Ribblehead is an area of dramatic moorland at the head of Ribblesdale, named after the River Ribble which starts its long journey to the Irish Sea here. Ribblehead is most famous for the engineering marvel of Ribblehead Viaduct, and as a major attraction for walkers who are tackling one or more of the Yorkshire Dales Three Peaks, or travelling along the Dales Way.
A bit of history
Originally called Batty Moss, Ribblehead, as it is now known, sits in an area of rugged and dramatic moorland. The area was remote and offered poor farming, so few settlements developed. It’s prosperity came with the railway. Work started on the Settle to Carlisle line, which runs across the valley, in 1870 and the Midland Railway Company faced with considerable engineering challenges to take the line across the wide valleys and through the hills.
The Ribblehead Viaduct, to carry the line across the Ribble Valley, was started in October 1870. It was a huge civil engineering project which lasted 4 years. Two thousand people worked on the Viaduct and a construction site was created at Batty Moss to accommodate the workers, hundreds of whom lost their lives during the construction.
The railway has survived two attempts to close it, once in the early 1960s and once in the 1980s when an outcry and increase in passenger numbers saved it.
Ribblehead attracts large numbers of tourists and local people who come to marvel at the huge railway viaduct spanning the valley, and to enjoy the moorland. The Settle to Carlisle railway line is acknowledged to be one of the most beautiful railway journeys in the country, if not the world, and a highlight of the journey is traversing the viaduct at Ribblehead. The railway station has been renovated and now incorporates a Visitor Centre.
Ribblehead is on the Dales Way and on the route for those tackling one or more of the Yorkshire Dales Three Peaks. Whernside is very close and Ingleborough not too far away.
The iconic, curved Ribblehead Viaduct is now a Grade II-listed building. It is 400 metres long with 24 stone arches rising 32 metres above Batty Moor. The curve in the viaduct means that it can be seen, and photographed, when travelling on the train.
Designed by the engineer John Sydney Crossley, the first stone was laid in October 1870 and it was completed in 1874. Some 2,000 people worked on the construction of the Viaduct and many lived in a camp known as Batty Moss which is visible today. The camp has been archeologically surveyed and is now designated an ancient monument.
Still an important and well-used stop on the line, the station is currently leased and run by the Settle and Carlisle Railway Trust. The Trust has loving restored and developed it so that it now contains a souvenir shop, a Visitor Centre focusing on the history of the line and the fight to keep it open, and a small shop. Refreshments can also be purchased.
The Visitor Centre is open from 10am to 4pm Tuesday – Sunday in the summer, and Wednesday – Sunday in the winter.
Settle to Carlisle Railway line
The Settle-Carlisle Railway was constructed by the Midland Railway company as a high speed line to compete for Anglo-Scottish passengers. Building the line was a massive engineering feat, consisting of 72 miles of tracks (35 of which are in the Yorkshire Dales), 17 major viaducts and 14 tunnels blasted through the hillsides. Work started in 1869 and it opened 7 years later. It was the last railway to be built in Britain using almost all manual labour – some 6,000 men worked on the line with thousands dying during its construction, either from industrial injuries or smallpox.
When it opened it was advertised as the most picturesque route to Scotland, and proved extremely popular with the Victorians and Edwardians.
Whernside & Ingleborough
Whernside, one of the Yorkshire Dales Three Peaks, is 2,715ft high with the summit spanning the border between North Yorkshire and Cumbria. The views are spectacular on most days while on a clear day you can see as far away as Blackpool Tower (with the aid of binoculars) some 40 miles away.
Ingleborough, another of the Three Peaks, is the second highest at 2,372ft. The name is derived in part from burh which means ‘fortified place’ and there are the remains of an Iron Age fort at the top. Again the views are spectacular and it is claimed that, if the conditions are right, the peak of Manod Mawr in Snowdonia, North Wales – some 103 miles away – can be seen.
Photos of Ribblehead
Photos of the dramatic Ribblehead Viaduct which carries the Settle to Carlisle Railway across Batty Moor at the head of Ribblesdale.