Dales Way Wrap Up

What a fantastic trip. The weather was phenomenal and the people were even better. The trail was varied and interesting. The pubs were superb. All around a great success.

Like I summarized for the Cotswolds Way, here are some stats:

  • Days Walked: 6
  • Miles Traversed: 100 on the dot, start to finish
  • Days with Rain: about 30 minutes on the first day
  • Pubs visited: 23
  • Pints of real ale consumed: 42
  • Varieties of real ale consumed: 41
  • Pint of real ale returned: 3 (all exchanged free of charge)
  • Cigars smoked: 1
  • Ounces of medicinally applied whiskey: 1
  • Friends made: 3
  • Foot Issues: Not a single blister

I found myself wondering whether I preferred the Dales Way to the Cotswolds Way. The trails were definitely different. And there’s no doubt that the Dales Way was less physically demanding (that’s not to say it was a cake walk). In terms of overall experience, on the Dales Way I talked to a lot more people, which is a huge bonus. The north has a rawness that the pampered Cotswolds can’t match. People live in the Dales where it seemed that wealthy people vacationed in the Cotswolds. I did find myself missing forest trails on the Dales but between walking through a forest for 5 hours and no forest, I would choose no forest.

I’ve decided I don’t need to choose a favorite. I loved them both.

A strange coincidence occurred as I was bus hopping through some Lake District villages today. It seemed a very sweet and apropos way to finish this trip. When I first posted about my Dales Way trip, I linked to a poem by William Wordsworth entitled “Daffodils.” It’s a bit sappy, but Wordsworth keenly expressed the intimate connection I feel with these walks.

Wordsworth was an English poet who was among the first to popularize the  walking tour, and, this poem was perhaps his most popular on the subject. It begins:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
I don’t have any special love for daffodils but I completely relate to Wordsworth’s walking experience. Walking alone and coming upon a beautiful scene, I often excitedly mutter to myself “you’ve got to be kidding!!” Some of these places defy explanation. There’s a magic here. It’s the ancient but tamed nature. The continuation of old traditions. The mystery of structures built by people who did not record history. These things grab me like a field of fluttering daffodils grabbed Wordsworth.
After a few more stanzas proclaiming the virtues of daffodils, Wordsworth finishes his poem thusly:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

And there it is. This is the true value of why I walk out here. It’s soul medicine and its effects are long lasting. Years from now, I will be gray and grumpy and a memory of a place or experience from the Dales Way will pop into my head, and I will be happy for a moment. Speeding on a ridiculous bicycle down to Dent or being mesmerized by a riverside village. I’ll relive the feeling of magic. These memories are with me for the rest of me. They are mine in my solitude. And they are good.

As I strolled with a vacant mind through Grasmere today, I unexpectedly stumbled onto Wordsworth gravesite and was confronted with this:

Not gonna lie, I teared up a little. I don’t know why. But I do know it was a very poetic end to a wonderful trip.

Until next time…

Dales Way Day 6: Burneside to Bowness on Windemere

I was up early, on the trail by 9am, and excited for my last day of walking despite a nagging cough. This was the shortest day of walking. In terms of scenery, the first half was much like the previous day. Trails along a river and rolling pastoral hills.

I caught up with Bobby early on and we walked the rest of the trail together. We stopped in the cool little village of Stavely. I peeked into a medium-sized real ale brewery called Hawkshead, grabbed some cold medicine, and a coffee.

After Stavely, the trail broke for the hills. It was a beautiful climb up through rocky hills with babbling underground streams everywhere. We started to descend into Bowness On Windemere when huge stately homes started to appear. This area is the most popular town in the Lake District for tourists. The enormous scerine lake was revealed just as we reached the marker for the end of the trail.

We walked down a sleepy street onto a busy thoroughfare and boom! Just like that, there was hustle and bustle. People and languages from all from all over the world. The quiet and seclusion of the last week evaporated. It was a bit disorienting.

Bobby and I had a couple of celebratory beers, found our respective hotels, and met up later for an Indian dinner. I’m just as much of a fan of the British pub as anyone but at that point, I yearned for food that was not so heavy. We ate, had a good talk and parted ways.

On my way back I remembered drinking an old fashioned in Bath after my walk last year. I was tired of beer. So I popped into a pub and had a beer… and asked the bartender where I could find a cocktail. She gave me a couple suggestions and after about 30 minutes of talking to random bartenders, I finally found a bar that could make me one. A $14 Jim Beam old fashioned never tasted so good. I met a nice honeymooning couple that was engaged on Britain’s Deal Or No Deal.

