Thornton Force and the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail

Ingleton / Yorkshire Dales National Park, North Yorkshire County, England

Rating: 2     Difficulty: 4
Thornton Force

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

The Ingleton Waterfalls Trail was probably one of the more publicized waterfall excursions that we've done for our UK trip. The entire 4.5-mile loop trail, which took us almost four hours to do took in waterfalls from two converging rivers - the River Twiss and the River Doe. Both rivers were running in full spate thanks to the unstable weather we had been experiencing during our trip as well as the storms that battered the area resulting from the remnants of Hurricane Bertha prior to our arrival to the UK. So all of the waterfalls we encountered were gushing with a brownish color that was typical of rivers in flood (so we also had to be very careful about getting too close to the rivers).

Speaking of the waterfalls, in addition to Thornton Force (which seemed to be the most famous of the waterfalls in this excursion), we also encountered the First Pecca Falls, the Twin Pecca Falls, and the Holly Bush Spout, all of which were on the River Twiss with Thornton being at the top of the river. When we decided to continue beyond Thornton Force and complete the loop, that was when we encountered the River Doe and saw Beezley Falls, Triple Spout, Rival Falls, Baxenghyll Gorge Waterfalls, and Snow Falls. Unsurprisingly, Thornton Force was the most impressive of the lot as the River Twiss plunged some 14m before curving its way further downstream towards the remaining waterfalls on the River Twiss. The rest of the waterfalls were shorter and exhibited more cascading characteristics. By the end of the excursion, all of us were pretty waterfalled out.

Towards the top of the First Pecca Falls That said, we technically could have just gone to Thornton Force and back, which would have probably cut the overall hike in half. But because the admission price (covering both parking and access) were a hefty 6 pounds per adult and 3 pounds for any children (including our three-year-old) under 16 or 14 pounds for a family of 2 adults and 3 children under 16, we tried to make our money's worth in doing the entire waterfalls challenge. Throughout the hike, we encountered numerous reminders to pay for access, hinting to us that there probably was a way to access this hike without getting fleeced at the main car park.

In any case, I'll now go through how we did the hike, which was in a clockwise manner.

Beginning from the spacious car park for the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail, we headed to the lot's north end where we quickly got onto the narrow dirt trail as it immediately started skirting the River Twiss. The trail was well-maintained as there were planks and steps to reduce the amount of muddy spots (though they were still there thanks to the rains). After about 35 minutes of hiking beneath tree cover alongside the river, we reached a bridge spanning the River Twiss where we got our first look at the First Pecca Falls. This twisting cascade tended to be concealed by foliage so we never really got a totally clean and satisfying look at the falls even though we were standing in the middle of the river on the bridge.

The Holly Bush Spout The trail then climbed alongside the waterfall as it would go beyond the top and then in front of the Pecca Twin Falls some fifteen minutes later. This waterfall was attractive in that it had a pair of segmented falls with a slightly hidden upper tier. Shortly after the trail continued above this waterfall, we then encountered the Holly Bush Spout, which was a short waterfall spilling into an oval plunge pool. And beyond this waterfall, the trail then climbed above the cover of the trees into the windy and exposed moors, where some 10 minutes past the Holly Bush Spout, we got our first glimpse of Thornton Force.

While we were able to get full contextual views of the falls from a distance from an overlook with some benches, we'd ultimately get to the closer lookout where we could better appreciate the waterfall itself though it appeared smaller than it did from a distance. There was an interpretive sign here as well as danger signs warning not to go behind this waterfall (apparently some people managed to do that in the past). Clearly with the River Twiss in flood, we didn't entertain that thought.

Panorama of pastures looking towards Ingleton At this point, the trail would continue climbing steeply up steps beyond the top of the Thornton Force and further into the moors of Raven Ray and Kingsdale. This was where we could have turned back and be content with the River Twiss Waterfalls, but we ultimately decided to keep going to make the steep price we paid a little more worth the money. By this point, the river appeared to flow more gently (we even saw some kind of series of cascades reminding me of a necklace cascade or something) while the sun made an appearance while illuminating the green hills surrounding the area.

For the next hour, we'd be hiking through a mix of rain and sporadic sun as we could see downhill towards the town of Ingleton way in the distance fronted by cow and sheep pastures. There was even a refreshments truck on one of the farm roads that doubled as part of the larger loop trail we were on. After crossing through a couple of farms and descending towards the River Doe, that was when we passed by a structure with toilets, a closed cafe, and a closed ticket window (I'm guessing this might have been an alternate entrance for the excursion), and the waterfalling resumed as the hike was now mostly downhill as we were passing by waterfalls one-by-one.

