The Dales Way - Ilkley to Windermere

The Dales Way is a good introduction to multi-day walking. It is a linear walk of 82 miles from Ilkley in Yorkshire to Bowness-on-Windermere in Cumbria. It is usually walked over 5 or 6 days, staying in pubs, bed and breakfasts or campsites along the way. The only constraints being the lack of suitable accommodation and the condition of the walkers. Extra days of walking could be added during the walk, e.g. the Three Peaks of Yorkshire- Whernside, Pen-y-Ghent, and Ingleborough-or the Howgill Fells at Sedbergh, and many walks in the Lake District at the end of the walk. The route follows the very beautiful Wharfedale passing Bolton Abbey, and then through many beautiful Yorkshire villages, before crossing into Cumbria. It passes many features of interest, old churches, railway viaducts, weirs, stone circles, as well as being rich in bird, animal and plant life. The walk itself is not arduous, mostly through fields, across stiles, the majority of it without a great deal of elevation. It is mostly well signed, but we did get lost occasionally.

The walk could nearly be completed at any time of the year, but we choose the end of July and just hoped for good weather. We were walking with friends who had booked it in January. However, we booked about 6 weeks before, so unfortunately we couldn't always manage to stay in the same places.


Monday 20th July Ilkley to Burnsall, Day 1

We were up early catching the train from our home in Manchester, arriving in Ilkley at 10.30am, excited to be commencing another trip. For a change on our walks instead of just the two of us, we were with 9 friends who had done lots of training for this trip, but only a couple of them had previously done multi-day walking. We walked through the pretty town of Ilkley to the start of the walk by the Old Bridge on the River Wharf, excited to begin. Take time to admire the old packhorse bridge built in the 1670s, before commencing the walk along the rivers' left bank. Soon there is found the first of a couple of signs about the Dales Way and a bench. The bench is labelled "for the benefit of those walking the Dales Way". It's partner bench is found over looking Windermere, in 6 days time. We met some people who were also starting the walk, but never saw them or any other walkers again. We continued following the obvious path along the river, along a road, and back beside the river. The path all the way to Burnsall follows this pattern. After a further 2 hours of walking we reached Bolton Priory stopping for our lunch at 1pm, and an ice-cream. A detour to the village of Bolton Abbey can be made at this point where facilities can be found.

The Abbey or Priory was built in the 12th century, but then closed in 1539 under the Dissolution of the Monasteries Act ordered by King Henry VIII in 1539.

Being school holidays the whole area was very busy. It is always lovely to see many people out enjoying the countryside. I challenge anyone here to walk across the stepping stones. The river is fairly wide at this point, the middle stone has been removed, so necessitating either a large jump across, or wading. All of our party declined either of these options. I have been informed that since our visit the stones have been repaired, so check them out. Later on up the river, more manageable stepping stones are found, which are fun. We continued through the strangely named Valley of Desolation, entering Strid Wood at 2pm. Crossing over the bridge there are cafe and toilets. Continuing along the river watch out for the heron, swifts

and swallows flying overhead, rabbit holes along the river bank, also the changing nature of the river with some faster flowing stretches and slower areas. Take a moment also to watch the fly fishermen casting their lines for trout, and admire the beautiful scenery all around.

We crossed the ancient packhorse bridge and at 5pm arrived at tonight's' destination-The Red Lion in Burnsall. Our bags had been delivered by Sherpa van services. We were grateful to get there after what seemed like a long day, we had a small but nice room with an en-suite bathroom, kettle and television.

Fortunately as it was very busy, we had booked dinner in advance, it was a lovely evening meal. There is also a very attractive outdoor seating area beside the river. We spotted swifts feeding on insects above the river, before beginning their long journey to South Africa.

Described as one prettiest villages of Yorkshire villages, Burnsall lies on a bend on the River Wharf and is surrounded by a spectacular circle of fells. The village was originally an Anglo-Viking settlement, check-out the carved stones and exhibition inside the church, if open. The beautiful grade 2 listed packhorse bridge dates from the 17th century and following a flood in the 19th century was restored. We were all very pleased with the success of finishing Day One, and really looking forward to the rest of the trip.  Burnsall

Distance 13.68 miles 22 km

Duration of Walk Hours 6.07

Average Pace Min/km 26.50

Steps 37590

Elevation gained in feet negligible


Tuesday 21st July Burnsall to Starbotton Day 2

We were up and packed, leaving the bag before 8.30am for the Sherpa service to transport it to our next destination. After a delicious breakfast we were on our way, leaving fairly late at 10am, once more following the beautiful River Wharf, from besides our hotel. We had fun on the stepping stones, and suspension bridge, and admired the wonderful scenery along the river, a large weir and arrived in the very picturesque village of Grassington at 11am.

