The Countryside Commission has designated the Dales Way a 'Recreational Footpath'. It is a popular route linking the West Riding with the Lake District. The whole route does not have to be walked in one trip, but this is by far the most satisfying way of doing it. The total length is about 75 miles and the whole lot can be walked in one week in relatively easy stages. The main route from Ilkley to Bowness is the length described below , but a couple of extensions have been added to the southern end to connect Leeds and Bradford to the walk. Neither of these extensions, in my opinion, are worth the effort and a perfectly adequate bus and train service operate between both cities and Ilkley. The route is, in the most part, low-level valley walking with no long steep climbs or excessively boggy areas of moorland to be crossed; in fact it is the perfect trail for those seeking an easy introduction to long distance expeditions or an easier alternative to harder walks such as the Pennine Way.
This outline is not meant to be definitive and the use of a good map is strongly recommended. For those that do not wish to buy the several O.S. maps required, Footprint publish an excellent little map and guide entitled 'The Dales Way' which incorporates a map of the entire route and a description of the walk along with some notes on accommodation. These maps are distributed by :- Cordee, 3a De Montfort Street, Leicester. LE1 7HD.
The Dales Way starts besides the 'Old Bridge' over the River Wharfe 400 yards upstream of the modern road crossing and follows the river on the western bank. It follows the path which keeps close to the river and soon joins a road which leads to the tennis club. A sign then points the way across fields to rejoin the river. Take care crossing the fields, the path is not very well defined so try to avoid doing any damage as you cross. After a short , pleasant walk along the river bank the path joins the old road ( a new by-pass has been built ) about a mile south of the village of Addingham. A quarter of a mile along this road the Way turns right along the lane leading to the old mill and past some renovated mill cottages shortly beyond.
On entering the village of Addingham the path turns right to cross a small stream by the church, cross the road leading to the church and follow the path to pick up another road just beyond, turn right and follow this road for a short distance and then on your right a footpath leads across fields back towards the river; where on rejoining the river the path forks, the right hand path leading over a bridge towards West Hall, the right hand path following the west bank of the Wharfe. It is this left hand path that you need to take. Shortly you pass through a caravan site and then the path follows the line of the river for a little over a mile. Along this section the path is faint in places but it is well signed and easy to follow. When you eventually rejoin the road turn right, but be careful this road is narrow and can be extremely busy, especially during summer. Follow the road for about half a mile and just before the village of Bolton Bridge the path leaves the road to your right and crosses fields towards a road bridge over the Wharfe. Cross the road, but not the bridge and continue along the west bank of the river along a path through the fields for about a mile to the priory at Bolton Abbey. You will have no difficulty in recognising the ruins of the priory when you reach them.
Opposite these ruins the path crosses the Wharfe by a footbridge. The footpath goes through woodland for a short way before meeting a minor road at a ford.A footbridge has been built for the use of walkers. After another short length you come to yet another minor road where a bridge crosses the river. Your route continues along the east bank and through Strid Woods; but before continuing you might like to make use of the cafe and toilet facilities on the opposite bank.
From the cafe the Way follows the eastern bank of the river through woodland before briefly joining another minor road to cross a side stream. After about a mile the Way passes alongside the famous 'Strid', a short and very narrow cataract.
Do not try to jump across, many have tried in the past and many have drowned in the attempt. After leaving Strid Woods the Way is easy to follow as it passes through pasture land to join the road at Barden Bridge about a mile further on.
Turn right at the road and follow it towards Appletreewick. After a couple of hundred yards the Way turns left off the road and drops down through a small wood to rejoin the river and continue along its east bank through more fields. After a mile the path rejoins the road below the hamlet of Howgill. Turn left along the road and after crossing the bridge over a tributary stream the path turns left once more to rejoin the river. The path now runs through meadows once more for about a mile and a quarter until the river bends away to the left in a large horseshoe. Here the path cuts the corner past the farm at Woodhouse. Beyond the outbuildings the path leaves the farm track and crosses a bridge over a stream to rejoin the Wharfe. Follow the east bank of the river for a short way until it once more bends away to the left. Here the path climbs a steep slope and cuts across a field to once more rejoin the road. Turn left and follow this road all the way into Burnsall.
