The Dales Way starts at the Old Bridge in Ilkley and wanders eighty miles to Lake Windermere through the captivating and scenic Yorkshire Dales and ending in the Lake District.
It is a valley walk, and the sights and sounds of rivers and waterways are a consistent companion – navigating the walker in the right direction and providing a shimmering and musical backdrop to most days. On the first, the hiker passes the ruins of Bolton Abbey to briefly follow the notorious Strid. On the second, when it ventures away from the water, the trail climbs into the rough moorland; changeable and moody, with views out far across the valleys. The Three Peaks of Yorkshire are seen at the halfway mark, followed by the delightful Dentdale and, eventually, after many, many sheep fields, viaducts and stiles, the final stop at Bowness is reached.
The path follows the water, starting with the River Wharfe for the first two days before swinging across the Rawthey to the Lune, crossing the Mint and finishing on the Kent. The lush valleys sit between towering green hills, decked with the scatter of drywall and hardy barns. This is classic countryside, an engaging and lovely trail and an easy walk.
Initially devised by the West Riding Ramblers Association, the Dales Way was opened up in 1968. Since then it has become a much loved and well hiked route and the villages and towns along the way appear to embrace its presence with enthusiasm and enjoyment. Around 3,000 people hike the whole trail each year, braving the numerous fields of cows through the summer to get a true immersion in our idyllic countryside at its most magical.
Of course, I didn’t walk it in summer. I walked in November when the winds were high, the days short and the chances of downpour high. It still contained all the charm I had hoped for.
Whilst I knew my previous 80 mile trails had taken me around five days, I was incredibly wary about the decreasing amounts of light in the day now it was November and cautiously planned for six days instead. As it turns out, I needn’t have been so concerned because five days was fine – I had booked a campsite midway in Dent on the evening of what was was meant to be Day 4 but arrived a day ahead of schedule.
Once again, my original plan went out the window, and my final route ended up as below:
- Day 1: Ilkley to Grassington (16 miles)
- Day 2: Grassington to Beckermonds (17 miles)
- Day3: Beckermonds to Dent (17 miles)
- Day 4: Dent to Burneside (20 miles)
- Day 5: Burneside to Bowness on Windermere (10 miles)
Somewhere towards the last third of October, the air suddenly became very icy and nighttime temperature dropped. Autumn turned to winter very quickly. The mini hot water and extra gloves came out of their box.
It’s often said that backpackers pack their fears. Someone worried about going hungry might overdo the food, someone worried about getting lost might have five different navigational aid, someone worried about blisters might pack a whole second pair of hiking shoes….
Well I’ve been pretty good in not packing any fears this year, but now it seems I’m getting a touch angsty over the idea of very long, dark hours getting bored in a tent. At one point I had prepared to pack a book, a sketchbook, a crossword book, my journal AND postcarding stuff. Thankfully I checked myself and left the book, downsized the puzzle book and have only the crayons from the sketchbook figuring my journal can double up. To be fair, still sounds excessive.
|Tent plus extra pegs||850g|
|2L Water Bladder||80g|
|Clothes:||2 x shirts|
|2 x leggings|
|1 x hiking socks|
|1 x waterproof hiking socks|
|2 x liner socks|
|3 x pants|
|Hair ties and clips|
|Electrical bag:||Power bank x 2|
|3 x charging cords|
|3 x ecig batteries|
|Downtime and Guide:||Guidebook|
|Journal With stamps and pen|
|Miscellaneous:||First aid kit|
|3 x small binbags|
|Water purification tablets|
|Mini hot water bottle|
|Garmin InReach and Navigation device|
|Base Weight = 8.33kg|
|Food bag:||Stove and fuel|
|Instant pasta meals|
|Instant noodle meals|
|Instant mashed potato|
|Mushroom soup sachets|
|Pack Weight = 11.9kg (including worn weight and consumables)|