Another day of riding lovely scenery, updating the Slow Travel Guide to the Yorkshire Dales. Today I was checking out the villages of Three Peaks country: Ingleton, Clapham, Horton etc. The peaks themselves (Pen-y-ghent, 694m; Ingleborough, 723m; Whernside, 736m) are a popular walking challenge embraceable by even the most slightly adventurous.
Which obviously rules me out. I stuck to my bike today.
Anyway, it was a delightful road circuit. I got the train to Ribblehead Station, getting spectacular views of the famous railway viaduct, but just as excitingly for me, views of the passenger crossing across the tracks when we got off.
Ingleton, I am pleased to report, has a super new cafe in the centre, friendly, and with great value, home-made food: the Village Kitchen. I had the gourmet burger with cheese and bacon, with chips, for £7.50, which hardly even gets you a pint in London these days.
And no, I don’t get such things on expenses or on the house. I pay my way, because I’m too moral to sponge off people. Plus I’m too timid to ask anyway.
Elsewhere, though, the situation for cafes, pubs, information centres and other hospitality businesses is often grim. I guess about 1 in 5 of them listed in the guide have closed (including, very recently, the Falls Cafe in Ingleton) because of Covid, electricity bills, belt-tightening punters, looming retirement, whatever. Many more are for sale.
It’s sad also to see the old bunkhouse at Clapham has gone; it had a fantastic real ale bar, much enjoyed on my last stay there. Other bunkhouses have survived, but only it seems by admitting groups exclusively.
Very few offer dorm beds to individual travellers now, and that includes many YHA hostels. (Though Malham, Ingleton and Kettlewell hostels, and Broadrake Bunkbarn, are still open to the lone overnighter.)
Still, some new places are starting up. Also in Clapham is another welcome recent arrival, the Old Sawmill Cafe, also the entrance to the Ingleton Cave walking trail.
It was great to see the clean, airy, light old mill so well restored, and buzzing with custom. Best of luck to Andrew, the MD, with whom I enjoyed a realistic but positive conversation.
I loved dropping in to the legendary, and thriving, Elaine’s Cafe at Feizor. The village looked stunning today, which was appropriate, seeing as it’s pronounced ‘phaser’.
But beyond, in Horton (after by-passing the Norber Erratics, which I’ve visited before), came another dose of reality – the former Pen-y-ghent cafe there is closed.
Walkers used to be able to get a card punched here (by an old factory clocking-in machine) to prove their completion of the Three Peaks in 12 hours. Now the only way to get evidence is to go on an official tour, and the nearest tea and cake is at Middle Studfold Farm, a mile or so south.
With no pubs open yet, and no cafes, the only thing to do in Horton was to get the train home. It had been a fabulous ride, though, in dramatic countryside. I’ll be back soon to walk the Peaks themselves. Maybe.
Or perhaps I’ll just ride my new MTB to the top of Ingleborough and back down. I still can’t over the fact that walking downhill is actually tougher, thanks to pressure on the knees, than going up…