The Way leaves Burnsall via the west bank of the river near the pub and the path is clear and easy to follow. Above Loup Scar the river quickens once more but by the time you reach the suspension bridge it has once more widened and become more placid. Cross the suspension bridge and carry on along the east bank of the Wharfe. After a mile the path briefly leaves the river bank to cut across a bend in the river. The path at this point is obvious and you should have no trouble in spotting this short-cut. You rejoin the river just south of Trout Farm; follow the track through the farm buildings and just beyond, where the track bends right to join the Hebden to Grassington road, bear left and rejoin the path along the east bank of the River Wharfe past Linton Falls and on until you eventually come to the Threshfield to Grassington road. Here the route becomes complicated and the easiest thing to do is turn right and follow the road the short distance up the hill and into Grassington.
Leave Grassington along Chapel Street; continue past a farm and through some fields. The path at this point is faint and care may be needed to avoid missing the proper route. The path you want is a grassy one which climbs gradually uphill and not one of the several tracks made by farm vehicles. Above Grass Woods a short climb leads past an obvious disused lime kiln before gradually descending to Conistone Dib, a limestone ravine. Just beyond the Dib you come to a vehicle track and you need to turn left along this and then almost immediately right along a faint path between limestone crags to pass the distinctive rock knoll of Conistone Pie on your left. Follow the path straight ahead, walking is level, past Swineber Scar and you will, after a further mile and several walls, come to another vehicle track where you need to turn left and follow it all the way down to the Grassington to Kettlewell road. Turn right and follow the road for about half a mile to where the path turns right to cross some fields. The route at this point is tricky to follow and care needs to be taken to follow the yellow way-marker signs which are plentiful if not always easy to spot. After about another half mile of wall climbing and getting lost you should eventually come out on the road at the top of Kettlewell village. Stop here and buy yourself a pint in one of the three pubs, you will probably have earned it; but be warned none of the pubs seem to have all day opening and the actual serving hours seems to vary on the whim of the landlord.
Walk down through the village to the bridge over the River Wharfe and cross it. Turn right along a track and immediately right again to follow the path along the west bank of the river. After a short distance the path joins a farm track which it follows for about a quarter of a mile before once more becoming a grassy path following the river bank. After a mile you come to a bridge over the river which leads to Starbottom. Ignore this route and continue straight on along the path on the west bank of the Wharfe to the next major bend in the river. At this point the river bends away to your right and the path you need to follow go straight on . After half a mile you cross a tributary stream. Again the path continues straight ahead. After another quarter of a mile you cross another stream and shortly you join a vehicle track just below Birks Wood. This track is followed for about another quarter of a mile before the path tuns sharply right to rejoin the river which it follows for half a mile until it joins the road just north of the village of Buckden.
Leave Buckden by following the west bank of the Wharfe from the point where the path from Kettlewell joined the road just north of the village. After about 800 yards the path leaves the river bank and for the short section into the hamlet of Hubberholme via a bridge over the river. The route leaves the village via a path which is signposted behind the church. You are now in Langstroth Dale and the countryside gradually starts to become wilder and more open as you get further away from Wharfedale.
You now follow the north bank of the river for about a mile and a quarter, crossing two feeder streams , to the hamlet of Yockenthwaite. From here the way continues along the north bank and as you approach Deepdale it gradually becomes fainter. Just before you reach Deepdale keep to the right of a small barn and cross Deepdale Gill by way of a small footbridge and joining a track. Turn left down this track and cross the Wharfe at the road bridge before turning right and following the river along the south bank for one and a half miles to Beckermonds. Beckermonds is the point where the River Wharfe stars at the confluence of Green Field Beck and Outershaw Beck. The way crosses Green Field Beck and joins the road on the opposite bank. Turn right along the road and when you come to a road junction turn left. Follow this road for a little over a mile to Outershaw and just beyond the way turns left down a signed farm track. This track is about a mile and a half long and you need to follow it all the way to the end at Swarthgill Farm where you pick up a faint and often muddy path to Cam Houses a further one and a half miles distant. Leaving Cam Houses the way is indistinct, but a small path starts on the edge of the plantation and climbs to the clearer track on Cam Fell. Turn left along this track and for the next mile you share the route with the Pennine Way to Cam End.
