Southerscales Nature Reserve

Southerscales Nature Reserve Credit Jo Milborrow

Southerscales Nature Reserve

Venture across the great expanse of limestone pavement at this impressive nature reserve, perched high on the side of Ingleborough. Off the pavement, the rare and delicate plants of limestone grassland and blanket bog should not be missed.


Off the B6255 Ingleton to Hawes Road.
Chapel Le Dale
North Yorkshire

OS Map Reference

SD 742769
A static map of Southerscales Nature Reserve

Know before you go

42 hectares

Entry fee


Parking information

Parking is available by the Old Hill Inn, where you may also access the site walking south.

Grazing animals

Cattle graze in summer months and sheep in the winter.

Walking trails

Public and permissive footpaths.


Limited accessibility for wheelchair users with the rough track to the reserve entrance being passable but quite long and a gentle uphill slope. Beyond that point wheelchair access does not exist. The pavement can be extremely slippery during wet weather and the limestone clints unstable. Visitors are advised to walk across with caution.


On a lead

When to visit

Opening times

Open at all times

Best time to visit

March to June


Southerscales nature reserve is located at the foot of Ingleborough and is dominated by a large area of limestone pavement. This is surrounded by calcaereous grassland, blanket bog, heath and acid grassland. These habitats support a diverse range of plant species include rare species such as blue moor grass, frog orchid and birds-eye primrose.

Southerscales is dominated by a carboniferous limestone pavement made up of clints (blocks) and grykes (fissures). The pavement has a rich gryke flora with baneberry, green spleenwort, lesser meadow-rue, wood sorrel and herb Robert. Fourteen species of ferns have been recorded; including rigid buckler fern and hart’s tongue fern.

The remainder of the reserve consists of limestone and acid grassland, and blanket bog. The limestone grassland contains small scabious, early purple orchid and mountain everlasting, while heather grows on the acid grassland. An area of blanket bog holds cross-leaved heath, cranberry, round-leaved sundew and bog asphodel.

In spring the site is full of colour as early purple orchids and primrose come into flower. You may be lucky enough to spot an emperor moth. Wheatear and meadow pipit breed, skylarks often sing overhead, while a deep, croaking call identifies a raven flying over.

In summer wild thyme and fragrant orchid will create areas of pink with the the grassland surrounding the pavement and butterflies such as the dark green fritillary might be recorded. In autumn as the flowers start to wane you could see a black darter or a painted lady.

In winter when the plants have died back the structure of the pavement stands out with the back drop of Ingleborough and Whernside. Ferns such as ridgid buckler fern can still be found in the pavement.

The Trust use cattle to graze the grassland in summer and sheep in the winter to keep a rich variety of plants and grasses on site using the traditional management method of conservation grazing.



The fascinating pattern of clints and grykes were formed as the glaciers retreated around 15,000 years ago. There is evidence that indicates that there has been human activity since the Mesolithic period at Southerscales. There are stone piles across Southerscales that are probably Bronze Age burial mounds more than 3500 years old, while to the north of Southerscales Scars there is evidence of an extensive settlement and field system which may date from the Anglo-Saxon period.

Managed by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust since 1982, this site actually forms part of Ingleborough National Nature Reserve, and sits at an altitude of 335 metres. Nearby there are caves and potholes to explore for the more adventurous.


Seasonal highlights

  • Spring: Invertebrates - Emperor moth; Birds - Wheatear; Plants - Early purple orchid; Primrose
  • Summer: Plants - Wild thyme; Fragrant orchid; Mouse-ear hawkweed; Invertebrates - Dark green fritillary, Birds - Skylark
  • Autumn: Invertebrates - Painted lady, Plants - Fungi
  • Winter: Plants- Rigid buckler fern


Public transport
The nearest train station is in Ribblehead.
For up-to-date bus services visit Dales Bus

By car
The nature reserve is off the B6255 Ingleton to Hawes Road. Follow path below the layby and small water company building on the B6255 through the gate. Follow the track towards Ingleborough for three fields to the nature reserve entrance. Another entrance is accessible by parking near the Old Hill Inn and walking south.