Dales Way, Ilkley to Bowness

We started our Dales Way walk in a typical manner, wandering around and enjoying Ilkley for several hours before actually setting out. We stopped in the Tourist Office, where the cheerful ladies on duty sang "On Ilkley Moor Baht'at" for us. That was a song that we had sung at Bryn Mawr, so I had been hoping to hear it sung properly. We also spent time at the parish church, appreciating the 8th and 9th century carved stones, as well as the Norman door. A kind volunteer showed us around.

The day had many highlights. We were almost immediately in pleasant farmland, among cows and sheep. In Lob Wood we had our first encounter with a carpet of bluebells, and were overwhelmed. Almost all day we were beside the Wharfe, which was generally wide and calm.


Crossing our first field


Approaching Bolton Priory

We wandered around Bolton Priory, but couldn't cross on the stepping stones, which were under water. We crossed instead on a bridge, the first of many crossings of the Wharfe.

    Bolton Priory    

We had sandwiches at the Cavendish Pavilion (after crossing back again to the right bank), and then walked through Strid Wood, a nature preserve. We weren't tempted in the slightest to jump across the river at "the Strid", a pair of boulders which the the river is forced between. The river is very swift and the people who try to jump and don't succeed are no longer with us! The woods, however, are quite pleasant. We didn't manage to spot any of the birds which were pictured on the information panel, but that's not unusual for us!

We crossed back on a "castellated" footbridge, apparently made that way for the appreciation of residents of Barden Tower, which was in sight farther upstream. More pleasant walking brought us to Burnsall. Its parish church dates from the 14th century. Next door to the church is a grammar school, built in the Elizabethan era.


Burnsall Bridge


Burnsall Parish Church and School

After Burnsall we were on the right bank again, up above the now faster river as it passed Loup Scar. Soon we came to the bouncy suspension bridge, so narrow that Penny's wide pack barely made it! The stretch of path through the meadows from here to Grassington seemed especially pleasant to us. There were big horse chestnut trees and sheep and a calm river -- it was all so beautiful!


Suspension Bridge


By the Wharfe

We loved Grassington. We went to lots of shops, as well as the National Park Visitor Center. The town was full of people, and it all seemed very cheerful. The route from Grassington to Kettlewell is away from the river, for a change. It goes through some wonderful "limestone pavement" sections, and passes a large lime kiln.




Limestone pavement


Lime kiln

We passed Conistone Pie, a natural limestone formation that looks from far off like a tower. From the top there were distant views of valleys and hills and villages, as well as closer views of the river and the drystone walls and Kilnsey Crag with its inevitable rock climbers. Then a few miles further the path sent us back down, through a woods. We stopped to chat with a fellow repairing a dry stone wall, and he told how incredibly slow and difficult the job is. We were soon walking down the green lane into Kettlewell.


Back toward Conistone Pie


From Conistone Pie


Green Lane into Kettlewell

Since we were all three freezing (it was cold and very windy), we stopped for hot soup in a little tea shop. The fire in the fireplace was most welcome. Then the next stretch, to Buckden, was again wonderful. We heard the birds singing and the sheep and lambs bleating, and the path meandered between the fields and the river. On, then, to Hubberholme. We stood on the bridge for a long time, looking at the birds. All guide books seem to be constantly talking about dippers, and we hadn't seen any. A fellow standing on the bridge said that there had been one there, and said (of course) "You can't miss it." Well, we missed it, even after trying hard!

Not much farther along, after a few more fields and meadows, we came to Yockenthwaite. It seems to consist of a farm, a bridge, and a prehistoric stone circle. The stone circle is quite complete, about 30 feet in diameter.


Near Yockenthwaite Farm


Yockenthwaite Bridge


Yockenthwaite Stone Circle

By now the Wharfe had shrunk considerably, and the valley was now called Langstrothdale rather than Wharfedale. The path, after crossing the river yet again, goes on a track beside the river, up to the little hamlet of Beckermonds. Here we turned up a little road through Oughtershaw before crossing fields to Cam Houses. Just before leaving the river (now called Oughtershaw Beck) for the last time, we stopped for a picnic on warm, flat big rocks in the middle. It was so pleasant and comfortable, we even stretched out for naps! After we roused ourselves we walked on, through the farms of Swarthgill and Nethergill. The farmer at Nethergill, a retired headmaster, was extremely friendly and talkative, and we learned a lot about his Jacob sheep. They're odd looking, with spots. His story was that they're descendants of the Biblical Jacob's sheep, their ancestors having crossed from Northern Africa to Spain, sailed with the Spanish Armada, and come ashore when the Armada wrecked in Northern England. He said "They came straight to Nethergill!"




