The Dales Way


  • Hiking Through the Yorkshire Dales
  • An 84 mile walk crossing the Pennines from Ilkley to Windermere
  • Walking Through Beautiful Wharfedale and Dentdale to the Lake District
  • Stay in Inns and Farmhouses Dating from the 16th and 17th Centuries

Tour description provided by World Expeditions

Welcome to the beautiful Yorkshire Dales, the purest form of English highland landscape, with traditions and views, which have remained virtually untouched for centuries. Soft rolling hills, limestone edges, green valleys, waterfalls, a Roman road, several interesting old churches, an abbey and some lovely Real Ale pubs all feature here as well as the villages proud of their heritage. This tour includes the whole 84 mile length of this much loved long distance path, established in 1968, which runs right across the Yorkshire Dales National Park to the Lake District. Gradients and terrain are generally straight forward, but the going may be muddy underfoot in wet weather; there are some high moorland areas to cross. Much of the trail follows pretty river valleys especially The Wharfe, Dee, Rawthey, Lune and The Kent. All have beauty spots for shady picnics, small ravines and rapids and are patrolled by birds such as Berwick swans, kingfishers, dippers and wagtails. Brown trout lurk in their waters depths. There are also a large number of “stiles” and “kissing gates” to negotiate as you stroll across fields, so good mobility is important. The itinerary follows Wharfedale (where there is time to admire the ruins of Bolton Abbey) and then via Hubberholme, gradually gaining height upstream to reach the Pennine watershed at Cam Fell (1700 feet). The way then runs down Dentdale to the market town of Sedbergh and across sheep pastures to Bowness on Windermere.

What's included

  • 7 breakfasts
  • 7 nights accommodation in hotels and guesthouses on a twin share basis with ensuite facilities where available
  • One piece of luggage per person transferred from inn to inn, not exceeding 20kg
  • Information pack including route notes & maps
  • Emergency hotline


