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Hiking A Dales High Way in winter

Adventurer Nic

Hiking A Dales High Way in winter

Hiking Collection by Adventurer Nic



32:46 h

88.2 mi

12,550 ft

When the clocks go back and the dark nights close in, the easy option is to retreat inside. A hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire feels so good when a cold wind blows outside the window and the outdoors can seem inhospitable and uninviting.

However, I wanted to show that multi-day adventures don’t have to stop once the cold season begins, so I challenged myself to walk the 90-mile (145 km) Dales High Way in winter. Journeying from Saltaire in West Yorkshire to Appleby-in-Westmorland in Cumbria and entailing well over 10,000 feet (3,000 m) of ascent, I didn't expect it would be easy but I supposed that walking between 16 and 20 miles (26 and 32 km) per day would certainly help keep my feet warm!

In spite of planning for a snowy trudge across the Yorkshire Dales National Park, inadvertently I actually selected a very mild and somewhat damp week to complete the walk. I’d imagined crunching through frosty fallen leaves, but this was replaced by pure mud-fest conditions. The weather is the one thing we can never control on adventures!

We began by getting the train along the famous Carlisle-Settle Railway, one of the most scenic train journeys in the UK. It’s home to Dent Station, which sits at 1,150 feet (350 m) above sea level, the highest station on a main line in England. The section through Ribblesdale and across the Ribblehead Viaduct is arguably the most spectacular part of the journey and we’d be back there on foot in a few days’ time.

The walk started in the Victorian model village of Saltaire near Bradford, which was built in 1851 by Sir Titus Salt, a key player in Yorkshire's textile industry.

Some of my most treasured highlights along the way included Sharp Haw, a conspicuous summit on the moors above Skipton; Malham, one of the Dales’ most beloved villages and home to the stunning Malham Cove; the picturesque section of trail between Pot Scar and Smearsett Scar; Ingleborough, an icon of the region and one of the Yorkshire Three Peaks; and the Howgill Fells, a rolling range of hills once described by the legendary Alfred Wainwright as looking like a herd of sleeping elephants.

The walk ended in Appleby-in-Westmorland in Cumbria, a market town in the Eden Valley that’s famous for its annual Horse Fair — the largest of its kind in the world.

I found the walk tough. Our long days meant we had at least one or two hours of night hiking by the light of our head torches during each stage. This required much more concentration and care than walking during the day. Our tired feet and weary muscles were pleased to see the bath when we got home, and despite our fatigue we were planning the next hike within 24 hours of this one finishing. All in all, an epic pre-Christmas adventure!

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A Dales High Way

90.1 mi

12,200 ft

11,950 ft

Last updated: November 24, 2022


  • Day 1: Saltaire to Skipton — A Dales High Way in winter

    17.7 mi
    2.7 mph
    2,200 ft
    2,375 ft

    A wet start to the Dales High Way trail! We started in Saltaire, passing Salts Mill, an old textile mill that I must have visited over ten times during my late teens and early twenties. The mill houses internationally renowned local artist David Hockney's amazing work.


    From here we rose up through Shipley

    by Adventurer Nic

  • 07:14
    19.5 mi
    2.7 mph
    3,250 ft
    2,875 ft

    On day two we walked from Skipton to Settle, officially entering the Yorkshire Dales National Park. We were wondering why everywhere around here has to begin with 'S'? 🤣We stayed in Shipley the night before the hike, started from Saltaire, stayed in Skipton then Settle!


    Walking in winter is TOUGH! We

    by Adventurer Nic

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  • 06:25
    17.3 mi
    2.7 mph
    2,825 ft
    2,325 ft

    On day three we ventured from Settle to Ribblehead. We set out at first light and followed the River Ribble out of Settle and on to the village of Wharfe. Then came the ascent to the highest point of the whole trek, Ingleborough at 2,372 feet (724 m).


    It was windy on top with treacherous ice patches coating

    by Adventurer Nic

  • We started walking just after 6am and made it down to Dent for just after 7.30am, where we devoured freshly made sausage rolls from the local shop!


    From Dent we walked up and over to Sedbergh where we had lunch. The pumpkin soup went down a treat! It was from that point that the strong winds and rain

    by Adventurer Nic

  • On day five we set off from Bowderdale at 6am bound for the finish line at Appleby. There were a couple of small ascents to tackle, as the route rose up beside Rayseat and Grange Scar. Muddy farmers’ fields also tried to slow us down but after a couple of rest stops at Great Asby and Hoff we made it

    by Adventurer Nic

  • Victoria Hall

    Hiking Highlight

    Victoria Hall originally opened in the 1870s. The grand building is now used for weddings, events and hosts choirs, dancing and sports too. It also houses a 1930s Wurlitzer! Four impressive lion statues guard the square in front of the building. This is considered the start point of A Dales High Way, a long-distance walking trail between Saltaire and Appleby-in-Westmorland.