Julie about to go up another set of stairs along the River DoeInterestingly, this side of the trail seemed even more developed in that much of the walking surface was actually paved! But the trail remained narrow and pretty exposed to dropoffs where there weren't handrails, so we still couldn't let our guard down in terms of trail safety. Plus, there were some parts of the trail that climbed, which took a bit out of us since we expected to only be going downhill. Still, there was a net elevation loss overall so the climbing stretches weren't terribly long.

The first waterfall we encountered was the short but twisting Beezley Falls. We then looked at the Triple Spout looking more like a wide singular spout thanks to the river being in full spate. Then, the trail descended more steps alongside Rival Falls before the trail descended towards a junction signposted for the Baxenghyll Gorge (some 10 minutes from Beezley Falls). This gorge was really a narrow slit where the River Doe cut deeply into the rock revealing a thunderous cascade below the bridge spanning the gorge. The trail didn't continue on the other side of the gorge so we backtracked up to the main trail along the River Doe.

Finally, after another 15 minutes of hiking downstream of the gorge, we encountered the last of the waterfalls on this excursion called Snow Falls. This was a short and stocky multi-tiered cascade, and there was a lot of overgrowth surrounding the falls making this a pretty anticlimactic end to the waterfall series we had encountered. Then, the trail went through a fairly extensive stretch (around 20 minutes or so) of dry hiking with a few interesting stone structures (ruins?) along with some more panoramas before we eventually arrived at the small town of Ingleton. All along this stretch, we saw numerous signs asking if we had paid yet, which really made us wonder why the owners or authorities were so anxious to collect money from tourists.

Anyways, after walking through the village, we'd eventually make it back to the car park, where the relieved lady who collected the parking fee from us was quite glad to see us so she could finally go home (it was about 6:15pm when we got back; 2:25pm when we started the hike).




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PHOTO JOURNAL

Prior to visiting the Yorkshire Dales, we had spent some time in the charming former Viking town of York, featuring the impressive York Minster which seemed to dominate the skyline and attentionPrior to visiting the Yorkshire Dales, we had spent some time in the charming former Viking town of York, featuring the impressive York Minster which seemed to dominate the skyline and attention
Within the town of Kendal, we also visited the ruins of Kendal Castle, which was a surprisingly atmospheric (and free) experience while also giving us views of the town like thisWithin the town of Kendal, we also visited the ruins of Kendal Castle, which was a surprisingly atmospheric (and free) experience while also giving us views of the town like this
About 3.5 miles south of Kendal was the intriguing Sizergh CastleAbout 3.5 miles south of Kendal was the intriguing Sizergh Castle
A little over 10 miles west of Kendal was the lake Windermere, which was perhaps the most famous of the lakes and townships within the Lakes DistrictA little over 10 miles west of Kendal was the lake Windermere, which was perhaps the most famous of the lakes and townships within the Lakes District
The northern end of the large car park for the Ingleton Waterfalls TrailThe northern end of the large car park for the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail

The narrow but developed trail running alongside the River TwissThe narrow but developed trail running alongside the River Twiss

Julie passing by some interestingly-shaped mushroomsJulie passing by some interestingly-shaped mushrooms

Purple flowers blooming high up on the hills above and across the River TwissPurple flowers blooming high up on the hills above and across the River Twiss

Julie on the bridge before the First Pecca FallsJulie on the bridge before the First Pecca Falls

The First Pecca Falls, which was the first of the major Ingleton Waterfalls that we sawThe First Pecca Falls, which was the first of the major Ingleton Waterfalls that we saw

Julie checking out the upper tiers of the First Pecca FallsJulie checking out the upper tiers of the First Pecca Falls

This was the split waterfall called the Pecca Twin FallsThis was the split waterfall called the Pecca Twin Falls

Shortly upstream of the Pecca Twin Falls was the Holly Bush SpoutShortly upstream of the Pecca Twin Falls was the Holly Bush Spout

After the Holly Bush Spout, the trail climbed above the tree cover and we were now exposed to the elementsAfter the Holly Bush Spout, the trail climbed above the tree cover and we were now exposed to the elements

Our first look at Thornton ForceOur first look at Thornton Force

A closer look at Thornton Force with a faint rainbow at its baseA closer look at Thornton Force with a faint rainbow at its base

Thornton Force with a few downstream cascades in full spateThornton Force with a few downstream cascades in full spate

