ingleborough and Malham.
Ingleborough and the three peaks
Ingleborough is one of the famous three peaks, together with Whernside and Pen-y-Ghent. You can walk all three – it’s around 40k with 1,600m of up and down. It’s a challenge. But taking Ingleborough on its own is less demanding and allows time for dawdling and taking in the magnificent limestone scenery and features.
My favourite route is the classic from Ingleton or Clapham. From the start you get the taste of the characteristic scenery. The approach up the impressive dry gorge of Trow Gill sets the scene. Scrambling out onto the moorland, pock-marked with sink-holes, you head for the magnificent entrance to Gaping Gill.
Already the elongated hump of Ingleborough itself dominates the landscape. The ascent is straightforward if a bit of a slog. Some great work has been done by conservators, laying the odd chunk of rock slab. It protects the popular route from erosion, yet doesn’t detract from the wildness of the landscape.
While the ridge itself is not particularly dramatic the views (on a clear day) can be wonderful, with Morcambe Bay and the Lake District easily seen.
Limestone scenery is very idiosyncratic and if you want to see an amazing number of its classic geological features you can do no better than visit Malham. Okay it’s very popular in the summer – and since scenes for Harry Potter and The Deathly Hollows were filmed there, it has attracted even more attention. But many people don’t stray too far from from the car-park in Malham and wander up to admire the magnificent white amphitheatre cliff of the ‘Cove’.
To get the best from it, you can set off to ascend via the lovely waterfall of Janet’s Foss, past the awesome gorge of Gordale Scar to Malham Tarn.
For me, the most fascinating walk is the descent from the Tarn. Starting with boggy moorland, infant rivers and sink-holes, you follow the river down a valley until it suddenly disappears. While the river melts into the ground, you continue down the dry valley (classic limestone feature), winding down rock-strewn gorges.
Eventually you arrive atop the breathtaking limestone pavement above Malham cove. I’ve visited many times but it never ceases to impress and fascinate. The features are known as ‘clints’ and ‘grykes’ – lovely words. Striding across the you get a feel of the pure scale of the platform.
Okay, that’s enough – I said that I am a limestone fan and could talk about for ages. But just have a taste of these two popular destinations – I guarantee you’ll be hooked.
Check out: http://www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/