Plover Hill is a hill in the Yorkshire Dales between Littondale and Ribblesdale and is a close neighbour to the much more famous Pen-y-ghent.
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Only fourteen metres in height separates Plover Hill from Pen-y-ghent, the two summits stand only 1.3 miles apart as the crow flies and they are connected by a broad col. Yet, while Pen-y-ghent is revered as one of the iconic Three Peaks of Yorkshire, its close neighbour is much less well known. Indeed its close proximity to Pen-y-ghent is, in many ways, the curse of Plover Hill. Pen-y-ghent is often described as having the shape of a crouching lion, this would make Plover Hill the lion’s backside.
The dramatic and instantly recognisable shape of Pen-y-ghent so dominates Plover Hill that the latter is best seen from the north or the east on the Birks Fell – Horse Head ridge. But even here the eye cannot help be drawn past the seemingly dull slopes of Plover Hill to Pen-y-ghent beyond.
This is unfair because Plover Hill shares with Pen-y-ghent some steep and precipitous slopes, particularly on the western side of the fell. Indeed the steep fellside that so delights the eye on the descent north from Pen-y-ghent on the Pennine Way is actually not Pen-y-ghent at all but Plover Hill. To add insult to injury this western flank of Plover Hill is called ‘Pen-y-ghent Side’.
The spectacular Pen-y-ghent Pinnacle, north of where the Pennine Way drops down from the fellside could also arguably be claimed by Plover Hill as it is north of the col between the two fells at grid reference SD840742.
The hill is named after the plover, a family of birds that includes the lapwing and the golden plover, two of the classic moorland birds to be found in the Dales. Like the surrounding fells Plover Hill also plays host to a number of other birds including the curlew, pipit and skylark.
Whilst Pen-y-ghent belongs very much to Ribblesdale, Plover Hill owes its allegiance to Littondale and the lonely country to the north of the fell including Foxup Moor and the region I once saw memorably described as the ‘Wilds of Cosh’. Indeed the finest approach to Plover Hill is from the north on a path, quite steep in its final stages, that can be accessed from either Ribblesdale or Littondale on the Horton – Foxup bridleway. Potentially tricky in wet or wintry conditions it is an enjoyable ascent – easier to tackle going up than it is to come down.
The summit is broad and grassy and is marked by a small pile of stones. Again the eye is unwittingly drawn to Pen-y-ghent, other fells in view include Darnbrook Fell, Fountains Fell and the long Birks Fell – Horse Head ridge which curls around the other side of Littondale to the west and north to terminate at Cosh Knott.
While the round trip to Pen-y-ghent from Horton-in-Ribblesdale is justlifiably counted as a classic walk it is also a fairly short one. For those wanting a more extended day out in the hills from Horton a great alternative is to climb Plover Hill first and then cross over to Pen-y-ghent, a choice of descents on the Pennine Way can then be made. An fine alternative, excluding Pen-y-ghent completely, is to climb Plover Hill from Halton Gill returning via Pen-y-ghent Gill.