Jacob sheep


Near Cam Houses

The last mile or so to Cam Houses was across mushy, somewhat difficult terrain, as the ground was quite wet. The surroundings had become rather bleak, just in the last few miles. We were enormously cheered by Dorothy Smith, at Cam Houses. The door was open, and when I called in saying "Hello, Mrs. Smith!", she called back "Hello! The kettle's just coming to the boil; would you like some tea?" It was a great welcome, which preceded an equally great evening. Her dinner was excellent, and the after-dinner time in the lounge, with a roaring fire, as we sank back into the comfortable soft chairs, made me feel I was in a dream. It was exactly as if we were in a James Herriot scene, listening to the soft, broad, almost incomprehensible (to us) Yorkshire accents of Dorothy and her partner, Robin. The final treat came after I mentioned that I had always wanted to see sheep dogs go through their paces. Robin quietly went out and called his dogs together, and Dorothy led us out after him to witness our own private sheep dog trial! Ingleborough provided a rosy background in the setting sun, and the dogs chased the sheep around us and off over the darkening hills. Pure magic!

After Cam Houses, we were on a bit of the Cam High Road, a Roman road, before dropping down to Ribblehead. We had decided to take a variant, going past the Ribblehead Viaduct and over the flanks of Whernside. Unfortunately, while we were on the Cam High Road it started raining. By the time we reached the Station Inn near the viaduct, we were drenched. We stopped in for something to eat and drink, hoping the rain would end. After a long time, while we watched some men playing game after game of pool and listened to the rain, we gave up, put our rain clothes back on, and set out. It never cleared up, so it was a fairly dreary day. The next day, though, was fine again, and we thoroughly enjoyed Dent, with its cobbled, narrow streets.

  The route after Dent first accompanied the Dee, a pleasant stretch with the river on the right and meadows on the left. Then it joined a small lane (the path has since then been rerouted across fields), and we were considerably slowed by having bought a flower book in Dent. We had to look up every flower we saw, and there were many interesting varieties lining the lane. After the lane crossed the river, our path climbed a hill and we left Dentdale. Our stay in Dentdale hadn't been long, but it was beautiful!



We came down the other side of the hill into Millthrop, and began walking beside the River Rawthey. There was a short stretch along a busy road (the A683), and we missed the turn off of it. As we stood in a lay-by to check the map, we looked behind us and were astounded by the sight of a sheep with two extremely new lambs. The lambs must have been just a few minutes old. The farmer, who was cutting hay not far away, came over to check on them. We watched while the lambs struggled to their feet for the first time and wobbled around. It was a totally new experience for us! Then, while we were still engrossed in the lamb spectacle, we began to see horse-drawn gypsy caravans coming along the road. We asked someone that evening, and learned that they were on their way to the Appleby Horse Fair. So that was second unusual sight, again because of missing our turn!


New lambs


Gypsy caravan

After going through a good many more farms, we came to a woods filled with bluebells, and then the Crook of Lune Bridge, both of which seemed outstandingly beautiful to us.


Bluebell woods


Crook of Lune Bridge

From Crook of Lune Bridge we could see (with great anticipation!) the Lake District fells in the distance. There was more walking before we were actually there, however. The route went through many farms, and from the tops of hills we had some wonderful views of the now recognizable mountains ahead of us. We walked beside several more rivers -- the Mint and the Kent among them. Near Bowston we saw a different sort of "garden", consisting of many dozens of figurines. While we were admiring it, the owner came out to chat. He said he wasn't any good at growing things, so this was his solution!


Very long haired sheep


Lake District Mountains


Figurine garden

Then then end was suddenly in sight. We came to the top of a hill and saw Windermere down below, and soon were sitting on the famous Dales Way bench. The inquisitive cow was a final unexpected bonus!


First sight of Windermere


The Dales Way Bench


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