Sunday, 5 January 2014

Dales Way - Day 1: Ilkley to Burnsall

Sunday 15th December 2013 

A riverside walk alongside the River Wharfe from Ilkley to Burnsall via Bolton Abbey and The Strid 

Distance: 23.5km; Ascent: 380m; Dry with occasional sunshine; Solo

I had been toying with the idea of walking the Dales Way for a while now, and this weekend seemed to be a good opportunity to walk a couple of days of it.  Therefore early this Sunday morning I caught a train across the Pennines to Leeds and then onto Ilkley, from where I set off walking at around quarter to ten.  Soon I reached the start of the Dales Way at Ilkley Bridge.

Ilkley Bridge
Sign at the start of the Dales Way
I headed west out of town, past a tennis club and across riverside fields with glimpses of sunshine.  The river looked to be quite full, presumably from all the recent rain - and it was forecast to rain some more later this afternoon.  This path seemed to be popular with joggers as I met a fair few between Ilkley and where the path joins the road 2km west of the town.

River Wharfe just west of Ilkley
Around a kilometre of minor roads lead me to the attractive cottages of Low Mill Village and onwards to pass St Peter's Church, whose interior dates from Tudor times according to the handy nearby sign.  A short walk through the eastern edge of the village of Addingham brought me back down to the River Wharfe.

St Peter's Church, Addingham
River Wharfe near Addingham
After passing through a caravan park there was now a pleasant couple of kilometres of riverside walking through sheep fields.  This ended when I reached the B6160 road, which I crossed to find the Farfield Friends Meeting House that dates from 1689.

Farfield Friends Meeting House
A field edge footpath offered a pleasant alternative to walking along the road for the next kilometre, but unfortunately it seems to end prematurely, which results in having to walk along the busy B6160 road for around half a kilometre before escaping back down to the river again.

Looking upstream from Bolton Bridge
At Bolton Bridge, where I entered the Yorkshire Dales National Park, there were good views further up into Wharfedale.  Continuing on upstream, on the west bank of the River Wharfe, I entered the pleasant parkland of the Bolton Abbey estate where I soon stopped for lunch on a handily located bench in the winter sunshine.  After a little over a kilometre of enjoyable riverside walking I reached the impressive remains of Bolton Priory, which dates from the 12th century.

Bolton Priory
Bolton Priory
I took five or ten minutes out of my walk to have a quick look around the ruins of the priory, before crossing to the east bank of the Wharfe by way of Waterfall Bridge.  The next couple of kilometres were clearly a popular spot for a Sunday afternoon stroll as I reckon I passed at least a hundred other walkers!

Waterfall Bridge
Bolton Priory
Around a kilometre and a half after passing the priory, I reached a very busy car park next to the Cavendish Pavilion cafe and visitor centre.  The reason for the busy car park soon became apparent as I entered Strid Wood: the estate was holding a Christmas event along the next few hundred metres of woodland path, complete with elves and Santa's grotto!  However given the I didn't have Isabel or Olivia with me there was no need to stop, so I continued onwards along the Green Trail to reach The Strid.

The Strid
This significant narrowing of the river was impressive to look at today given how full the river was, and it reminded me slightly of the Linn of Dee (although with a few more trees!).  However the river looked to be very dangerous here so, as advised by the signs, I kept well back from the edge whilst admiring the awesome force of the river being forced through such a narrow gap.

Continuing on through the woods I reached Barden Bridge.  Here I seemed to leave the crowds behind as from here on I only saw a handful of other walkers for the rest of the day.  It was a pleasant sunny afternoon as I continued northwards along the east bank of the river towards Appletreewick.

Afternoon light north of Barden Bridge
Tree north of Barden Bridge
I reached the road just east of Burnsall in fading light just before 4pm.  I crossed the bridge and headed to the tearoom for a well earned teacake and tea :-)  After feeling suitably refreshed I headed to my accommodation for the night to find I was the only guest at my B&B - well I suppose it was a Sunday in December!  A fine pub dinner washed down with a couple of pints of real ale was an excellent end to a good day's walking :-)

See also my Social Hiking live map from the walk.


  1. As Wainwright once said to walk without a goal is to wander aimlessly.....good luck on the Dales Way!

    1. Thanks :-) I made it as far as Buckden that weekend and I plan to go back to finish the Dales Way at some point over the next couple of months.