Walked slowly in the rain back to my room and slept like a baby.

Daily Mileage Total: 12

I’ll post a walk wrap-up in a day or so. Time to sit in a cafe and relax.



Dales Way Day 5: Sedbergh To Burneside

The path to Burneside  (pronounced Bernie-side) began with riverside trails that occasionally meandered up into grassy pastoral hills. Unlike previous days, the entire day consisted, more or less, of the same type of scenery – except when I had to pass of the M6 (a busy motorway). Oh joy.

Early in the day I caught up to my Australian trail mate (“Bobby”) and walked with him for an hour or so before bounding off on my own. It appears the winter rains really did a number on the area. There were many diversions and two bridges that were closed. Both of which I crossed anyway.



Bridge over the River Mint


Towards the end of the day, I caught up with the Londoners that I had met in Dent. We had a nice chat, much of which consisted of me recounting all the same things I had forgotten I talked about in Dent. We did not talk about Trump or Brexit. We decided to meet up with Bobby the Australian for an Indian Dinner in Kendal, only to discover it was an Indian holiday and all the Indian restaurants were closed. So we settled for an uninspired dinner at a small hotel restaurant.

I don’t even remember lying down I was so tired. One day to go.

Total Daily Mileage: 18.



Thomas Kinkade’s Dream



Dales Way Day Four: Cowgill To Sedbergh

I had to walk about 5 miles from Cowgill to Dent to get some breakfast. I was grumpy, muddy, and hungry by the time I rolled into Dent. I somehow got turned around on the trail and ended up in bog central.

After a bit of nourishment, I was feeling a little better. Today is a relatively easy day of walking. About 11 trail miles and just one hill. I said goodbye to the Dales and hello to the Lake district. My walk was mercifully uneventful.

I found myself completely sapped and sore as I descended into Sedbergh. My room at the B&B would not be ready for hours, so I shuffled around the cool little village of Sedbergh for a bit.


Sedbergh is very charming. Slate built houses all vertical and huddled together. The Lake District is something of a walking tour mecca for the brits. There are more walkers out and about than locals.

I just had dinner with a couple of English women (both in their 50s who have walked many long distance footpaths) and an Australian guy in his late 60s. We had some great conversations, mostly about Trump and Brexit.

Tomorrow is another long day. No villages on the route. Total mileage today: 15.

Dales Way Day 3: Hubberholme to Cowgill

Before I start with Saturday’s walk, I want to finish up writing about Friday. I spent Friday night at The George Inn (the “George”) in a place called Hubberholme. Huhbberholme is little more than a 12th century Norman church, a 15th-century inn, and an old bridge. The George is a great little inn run by a very affable bartender/hotel manager/owner/cook. The food is fantastic and despite how small it is, it manages to keep four fresh casks on.


The George by the bridge, Hubberholme

The people staying at the George were mostly Dales Way walkers, which resulted in a good deal of camaraderie. I sat with an older Australian dude that I met earlier that morning in Burnsall. Towards the end of the Friday walk, we walked together. It was a fun night.

All that being said, I was beyond exhausted Friday night. I’ve been fighting a cold and not sleeping well, averaging 4-5 hours a night and missing a night of sleep altogether. I decided it was time for a sleeping pill. I woke up the next morning with 9 solid hours feeling like a champ. The cold was manageable and I was no longer tired. I hit the road with a spring in my step. Except about a third of mile out, I realized I had forgotten something at the inn and had to go back to get it. That’s +.6 miles the hardest day on the Dale’s Way.

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The first third of the Saturday walk was fantastic. Flat with beautiful river views and bookended with lime rock hills. I could see the high hills of the Dales slowly melt away at as I made my way to the main watershed of England. The landscape slowly turned bleak. Trees disappeared and nice short soft grass was replaced by long wiry reed-like grass. And then it started to get muddy. Super muddy. Ankle deep muddy. So muddy that when I took a step the mud sucked my boots down as I tried to pull up for another step.

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Of 19 miles I hiked on Saturday, at least 4 miles were pure mud and most of those miles were straight uphill. It was slow going. I’ve been assured that it is very unseasonably muddy due to the intense winter rain the UK received this year.

After what seemed like an eternity of mud, the trail turned out of the hills and followed a paved road, under the impressive Dent aqueduct, and into the tiny village of Cowgill. I stopped in the only pub (and inn) in Cowgill for what turned into 3 pints in about 30 minutes. From there I headed to my “self-catering” cottage, which was a cool house sized cottage converted from an old school house.

