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A walk along the Dales Way

Winter is the perfect time for planning our vacations as well as reminiscing on past travels. Helen Moriarty from Janet Redler Travel & Tourism has written a blog about her very enjoyable walking tour along the Dales Way in northern England last summer - despite the rain!

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I'm not sure how this happened, but I accepted a challenge to walk 80 miles (128km) along the Dales Way from Ilkley in Yorkshire to Bowness-on-Windermere in the Lake District. With the time restraints we were working to, we only had five days to do it in, so on a wet June morning we set off from Ilkley along the Wharfe Valley with one (very) well behaved black labrador called Jess.

We delayed our start because it was so wet, but by the time we got to Bolton Abbey it had started to clear, so we were able to fully appreciate the 12th century Augustinian Priory. In part the priory is ruined, adding to the atmospheric setting beside the River Wharfe.

On we went following the Wharfe closely, crossing back and forth and passing a section called 'The Strid' where the river is forced through a narrow rocky gorge. Some fool-hardy folk attempt to jump across! Our first night was at Grassington in Wharfedale and we were greeted by flags and bunting - not for our arrival but due to the music and arts festival which was taking place. Well-known celebrity Jools Holland was performing the night we stayed, but needless to say it was sold out - and we were too tired anyway.

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Another wet day followed, but our spirits were raised by the wonderful calls of the curlew and the “peewits” or lapwing. We had a welcome break at The George Inn in Hubberholme, complete with a log fire to sit beside and dry off. We also had the chance to visit the parish church of St. Michael and All Angels, where we admired the oak pews carved by Kilburn's Robert Thompson, with his trademark mice carvings. The churchyard is the last resting place of the writer J B Priestley, best known for his play An Inspector Calls, who described the village as "the smallest pleasantest place".

We continued our journey in the rain reaching our farm accommodation for the night, which was a self catering unit in a converted barn complex. With our pre-ordered fish pie ready to cook and our bottle of wine we were set for the night. Plenty of hot water for showers and cosy accommodation - ideal for drying wet things! Just perfect.

Day three saw some improvement in the weather, so we set off promptly for our trek to Sedburgh. Passing through a wild and open landscape, we reached the highest point of the Dales Way at Cam Houses (490m or 1600ft), with views of the three highest Yorkshire peaks (Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside, and Ingleborough). As we descended we had great views of the Ribblehead Viaduct which carries the Settle to Carlisle railway across Batty Moss. 400 metres (1300ft) long with 24 arches, it creates a spectacular photo stop amongst the high Yorkshire peaks.

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Our route took us under the viaduct then out of the Ribble Valley towards Dent Dale, where we had a great coffee stop in Cow Dub! Following the River Dee, we chatted with three American ladies (sisters, aged 60 to 75) also walking the Dales Way. Though wet underfoot in places, the landscape took on a softer and easier appearance. We took time to look around Dent before leaving the valley and crossing a spur via a delightful ancient walled track. We entered the pretty hamlet of Millthrop and then crossed over the Rawthay into Sedbergh.

The next day we left the Dales, walking through the rolling countryside which contains the main north-south west coast transport links, before entering the Lake District landscape.

After an overnight stop, we passed through peaceful, but very pretty, foothills before catching our first glimpse of the majestic lake at Windermere. This welcome sight gave us a satisfactory sense of achievement, though I think we were both a little hesitant about the return to the hustle and bustle of modern life after our five day sojourn in a quieter and more peaceful world.

If you or your group would like to enjoy a walk along the Dales Way as part of a tailor-made walking tour in the UK, then please do contact our friendly team.

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