    Tip by Adventurer Nic

  • The Twelve Apostles is a beautiful stone circle in an atmospheric setting on Ilkley Moor. The stone circle dates to the Bronze Age (3000-1200 BC) and would have served a ceremonial purpose. As with many similar stone circles, there is usually a gathering here on the Summer Solstice.

    Tip by Dan Hobson

  • White Wells

    Hiking Highlight

    This spa bath, believed to have been built around 1700, was a key part of Ilkley's establishment as a desirable spa town. Today, visitors can still take a dip in the plunge bath, though they'll need to supply their own bathing costumes. Hikers are more likely to make use of the cafe and toilets here. Amongst the many visitors to White Wells, Charles Darwin is perhaps the most notable. He 'took the waters' here in 1859.

    Tip by Alex Foxfield

  • Sharp Haw

    Hiking Highlight

    Sharp Haw is a 1,171-foot (357 m) hill that sits along the Dales High Way long-distance hiking trail through the Yorkshire Dales. The hill just sneaks into the southernmost part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. There is a well placed bench just below the summit where you can enjoy the views.

    Tip by Adventurer Nic

  • Malham Cove

    Hiking Highlight

    Most people walk from Malham village up to the Cove using the road ways. There's actually an alternative route up past the pub, which takes you higher up. I find this is better for photos of the Cove. Once you're up on the top, after a break on the steps, don't miss out on the Malham Tarn further along. It's only an extra 10-15 minute walk and worth a visit, especially during the summer months.

    Tip by Tom

  • Settle

    Hiking Highlight

    Picturesque Settle is archetypal of the Yorkshire Dales. Use it as a base for adventures in spectacular Ribblesdale or head east for the limestone wonders found in Malhamdale. It is famed for bookending the Carlisle to Settle railway, one of the most beautiful train journeys in Europe.

    Tip by Alex Foxfield

  • This is one of many Weather Forecasting Stones that can be found all over the world! This one reads:

    Stone is Wet = Raining
    Stone is Dry = Not Raining
    Shadow on Ground = Sunny
    White On Top = Snowing
    Can't See Stone = Foggy
    Swinging Stone = Windy
    Spinning Stone = Whirlwind
    Stone Jumping About = Earthquake
    Stone Gone = Tornado

    Others I've seen in the past include funny versions like -
    If the rock can be felt but not seen, it is night time.
    If the rock has white splats on it, watch out for birds.
    If there are two rocks, stop drinking, you are drunk.

    Tip by Adventurer Nic

  • Stainforth Force

    Hiking Highlight

    Stainforth Force is a wonderful waterfall on the River Ribble in one of the Dales' most popular beauty spots. While it can get busy during peak times (bank holidays, sunny weekends, etc) at other times of the year you often have it all to yourself. If you happen to be here during autumn, look out for salmon leaping up the falls on their way to their spawning grounds.

    Tip by Dan Hobson

  • This was one of my favourite sections of trail along the Dales High Way. The trail passes to the south of Pot Scar and Smearsett Scar, at 1,191 feet (363 m), and with the morning light glinting off the crags and crisp morning frost underfoot, this was a brilliant section of trail to walk in winter. Yorkshire Dales at its finest!

    Tip by Adventurer Nic

  • Ingleborough

    Hiking Highlight

    The Ingleborough summit richly rewards all those who conquer it with a magnificent panoramic view of Whernside, Pen-y-Ghent, Pendle Hill, out into Morecambe Bay and over to the Lakeland hills. It is, quite simply, glorious. At 2,372 feet (723 m) high, Ingleborough is the second-highest mountain in the Yorkshire Dales and is usually the final summit climbed on the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge route.

    Tip by Dan Hobson

  • The Calf

    Hiking Highlight

    The highest of the Howgill Fells, The Calf sits in both the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the county of Cumbria. It’s a green, flat-topped hill, whose best ascent follows Cautley Holme Beck past the 650-foot (198 m) Cautley Spout waterfall to finish with a panorama that includes the Yorkshire Three Peaks and many miles of Lake District skyline.

    Tip by Trail Magazine

  • With origins in the 12th century, St Lawrence's Church in Appleby is a marvellous building. The organ is of particular note. A gift from Carlisle Cathedral in 1683, it is the oldest working English organ in the country.

    It was one of many churches and castles restored by Lady Anne Clifford during the 17th century. Her coffin can be found here, along with a memorial.

    Tip by Alex Foxfield

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
  • Highlights
  • Distance
    88.2 mi
  • Duration
    32:46 h
  • Elevation
    12,550 ft

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