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The Dales Way

 

I can't think of a better way to spend a week than walking the Dales Way - an 84 mile-long footpath through the heart of the Yorkshire Dales and culminating on the shore of England's largest lake - Windermere.

The walk officially begins at Ilkley with links from Bradford, Leeds and Harrogate. We have the West Riding group of the Ramblers' Association to thank for devising the walk in 1968.

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The Way is predominantly riverside walking with a variety of moors, dales and villages to enrich it. Probably the best time of year to complete the route would be in the later part of the year when colours are at their autumnal best. This time we walked in the summer of '99 and had a mixed bag of weather. Due to the Dales Way's increasing popularity you can now employ the services of a Baggage Courier - ideal for families, overseas visitors and those who wish to take the kitchen sink with them. The walker will find many places to stop for the night - Bed & Breakfast, Bunk-Barns, Youth Hostels and of course, camping.

The feeling of freedom one gets is wonderful - no traffic jams, no trains to catch and nowhere to reach in a hurry. Along the path you are never far from interesting things to see and do. Striding through Wharfedale you will witness scenery of the highest order, God must have been in a good mood when he created Yorkshire. Here is a brief description of the expedition to whet your appetite.

Our journey begins at Ilkley's Old Bridge over the Wharfe (meaning 'swift water'). Low Mill Village is soon reached, a delightful residential area and a former mill site. Then comes Addingham, the scene of a thousand-strong Luddite riot in 1826. In St. Peter's Church you can see works by 'Mousey Thompson' bearing his trademark.

We soon enter the Yorkshire Dales National Park and stay with it for almost 60 miles. The splendid ecclesiastic ruins of Bolton Priory follow and a little further you come to the Cavendish Pavilion Café and shop. We sat outside and ate some of the best bacon butties ever! An old bus arrived bringing visitors from the recently reopened Bolton Abbey Station.

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Bus at Bolton Abbey

 

Strid Wood is now entered, a beautiful place and home of 'The Strid' -a fearsome part of the river which has claimed many lives. After Barden Tower and Barden Bridge, the charmingly named Appletreewick (Aptrick to the locals) is nearby. Sir William Craven, Appletreewick's own 'Dick Whittington', who became Sheriff and Lord Mayor of London in 1610, was born here. Further along the river, in idyllic settings, and an overnight stay for many, is Burnsall -home of England's oldest Fell Race. St.Wilfred's Church in the village dates from the C15th.

 

Linton is just to the left of the Way as you reach Grassington - capital of Upper Wharfedale and always teeming with visitors. In Grassington there is a lovely baker's at the bottom of the square and an old-fashioned sweet shop, a wholesome and straightforward meal can always be obtained at the Black Horse. We leave the Wharfe for some time and walk over some very pleasant pastures scattered with limestone. Some great views can be obtained from up here, you will also see a huge C19th limekiln. These kilns were used to produce lime for agricultural use.

Kettlewell is a pretty and popular village and one of the 'Honeypots' of The Dales, a very welcoming part of the walk and a good place to stop for refreshments. We reacquaint ourselves with the Wharfe again and soon pass the quaint and intriguingly named village of Starbotton. The village was almost totally wiped-out by a severe flood in 1686. The next place we come to is Buckden, again just a short detour from the path.

The hamlet of Hubberholme is in the heart of the romantic valley of Langstrothdale. Here you will find the George Inn, originally the vicarage and favourite watering hole of the author J.B.Priestley. Even to this day, at the beginning of each New Year, the George is the scene of the 'Hubberholme Parliament,' an ancient land-letting tradition, the pub's bar becoming a court, where an auction takes place for grazing rights. Hubberholme Church is familiar to lovers of the dale and  dates from the C13th and is a real beauty. J.B.'s final resting place is in the churchyard. The next settlement in this untamed dale is Yockenthwaite. Yockenthwaite is a Norse-Irish name meaning 'Clearing of Eogon.' You can see a Bronze Age stone circle here and nearby is an Iron Age village known as the 'Giant's Grave.'

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Dent Head Viaduct

 

From here we walk through Beckermonds, then Oughtershaw, up to Cam Houses and now we are really in wild countryside (I'm told it always rains up here!) we enjoy some excellent views of Yorkshire's Three Peaks -Ingleborough, Whernside and Penyghent. The majestic Ribblehead Viaduct on the scenic Settle-Carlisle Railway is also a pleasing sight. Continuing through Dent Head, Cowgill and on to Dent. Dent Town, as it is still known, is for many, the ideal dales village. It has admirable cobbled streets lined with whitewashed cottages giving the place a Flemish feel. The Sun Inn and the George & Dragon both serve the locally brewed Dent Ale. Adam Sedgwick, the Geologist was born here in 1785, his father was the vicar at St. Andrew's church for many years. Did you know they were 'Terrible Knitters' in Dent? This reference doesn't mean they were poor knitters - they were terribly good at it.

Millthrop is a comely village with some very nice cottages with pleasant gardens. The little town of Sedbergh (pronounced Sedber) sits happily beneath the hump-like slopes of the Howgill Fells. It is an attractive old market town. Three rivers -the Rawthey, Clough and Dee, meet to form the Lune. Officially Sedbergh is no longer in Yorkshire - even though it is in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. There is a splendid Fish & Chip shop here defiantly named 'White Rose Fisheries.' Down one of Sedberghs' many alleyways, Bonnie Prince Charlie is said to have hidden inside the chimney of a house. Sedbergh is also famous for its public school, founded in 1528 by Roger Lupton. George Fox, founder of the Quakers, preached at nearby Brigflatts.

At Lincoln's Inn Bridge the Inn has long gone, just a farm and a bridge there now. We cross over the busy M6 motorway with the modern world tearing along below.  Burneside is the next major stop,   many walkers spend the night here. Another popular stopover is Kendal, I prefer to walk a little further and stay at Staveley, a very pleasant place, if you stay here the Station pub is a must for a meal. The scenery is very different here from the beginning of the walk, now we are are in the Lake District National Park and surrounded by the Lakeland fells.

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Cottage and Garden at Millthrop

 

Just a few more miles and we get to see what we've been waiting for, a view of Windermere. Coming down from the fells with just a short distance to go we arrive at a seat overlooking the lake, a plaque here says 'For those who walk the Dales Way', a thoughtful touch.

And there you have it, you are now amongst all the hustle-and-bustle that is Bowness-on-Windermere. The feeling of elation is tinged with a little sadness because it's finished. Still, I suppose you could always turn around and walk back to Ilkley!

Now, where did you put your rucksack?

 

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