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Walking the Waterfalls Trail

Stunning white water and sadly aching knees

Thornton Falls, Ingleton

Thornton Falls, Ingleton

Ingleton is a small North Yorkshire town dominated by the huge, grey stone railway viaduct that spans the river valley, and the nearby high peak of Ingleborough.

Two rivers run through the sprawl of houses – The Twiss and the Doe – merging under the viaduct. The water has cascaded over rocks for thousands of years, forcing a route through the limestone and creating spectacular waterfalls and rapids along their length.

The Waterfalls Trail, which showcases this natural spectacle, starts under the shadow of the viaduct along which the Settle to Carlisle Railway runs. The path follows the River Twiss out, winds over Raven Ray and returns along the River Doe. Twisting and turning as it wanders up and down the gorges, the rivers are crossed back and forth as it travels past an array of rapids and falls.

Strenuous exercise

03-waterfalls-trail-stepsThe walk is described as strenuous and this is pretty accurate. The start, at the far end of the car park, is flat and level and lulls you into a false sense of security. Within a fairly short time you are walking across ankle twisting, boot-polished rocks, stumbling over tangles of tree roots and climbing endless steps built of concrete or foot-hardened earth. By the time you reach Thornton Falls, the most spectacular of the falls, you’ll be ready to take a breather and join others photographing the cascading water, and themselves, and catching their breath.

Throughout, the sound of the rivers remains constantly with you, first on the left, then on the right, bubbling over rocks, gurgling lazily passing through quiet pools, rushing through narrow gorges, spilling and gushing fiercely over falls as you climb steps and traverse metal bridges.

Secret and magical

20-triple-spout-waterfalls-trailMy favourite part was the start of the River Doe section. The gorge is narrow here conjuring the atmosphere of a secret, magical place. The gorge has the sweeping sides of a bowl with the falls coming thick and fast – Beezley, Triple Spout, Rival – coupled with the deep and dangerous-looking Baxenghyll. The walk’s end, however, is a bit of an anti-climax, with the path flattening out and drifting back into the town.

But is the Waterfalls Trail good value?

There’s a charge of £5.00 per person to walk round the 4.5 miles although this does include parking. Is it worth it? I think so. It took me over 2.5 hours with a sandwich stop half way round, and plenty of photo stops, although people were taking a lot longer. It’s a tough walk if you have young children or are not particularly fit, and it’s not an option for people with walking difficulties. There’s a rather laughable array of signs all the way round telling you what you mustn’t do, and how dangerous it is. A real case of health and safety gone mad but I don’t blame the Trail’s managers. There are many people ready to make claims these days and the paths do go very close to the steep drops into surging water.

Overall, it’s a beautiful walk, particularly lovely on a sunny day and when the river is high. It’s one I had wanted to do for some time, and I wasn’t disappointed.


  1. John Patrick
    John PatrickNovember 20,11

    Despite spending a lot of time in this area of the Dales, this isn’t something I’ve done yet, partly because the thought of a pre-planned walk has put me off. I prefer just to explore.

    I have to say that after reading this it sounds worth a visit though – will have to give it a go.

    • Dalestrail
      DalestrailNovember 20,11

      I know what you mean about pre-planned walks – I’m the same – but friends recommended this one and, eventually, I was persuaded to go round the Trail despite the £5pp cost! I was pleased I did. And we found a great cafe in the town afterwards that did a fine hot chocolate and wonderful homemade cakes. A great way to finish!

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