Peak Practice: The Old Hill Inn, Chapel-le-Dale, near Ingleton, North Yorkshire
There are a few things I look for in a good pub: nice beer, friendly service and (where food is offered, which it needn’t be) good food are some of the basics. After that, anything else is a bonus. A historic interior and a connection to Winston Churchill, for example; or a display of elaborate sugar sculptures by Colin the pastry chef: all of these things add to the ambience. If that’s what you look for in a pub too – and I know that a lot of you are sugar sculpture afficionados – I recommend The Old Hill Inn, at Chapel-le-Dale near Ingleton.
The Inn sits under Ingleborough, the second highest mountain in Yorkshire and, to be frank, a strutting bastard of a geographical feature. It faces Whernside: less showy, but such quiet confidence befits the highest mountain in Yorkshire. A few miles away is Pen-y-Ghent, which is usually the first of the Three Peaks that idiots climb in the gruelling c.25 mile Three Peaks Walk. A walk which I, unfathomably, have volunteered for.
We’ve been climbing the Three Peaks one at a time to let ourselves know what we’re in for. On Saturday we climbed Whernside: 736m above sea level and ascending around 460m from the starting point. In terms of ascents, that’s kind of, almost (but not really) equivalent to walking up all of the stairs in the Empire State Building, or the Sears Tower, or even the finished Freedom Tower. It’s not as tall as some other mountains in England, but they aren’t in Yorkshire and are therefore excluded from consideration.
On Saturday afternoon we were coming down from Whernside and I was happy with the walk. For a sloppy sack of of lard and bones, I felt pretty energetic despite the sweaty climb into the clouds; I thought that the Three Peaks was achievable. Nonetheless, I was very happy to arrive at the pub at the end of this practice walk, order a crisply citrus-bitter, yet balanced, pint of Dent Aviator and enjoy a really superb homemade burger with delicious fried onions and chunky chips.
The burger was probably the most basic and “pubby” thing on the menu, but after the walk I wanted something simple. Kate went for the second most “pubby” thing: a wonderful plate of homemade pork sausages, mash and gravy. The Good Beer Guide reports that the pub is owned by “a family of chefs”, which is reflected in the hearty but considered food which reminded me of The White Lion at Cray.
However, apart from the excellent food, what struck me most was that the cosiness of the bar (open fire etc) was reflected in the warmth of the service, that stands apart from those rural pubs across Cumbria and Yorkshire you walk into wearing hiking gear and are stared at by the locals and staff like you’ve just asked about the pentangle on the wall of The Slaughtered Lamb.
The only problem I have is that, when I actually come to do the Three Peaks in one go at the end of July, after two peaks, tired and sore, I’ll have to walk past The Old Hill Inn on the way to the third peak, Ingleborough, which looks like something out of Mordor. One does not simply walk into Mordor; at least, not when the other option is a filling dinner, a good beer, an open fire and an impressive selection of sugarwork.
If you would like to sponsor my Three Peaks walk for the Alzheimer’s Society, I’d be very grateful if you could do so here.