Delectable Mountains

One misty, murky day last week I was walking down to Giggleswick to catch a train.  Overhead there were just the faintest hints of blue sky, as though the sun were trying its hardest to clear away the mists.  Across the valley all was grey: grey clouds, grey fog.  But clearly between them, standing out above the fog, was the ridge of Whelpstone Crag. 

It looked remarkably impressive; I wondered whether that was how John Speed saw it when he was ‘performing’ his 1610 map of Yorkshire, in which Whelpstone Hill looks far more significant than the Three Peaks.

In fact it is only about half their height, and is little more than a rocky bump in the midst of a boggy plateau covered with clumps of reeds and tussocks of that grass which is particularly resistant to footpaths!

And yet, on that misty morning, I was reminded of Bunyan’s Delectable Mountains.  For one thing, anyone climbing up out of the fog would have been as relieved to reach the summit as Christian and Hopeful were to escape from Doubting Castle and Giant Despair.  For another, though Whelpstone itself is hardly delectable, it is a most amazing viewpoint.

‘They went then till they came to the Delectable Mountains, which mountains belong to the Lord of the hill of which we have spoken before; so they went up… Now there were on the tops of these mountains, shepherds feeding their flocks… The Pilgrims therefore asked, Whose Delectable Mountains are these?  And whose be the sheep that feed upon them?

Shepherds: These mountains are Immanuel’s Land, and they are within sight of his city; and the sheep also are his, and he laid down his life for them...

Then said the Shepherds one to another, Let us here show the Pilgrims the gates of the Celestial City, if they have the skill to look through our perspective glass.  They had them to the top of a high hill, called Clear, and gave them their glass to look… The Pilgrims essayed to look; they thought they saw something like the gate, and also some of the glory of the place.’

Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is across from Jericho.  And the Lord showed him all the land… Deuteronomy 34:1

Now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.  The night is far spent, the day is at hand.  Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light Romans 13:11-12

Far off I see the goal;

O Saviour, guide me;

I feel my strength is small;

Be Thou beside me:

With vision ever clear,

With love that conquers fear,

And grace to persevere,

O Lord, provide me.


Whene’er Thy way seems strange,

Go Thou before me;

And, lest my heart should change,

O Lord, watch o’er me;

But should my faith prove frail,

And I through blindness fail,

O let Thy grace prevail,

And still restore me.


Should earthly pleasures wane,

And joy forsake me,

If lonely hours of pain

At length o’ertake me,

My hand in Thine hold fast

Till sorrow be o’erpast,

And gentle death at last

For heaven awake me.


There with the ransomed throng

Who praise for ever

The love that made them strong

To serve for ever,

I too would see Thy face,

Thy finished work retrace,

And magnify Thy grace,

Redeemed for ever.

-Robert Rowland Roberts