We had coffee and cake on the benches in the main square. This village is stunning, and I would recommend a night here, browsing round, and visiting some of the pubs and shops found here. Unfortunately one of our party Debbie had an old injury, so she decided to stay here for the day and do some sketching, catching a taxi later to her hotel. We left at 11.30am down Chapel Lane, then following the signs for the Dales Way and Kettlewell 5 miles, past Dairy Dales Dairy before heading out to the countryside once more.

The path goes high here away from the river. But this brings in great views all along the valley, and over to Pen-y-Ghent a long way in the distance, passing limestone pavements as it goes. After lunch we continued through the forest, along the road, across the fields, past the alpaca, arriving in yet another beautiful village - Kettlewell. Here there is a pub- the Blue Bell, youth hostel and public toilets. Over the river again, passing the National Trust sign for Upper Wharfedale then back to the riverside for our final destination today of The Fox and Hounds in Starbotton. Our friends were staying at the White Lion in Cray, so we bid farewell, and arranged to meet them in the morning-hopefully. The Fox and Hounds Pub, is an ancient building and was a great destination, with recently refurbished rooms, friendly owners and lovely food. It had been a shorter day than normal, so it was nice to have a rest on arrival. Starbotton is a collection of 17th and 18th century cottages, that used to be associated with the local lead-mining industry. These days many of them seemed to have been converted to Holiday homes. There was a great flood in 1686, when a great deal of the village was washed away. Fortunately it was a fairly dry day when we visited.

Distance 12.97 miles 20.4km

Duration of Walk Hours 6.13

Average Pace Min/km 28.48

Steps 25464

Elevation gained 706 feet 215m


Wednesday 22nd July Starbotton to Ribblehead Day 3

As we had to walk an additional 4 miles today to catch up with our friends we ate breakfast quickly, put out our bag to be carried and left at 8.40am. I much prefer walking early as the day feels fresher, and the bird song is better. We were aiming to be outside the George Inn in Hubberholme by 10am to meet our friends who had stayed at The White Lion, Cray, just off the path.

Leaving the Fox and Hounds, we turned right up the road, and after crossing the bridge over the stream, turned left through Cragg Farm yard, then left over the wall through a field, crossing the stepping stones to re-join the Dales Way Path at 8.50am.

We continued up the pretty valley, keeping on the left bank of the river. The weather looked overcast, we were just hoping that it did not rain. We continued following the signs for the Dales Way, reached the road at 9.30am, and the sign for Upper Wharfedale. If you wish to visit the ancient village of Buckden turn right, otherwise

cross the road, and continue by the river, then follow the road which fortunately was very quiet.

Arriving in Hubberholme, it is just a hamlet with one pub-The George Inn-which is a grade 2 listed building, originally it was farm, the building dating from around 1600. If the church of St Michael and All Angels is open visit it to see the oak rood loft within, it is one of the only two surviving examples in England being placed in the church in 1558. There is also a plaque to the author J.B. Priestly (1894-1984), whose ashes are buried nearby. 'He loved the Dales and found Hubberholme one of the smallest and pleasantest places in the world', a high accolade indeed. We crossed the old bridge, and sat on the convenient bench by the river to await our friends, who arrived ten minutes later, really recommending the food at The White Lion.

The path continues round the back of the church in the direction of Yockenthwaite, on the right hand side of the river. Thwaite is an old word for a clearing, the forest used to run all the way up the valley to Cam Fell, where wolves used to roam. Watch out for the stone circle - or giants grave, thought to date from the Bronze Age. We swopped sides of the river at Deepdale Bridge. At Beckermonds we had some fun on the stepping stones, alternatively there is a bridge to take. Take time to watch out for dippers, grey wagtails, nuthatches and other birds. After a small lunch at 12pm, we went up a steep road, then at a mock-Celtic cross the road bends right for Hawes. Turning left we followed the path along the valley, which eventually leaves Oughtershaw Beck and starts climbing towards Cam Houses. At Oughtershaw at 350m/1150 feet they are reinstating natural processes to help slow down and move water across the landscape, by building small leaky dams, tree planting, and moving earth, with information boards giving explanations.

At Swarthghyll Farm it is sometimes possible to buy drinks, unfortunately on this occasion it was closed. The landscape starts changing with less farming, wilder country. We spent a while guessing where the natural watershed of England lies-not on the top of the hill as would be imagined-but somewhere between Oughtershaw Beck and Cam beck. We had fun, but failed to find it.