Day 1 Ilkley
Travel to starting point. Optional walk to Cow and Calf rocks and Ilkley Moor. Here you can find the ‘White Well’ a tiny Victorian spa, not much bigger than a luxury sized bath, popular in the days when people with pneumonia were encouraged to bathe in icy cold waters. If the flag is flying, a small teashop is also open here (2.5 hr round trip). Or, if you are feeling a little more sedentary have a look around this attractive country town with its range of specialist local family shops and cafes, there is a branch (or tea leaf) of Betty’s Tea Rooms here. There is a small history museum and next to it, All Saints Church, which is built on the site of a Roman fort, contains some Anglo-Saxon crosses dating back to the 9th century. Accommodation: We stay overnight at a Victorian riverside hotel. All facilities are en suite, and rooms come equipped with satellite TV. This is a pub hotel and does great food throughout the day and there is a separate restaurant area away from the bar. The picturesque setting, with river views and rowing in the summer months, make this an ideal place to start our tour.
Day 2 Ilkley to Burnsall 13.5 miles/6 hours
Lower Wharfedale and Bolton Abbey. This promises to be a very beautiful walk tracing the side of the River Wharfe. Undoubtedly, the well-preserved remains of the abbey are a popular spot especially on a weekend, but the spot is beautiful and a nice place to take your picnic. To continue, you can cross to the other side of the Wharfe either by the bridge or by a long sequence of stepping stones, one of which has the motion of a rocking horse while you are halfway across...try it whilst eating a dairy ice cream often sold locally. The route continues through the Duke of Devonshire’s estate and into beautiful Strid Woods, with a little gorge area - The Strid where the Wharfe narrows to a point that it has a cheese- wire effect on the rocks incising a little gorge. From here the landscape opens up again as we head past the substantial structure of Barden Bridge. Thirsty people with a sensitivity for architecture, might like to take mile or so detour to the pretty village of Appletreewick which has an interesting ensemble of local stone houses as well as two nice pubs. Don’t drink too much, or you may end up in the local stocks! Watch out too for the weather stone, which can tell you the weather in any weather! You finally arrive at substantial Burnsall bridge, where you conclude in this pretty village with a superb pub called the Red Lion for your evening meal. There are a couple of interesting churches including St. Wilfrid’s from the 1400s. (13.5 miles / 21.5 km, 6 hours). Accommodation: Our B&B tonight offers a warm welcome.
Day 3 Burnsall to Buckden 14 miles/6.5 hours
Today is an upland and lowland day. Firstly follow the Wharfe past attractive Linton to the market town of Grassington, with is cobbled streets and teashops. The route then leaves the river to start heading across drystone wall fringed upland fields. If you have forgotten your lunch, you can try to take a mouthful of Conistone Pie, a limestone hill feature which looks like a pie! There are great views over rocky scars, over dales and limestone pavements, before descending to reacquaint oneself with the river as you reach the old lead mining village of Kettlewell with 3 pretty looking pubs, this was the setting for the film ‘Calendar Girls’ filmed in 2003. Rejoining the river, thread your way through sheepy fields to Buckden an even smaller village. Rest on the green before the last mile and a half off the official route over the hill to Cray, a tiny hamlet. Cross a handful of stepping stones over Grey Beck to gain the cosy Inn where you are normally staying. Quiet and pretty dales scenery abounds. (15 miles / 24km, 7 hours). Accommodation: Your Inn tonight offers good ale and good and all rooms are ensuite.
Day 4 Buckden to Cowgill and Dentdale 18.5 miles/7 hours
Today is the hardest walk. You follow the Wharfe towards its upper youthful sections, the water spilling off limestone terraces and small waterfalls, we first pass Hubberholme with its attractive church and torrents, at Yockenthwaite try to find the tiny stone circle. Further up at Beckermonds, you are at the source of the Wharfe from two small becks or streams. Say goodbye to the infant river here, we climb stiffly up and out of Wharfedale over Cam Fell. The farmland here can be boggy! A steep ascent from Cam houses, the last farm in the Dale, brings us to a broad track and the highest point of the walk 1710ft / 521m, then start descending along what was once a Roman road, cutting across the Pennine Way Footpath and down into Dentdale. Views hopefully of the Yorkshire three peaks; Penyghent, Whernside and Ingelborough. Walk down towards Ribblehead and then there is a further moorland section re ascending slightly to cross over to Denthead and then you are confronted with the magnificent viaduct on the Settle to Carlisle Railway, which almost seems to be a natural part of the surroundings. Another mile of steep descent along the pretty River Dee, brings us to our Inn at Cowgill, a quiet pretty place, there are occasional cars, but you are more likely to be awoken by the sound of owls, sheep and the sparkling, splashing river. (17.5 miles / 28 km, 6 hours). Accommodation: A 17th century listed building, offering authentic rustic charm, is our accommodation for the night. All front rooms have river views, and the building has retained much of its original charm, with open fires, oak beams, and a friendly welcome. There is a washbasin; tea/coffee making facilities in all rooms, rooms may have private but separate or shared bathroom facilities. This is a very cozy place with the sound of the River Dee running outside the windows.
Day 5 Cowgill to Sedbergh 11 miles/5 hours
An attractive valleyside and river crossing day through Dentdale to Sedbergh. At the foot of the steep Howgill Fells. The Dee becomes wider and more ‘fluid’ as you go. After about 4 miles there is a welcome diversion offered across the river in the village of Dent, built of grey limestone with cobbled streets and well protected traditionally maintained buildings, this was the birth place of Adam Sedgwick in 1785, an important geology professor who much influenced Charles Darwin later on. There are a couple of welcome tea shops and the George and Dragon pub serves ale crafted by the Dent Brewery only a couple of miles away. St. Andrew’s church has a beautiful interior. Following the river some more, we finally ascend over a slight ridge and down into Garsdale and cross the river Rawthey and up steeply to the small town of Sedbergh at the foot of the wildly undulating Howgill Fells. Sedbergh is famous for its Public school and like Ilkey, has a number of family run shops. There are however, an overwhelming amount of bookshops, as it claims to be England’s book town, worth knowing if you are out of reading material by this stage of the walking tour! (11 miles / 17.5 km, 5 hours). Accommodation: Overnight accommodation is provided at a very comfortable Inn, right on the main street. This offers a superb breakfast and a range of home cooked pub meals are available in the evening. The Inn has a traditional English country town feel to it, offering local beers in the attractively decorated bar and dining area. All rooms have tea and coffee making facilities, a TV and some are ensuite. Sometimes a comfortable cottage owned by the pub, is used for accommodation about 150 metres away from the inn.
Day 6 Sedbergh to Burneside 17 miles/7 hours
Returning to the Rawthey, we follow this attractive river, before joining the River Lune walking past some more viaducts reflecting the glorious Victorian era of engineering. At Crook of Lune you will discover a beautiful parabolic arch bridge, which is probably 500 years old. The view from it towards the Howgill Fells is a beauty. The Way now follows across an undulating landscape of sheep pastureland, with views of the Howgills and also now towards the Lake District. You will reach Black Moss Tarn, a tiny lake tucked into a fold of the meadows, often with swans and geese floating upon it. A good spot for a break before descending, meeting briefly the rivers Mint and Sprint and onwards towards the 14th century Burneside Hall, a Pele tower to protect inhabitants from the Scots and the ‘Border Reivers’ who caused mayhem in this land. Arriving at Burneside, the first realization is that this is an industrial rather than tourist village dominated by a paper mill relying on the waters of the River Kent. The oldest parts of this mill are worth having a look at, with its interesting clock tower. You may be staying at Kendal tonight in which case you will be transferred to this town, which until recently was where Clarkes shoes were manufactured. (17 miles / 27 km 7 hours). Accommodation: The small Inn we stay at Burneside is the centre of the local community home to several cup winning dart teams. The pub has associations going back over a hundred years to the paper mill in the village and there are comfortable ensuite rooms. There is a limited selection of evening meals available. If this is not available you will be transported to Kendal a couple of miles away and to an attractive guest house there and returned in the morning, (no extra charge).
Day 7 Burneside to Bowness 10 miles/4 hours
We follow the attractive River Kent to Staveley passing interesting former mill areas, which in some cases have been creatively redeveloped into housing. The millponds however still remain and often trout can be seen jumping for fly. A few miles bring us into Staveley, an attractive village worth a coffee stop with its interesting bell tower. The walk then becomes increasingly rural and then onto wilder areas. On a good day a short diversion up to School Knott will reveal a great Lakeland panorama including the Coniston Fells, Crinkle Crags and Scafell. Then you descend to wards Lake Windermere, which remains elusive until you finally leave woodland, and descend into Bowness on Windermere, a rather brash tourist town on the lakeside, this expanse of water is England's largest natural lake. (10 miles / 16km, 4 hours). Accommodation: Is a traditional Lakeland stone Victorian terraced house, a couple of minutes walk from Winderemere. IMPORTANT NOTE: Its very difficult to secure a one night booking in Bowness on a Friday/Saturday, so bare this in mind when choosing your start date unless you plan on a two or more night stay here.
Day 8 End of Tour
If you are leaving via Windermere station this is a mile and a half away and will cost around £7 by taxi. There is also a limited local bus service. You could also consider walking the Cumbrian Way.