GREAT Whernside is one of four mountains which ring the head of Wharfedale, of the four it is the highest at 704m (2,310ft). It is one of ‘Dales30’ mountains and a good challenge on variable terrain. It is best, and usually, climbed from Kettlewell, the eastern approaches most unpleasant.

Kettlewell is nestled under Great Whernside on the east side of the River Wharfe. The majority of the attractive stone buildings are clustered around the old coach road linking Wharfedale to Coverdale and has three pubs, a cafe and some local shops.

From the car park walk up the road to the east with the Blue Bell on your left. As you approach the sharp bend of the road carry straight on and cross a small bridge over Cam Gill Beck. Turn left on a farm track having crossed the river and after 200m a right turn heads up the mountainside.

The path climbs steeply over fields, through stone walls and on to one of the broad shoulders of Great Whernside. Be careful not to be distracted by the many farm tracks that criss cross the slopes. The path flattens after a 120m climb and ahead looms an isolated cluster of buildings.

This is Hag Dyke Scout Hostel, the neighbouring chapel being the highest in the country at 1,533 feet. The hostel is a fine place to stay not just for its fabulous location but also its character, 1700 is a rough estimate as to when the original building was built. Head past the hostel and through a stile before taking to the steep slopes ahead.

Having climbed through some rough ground (initially steep but soon becomes more gradual) the summit of Great Whernside comes as a bit of a surprise. It is a mass of boulders with a cairn and trig point in its centre. Mind you, it would not be a surprise if you had researched the translation of Great Whernside "hillside where millstones are got" and these are boulders of millstone grit. I enjoy this summit as much as any in the Dales.

From the summit take the path north. It is a fine plateau with steeper slopes to your left in to Wharfedale and very rough and featureless land to the right, eventually falling to the head of Nidderdale. After three-quarters of a mile walking north, pass a large stone shelter and then take the path which turns sharply left and steeply downhill next to a stone wall. Soon the path becomes less steep and passes through the wall (where it has collapsed and been replaced by a fence) and on to open hillside. The path continues just north of west and drops 150m to the road from Kettlewell to Coverdale.

From the road there is a choice of routes, ahead and to the right a track climbs towards Buckden Pike (another of the Dales 30 mountains) whilst the easiest descent is via the road to Kettlewell. The best route is to cross the road and follow the path to the north of a stone wall that winds its way west on near level ground. The views are exceptional, particularly across to Birks and down Wharfedale. After three-quarters of a mile there is a meeting of paths and a signpost describing routes to Buckden Pike, Starbotton and your choice Kettlewell. From here the path improves and descends, soon turning in to a wide track, Top Mere Road. The track heads like an arrow for Kettlewell to end a good day’s walking.

Fact box:

Distance: Roughly 8 miles.

Height to Climb: 550m (1,800 feet)

Start: SD 968723. There is a large national park car park on entering the village from the south.

Difficulty: Hard. A steep climb to the summit. The descent to the road from Great Whernside is also steep and often wet.

Refreshments: 3 pubs and 2 cafes, all good.

Be Prepared: The route description and sketch map only provide a guide to the walk. You must take out and be able to read a map (O/S Explorer OL30) and in cloudy/misty conditions a compass. You must also wear the correct clothing and footwear for the outdoors. Whilst every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers head out at their own risk. Please observe the Countryside Code and park sensibly.

Jonathan runs Where2walk, a walking company based in the Yorkshire Dales:

• He has published three books on walks in the Dales; ‘The Yorkshire 3 Peaks’, ‘The Dales 30’ mountains and the New ‘Walks without Stiles’ book.

• All (and more) are available direct from the Where2walk website.

• Book a Navigation Training day in Long Preston (Two Levels: Beginners or ‘Hill Skills’) First Available Date is May 27. also features 100’s of walks across Yorkshire and beyond, from easy strolls to harder climbs.