Caving and Mountaineering in the Yorkshire Dales

Walking: White Scar Cave and Ingleton Waterfalls Trail
Time: 1h 48m
Distance: 5.03km
Elevation: 287m

You could be forgiven for thinking our next Weekend Walks guest was unprepared for the nearly two-hour challenge ahead. Olli Ryder arrives at the starting point with a pair of Crocs, before being quickly informed that it may not be the best choice to navigate what lies below the surface in one of the most spectacular sights North. But appearances can be deceiving.

The stepson of Shaun Ryder, he grew up in the Manchester music scene, so he’s adept at playing it safe and dealing with any situation that comes his way. Meanwhile, his own endeavors include summiting Mount Kilimanjaro and Animal Crossing, a nomadic dance music party committed to hosting events in places most promoters would consider impossible. Take last year’s Summer of Love, for example, one of the first festivals held amid post-lockdown nerves, it’s now opening the massive Dantzic Street warehouse as Love Factory, a new versatile artistic and cultural destination.

Olli Ryder and Hanna outside

Located in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park in the valley of Chapel-le-Dale, today’s journey begins at White Scar Cave, where cavernous is an understatement. It is Britain’s longest cave system, formed from Carboniferous limestone, and stretches a staggering 4 miles through subterranean tunnels and chambers, with spectacular rock formations at every corner of street. You will find the entrance located off the road from the B255, and will need to pay to access the underground network. Trust us, though: it’s worth every penny.

Metal bridges guide you over hidden ravines, cascading water from above, and daylight quickly becomes a distant memory as the natural drama unfolds. Look for the iconic stalactites and stalagmites carved into the wall from leached lime, including the Devil’s Tongue and Witch’s Fingers, and famous sections such as The Squeeze, one of the narrowest passable parts of visit. Much more spacious, The Battlefield is a huge cavern created by the floods of the last Ice Age. Whether or not there’s proper lighting handy for you to play a lightsaber battle, according to our video, is another matter altogether.

After exploring White Scar, return to the open air. Cross the road from the parking lot, through the gate and into the field, where the path to our next waypoint should be clear. Soon you’ll find the Stepping Stones forging a direct route down the River Doe, and it’s worth noting that they can get quite slippery thanks to the swift current they cross. Again, proper footwear and reasonable balance are key.

Once on the opposite shore, Oddie’s Lane reveals itself, a moderate slope over open ground strewn with the same stones that make up the traditional walls around these parts. The run to the top is, of course, optional. Much like a trip to the ice cream van on Twistleton Road at the top.

Taking its name from the Twiss River, you now need to take the wooden footbridge to Thornton Force. Not a reference to the thundering power of the waterfall itself, over which 55 tons of water flow every minute, but “strength” comes from the Viking word, “foss”, a nod to the arrival of the first settlers Danish in this region. Digressions aside, the scenery looks like it’s pulled straight from one of those stick fight scenes in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.” Almost as impressive is Ryder’s story of climbing the Gran Paradiso, a 4,000m high peak in the Italian Grae Alps that isn’t for the faint-hearted.

Back to our own expedition, and we’ve hit the jackpot: the bottom of Thornton Force. Enthusiasts and steady feet can walk on a thin rocky ridge, passing under a huge overhanging rock, to get under the self-collapsed water. As Ryder shows us, it’s possible to refill your water bottles here, just in case you haven’t brought his backpack full of homemade ginger shots. However, the Ingleton Falls Walk has earned its name for more than just this part.

As the route continues, you will also pass Pecca Falls, a set of five individual waterfalls that together drop over 30 meters. One can be seen at the Twiss footbridge, and the lowest in height is close enough to the path that you can almost smell the spray. A little further, Hollybush Spout is the last fall we come across. Here, the surrounding rock hugs the river into a steep slope, creating a waterspout that even the average photographer can capture like a fairy tale.

From there it’s back home, with just over a mile to the finish line. Not as fast as it may seem, the path winds alongside the river through the lush Swilla Glen, providing plenty of opportunities to appreciate countryside that can only be described as stunning. Don’t forget some coins either, as the money tree is on this section of the walk. According to pagan beliefs, sticking a coin in the branches or trunk cures evil of all their ailments. Not a bad deal, for a penny or two. Be careful though: it can be tempting to take a piece home with you, some brass instruments date back a long time. However, this risks facing the wrath of a curse capable of making healthy people sick.

About five kilometers from where it all started, we leave behind the gushing water jets, but there’s no need to be thirsty. The appropriately named Falls Bar & Kitchen is in the center of Ingleton, which itself is as pretty as the villages of Yorkshire. Relax, pint or soft drink in hand, with snacks and full meals also served here daily – a great place to reflect on a truly varied, breathtaking and memorable weekend ride. It should be noted that this can also be your starting point, as the pub is next to an access point to the Ingleton Falls walking route, for a small fee, in case you prefer to do it all Upside down.