The Dales Way is not entirely without gradients, of course, and there are steep sections, particularly as the path approaches the source of the Wharfe and the watershed, and again on the approach to the Lakes. Finding and sticking to the trail is also particularly easy, thanks to the wealth of signposts along the way and the superb maintenance of the trail itself. For though it may be only just over 80 miles in length, the Dales Way manages to pack an awful lot of interest into its relatively short span.
The Wharfe itself is splendid too. But in certain places the Wharfe is frothing and furious, most famously at the raging Strid, the final resting place of more than one foolhardy traveller down the centuries. Nor does the scenery lose any of its grandeur as you wave farewell to the Wharfe in favour of neighbouring Dentdale.
I recommend buying shoes a size bigger than usual to allow for your feet swelling. We already regularly walked about 3 miles and starting six weeks before we did one 8—10 mile walk and a couple of 4—5 mile walks each week. Guidebooks may show slightly different distances. This Dales Way map shows the route we took. The red pins are the start and end points of the Dales Way, the purple pins are where we stayed overnight, blue pins are points of interest, and green pins are places to eat or drink.
Distance: We dropped off our bags at Riverside Hotel in Ilkley, close to the start of the Dales Way, and took the requisite photos by the sign announcing that Bowness is 82 miles away. It was easy, flat walking to begin without many people around. Once we left the outskirts of Ilkley it was pretty but undramatic scenery following the River Wharfe through green fields of sheep, cows, and horses. We arrived at Bolton Abbey at about noon after 5. The menu of soups and sandwiches had more interesting vegetarian choices that the typical country cafe.
Simon had sweet potato and curry soup and I had a roast vegetable and hummus sandwich with raw courgette and pesto side salad.
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Strid Wood is next—the longest section of woodland on the walk—with a cafe and toilet at the beginning. Once we left the woods and crossed the pretty stone Barden Bridge it was much quieter. We had some gorgeous walking to ourselves along the river through vibrant green fields of sheep with zigzagging drystone walls up the hills on each side. The first day of the Dales Way has plenty of places to stop and was the only day we had a second break, which was much appreciated at 3.
There are lots of nooks and crannies and we settled in a cosy fireplace nook and enjoyed all the old photos and documents on the wall.
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A menu from showed that the typical meal involved three types of meat, while newspaper reports highlighted their ferret racing championship that takes place every February. It was only another mile into Burnsall, our final stop for the day. There are only a couple of places to stay in Burnsall and we chose the most popular. We stayed in their Manor House annex just behind the pub. Breakfast served from 8. There was freshly squeezed orange juice, decent coffee, fruit, yogurt, cereal including locally made granola , and toast. Mains are made to order and included freshly baked pastries, American-style pancakes, and a variety of other dishes as well as the typical Full English.
We ate at the Red Lion the only place to eat in the evenings —booking a table in advance is essential. There were two vegetarian mains, both rather similar platters with a selection of tasty falafel and dips. My veggie platter included a lentil cake, courgette fritter, falafel, bruschetta, and feta dip.
It was an easy start to the day following the flat path along the river out of Burnsall with no one else around. We passed the suspension bridge and stepping stones at Hebden and walked under a row of huge horse chestnut trees beginning to turn red. It was all very idyllic. Hebden suspension bridge and stepping stones. Just before Grassington we took a brief diversion to the left for the view of Linton Falls from the bridge.
It took us 70 minutes to reach Grassington, the largest village in Wharfedale, which felt like a metropolis with a Boots, outdoor shops, and many inviting cafes—Simon got a coffee to go. After Grassington we started uphill for the first time. The scenery became wilder and we walked through pastures of sheep and cows, drystone walls snaking up the hills.
There are no villages on this section but a fair few hikers. We climbed above a gorge, past the rocky limestone outcrop Conistone Pie, then walked along the edge of the hill with sweeping views down the valley. We descended down the hill to the small village of Kettlewell for lunch 3. It was much quieter than Grassington and without any tourist shops—the only shop the last one until Dent in two days was closed but opened when we hung around outside for a bit. The shop sells pies and hot sandwiches if you want a cheap lunch. If you are a fan of the film Calendar Girls , look out for the garage where it was filmed when leaving the village.
It was just beginning to drizzle when we arrived in the tiny hamlet of Hubberholme, just a church, pub and few farmhouses by the river. The George Inn is the reason to spend the night in Hubberholme. It was originally a vicarage in the 17th century and is now a cosy traditional pub with stone floors and walls, fireplace, and mugs hanging from the ceiling. A candle is lit on the bar during opening hours—a tradition that dates back to when the vicar put a candle in the window to show he was available to parishioners.
There was WiFi but no phone signal. There were two downsides: our room was above the kitchen so we heard the loud radio playing until 9. Breakfast is served from 7. Toast, yoghurt, cereal, and fruit were also available. It was convenient being able to pop downstairs at The George for one of their local beers and a hearty dinner.
Dinner reservations are essential. They had a good number of vegetarian options, but I recommend their award-winning homemade pies. Our soup starter and desserts were excellent too.