At Cam End the Dales Way continues along the good track descending Cam Fell and after a mile you cross Gayle Beck. Shortly afterwards you come to the Ingleton to Hawes road. Turn left and follow this for 200 yards to Gearstones ( a farm offering B&B and bunkhouse accommodation).
From Gearstones take the track, on the opposite side of the road , which winds its way past Holme Hill and Winshaw's Farm before petering out into a path which winds round the side of Knoutberry Bank past High Gayle and Blea Moor Moss before joining a road. Turn left along this road and follow it the three-quarters of a mile to Dent Head. On reaching Dent Head it is time to gird up your loins as you now have a long section of road-work to do. It is two miles down this road to Lea Yeat and the only consolations you have is that if the weather is kind then thewalk along the valley can be quite pretty as it follows the tree lined stream and that just over half way is the Sportsmans Arms where refreshments can be partaken of. At Lea Yeat the road crosses the river for the second time but the Way carries straight on to follow the south bank of the River Dee before joining a narrow road after about 400 yards. This lane is followed for a quarter of a mile before a track and path leads into a field by an old farm at Rivling. After passing through a small plantation you come out again into another series of small fields and past a number of farms before reaching Low Lathe. Here you turn right and follow the farm track back down to the road. Turn left along the road for a couple of hundred yards and opposite the next set of buildings on your left turn right a faint, signed path leads across fields and down to cross the river via a foot-bridge. Turn immediately left after crossing the footbridge and follow the north bank of the river to the next bridge where you need to return to the south bank once more. A short section across fields returns you to the road at Mill Bridge. Cross the bridge and turn right and follow the footpath on the south side of Deepdale Beck. This returns you to the River Dee which you now follow on the south bank until you come to the road at Church Bridge just outside Dent.
Cross the road and continue along the south bank of the river for two and a quarter miles until you once more rejoin the road at Ellers. Turn right and follow this road for nearly two miles until you come to Rash Bridge. Turn right and cross the bridge and follow the road to the junction where you need to turn right again. After almost 200 yards you come to some buildings on your right. Opposite these an indistinct path leads up to join a clear tack at the top. Turn left and the track soon becomes an unsurfaced road as it descends into Millthorpe and the 'main' road. Continue down the hill to the road junction and turn left down to the bridge just outside the market town of Sedbergh.
After crossing Millthrop bridge a signposted path enters a field on your left. The Dales Way follows the Rawthey Way for a while and the path is thus signed. After a couple of hundred yards the path enters a small wood; avoid following the several small paths that descend to your left in this wood and keep to the high path that runs alongside the fence and past a ruined pillbox just beyond the wood. After a short section of fields you will come to a road; turn left along this and follow it past Birk Mills and then the Way once more becomes a path crossing fields to rejoin the riverbank which is followed for a mile and a quarter until you come to the A683. Turn left along this road and follow it for almost half a mile to a sign directing you across fields on an indistinct footpath to High Oaks. A vehicle track is followed which peters out in a field which is then crossed to another track. Beyond Luneside the way soon drops down towards the River Lune. Turn right and follow the riverbank, across the A684, to the Lune viaduct where you need to turn right and follow the path to Low Braithwaite. Beyond Low Braithwaite the route gets complicated as the path becomes very indistinct and weaves its way across fields and between farms. At this point signs and spots of yellow paint have been placed to aid route finding as far as Hole house.
At Hole House the path passes between the farm buildings to cross a small stream before descending to the River Lune once more. From here the path follows the riverbank for a mile and a quarter to the Crook of Lune and navigation is much simpler. Just beyond the Crook of Lune the way leaves the river along a path heading towards the road bridge over the river which you need to cross and follow the road into Beck Foot.
