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The Dales Way

The Dales Way long distance path, while not an official National Trail, is a very popular and well regarded route.

It traces a mainly tree and river lined route from Ilkley in West Yorkshire through many evocative villages and dales of the Yorkshire Dales National Park before reaching Bowness-on-Windermere, in the Lake District National Park.

The Strid
The Strid © Andrew Bowden via Flickr

Due to the gentle, lowland nature of the terrain on the Dales Way long distance path, it's generally regarded as a good beginner's, or family walk, offering a combination of great views and sights with a low-intensity demand on the rambler.

Appletreewick - a Classic Dales linear village.
Appletreewick © Andrew via Flickr

However, it can be very wet in this area and some of the Yorkshire Dales National Park sections are quite exposed, so you should go properly equipped and check the weather forecast before hand.

Hebden Suspension Bridge
Hebden Suspension Bridge © Andrew via Flickr

The entire Dales Way trail is some 80 miles or so in length, but due to its frequent visits to local towns and villages and decent transport links, it lends itself well to the walker looking for a shorter trip.

So, a day trip or weekend away is just as feasible an option as a week long assault on the whole route.

View of Lake Windermere
Lake Windermere © Andrew Bowden via Flickr

That said, while there is waymarking on the route, it's not found throughout and is not always of a great quality. Thus, you should take a good map and compass with you to be sure of your directions.

There are no official sections defined on the Dales Way long distance path, but most people walking the trail tend to split it into sections of between 10 and 15 miles.

The bench at the end of the Dales Way
The End of The Dales Way © Andrew Bowden via Flickr

We have taken some of the more popular waypoints as section endpoints below to give an idea of how the trail develops throughout its length.





The startpoint of the Dales Way long distance path.

Things to do near Ilkley

Ilkley - Burnsall

Length: 13 miles
Total since start: 13 miles

This first section of the Dales Way sees you following the route of the river Wharfe through woods and farmland as you make for the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

You quickly come to the impressive, beautifully set ruins of the 12th Century Bolton Priory. These striking remains are well worth a stop off for an early holiday photo or two.

Save some film though as a few miles further on you come to the Strid - a small, rocky gorge where the river is forced into a fast flowing white water between its faces.

Shortly after you arrive at Burnsall, and the end of this section.

Things to do near Burnsall

Bolton Priory
Bolton Priory © Andrew Bowden via Flickr

Burnsall - Kettlewell

Length: 11 miles
Total since start: 24 miles

Navigation on this section can be tricky in places, so it's worth double checking your route at more ambiguous turning points.

For much of the way you continue along the banks of the Wharfe, passing by various interesting features and villages. You shortly come upon Grassingdon, a picturesque old village with lead mining heritage. There is a mining museum and a National Park Visitors' Centre here, should you wish to take a break from the walking.

After Grassingdon, the path climbs up above the valley and the terrain opens out into a limestone geography with impressive pavement en route. The old lime kiln here highlights the important role the stone has played to the area in years gone by.

Lead mining was also important and there are occasional old lead mine entrances to see and shafts to beware of.

Your descent into Kettlewell marks the end of this section.

Things to do near Kettlewell

Kettlewell - Cam Houses

Length: 14 miles
Total since start: 38 miles

Continuing a waterways theme, the Dales Way makes its way out of Kettlewell following the river through classic dales country towards Buckden, a pretty little village with a variety of local services.

Hubberholme is the next settlement you pass through and it's the last one on the trail to call Wharfedale home.

Langstroth Dale greets you as you leave Hubberholme, and with it comes wilder, more open terrain.

After a series of tiny hamlets and farmsteads you come to Cam Houses and the end of this section. Cam Houses is a remote farmstead and highly regarded Bed and Breakfast. Such is its popularity that you're advised to book in advance.

Things to do near Cam Houses

Cam Houses - Dent

Length: 13 miles
Total since start: 51 miles

A change of scene for the Dales Way in this section as you spend time taking in wide vistas from the Cam High Road, a Roman road shared with The Pennine Way.

The sights on this section include the most impressive Ribblehead Viaduct ferrying the Settle to Carlisle railway across the moors.

As you descend into Dentdale, following the river Dee, you finally come to Dent, your destination on this section and a quaint, atmospheric Dales village seemingly from a bygone time.

Things to do near Dent

Dent - Firbank

Length: 10 miles
Total since start: 61 miles

There's more easy walking and there are more classically Yorkshire Dales views on this section of the Dales Way long distance path.

You follow the Dee once more up out of Dentdale and down through Millthrop on your way to Sedbergh. Sedbergh is a larger market town and many people choose to end this section of the trail here.

However, we press on out of Sedbergh for another four miles to Firbank, a tiny little hamlet with stunning views over the Howgill Fells.

Things to do near Firbank

Millthrop Spedding House- winner of Cumbria in Bloom
Millthrop Spedding House © Andrew Bowden via Flickr

Firbank - Staveley

Length: 15 miles
Total since start: 76 miles

This section sees the Dales Way leave the Yorkshire Dales National Park as it heads across the Eden Valley and into Lake District National Park.

Once you get to the picturesque Crook of Lune Bridge, you may start to glimpse the fells of the Lake District National Park in the distance. However, you must first negotiate arterial transport routes including motor and railway.

Thereafter, you are returned to rolling farmland and enjoyable views as you wend your way through villages and along river banks towards Staveley, a pretty little village in the Vale of Kentmere.

Things to do near Staveley

Staveley - Bowness

Length: 6 miles
Total since start: 82 miles

On this easy, final section of the Dales Way long distance path, you get your first real views of the Lake District mountains.

The route is tricky to follow in places as it weaves through woodland, across fields and along lanes, but you'll know you've got it right when you get your first sight of Lake Windermere from the lookout point on Brant Fell.

The famous Dales Way Bench lies just beyond here, and with it, the end of the Dales Way long distance path.

After posing for photos, most walkers then continue down the trail along Brantfell Road and into Bowness-on-Windermere itself.

Things to do near Bowness-on-Windermere

You can continue reading about other National Trails and Long Distance Walks using the links at the bottom of the page.

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