We stopped for more refreshments, and hurried on before being hit by very inclement weather, the party stopping to put on waterproofs. Ingleborough could be seen in the distance, the views up and down the valley to where we had come from were fantastic, before the really heavy rain hit!,

The highest point of the Dales Way is achieved, Cam High Road, - not the place for bad weather- at 520m/1705 feet, before joining The Pennine way for 2km. Cam High Road was used by the Romans, and prior to that was a prehistoric trail. Later in the 1750s it was used by wool traders. We hurried on with heads down along a track that leaves the Pennine Way, and eventually leads down to the B6255, by Gayle Beck which eventually becomes the River Ribble. Take time to admire the vastness of the 3 peaks of Yorkshire, as they all come into view, and the large distance that walkers cover in an endeavour to achieve 'The 3 Peak Challenge' in under 12 hours. Check out the old milepost-Lancaster 25 miles, or Richmond 33 miles-on the road that was

constructed in the 1750s. At this point the Dales Way continues over the road and up the Dent Valley. As there does seem to be a shortage of accommodation along this part of this walk, we walked a mile and half detour along the road to The Station Pub, Ribblehead having previously booked it. Arriving at 4.15pm, very wet, but relieved to have arrived with the weather being inclement.

The staff were very friendly, the pub had newly refurbished rooms which was a shame as we did seem to be dripping water everywhere!! All of the rooms at The Station are named after the shanty towns which were built to accommodate the Labourers working on the Ribblehead viaduct in 1872. We had a huge portion of delicious steak and ale pie for dinner. The room had a lovely view towards The Ribblehead viaduct , unfortunately it could not be seen through the rain and mist. Hopefully it will be better weather tomorrow, but it was not looking promising on the weather forecast.

Distance 16.37 miles 26.3km

Duration of Walk Hours 7.30

Average Pace Min/km 27.3

Steps 45670

Elevation gained 1282 feet 391m


Thursday 23rd July Ribblehead to Dent Day 4

Breakfast was slow to arrive, as were the sandwiches that we had ordered the night before, at a cost of £7.50. An expression that we had never heard before was used by the waitress "over-toasted" when she did not want to make too much toast for the fear of us not being able to eat it-I don't recall this has ever been a problem. This term caused much amusement to us for the rest of the trip. We were eventually were ready to leave at 10am, just as dark clouds were getting closer, after a bright start to the day.

Today there was a split in the party as Simon and Steve G. wanted to do the Dales Way following the signed path properly, or those who feel that as long as most of the path is adhered to from the beginning to the end that is fine. Having followed the busy road from the Dales Way path for 1.5 miles to the pub, some of us decided to avoid returning along the road. We took the path behind the pub, following it alongside the fascinating Ribblehead Viaduct. The viaduct completed in 1872 consists of 24 arches, each standing 155 feet high, to support the 72 mile long Settle to Carlisle Railway. At one time during construction up to 2000 labourers were housed on Batty Moss. It was described by The Lancaster Guardian in 1876 as follows:

The country through which the line passes is amongst the wildest and most romantic in England. It is a continued succession of high hills with intervening valleys, so that the line

is alternately carried over viaducts, or through cuttings, or under hills hundreds of feet in height.

The views here are stunning, take time to read the information boards about the history of the viaduct, and take photos. We continued over Batty Moss, crossing rivers, past industrial remains, and admiring the waterfall. There is a path to the right which eventually leads back to the Dales Way proper, which we did not take. Instead we carried on, up and over the shoulder of Whernside. At an obvious junction the path to the left goes up Whernside-a lovely plan for a better day. We continued along the Dales Highway (or the Craven Way), the views would have been fantastic, we could just about see Dent viaduct and the hills across Dent valley, but it had started to rain again.

The path turned into a wide track passing through a gate, before we arrived at Bridge End and re-joined the Dales Way. We texted our friends and finding them behind us back up the valley, we continued. The path at times was very narrow set between a fence on the left, and a very steep tree-lined slope leading to the fast flowing River Dee, following lots of rainfall.

We arrived at Stone Close Tea room in Dent at 1.30pm, a short day for us two, again due to a shortage of accommodation. After a lovely lunch in the cafe the four friends that we were walking with left as they were staying six miles further on in Sedbergh. Dent is a beautiful picture-postcard village, with cobbled streets and old cottages. There is also The Dent Heritage Museum, which was shut when we looked at it. There are a few pubs, 12th century church, the cafe and public toilets. It is not on the official Dales Way path but well worth a detour.

