This year (2019) is the 50th anniversary of the Dales Way as a long distance footpath. Originally established as an 80 mile walk by Colin Speakman, the route runs from Ilkley in Yorkshire through to Bowness on Windermere in Cumbria.
Taking part in the Dales Way Challenge organised by Punk Panther events I completed the route in the reverse direction starting in Bowness and ending in Ilkley. The challenge was to complete the whole route in 36 hours starting at 8.30am on Saturday 17th August 2019.
I needed to carry my kit for the event which included full waterproofs, spare layers, spare socks, buff, gloves, my food and drinks, headtorch and maps for the route. I used my Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20, with an OMM front pouch.
The start, or finish if you are going in the other direction, is marked by a stone bench showing you just how many miles there are to go!
After 24 hours of heavy rain just before the start of the event the route was very wet underfoot. Although I was wearing waterproof boots (Hoka Tor Speed) within the first mile I had to wade through a section of flooded path where the water was half way up my shins.
The higher sections were better and typical of lakeland trails through low fell and farmland. However my feet were to get properly dunked another couple of times before Burneside at points where the river had burst it’s banks.
After visiting the checkpoint to top up my water bottles and wring out my socks I put them back on and continued across rolling farmland. The path crossed both the West Coast main railway and the M6 Motorway to reach the viaduct and disused railway line at Beck Foot. Checkpoint 2 was located here and I changed my wet socks for a pair of lovely clean dry ones (they didn’t stay this way for long!)
Initially the route passes under the viaduct and then further on crosses over the disused line before descending to follow the River Lune and then River Rawthey to take you just south of the town of Sedburgh. It was at this point I met a lady walking her dog who told me that from that point the Dales way went on up the hill and through Pepperpot wood. As I reached the top of the hill I found out where the name came from.
There are various stories about the Akay Estate and why the Pepperpot house was originally built. I felt for the poor cow that apparently got stuck inside after the building fell derelict and it managed to get in and climb the spiral stairs!
After a quick climb over Frostrow fells, the route then follows the River Dee into the village of Dent. There is a small campsite here right alongside the route. A short detour off the route took me to checkpoint 3 where I took time to get my feet sorted as a few blisters were beginning to appear.
Between Dent and Cowgill the route passes through farmland and woodland areas before getting to a long road section. This road section takes you from Cowgill, past the Dent Head viaduct and up onto Blea Moor.
By now it had become dark and so I had my headtorch on and began following the route on my handheld GPS device rather than the paper maps that I had been using up to now. Turning off the road on Blea Moor the route goes firstly along a track and then onto boggy moorland. A quick stop at the Gearstones checkpoint provided me with hot food and more clean socks from my drop bag. The Roman Cam road gave a brief respite from the wet ground before further moorland over Oughtershaw Moss. I managed to loose the path for a while here and was glad to eventually pick up the track again at Swarthgill.
From here another long track and then road section takes the route back to the river, this time the River Wharfe which you follow all the way through the villages of Hubberholme, Buckden, Starbotton and Kettlewell.
After Kettlewell the Dales Way takes a higher and interesting route across the limestone scars above Conistone, before eventually descending into the pretty village of Grassington. Here Lindley was able to retape my feet which were now becoming increasingly painful. After enjoying a bacon roll from the local Spar shop and a coffee from the race checkpoint and more dry socks, I continued through Wharfedale, crossing the river over a nice bouncy suspension bridge.
The route then continues along the River Wharfe all the way to the Bolton Abbey estate. Luckily I arrived there during the day and the toilets were open along with the cafe. The race checkpoint was just past here so I got a quick drink of coke and then continued.
The estate itself was quite busy with families enjoying the sunshine and paddling in the river. The path follows the ‘welly walk’ for families through the rest of the estate before passing the ruins of the Bolton Priory and then across fields to Bolton Bridge.
A short but busy road section follows before you find yourself back along side the River Wharfe.
This picturesque riverside path takes you all the way to the village of Addingham and then into Ilkley and the finish of the route.