Dales Way

Day One – 7th April 2012: Ilkley to Grassington – 16 miles

We awoke to threatening skies. It had been raining during the night, but there were gaps in the cloud so we were hopeful that we might be alright.

We packed as much as we could and then set off downstairs for breakfast, just after 7.30am. We were met by the owner saying that we were too early and that she was still setting up. She then told us that breakfast started at 8.30am on a Saturday so we had got up early, all for nothing. Not too pleased we went back upstairs and checked the hotel information. Whoops, we had read the wrong line. In my defence, as I am pretty sure it was my fault, I feel I got confused, arriving on a Friday but eating breakfast on a Saturday, too much for my little brain to cope with!

We decided to get a paper and so walked up to Morrisons. So much for saying we didn’t want to do it on the morning of our first walking day, but, we had nothing else to do. It was cold and spitting a little but the clouds did seem to be thinning ever so slightly.

Back at the room we quickly read and then dispensed with certain sections of the paper that we had little interest in, and then packed the rest for reading the next day. We returned to the dining room and set about fuelling for the day ahead. The breakfast was good with all the normal fayre on offer.

We returned to our room where we finished packing and then having paid up we left for the start which was only 100yards up the road. We took various photos before finally setting off in the direction of Bowness.

Rachel at the start of the Dalesway

The time was 9.50am which seemed really late to be starting. On the Coast to Coast the previous year we never started after 9am so already I was keen to get going. We found that most B&B’s had a late breakfast time, which is odd, especially as it is in a walking area where people need to get up and get going.

We passed along a path parallel to the river and gradually made our way out of the confines of Ilkley and into pastureland. We followed the river all day, crossing over and back several times, passing rapids, slack water and the odd weir every now and again. On the other bank was a golf course where some hardy souls were playing with their bats and balls – couldn’t see a net though!

Weir at Low Mill

We soon reached Addingham where we passed some grand houses and then the church before passing by a foot suspension bridge.

Addingham Church

Suspension bridge at Addingham

The path took us above the river for a while where we were passed by some runners at a gate. One stopped for just a few seconds and asked what we were doing. When we explained we were walking the Dales Way he said that he attempted to do it in 2 days but gave up due to blisters. Now remind me, what is it they say about Yorkshire men – ‘strong in the arm and thick in the head’, how apt. A few fields later and we crossed the main road to Lobwood House where there was a Quaker meeting house. We stopped for a while and entered the building. It was very simple and very plain, but a place of peacefulness none the less. We could have stopped in the grounds, there being seating, but it was too early and so we decided to press on.

Friends Meeting House

Friends Meeting House

We arrived at Bolton Bridge and spied a seat which was too good an opportunity to miss as the ground was damp. We had a short stop and had some food right beside the river which was rather pleasant. We had now entered the Bolton Estate and so there were more people about, walking through the grounds. We could see the ruins of Bolton Abbey and Priory from quite a distance away but it was the stepping stones that I was looking forward to.

We reached the stones and the foot bridge over the river but unfortunately the river was too high and the stones were mostly covered by a good couple of inches of water. This didn’t stop a couple of lads in their trainers risking it, which was rather stupid really, but I think we quietly hoped that they would fall in. We stopped for a while taking photos before climbing up and away from the Priory.

Go on, fall in!

Bolton Priory

We passed a couple of money trees where people had battered coins into the trunk which was rather strange. The path was undulating as we passed through a wood, finally descending to a ford and a bridge. Having missed out on the opportunity to cross the stepping stones earlier, we both waded through the ford which was actually quite dangerous as the stones were extremely slippery being covered with moss and algae. We continued alongside the river until Cavendish Pavilion where we crossed via a wooden bridge to find a café and visitor centre which was buzzing with people. We made use of the facilities and continued into Strid Wood where we were constantly held up by families on an Easter egg hunt. It was a bit frustrating but at the same time it was good to see the youngsters getting some exercise.

Money tree

Crossing ford at Pickles Beck

We made it to the Strid itself where the river is forced into a very deep, narrow channel, being extremely dangerous to anyone falling in. It is said that people have died trying to jump the gap which probably explains the life saving equipment in evidence.

The Strid

After exiting the wood we soon arrived at the aqueduct near Barden. I thought it was a bit of a let down as I was expecting to see some water. However, it must have been many years since it was last used for this purpose and now it is nothing more than a stone bridge used by walkers to get to the other bank. We had noticed that there was a parking area at Barden Bridge so thinking there might be somewhere to sit we continued on with the expectation of a food and rest stop.

Barden Aquaduct

Having reached the area there was nowhere to sit so we plonked ourselves down on the river bank and started to eat. Within a couple of seconds 3 mallard ducks arrived and seemed to be very interested in our food. They were certainly very tame, coming right up to us, with one even sitting on my lap. It was quite breezy so we decided to press on, plus, we still had a few miles to do and time was ticking by.


More river walking led us eventually to Burnsall which was pretty so we stopped for our last break of the day just next to the bridge. We had 3 miles or so to go and it was already late afternoon. The wind was getting up and so we didn’t stay too long before setting off in search of the next landmark which was the suspension bridge at Hebden.


We had followed easy made up paths for much of the day and here was no exception, clearly being a popular walk from Burnsall to the bridge and back. There were a few tourists about and when we arrived at the bridge we had to wait for a few minutes for people to cross. The bridge is just wide enough for one person and dips alarmingly in the middle with the side cables no higher than waist height; it also tilts to the right as you get just beyond the half way point. Rachel set off like a scalded cat and didn’t stop for man or beast. I had great plans for filming the experience but after about 10 feet decided that it was far more sensible to concentrate on getting across safely, and more to the point, dry. The camcorder was put away.

Hebden swing bridge - good job I'm slim!

Having secured a dry passage for both of us we continued to Grassington but as we approached the path that would take us into the town, we heard and then saw, Linton Falls.

Linton Falls

After yet another photo session we climbed the little walled path to Grassington and set about finding our B&B, Yew Tree House. The cobbled streets with its limited collection of shops in the main square were lovely but it would have to wait to be explored as we needed to find the B&B first.

Yew Tree House, Grassington

We found it easily and were shown to our room which was excellent with plenty of space and a huge bathroom. We asked Julie about the best option for eating out and she immediately suggested The Foresters Arms pub. We hadn’t booked and so she volunteered to do it for us, as it was very popular, which was good of her. The only table they had available was for 6.30pm and it was already 5.30pm. We accepted it and then set about a brisk bath and change. Julie supplied tea, coffee and cake which was lovely and a nice thought. In fact it was the only place on the whole trip that did this, perhaps others should take note! When we did the Coast to Coast and the South Downs Way it was quite common for tea and cake to be offered but not in this part of the world.

Suitably refreshed we made our way to the pub with time to spare. The pub was packed to bursting, the staff having to turn people away, who wanted to eat. We had a lovely meal, the quality and quantity was spot on, the Black Sheep great and the service brilliant, so much so that we decided to book for the next day as well. It was quite a strain to prise ourselves away from the place, but go we must. It was cold and there was rain in the air as we walked back to the B&B.

The Forresters, Grassington

We unpacked thoroughly as the following day was our rest day. We rinsed through a couple of items and after a bit of television and a hot chocolate we went to bed.


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