Dales Way

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Dales Way
Kettlewell lies on the trail
Length 80 miles (130 km)
Location Northern England
Trailheads Ilkley, Yorkshire
Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria
Use Hiking
Highest point Cam Houses, 490 m (1,610 ft)

The Dales Way is an 80-mile (130 km) long-distance footpath in Northern England,[1] from (south-east to north-west) Ilkley, West Yorkshire, to Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria. This walk was initially devised by the West Riding Ramblers' Association with the 'leading lights' being Colin Speakman and Tom Wilcock (Foootpath Secretary).[2] The route was announced to the public in 1968 and the first recorded crossing was by a group of Bradford Grammar School Venture Scouts in 1969.

The Dales Way passes through two National Parks: the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Lake District National Park. The first half of the walk follows the River Wharfe upstream to the main watershed of Northern England at Ribblehead.[3] The second half follows several river valleys (Dentdale, River Mint, River Kent) to descend to the shores of Windermere.


The walk is shorter and less strenuous than more well-known routes such as the Pennine Way and Coast to Coast Walk, being mostly along river valleys. It thus makes a good introductory training ground for these "serious" walks while being well worth doing in its own right. The section from upper Wharfedale (Langstrothdale) over the watershed at Cam Houses and down into Ribblesdale is steep (going up and down).

It is feasible (for those more interested in a challenge than the enjoyment of the walk) to complete the walk the route in around four days, but most walkers take about a week, dividing the route into sections of 10 to 15 miles per day and taking a "rest day" or two.

Planning an itinerary is generally easy. Public transport (including Windermere "steamers") is good at both ends of the route (railway stations at Ilkley and Windermere). The popularity of the walk (and the area generally) means that there are many choices of accommodation – for instance, nearly all pubs along the route offer bed and breakfast.

Notable places

A meander on the River Wharfe between Kettlewell and Starbotton.

The largest settlements on the route are Ilkley and Bowness-on-Windermere at either end, and the small town of Sedbergh in Dentdale. The town of Kendal (larger than the other places mentioned) is not far from the route.

Another notable place is the stone village of Dent, with very little modern housing. Along Wharfedale, the route passes through the villages of Grassington and Kettlewell.

Connecting trails

Just before it reaches the end at Bowness-on-Windermere the route connects with the Windermere Way. From its initial conception the Dales Way was planned with links routes to three urban centres in the West Riding of Yorkshire; Harrogate, Leeds and Bradford. Details of connecting trails may be found on the Dales Way page of the Long Distance Walkers' Association website.


Less experienced walkers should take care when planning the central section (over the watershed). This section has, of course, the greatest ascent and descent, and is rather remote for anyone who finds themselves in difficulties. The less-fit walker needs to arrange accommodation in order to make this section as short as possible. This will almost certainly involve at least one night in a remote farmhouse or pub, because the novice will probably find that the climbing involved will make the walk from Kettlewell or Buckden to Dentdale much too long a day. This is not too difficult to arrange as there are pubs at Hubberholme and Ribblehead, and farmhouse/bunkhouse accommodation in Langstrothdale and (on top of the watershed) at Cam Houses.

For much of its length the Dales Way follows riverside paths in upland areas. Paths may become flooded and impassable and alternative routes may need to be followed. The Dales Way Association[4] maintains up-to-date information on flooding and other hazards on its website and publishes suggested route alternatives.


  1. ^ "The Dales Way". www.dalesway.org. Retrieved 25 August 2018.
  2. ^ Speakman, Colin (1970). The Dales Way. Clapham, Yorkshire: Dalesman Publishing.
  3. ^ Plowright, A. (1998). A Glimpse of Yorkshire. Moorfield Press. pp. 73–82. ISBN 0 9530 11 92 5.
  4. ^ "The Dales Way". The Dales Way Association. Retrieved 17 January 2016.

External links

  • Dales Way Association
  • The Long Distance Walkers' Association
  • Dales Way 2005 Journal from kevanliz
  • Walking Englishman

Coordinates: 53°55′44″N 1°49′57″W / 53.9289°N 1.8324°W / 53.9289; -1.8324

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