We were wondering if the others would call in here, but it is not quite on the path. We heard them arrive at 3.30pm. Unfortunately one of them Debbie had fallen down the slope and landed up to her knees in the River Dee, hitting her head on a branch on the way down the bank. She was rescued by Simon and Steve, and was very lucky not to have been swept away by the strong current. Andy the owner of tea room phoned a taxi (£25.00) for Debby to take her to her room in Sedbergh leaving at 4.15pm. The others re-traced their steps to the Dales Way, eventually arriving at the Dalesway Inn in Sedbergh at 6.45pm. A long, wet and traumatic day for them.

We ate a delicious 3-course dinner (£22.00) each, with a nice selection of wines, and beer. Dent

Distance 7.6 miles 12.2km

Duration of Walk Hours 3.5

Average Pace Min/km 30.22

Steps 22577

Elevation gained 858 feet 261m


Friday 24th July Dent to Patton Bridge Day 5

After delicious cooked breakfast-the last one of the trip. We set off at 9am, turning right down the road, after 10 minutes we-rejoined the path at a sign post to Barth Bridge. It was lovely sunny morning for a walk complete with bird song, babbling river and a beautiful valley. After 3 miles/one hour we crossed over Brackensgill Bridge, continuing up a flooded path, crossed the main road, and continued through Gap Wood. Round the corner are the first views of Sedbergh and the Howgill Hills beyond. We arrived at a very pretty village of Millthrop at 11.10am, through the village then instead of continuing the Dales Way path we decided to visit Sedbergh.

Sedbergh is an ancient market town, the largest one since Ilkley with shops, bars, cafes, pubs, public toilets, a famous school, and is well worth a look round. Our friends were taking a rest day in Sedbergh, but they all very kindly arrived to meet us for a coffee outside the Dalesman pub. We left at 12.30pm passing the spar shop on the right, turning left to re-join the Dales Way by the river.

Now begins what we considered to be the hardest part of the trip having just walked 7 miles, we had a further ten to go which normally would not phase us. However, the terrain was undulating field after field, every one seemed to have a stile, we got lost of a few occasions too-it just seemed to be soul destroying, and perhaps we were missing our friends also. There is also nowhere to stop for any refreshments, a couple of farms which sometimes sell drinks were closed. But we enjoyed the historic sights of Lincoln's Inn Bridge, and The Lune and Lowgill railway viaducts, on the now disused Ingleton-Tebay railway. The scenery and weather were great. Four hours after leaving Sedbergh we crossed the M6 motorway, the Lake District now calling us.

We eventually arrived at our destination Low Bell Farm at 6.30pm, staying the night in a fantastic very well styled yurt. We ate a delicious dinner outside, surrounded by animals.

Low Barn Bell Tent and Camping, Patton Bridge, near Grayrigg

Distance 19.16 miles 30.8km

Duration of Walk Hours 9.22

Average Pace Min/km 29.22

Steps 55734

Elevation gained 1183 feet 360m


Saturday 25th July Patton Bridge to Bowness-on-Windermere Day 6

We were excited to be up for our last day. After delicious bacon sandwiches and coffee in our yurt we left in the rain at 8.40pm. We went through more fields, past further farms, crossing the A6 road at 9.30am, the Lakes looking more welcoming with every step. We past Burneside at 10.15am, then follows a delightful walk along the River Kent. Going over the bridge by the Handsome brewery-with takeouts available-and through the village of Bowston. We followed the sign on right to Staveley. After a very wet morning the sun shone, and it was a lovely walk by the river. At 11.30am we reached the road, turned right, then ignoring the signs on the left for Dales Way we arrived at 12pm in Staveley.

Staveley, is maybe not as pretty as other places we visited, but it can be used for a final nights stay. Hawkshead brewery has its home here, as well as pubs, a Spar shop, cafe, and a public toilet. After buying some food in the Spar we left at 12.30pm, passing the railway station, crossing the A591 main road, and picking up a sign to Bowness 5.5 miles. We walked across rough grazing land, past farms, until suddenly the view of Windermere appears. The final path leads past the slate seat (sister of the one seen in Ilkley) "for those who walk the Dales Way," with lovely views. We followed the road that runs steeply towards the lake, turning left to arrive in Bowness itself.

We felt that a rather disappointing end awaits in Bowness. On arriving one is instantly plunged back into the real world of people, cars and queues for shops and cafes. This being a Saturday at the end of July maybe we should not have been that surprised. Along with lots of people, there seemed to be hundreds of ducks, geese and swans all along the water's edge. I asked in the tourist information office where was the end of the Dales Way? The lady did seem surprised at the question, she replied that the Hawkshead shop used to issue certificates, and there is a map of the walk adjacent to the office and referred to the bench we had noticed on the way down through the woods just above the town. We found it disappointing that nothing more was at the end. Obviously the walk is not popular enough to merit anything more.