The way leaves Beck Foot along a small path heading for High House Farm. This path is soon left as it heads off across the fields towards Lakethwaite Farm to your right. Take care along this section as there is no discernable path and only occasional way-marks. The way passes in front of the farm to join a minor road just before the Me motorway. Turn left and then almost immediately right to cross some fields to a bridge across the motorway. Across the motorway a signpost points the way around Lambing Head Farm and onto another minor road. Turn left along this road and after 200 yards turn right across fields to Home Park Farm. Another section of pathless fields follows to Moresdale Hall where the way is well marked through the grounds.
From the Hall the way crosses another field and turns left along a minor road which is followed to the cross-roads. Turn right and after 150 yards the way turns left across fields heading for the railway. Take care crossing the railway lines and head downhill towards a small stream which flows between two hills and here you join a track leading to Green Head Farm. Way- marks now show the way across fields over a footbridge to Grayrigg Foot Farm and the A685 beyond. Turn right along the road and then almost immediately left to follow a good farm track to cross a stream. After crossing the stream turn left across fields to a track at Snowdon Barn. Here the way descends across a field to cross a small footbridge over the River Mint. From the River Mint the Route crosses a field and turns right along a track. After 200 yards the way follows a path to the left and passes through the garden of a house, then alongside a small strip of woodland to emerge onto a minor road. Cross the road and pass Biglands House where the way crosses more fields to reach Black Moss Tarn. After the tarn keep to the right of a pylon before descending to New House. A small footpath then leads to the farm track near Goodham Scales Farm from where the way follows a good farm track, passing Skelsmergh Tarn to emerge onto the A6 near Burton House Farm.
From the A6 the way passes through Burton House Farm then left across fields to cross a small stream via a footbridge. Another short section across pathless fields leads to a barn and a minor road near Oakbank Cottages. Just before reaching the cottages the route turns left across fields to run across fields to run alongside the River Sprint for a short while before passing Sprint Mill and rejoining the road at a bridge over the river. Cross the bridge and follow the road for 400 yards and then turn left down a road leading to Burnside. On the edge of Burnside the path turns right alongside the mill and runs down to join the River Kent. The path now follows the north bank of the river for three quarters of a mile to the road bridge at Boston. Cross the river and turn right into the village. After 200 yards the way turns right along a small path between houses. This path soon joins the road leading to the mill at Cowen Head.
From Cowen Head the way is indistinct but easy to follow alongside the river for one and a half miles, through Cockshott Wood and on to the road at Sandymill. Turn right and follow the road for 100 yards then turn left to pass under the railway and across fields to a minor road close to the by-pass. The way turns left along this minor road to cross the by-pass before turning right to follow the track to Field Close. The path then climbs steeply uphill past woodland to join a minor road near New Hall Farm. Turn right and follow this road for just over half a mile to the T-junction near Waingap before tuning right along the road for 700 yards to a rough track on your left. Turn left along this track and very soon it peters out into a faint path towards a small plantation. Pass to the left of the trees and follow a path across fields and a small stream towards Crag House Farm.
From Crag House Farm the way crosses more fields to join a road near Outrun Nook. Turn right along the road for a short way before turning left along a track leading to Hag End. The path now becomes indistinct again as it crosses Grandsire and past a small tarn to join a track. After following this track for 200 yards turn left and follow another track to the B5284 road. After following this road for 200 yards the way turns right along a track towards Cleabarrow. The way keeps to the left of a house and then crosses more fields, woodland and a minor road next to Matson Ground Farm. Going straight across the road the way keeps to the fields next to the farm. On crossing the second track the way joins a small footpath. After crossing a further track the way descends through areas of scattered trees to reach the outskirts of Bowness on Brantfell Road. This road can be followed down to the town centre.
After walking through such lonely countryside for most of the route the entry into Bowness comes as somewhat of a culture shock. Although Bowness is a very beautiful little town it unfortunately gets filled by tourists for most of the year and it is unlikely that you will either receive any congratulations; or feel comfortable in such company. If you have time to spare some of the best countryside in England is within easy reach and most of it is not visited by tourists. Disappear, relax and enjoy yourself. You've earned it.