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Our third day on the Dales Way was the shortest and most remote so far with nowhere to stop for lunch and limited accommodation. B Priestley who wrote about the delights of this hamlet. It was a chilly morning and it rained lightly on and off all day. We began with the usual easy river walking, but it felt very remote and quiet and we only passed a few isolated farmhouses, lots of sheep, and a stone circle from the Bronze Age years ago. We then headed up on the moors, the wide open expanses a change after the pastoral scenes.
We ate our packed lunch under a tree in the drizzle and missed having a cafe to stop for a break. We should have waited until Nethergill Eco Farm where you can help yourself to tea and flapjacks and pay in the honesty box. We continued along the side of a hill over streams and across boggy moors. It was rather bleak in the drizzle and the fields were more sage and brown than the vibrant green of the earlier stages. At the remote farmhouse Cam Houses, we had to wait for hunters to finish shooting birds before we could pass through safely the first people we saw all day.
Luckily the sun came out and we shed our waterproofs while we waited with the cocker spaniels who were eager to run and collect the fallen birds. Once we crossed over the B it was just a few minutes to Winshaw, a cluster of three stone cottages and our stop for the night. Although it was a short day, the dreary weather, hills, and lack of proper break made it quite tiring and we enjoyed a relaxed afternoon.
From Hubberholme there are no villages until Cowgill, 18 miles away.
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Our room Pen-Y-Ghent was large and immaculate with a view of the sheep on the hills and sheep themed decor. It was stylish but homely with a very comfortable bed with plenty of pillows, soft snuggly robes, hot chocolate and biscuits, and an electric radiator we were grateful for. The bathroom was huge and luxurious with a bath and shower. The only downside was that the tap water was brown when we visited as it comes from the fells and the peat causes this when it rains. It would also have been nice to have an honesty fridge with soft drinks and beer. Breakfast was great for us, even skipping the cooked breakfast, as there was plenty of fresh fruit, quality cereals, yoghurt, and croissants.
This was a long day. Although it was a similar distance to Day 2, our pace slowed substantially, due to terrible rainy weather and increased tired after three days of walking my feet were also suffering from sore toenails and blisters. We started uphill on the misty moors, barely being able to see anything but it was very atmospheric.
We then hit a road for a few miles. We returned to following the river through fields and small woodlands in the pouring rain and were relieved to make it to Dent after four hours and over nine miles of walking. Dent is another picturesque village of cobbled streets and stone houses with a few pubs and tea rooms. I wanted to have lunch at Stone Close, a cosy looking 17th-century tea room with stone floors, a fire raging, and an array of cakes on display, but it was full, so we headed through the village to Meadowside Cafe.
The 2. Sedbergh is half a mile off the Dales Way from Millthrop but almost everyone stays there as it has more choice of accommodation and food.
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The uphill road to the town was a slog. It has a handy Spar shop where we bought lunch for the next section of the walk. Sedbergh has a wider range of accommodation that other stops on the Dales Way, but they do get booked up. They had two vegetarian mains and two specials—we opted for the spiced courgette and saffron risotto which was very nice.
This was the longest day of the hike with nowhere to stop on the way. I recommend taking change for the honesty snack boxes some locals have set up—a cold lemonade in the middle of nowhere was much appreciated. Some of the walk is almost alongside and eventually over the M6 motorway, so the noise takes away from the atmosphere somewhat.
We left the Yorkshire Dales and noticed how there were fewer stone walls and more hedges. It was quite hard going, especially during the hours of rain, but we scheduled lunch and chocolate breaks for motivation, and I listened to music for the first time which helped me ignore the pain in my feet. In the end, we arrived feeling less tired than the previous day. Accommodation in Burneside is limited so some people take the four-minute train ride to Kendal for a larger selection.
The rooms have been created with lots of care and attention to hikers needs. Our studio was warm and had a comfortable bed, seating area, and little kitchenette with DIY continental breakfast.
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We loved the thoughtful touches—homemade cake, foot spa, slippers, cosy blankets, DVDs and books, and a booklet with menus for local restaurants and takeaways. There is WiFi and mobile signal. There are limited options in Burneside. The pub only had one simple vegetarian option and the chip shop was closed on Sundays. There is a golf club down the road but we opted for delivery instead. Our top three choices were closed so we ended up with Dominos. At least it was easy. The last section of the Dales Way is fairly short, so we had a late start in order to arrive in Staveley at lunchtime.
The village is half a mile off the trail and 4 miles 1. We went to Hawkshead Brewery where Simon enjoyed a local brew and we shared some of their tapas style dishes—the mac and cheese and roast squash salad were especially delicious. After Staveley, we walked through farmland then up a steep narrow country road that went on for ages. Finally, we emerged into the Lakes countryside which felt wilder and craggier than the Dales with spikier peaks and thorny gorse bushes. The grand finale of the Dales Way is coming over a hill and seeing Lake Windermere below.
A stone bench marks the end of the trail. You could take a train on to your destination Windermere station is a minute bus or taxi ride away , but we chose to spend two nights here to relax and see a little of the area.