Adventures by train – the Ribblehead Viaduct

Experience the Ribblehead Viaduct

Station: Ribblehead

Travel time from London: 4 hours

Travel time from Bristol: 6 hours

Author’s adventure tip: The walks around Ribblehead Station include high moorland so pack accordingly. Take a map and compass or make sure you can charge your mobile device if you’re using that to navigate.

Practicalities: Toilets are only available during Ribblehead Visitor Centre opening hours (on the platform, summer season only). The platform is staggered and you have to cross the line (at both stations) on foot.

Your train adventure

The area around Ribblehead is one of those locations we are so good at in the UK that combines interest from our industrial past with stunning natural beauty. It’s easy to see how hard the workforce in this area would once have worked but it’s also easy to sit back and listen to the sky larks.

For the full experience it’s definitely worth following this walking route underneath the viaduct before taking the train over it.

For me, Dent Station was a must-visit location because it is the highest mainline train station in England.

It’s also a very long way from Dent Village.

Read about my winter adventure to Corrour on the West Highland Railway, the UK’s highest train station

Your Ribblehead Viaduct walk

Whichever way you arrive at Ribblehead Station, you won’t be disappointed with the scenery. Set high in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, this area has plenty of walks to offer but because train run to timetables, we’ve opted for one of the shortest.

Note: You could also choose a much longer, steeper route from here. Ribblehead is at the foot of Ingleborough, one of the Yorkshire Three Peaks. The complete challenge route is 25 miles and passes by Horton in Ribblesdale Station as well as Ribblehead Station.

Yesterday’s industry, today’s nature

This short walk is one of many in the area but it’s easy to follow and allows you plenty of time to enjoy a meal at the famous Station Inn once you’ve finished.

Station-to-station walking routes in the UK

Your Ribblehead short walking route

Your walking route on OS Maps: Ribblehead Viaduct short walk

This 4.5 kilometre (2.7 miles) walk follows clear trails and offers the best views of Ribblehead Viaduct. Admire then pass underneath the impressive 24-arch structure then enjoy a bit of countryside before you turn back up to the railway line to spot the remains of what was once one of the construction site shanty towns.

The Ribblehead Visitor Centre

Before you leave the station, take the opportunity to go into the visitor centre and find out more about the history of the Ribblehead Viaduct and the Settle-Carlisle Railway.

  1. Find the Station Inn

Follow the station lane down to the road. At the Station Inn turn right down the hill to cross the cattle grid then left onto a track. You’ll be back at the Inn in plenty of time to enjoy its viaduct views over a drink.

2. Pass underneath the Ribblehead Viaduct

Take your time on this track, the views of the viaduct change as you approach and it’s worth checking the train timetables to arrive as a train passes above you.

3. Cross the stream at Gunnerfleet Farm

Follow the track then go through the farm gate (always leave gates as you find them). At Gunnerfleet Farm keep to the left of the buildings and pass through two more gates to cross the stream.

4. Climb up to the railway

Once you’ve crossed the stream, turn right to follow the track, then right again at the junction. This track will take you onto open moorland and gently uphill to pass underneath a railway bridge.

5. Follow the railway line

Once under the bridge, turn right onto the main bridleway. Follow this along the railway back to the viaduct. On the way look out for the remains of the shanty town.

6. Back to the pub

Continue along the bridleway to the Station Inn. If you’ve got time before your train, this is a great spot for a bite to eat and the views of the viaduct from the beer garden are fabulous.

Plan your own walking route with OS Maps 2022

Author’s adventure

Confession time.

I occasionally swap the train for our campervan.

But trains are always my favourite way to adventure. Although I did enjoy a train ride while I was in the Ribblehead area, I didn’t arrive there by train. We stayed at the Station Inn in our campervan at the start of our annual road trip to Scotland.

I can’t wait to travel the whole of the Settle-Carlisle line.

We arrived in the evening and met our son, also in his campervan, who has lived in Yorkshire so long now he has an appropriately broad accent. As well as allowing van parking in their car park (if you buy a meal) the Station Inn has a bunkhouse if you would like your train adventure to become an overnight one.

An evening viaduct stroll

The chaps wanted their pub dinner straight away but I insisted we took advantage of the clear skies (and possible sunset) by taking a walk down to and around the viaduct (which you could see easily from the car park).

Iconic image time

We (and the two dogs) had a lovely stroll and catching-up chat. The viaduct was impressive from underneath and I was excited to be visiting somewhere that’s been on my train bucket list for ages. I delayed proceedings by taking loads of photos.

What? No pies in Yorkshire?

By the time we had strolled back past the singing skylarks to the pub, they had stopped serving hot food. The chaps were very polite about their lack of pies but I knew the situation was my fault. In the end we didn’t feel hard done by as the ploughmans’ suppers were a real treat (and luckily include a slice of pie).

Lark arising

I woke with the (actual) larks and the dog needed what dog’s need in the morning, so we took an amble up to Ribblehead Railway Station. It was slightly eerie exploring it so early but good to have it to myself and the coronation flags added a festive air.

An unusual platform arrangement

The first thing I noticed (after working out the directions for Carlisle and Leeds) was that the opposite platform appeared to be missing. It took my early-morning head a while to notice that it was indeed there but stepped away down the track.

Look both ways

The barrow (foot) crossing was fun and gave me a chance to take some photos down the track. I also enjoyed reading the information in the beautifully restored waiting room.

It was then I knew I had to get on a train

But breakfast and time with the lads came first. We chilled out (as much as you can with two dogs and three adults in a small van) and came up with an arrangement that definitely met with my approval.

England’s highest mainline train station

I would get on the train at Ribblehead, travel over the Ribblehead Viaduct (300m), go through Blea Moor Tunnel, enjoy views from the smaller Dent Head Viaduct then climb to Dent Station (350m).

They would drive round in the vans to meet me.

How that went is another story altogether!!

Find out how my train trip between Ribblehead station and Dent station went.