At 2,375ft the great mountain of Ingleborough may not be the highest in the Yorkshire Dales - that distinction going to nearby Whernside - but nevertheless eclipses the latter in terms of sheer stature and bulk. Not to mention, or so it would seem, the attentions of the local walkers.
What's more, the spacious summit plateau is girdled by the remnants of once powerful dry-stone ramparts. Yep, that's right.... this inhospitable mountain top was once a hillfort. Not only that, but the highest hillfort in Britain, to be precise. Crikey, the Iron Age people who lived here must've been hard, whether the average temperature was a couple 'o degrees warmer in those days or not!
Somewhat short on time following an early morning dash from Essex - if you can exactly 'dash' in an old Rover 45, that is - I choose the 'easiest' ascent starting from near The Bull Inn at Chapel le Dale to the North.... a little too 'touristy' for Gladman tastes, perhaps, but with the compensation of passing some wonderful limestone scars, the enormous 'shake hole' known as 'Braithwaite Wife Hole' and crossing 'Humphrey Bottom' before the steep rock staircase to the final col. They certainly have a great way with words around here. But then it seems they have lots of practice using them, too.
Arriving on the summit my initial sensation was bi-fold and contradictory; elation at the views, disappointment at the lack of rampart preservation. Several, pointless, large modern cairns probably go some way to explaining the latter, I guess, not to mention the mass of visitors. However after going and finding myself a quiet(ish) corner overlooking The River Doe, the atmosphere kicks in and I'm suddenly totally transfixed by this mighty place. Imagine if this was where you lived? I try, but the thought is too much, it really is. Couldn't exactly play 'knock down ginger' on the main gate, could you?
All too soon I must leave to beat the onset of darkness, the circuitous route via Simon Fell much preferable to my way up. Too late to carry on to Cumbria, I spend the night beneath this superb natural fortress. Sure, Yeavering Bell may remain my favourite Northern hillfort (with Carrock Fell not far behind), but Ingleborough is still the daddy of them all.
P.S. Real Ale fans might be interested to know that The Black Sheep brewery lies just up the road. Very appropriate for a TMA'er. Baa! baa! baa!
Known by the Romans as Rigodunum (possibly a corruption of Rig (Ri) Dun - King's Fort), Ingleborough was fortified by Venutius during his civil war with Cartimandua, and rebellion against the Romans, from 55 - 71 BC.
Venutius was later defeated by the Romans at Stanwick Camp.