We walked to the collection point of Lakes Village Taxis Drop off, on Lake road. Picked up our rucksack, and carried the bag uphill to Windermere train station, to catch the train back to our home in Manchester.

Distance 13.76 miles 22.14km

Duration of Walk Hours 6.10

Average Pace Min/km 26.54

Steps 37855

Elevation gained 1116 feet 340m


The Dales Way is a beautiful walk, and one that we would recommend, especially if you are new to multi-day walking - providing you get the weather. If you only have a

short time for the walk, I would definitely recommend the first two days up Wharfedale as the prettiest, or four days from Ilkley to Sedbergh.

The Coast to Coast walk goes from west to east, a natural way to walk in England with the prevailing winds from the Atlantic on your back. The Dales Way can be walked in either direction, but is most popular from east to west. I am not sure why, but there must be a reason. Train communications are good either way, so it can't be this.

We booked Sherpa transport for bags in advance, they transport rucksacks, suitcases, and even camping equipment weighing up to 20kg clearly labelled to the next destination. We have used this service on various of our walks, and feel it is good value for money at £8.50 per bag. Then a day sack is all that is needed. Alternatively as this is not a particularly arduous walk a full pack can be carried.

One question that was debated in great depth amongst our walking party was, the walk about getting from Ilkley to Bowness, or walking the Dales Way path? Our party was split on this, sometimes, parting from each other. We feel as long as we walked from Ilkley to Bowness with no motorised transport, then it is fine to deviate from the official path. I followed the words of Alfred Wainwright, when he devised the Coast to Coast walk, not expecting people to stick to his stages each day or even to stick to his route.

I want to encourage in others the ambition to devise with the aid of maps their own cross-country marathons and not be merely followers of other people's routes: there is no end to the possibilities for originality and initiative. ”

— A. Wainwright, A Coast to Coast Walk

We worked out the route to be taken in advance, as many stages have either long or short days, lacking alternative accommodation.

Book the accommodation in advance, as there are stretches where there is no-where to stay. The drawback of Bed and Breakfast accommodation in the U.K, is that as the breakfast is included in the price one feels compelled to eat it, and it is usually too tempting to resist. It is a shame that the accommodation does not reflect the needs of walkers by providing breakfast prior to 8.15am or 8.30am. The downside of this being departures are later than we would have liked, and too much food to eat before setting out!!, sometimes we did not finish breakfast till 10am making it a very late start for a walk. Having done a couple of Caminos in Spain we are used to leaving at 7am and walking for a couple of hours before coffee and toast for Breakfast, or food we have brought with us. I feel that this makes for an easier days walking and more enjoyable.

Take snacks, cereal bars etc, as there are some fairly long stretches without refreshments

If travelling by train, book in advance for cheaper fares, we have a travel together card, getting a third-off the train fare.

However good the weather forecast would appear to be, ensure that you take good waterproofs, hats, buffs and gloves. Take sticks if necessary, and take a good first aid kit, as there are some days without pharmacies or shops. Also take sun hats, sun tan lotion, and insect repellent, as well as the usual kit.

Wear boots, the only way to go. We wear Lowa boots, originally designed in Germany, and very popular with walkers there. Having worn out previous pairs, with an excess of 1,000 miles walked in them, we are now onto our third pairs. They are available in Decathlon, and on-line from Lowa.

Remember to always enjoy yourself. "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain". Vivian Greene.

Websites Used

Accommodation we stayed in     Burnsall   booked on  booked on, emailed in advance  Dent   booked on

Low Barn Bell Tent and Camping, Patton Bridge, near Grayrigg emailed in advance

Places we ate along the way Take out drinks and cakes  Tea rooms Dent coffee in Sedbergh


We used - Walking The Dales Way, Terry Marsh - Cicerone publications, including a very useful 1:25,000 route map booklet. This has a similar format to books we have used previously.

Other books:-Dales Way Trailblazer British Walking Guide, by Henry Stedman.

Dales Way XT40 Route Map by Harvey Map Services

The walk itself is mostly well signposted, however the books provide a very useful source of information, with planning, accommodation, shops, features of historical interest etc. We did get lost on occasion too.

Ordnance Survey maps are available of the whole path, but I feel that these are not necessary, but would have been interesting to find areas of interest off the walk, i.e. the names/heights of surrounding mountains. We did use OL2 Yorkshire Dales map.