Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The Dales High Way or the Yorkshire 3 days.

A couple of weeks ago, I spent a most enjoyable 3 days running on a The Dales Highway. This is a fairly new route, running for 90 miles from Saltaire (near Shipley) in West Yorkshire to Appleby-in-Westmoreland in Cumbria, returning with a “breathtaking train ride along England's most beautiful railway”, the Settle-Carlisle line.

The excellent website http://www.daleshighway.co.uk lists route options, accommodation, potential “grot spots”, and describes the walk as an “exhilarating 90 miles across the glorious high country of the Yorkshire Dales”. The walking route is divided in 6 sections – from Saltaire to Skipton, then to Settle, Chapel-le-Dale, Sedbergh, Newbiggin-on-Lune and Appleby. My plan was to complete it in 3 days, essentially 30 miles a day, stopping at Malham and Dent.

Day 1 - Skipton to Settle
Armed with the excellent guide book (available on the website for £6.99), I set off from Lincoln on the Monday morning a bit later than planned due to a lack of motivation, arriving at Saltaire mid-morning. My plan immediately went pear-shaped as I was unable to find anywhere to park for more than a single day. A parking attendant was unable to help, so after a few moments pondering the map, I decided to drive to Skipton, thus missing out Ilkley Moor and Ilkley. I suggest that if planning this route, the best option is to get the train to Saltaire!
I was able to park at Skipton train station for 3 days, so off I set with a tentative plan to now stop at Settle and probably Sedbergh, giving approximate daily distances of 20, 30 and 25 miles. I was carrying a decent amount of kit firstly for safety and secondly as further MdS preparation.

The first few miles out of Skipton were across muddy farmland, and I was still struggling with motivation – probably still some post-Spine blues! However once I hit some open country on the way to Sharp Haw, I really began to enjoy myself. It was a lovely sunny day and I was soon in short sleeves. 

I made good time through Hetton then on to Gordale Scar which really is most impressive. Running above Malham Cove, I was able to fully appreciate the limestone pavement that I’d crossed during the Spine.

Then a mile or so along Raven Scar on the Pennine Way, before turning westwards over Kirkby Fell, arriving in Settle just after 4. Apart from around Malham, I’d barely seen a soul all day.

After checking out the options, I decided to stay at the Royal Oak – it was cheaper and they would do an early breakfast for me. Suffice to say that I probably wouldn’t stay there again – very hospitable hosts but some interesting features! On the other hand, I had a really good meal at The Lion, including possibly the best ever sticky toffee pudding – and I’ve tried a few!

Day 2 - Settle to Sedbergh
I set off in the morning at 8, hoping to get to Sedbergh in the light. I wasn’t in any great hurry and, with nothing booked, could go further or stop earlier depending on progress. This felt very liberating! 

It was a glorious morning, still frosty but not a cloud in the sky, and I felt great. 

Passing through Stainforth, Feizor and Crummack Dale, I then headed towards Ingleborough which I hadn’t been up before. 

Ascending from the south, and joining the main route from Horton in Ribblesdale above Sulber Nick, I reached the summit where the views were spectacular.

I then headed down towards Chapel-le-Dale with a quick stop at the Old Hill Inn where I had a pleasant few minutes rest with coffee and flapjack.

My next goal was Whernside. The main route actually detours Whernside, keeping more to the valley and then on to Dentdale. However, there is an alternative route taking in Whernside so up I went! Still in glorious sunshine and cloudless skies, I made good time up to Yorkshire’s highest point.

Then it was down towards Dentdale and Dent, where I had a very pleasant ice cream in a very pleasant village! I had been in communication with John Bamber and we were hoping to meet up at some stage. However, he was on a tight timeframe and we missed each other in Dent by 10 minutes – I shouldn’t have had that flapjack earlier!

Beyond Dent, the route climbed onto Frostrow Fells wher I had spectacular views of the Howgills in the late afternoon sun. As I made my way down to Sedbergh, I was treated to a magnificent sunset.

I spent a very pleasant evening and night at the Bull Hotel in Settle. For £50, I had a massive superior double room with an equally massive bath. My dinner was most satisfactory, finished off with  a superb ginger parkin and ice cream. Regular readers might begin to recognise my love of desserts and ice cream – I have a terrible sweet tooth.

Day 3 - Sedbergh to Appleby
My host had kindly agreed to sort me out some breakfast at 7, so I left promptly at 7.30 and headed for the Howgills. Unfortunately, the gorgeous blue skies had disappeared, and as I ascended the Howgills, I was immersed in thick cloud. 

Reaching The Calf, the guidebook promised a spectacular view along the ridge – I had a spectacular view of about 50m! Navigation across the top required a little care.

I then descended towards Wath with spectacular views of the cloud-covered Howgills behind me.

I took the short cut detouring Newbiggin-on-Lune, reached Sunbiggin Tarn and the headed towards Great Asby via some impressive limestone pavements.

I ran past Rutter Mill, across some unpleasantly muddy fields, and on to Hoff where I had soup and a roll at the New Inn. 

Then it was a few pleasant riverside miles before the finish at the attractive town of Appleby-in-Westmoreland. I popped into St Lawrence’s church and felt inspired to say a little prayer of thanks. 

I then made my way to the train station and the lovely journey through the dales back to Skipton.

A thoroughly enjoyable 3 days and I heartily recommend the Dales High Way as a lovely route to either walk or run. There is plenty of accommodation en route and plentiful watering holes!

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