Looking back down at the stairs we had to climb to get above Thornton ForceLooking back down at the stairs we had to climb to get above Thornton Force

While in the Ravens Ray section of the trail above Thornton Force, I noticed this series of small cascades resembling some kind of Necklace CascadeWhile in the Ravens Ray section of the trail above Thornton Force, I noticed this series of small cascades resembling some kind of Necklace Cascade

The sun briefly made an appearance as we continued beyond Thornton ForceThe sun briefly made an appearance as we continued beyond Thornton Force

Some incoming bad weather as Julie descended towards a bridgeSome incoming bad weather as Julie descended towards a bridge

The bridge crossing as we were headed towards KingsdaleThe bridge crossing as we were headed towards Kingsdale

Julie approaching a refreshment truck somewhere at the half-way point of the long loopJulie approaching a refreshment truck somewhere at the half-way point of the long loop

Looking back down the hill towards pastures and unstable weatherLooking back down the hill towards pastures and unstable weather

Julie and Tahia walking through some farms as we made our way towards the River DoeJulie and Tahia walking through some farms as we made our way towards the River Doe

Julie and Tahia descending towards the valley containing the River DoeJulie and Tahia descending towards the valley containing the River Doe

A restroom facility just before the trail was about to start following the River DoeA restroom facility just before the trail was about to start following the River Doe

Continuing the descent back into tree coverContinuing the descent back into tree cover

Beezley Falls was the first of the River Doe Waterfalls that we sawBeezley Falls was the first of the River Doe Waterfalls that we saw

I wasn't sure if this was the Triple Spout for it was somewhere just downstream of Beezley FallsI wasn't sure if this was the Triple Spout for it was somewhere just downstream of Beezley Falls

I believe this was Rival Falls flanked by the trail running alongside the River DoeI believe this was Rival FAlls flanked by the trail running alongside the River Doe

The undulating Ingleton Waterfalls Trail on the River Doe sideThe undulating Ingleton Waterfalls Trail on the River Doe side

The bridge spanning the Baxenghyll GorgeThe bridge spanning the Baxenghyll Gorge

Looking down at the River Doe being channeled into Baxenghyll Gorge over a series of cascadesLooking down at the River Doe being channeled into Baxenghyll Gorge over a series of cascades

Snow Falls was the last of the waterfalls on the River Doe that we sawSnow Falls was the last of the waterfalls on the River Doe that we saw

Descending past some ruins or structures as we were completing the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail heading back towards IngletonDescending past some ruins or structures as we were completing the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail heading back towards Ingleton

Julie at the road's end as we were re-entering IngletonJulie at the road's end as we were re-entering Ingleton

Passing through the town of IngletonPassing through the town of Ingleton

View of some tressel bridges as we were making our way back to IngletonView of some tressel bridges as we were making our way back to Ingleton

Finally, we were back at the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail Car ParkFinally, we were back at the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail Car Park


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Right to left sweep starting from the falls seen from the bridge over the River Twiss, then ending with a downstream view


Top down sweep of the Pecca Twin Falls ending downstream as the River Twiss continues dropping over more tiers


Right to left sweep of the River Twiss falling over Thornton Force in full spate


Upstream to downstream sweep of Beezley Falls on the River Doe


Top down sweep of both the Triple Spout and Rival Falls on the River Doe (though I really don't know when one ends and the next one begins)


Upstream to downstream sweep of the River Doe being funneled into the narrow Baxenghyll Gorge over cascades as seen from the bridge spanning the gorge itself


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

From Kendal, we took the A6 motorway 6 miles south towards the A65 road (just past the M6 motorway junction). Then we continued on the A65 road for 11.3 miles towards a signposted turnoff to our left leading to the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail Car park. This turnoff was about less than a mile west of the town center of Ingleton. After about 0.8 miles on the narrow rural road to the car park, that was when we were greeted by a lady collecting the fees at a gate. Beyond the gate, we were able to park in any of the spots in this spacious car park. We opted to park towards the north end since we only anticipated doing Thornton Force and not the entire 4.5-mile loop.

All in all, this drive took us rougly 40 minutes, where most of the time spent was following the caravan of cars in traffic on the A65, which was a two-lane road with very limited opportunities for passing slower vehicles, especially if pullouts (or laybys were not used by the slower drivers).

As for some geographical context, Kendal was 87 miles (over 2 hours drive) west of York, 73 miles (90 minutes drive) north of Manchester, 236 miles (4.5 hours drive) north of Bath, and 271 miles (over 5 hours drive or 3-4 hours by train) northwest of London.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES





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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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