*No spoilers here, just loads of gratuitous GoT comprisons*
Think of Winterfell. Those vast, scrubby green moors, stretching out as far as the horizon. Or Riverrun, with fast flowing streams cutting through the landscape. Or Dragonstone, with the overhanging crags, lush vegetation and waterfalls cascading.
Think you can only visit those places once a week for an hour during GoT? Well what if I told you I’d spent the day exploring scenery just like this:
And that there’s even a location called Snow Falls – perfect for those of you (like me) who would have given anything to by Ygritte in *that* cave.
So, where is this real life Westeros? It’s on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, and is otherwise known as Ingleton Falls.
The Ingleton trail is an 8 kilometre hike taking in some 16 waterfalls. Oh and there are over 1,000 stairs on the route. Now, this last piece of information I didn’t realise until after we’d parked up at the start. Along with the warning sign telling us the trek is strenuous. Great, I thought, I’m going to be wrestling The Great Dane for his inhaler – and I don’t even have asthma.
Three hours later, we arrived back at the car, rosy-cheeked but intact. My knees – and bum – definitely knew I’d given them a workout, but it was nothing most people couldn’t handle. I’m not just saying that, either. I’m ashamedly unfit, but the beauty of the hike is that you can go at your own pace. The waterfalls make for great ‘breath-catching’ spots, and there are loads of benches, rocks and fallen trees you can perch on if you need to. Oh and just for the record, the security guard at the car park estimated about three hours to do the route.
Right from the start, it’s the closest I’ve come to walking through a fairytale forrest: towering trees, every shade of green rustling in the wind, a stream rushing and bubbling over the rocks and delicate blue and white wildflowers framing the whole thing.
The path is well-worn and easy to follow, but it’ still uneven, and muddy. Rounding the first few bends, I’m oohing and ahhing at the water, the birds, the quiet, when I see a dragon. It’s big, scaly and makes me jump. That is, until I realise it’s the Money Tree. Thousands of coins are wedged in to the bowing trunk, giving it a look – and feel – of scales.
Following the river, we tick off the first few falls. The speed and bubble of the water flowing over the edges really does remind me how powerful water is, and it does mesmerise me. The ‘main’ waterfall, Thornton Force, is actually five falls in one, battering over limestone cliffs that are over 500 years old. The noise is deafening, but oddly comforting, I think because it’s a natural occurrence.
Coming out over the hills, the landscape changes. All green and lamb-filled. I’ve got to be dragged away, mainly because I’m trying to convince The Great Dane how much he’d love one in our (super tiny) garden! I really do love walking in the countryside; there’s something about the views and the wildlife that just make me feel better about the world. I mean, who doesn’t want to see stuff like this:
We were really lucky the weather was so good, from the highest point, you can see all the way down to the towns below. And the refreshment centre! It wasn’t open when we went, but there was a very out-of-place but welcome ice cream van, where we topped up our water – and treated ourselves to a bit of chocolate.
After the open, bright Dales scenery, heading back in to the falls trail, and down the stones steps, felt like heading along the secret routes used instead of the King’s Road. Quite appropriate then that the last of the falls is Snow. Like Jon Snow, it’s more understated than some, quieter, and very pretty. Obviously.
Finishing in the village, there’s a picturesque viaduct dominating the skyline, with a number of cafes, shops and restaurants for well-earned coffee and cake after you’ve tackled the hike. We were a bit late in the day, so not a lot of places where open. So we just picked up a few necessities from the supermarket.
And you’re off:
Ingleton Falls is surprisingly well signposted, and just an hour in the car from where we live. From Liverpool and Manchester it’s around one and a half hours.
Tickets are £6 per adult and you pay on your way in to the car park.
For more info – and some beautiful photographs – check out the website.