(90 miles, 6/8 days)
“Strike up the hills of the Dales on a high level route of challenge and beauty ”
I have always liked things that ‘say what they do on the tin’ and that is what ‘A Dales High Way’ does. Primarily it is a walk that includes the best of the high ground within the Dales; the mountains just roll off the tongue, Ingleborough, Whernside , the Howgills and Sharp Haw are the names but for much of the rest of the route the path keeps to high ground, the sections around Malham being particularly enjoyable.
It is also A Dales High Way for a reason as there are variations on the route that can include more high land, more choices and even more fun. Yes there is an official route (there are even a few signposts) but because A Dales High Way is for the more experienced walker there will always be a tendency to head off on their own variation. Pen y Ghent can be added to ensure all 3 Peaks are climbed, a stop in Ravenstonedale could lead to an excellent day walk on Wild Boar Fell and in to Mallerstang whilst Ilkley Moor could be explored further.
The route is excellent for the adventure seeking walker but what makes the walk so attractive and practical is its continual proximity to the train line and in particular the spectacular Settle to Carlisle railway. As well as ensuring a quick return at the end of the walk the presence of the line means A Dales High Way can be easily split in to sections (at the end of most days a station is nearby). Aside from the walking a trip on the Settle to Carlisle should be a must for anyone who loves glorious scenery.
The Standard Itinerary
Day 1. Saltaire to Skipton 18 miles/800 metres
From Saltaire (the official start) the walk takes to the hills immediately with a climb over Ilkley Moor and back down in to Ilkley town. From the town the route skirts the moors at Addingham Fell, drops in to the town of that name before a final climb over the rolling hills that make up Skipton Moor. The views are excellent herewith the Dales laid out in front of you and the market town of Skipton below.
Day 2. Skipton to Settle 19 miles/1150 metres
Flasby Fell starts the day and is an easy fell set just north of Skipton. From here you enter the real Dales. A low land section follows passing through the villages of Flasby, Hetton (lunch!!) and then on to Malham. There will be a major temptation to stay in Malham but the official route carries on over the limestone pavements of the Settle Loop before ending with a steep descent in to Settle.
Day 3. Settle to Chapel-le-Dale/Ribblehead. 14 miles/900 metres
Initially following the River Ribble to pretty Stainforth the route then climbs over some limestone pavements to the small hamlet of Feizor where it would do no harm to sample the sandwiches in surely the best cafe in the Dales?? Ingleborough in now looming and the ascent picks its way through some rough lands on to the steep slopes of the best of the 3 Peaks. After the flat summit the path drops steeply towards Chapel-le-Dale or Ribblehead for your night stop
Day 4. Chapel-le-Dale to Sedbergh 15 miles/600 metres
The 600 metres up hill refers to the official route but I would be tempted to take the climb (similar distance) that peaks out over Whernside (the highest point in Yorkshire). This high level option does miss a closer inspection of the magnificent Ribblehead viaduct but I believe that climbing Whernside (particularly if the weather is good) is preferable. Both routes then drop in to Dentdale near the village of Dent. From here follow the River Dee to the ‘Book Town’ of Sedbergh.
Day 5. Sedbergh to Newbiggin-in-lune 11 miles/800 metres
The Howgills are often described as a glorious High Way of walking and I would not argue. Once up the steep slopes above Sedbergh the walking is so easy the miles just fly by. From Winder the ridge undulates over Calders, the Calf and Hazelgill Knott before dropping steeply in to the Lune Valley and Newbiggin of that name. Kirkby Stephen is only a few miles away and has plenty of accommodation if it is a struggle in the valley.
Day 6. Newbiggin-in-Lune to Appleby 13 miles/350 metres
In contrast to the previous 3 days the very high land is left behind but the land is full of character, variety and more than anything a feel of remoteness. Limestone scenery predominates near Great Asby but it is the sense of freedom and escape which will remain with you before the busy market town of Appleby hoves in to view, complete with magnificent castle.
Day 1. Stick to the high ground on Ilkley Moor rather than visit the village.
This day could be split with a night in either Ilkley or Addingham.
Day 2. Many will want to take more time around Malham and spend the night there. On the 2nd morning take a walk up Gordale Scar and to Malham Cove before heading off to Settle.
Day 3. For those keen on completing all 3 Peaks it is possible to climb Pen y Ghent from Stainforth and then descent to Horton in Ribblesdale and climb Ingleborough from there. There is therefore an option to then stay in Horton.
Day 4. I have suggested going over Whernside here rather than skirting the fell although the climb up an eroded path can be a pain!
Day 5. Walking the length of the Howgills is superb. I would only suggest adding an extra day in Newbiggin/Kirkby Stephen and climbing Wild Boar Fell, returning via Mallerstang valley,
Day 6. No obvious alternatives
You start at the bottom, South!
These give a basic outline of the route but consult the O/S maps below for route details.
Maps: O/S 1.25,000 Explorer Series 297, OL2 and OL19 going South to North.
Alternatively buy the excellent guide book from Chris and Tony Grogan who devised the route Click here
Places to Stay
We have listed some of the best places to stay on A Dales High Way:
Ilkley. Wheatley Arms . Treat yourself at the start or finish to the walk
Skipton. Park Guest ‘Otel. Pleasant and popular guest house en route
Settle. Littlebank Country House . Large country house for a pleasant stay
Dent. The George & Dragon is in the centre of Dent and has good food & excellent beer
Sedbergh. Summerhill Guest House offers a cosy home and excellent, locally sourced breakfast
At the present time I have not completed ‘A Dales High Way’ as a single long distance walk but I have pretty much completed every step as part of the individual day walks in the Dales. With the recently announced extension to the Yorkshire Dales National Park even more of this area is protected, all the way to Kirkby Stephen.
The route is on my doorstep so hopefully it will not be long before I do complete it, particularly as the train service is also on my doorstep!