On my way, I ran into a couple of English walkers, who, just like every single person I’ve talked to, wanted to know how we could have let Trump get so far. More often than not, these conversations turn into Brexit conversations. In the span of a not much more than a single breath, I listened to an English man mock Trump and launch into a diatribe about how England is for the English and how those “damn Muslims” need to get out. I suggested they build a wall.


I know a Weirwood Tree when I see one

I found my cottage and freshened up just in time for the owner to ride in on her bike. I mentioned that I wanted to find some way to get to Dent for dinner. Dent is almost 4 miles away, so after 19, another 8 walking was absolutely out of the question. There’s no taxi service in the area, not to mention cell signal or internet. I asked to borrow her lady bike, complete with giant basket, and she agreed.

So within minutes I was speeding down towards Dent. Tall man on a little ladies bike. I passed some lycra enthusiasts. They were not impressed. Also ran into a herd of dairy cows blocking the road. It was exhilarating to go fast after a slow day of walking.


I made my way to the George and Dragon, had a few of Dent Brewing’s offerings, and had some great conversations with a few locals. I sat down to dinner with some Londoners walking the Dales Way. We talked Trump, Brexit, and the virtues of the English walking tour. Another beer and it was time to head back to the cottage, except this time in the pitch black dark, uphill, and with a few more pints in my system.  Walked in, went to bed.

Total Miles Walked: 19. Miles Biked: 8.

Dales Way Day 2: Burnsall To Hubberhome

I’ve just taken a sleeping pill. Sleep has not been great. I also took five sleeping pints. I think I will be ok tonight but don’t hold errors in this post against me.

I left Burnsall this morning all chipper and happy. The first part of today’s trail followed a peaceful portion of the River Wharfe. The river provides a wonderful soundtrack to walking.  After a few fun bridges, I walked into the Grassington. Grassington was a fantastic village. I’d love to come back and spend time there some day. Something about the city oozes Yorkshire. Kind of a stark beauty.

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Out of Grassington, I managed to miss a sign and ended up adding about 2 miles to my walk – mostly uphill. After I was back on the trail, the trail veered away from the river and drove up and over the hilly moors. Up there the landscape was a bit sparse. No trees, just grass and rock.


After about 7 miles, I descended into the tiny village Kettlewell, had a huge meal and set to Hubberholme 5 miles away. I lost my hat on the way. Very sad about that. I’m staying a very old inn. The village’s population probably doesn’t exceed 30 people. Just a 12th-century church, an inn, and a bridge.

I’m tired. Big walk tomorrow. Total mileage today: 19.


Dales Way Day 1: Ilkley to Burnsall

I’m typing in the courtyard of my tiny B&B. I cannot hear, and have not heard for some time, a single car. I can hear two distinct sounds: the gentle breeze through the tall manicured trees and the rush of the River Wharfe a quarter mile off. It’s near pitch black save for the illumination of my computer screen, the occasional cherry flare of my cigar, and the eerie night glow of the hill moors that surround this small valley. It is cool but not cold.

I’m tired but not overly exhausted. I went to sleep around 11pm last night and woke up about 4am and could not go back to sleep. Chalk it up to jet lag.


My day started with a quick breakfast and a very short jaunt to the official start of the Dales Way. The initial leg of the Dales Way faithfully follows the banks of the River Wharfe. Apparently, the River Wharfe is prime fishing territory. There were fishing signs and expert anglers all along the river. It rained consistently during those four miles.


The first noteworthy spot was an old church in Addingham, but for me, the village of Addingham was far more interesting. Hilly and snug, the small buildings, gardens and cobblestone creek bridges of Addingham conveyed a charm that my pictures did not justly capture. I stopped into a pub for some coffee and a quick half pint.



After Addingham, the sun appeared and blessed me with great weather for the rest of the walk. I visited the ruins of Bolton Abbey and braved a stepping stone crossing across the river (I’ll post the video when I have a better connection). The remaining landscape was dotted with ancient bridges, amazing river views, and serene pastures.

About a mile and a half before my B&B I stopped in the tiny village of Appletreewick to visit a pub I had read about. The Craven Arms is a lovingly maintained 16th-century cozy pub. There was a wedding party today but I managed to find a small quiet corner and try quite a few beers. After two hours of chatting with employees, locals, and tourists, I made my way (tipsy) to Burnsall and my quiet B&B. I had a good meal of sausage, mash, greens and more potatoes at the local pub.


Gateway to the (D)Ales

It was a fantastic day of walking. Total mileage: 17 miles. I’m looking forward to a good night’s sleep (fingers crossed) and some renowned villages tomorrow.