The Dales Way is an enchanting hike through the heart of the Yorkshire Dales to the foothills of the Lake District.
Following tranquil riverside paths for the most part, the trail explores a landscape of picturesque farmland interspersed with crumbling dry-stone walls, rugged moorland, lonely fells, idyllic valleys, and sleepy villages steeped in history.
From Ilkley, West Yorkshire, the Way runs for 80 miles (129 kilometers) to Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria, to finish on the banks of England’s most magnificent lake.
Along the way, you pass some iconic sights including the awe-inspiring 12th century ruins of Bolton Abbey, the gushing waters of The Strid ravine, the atmospheric Yockenthwaite Stone Circle, as well as many impressive Victorian viaducts and old buildings.
The walking is generally quite leisurely along the Dales Way. Whilst there are hills, they are gentle and yet reward you with breathtaking views. The trail is well-maintained and well-signposted, too.
Due to how remote some sections of the Way are, accommodation options and places to eat and drink are not always abundant. Whilst every stage in this Collection finishes close to accommodation, even if there are only a few options nearby, it is worth planning in advance and scheduling any rest days accordingly.
The most common way to walk the Dales Way is from southeast to northwest, as per this Collection. Whilst there is nothing to stop you from completing it the other way, starting from Ilkley, just outside the national park, and finishing with spectacular views over Lake Windermere, in the heart of the Lake District, is widely considered to be the best option.
In this Collection, we split the route into five stages. Of course, you can split up each stage into as many days as you are comfortable with. You can also walk any single stage, or a couple of stages, in isolation.
If you are planning to arrive by public transport, you can catch a train to Ilkley railway station, typically with a change in Leeds or York, depending where you are coming from. It is then a 10 minute walk from the station to the start of the trail.
To get home, you can catch the 6, 599, or 755 bus services (or walk for 30 minutes) from Bowness Pier to Windermere railway station, which has connecting services around Britain, typically via Lancaster or Oxenholme.
If you are planning to arrive by car, your best bet is to negotiate with a hotel or B&B a rate to stay for a night either side of your hike in Ilkley. Alternatively, you could find long stay parking in Leeds, which has good transport links with the start and finish.
Getting from Bowness to Ilkley via public transport is some undertaking. You would need to follow the steps above to get to Windermere, which has trains to Ilkely, typically with changes in Leeds or Manchester.
For more information about the Dales Way, visit: dalesway.org.
For the 6 bus service, visit: stagecoachbus.com/routes/cumbria-and-north-lancashire/6/windermere-barrow/xnbo006.o.
For the 599 bus service, visit: stagecoachbus.com/routes/cumbria-and-north-lancashire/599/grasmere-bowness-on-windermere/xnao599.i.
For the 755 bus service, visit: bustimes.org/services/755-heyshammorecambe-bowness-on-windermere.
For train timetables and tickets, visit: thetrainline.com.
This highlight-filled hike makes for a magical introduction to the Dales Way.
The trail follows the River Wharfe through gentle farmland for the entire stage; affording level and leisurely walking throughout.
At the village of Addingham, you pass St Peter’s Church, a 15th-century rebuild of a Norman church.
You continue along the river and soon arrive at the atmospheric ruins of Bolton Abbey, a 12th-century Augustinian monastery in a peaceful location.
You skip over the stepping stones by the abbey and continue along the river into Strid Wood and past the gushing waters of The Strid.
At Hebden Hippings you cross the Wharfe via the quirky Hebden Suspension Bridge and continue to Linton Falls, which makes a fitting finish.
From there it is only a short step to Grassington, which has a wide range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.
With wild scenery and sweeping views over the Dales, this is a spellbinding stage with lots of interest.
From Grassington, you begin the first real ascent on the Way as it climbs over Hill Castles Scar, Conistone Pie, and Swineber Scar.
As you hike along this rugged upland section, you are afforded wonderful views over the rolling countryside below.
At High Pasture, the trail drops into Kettlewell and rejoins the River Wharfe. You then follow the course of the river upstream for the rest of the stage
After Yockenthwaite, you soon arrive at Yockenthwaite Stone Circle. Whilst there is some debate as to whether this is a stone circle or the remains of a cairn, it is an atmospheric place nonetheless on the banks of the fledgling River Wharfe.
The trail continues past Deepdale and Beckermonds and onto Oughtershaw, where this stage finishes.
Oughtershaw is a small hamlet in a remote part of the Dales. As such, accommodation is quite limited and places for food and drink are few and far between. However, there are a few accommodation options nearby.
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Rugged and empty moorland is intersected with magnificent Victorian viaducts along this stage.
From Oughtershaw, you follow the brook for a short time and then climb gradually through the remote landscape.
You continue climbing to the highest point of the Dales Way at Cam Houses. You then follow an old Roman road, which affords fine views. When the trail descends you get a view of the iconic Ribblehead Viaduct in the distance.
The trail heads back onto the moors again. When you do eventually descend, there is a fairly lengthy section on the road. However, it is a relatively quiet lane and it takes you right underneath Dent Head Viaduct.
Built for the Midland Railway Company between 1869-76, Dent Head Viaduct is an impressive 10-arch bridge that is 100 feet (30 meters) high and 597 feet (182 meters) long.
If you enjoy the viaducts, it is worth a brief detour to see Arten Gill Viaduct when you reach Stone House. This will add 15-20 minutes to the hike.
The trail then roughly follows the course of the River Dee to Dent, where this stage finishes.
Dent has some accommodation options, places for food and drink, and a shop.
This challenging hike has more mileage and ascent than any other stage of the Way and will really test your mettle.
The reason for the lengthy hike is because this area is very remote; places to stay are few and far between, as are shops and other conveniences.
Make sure you have food and water and be sure to bring change for the honesty boxes that locals have set-up.
From Dent, the trail passes St Andrew's, a pretty 12th-century church, and continues through the patchwork landscape.
You cross the River Rawthey via the 17th-century Millthrop Bridge near Sedbergh. You follow the river to Briggflatts and then pick up the River Lune.
You cross the river via the Crook of Lune Bridge and then pass Lowgill Viaduct, which dates to 1859 and is Grade II-listed.
You cross over the busy M6 motorway a short time later and then continue through isolated farmland until Burneside, where this stage finishes.
There is not very much in Burneside, but you will find some options for accommodation and places to eat and drink.
NOTE: If this hike is too long, the only option is to finish the stage prior in Sedbergh, the last place with accommodation before Burneside. If you choose this option, you might want to tweak the overall itinerary.
The final stage of the Dales Way is a short yet rewarding hike that takes you to the glorious banks of Lake Windermere.
From Burneside, the trail climbs gradually through farmland; following the course of the River Kent to Stavely.
You continue through the gentle patchwork landscape to Brantfell Farm, at which point it is well worth making a detour to the summit of Brant Fell for spectacular views over Windermere, one of the Lake District’s most beautiful lakes.
You then descend to the town of Bowness-on-Windermere to conclude this hike, and the Dales Way, at Bowness Bay.
Bowness has a good range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.