The Dales are a doddle: A Yorkshire walking tour lets others do the heavy lifting on your behalf – your bags are shifted by taxis!
- Martin Symington went on a week-long walk with On Foot Holidays, mostly through the Dales National Park
- The trip took him and his wife from Fountains in the east to Austwick in the west, through ‘gorgeous valleys’
- Taxis shifted their bags between pubs and B&Bs, where they stayed, so they could revel in the landscapes
Our hiking holiday gets off to a mesmerising start. Fountains Abbey, a giant jumble of fragmented arches and the remains of roofless cloisters, stands serenely next to the swirling River Skell in the Yorkshire Dales.
The Cistercian monks who settled here 900 years ago picked a heavenly spot, we muse, while shouldering backpacks to trace a trail through shimmering birches along the banks of the Skell.
The Yorkshire Dales is an area of gorgeous river valleys and wild moorland so scenically varied you need to cross from one side to the other to appreciate its splendour.
A British beauty: Martin Symington went on a week-long walk through the Yorkshire Dales with On Foot Holidays. Pictured is a footpath close to the village of Malham, ‘the gateway village to a geological freak show headlined by Malham Cove’, says Martin
The route skirted along parts of the Pennine Way and Dales High Way
My wife and I are on a week-long walk with On Foot Holidays, travelling from Fountains in the east to Austwick in the west, most of our route through the National Park.
We are following an itinerary devised by Dales native Shaun Callaghan, who has prepared meticulous directions plus notes on local lore. Our daily routes are highlighted in bold colours on copied OS maps.
‘We’ve tried to think of everything, but any problems or questions, buzz me any time,’ invites a chirpy Shaun the night before we set off.
Each morning, taxis shift our bags between the pubs and b&bs where we stay. All this attention to detail leaves us free to revel in the glories of the Dales.
We stomp through pastures grazed by shaggy Swaledale sheep, the land jigsawed by dry stone walls into tiny fiefdoms, each with an old stone barn.
We climb ladder stiles, plunge into patches of dark woodland and follow paths along streams spanned by clapper bridges.
Some villages are almost impossibly quaint: honey-hued Kettlewell in Upper Wharfedale, for instance, where we overnight at The King’s Head and gaze up at the looming bulk of Great Whernside.
This colossal fell augurs a wilder stage of the walk. We follow an old drovers’ track high into a hinterland of heather-blanketed moors.
Buzzards wheel overhead, their cries carrying into emptiness.
Martin’s final stop is Austwick, a village tightly packed around a green in the lee of Ingleborough (above), the Dales’ second-highest peak
On Foot Holidays (01722 322652, onfootholidays.co.uk) offers a seven-night Yorkshire Dales itinerary from £855 per person, including b&b, baggage transfers, route-shortening taxis if required, maps and route notes.
Most visitors to the Dales seem to make a beeline for Malham, the gateway village to a geological freak show headlined by Malham Cove.
We join a parade up a paved pathway to this 230 ft cliff-face curved into an amphitheatre and topped with stones shaped like enormous molars with deep fissures. Then we continue to Janet’s Foss, a broad waterfall draped with tresses of greenery.
The third jewel in the Malham crown is the sheer-sided limestone Gordale Scar ravine, with another cascade thundering through.
From Malham we head back into high moorland, threading a route along parts of the Pennine Way and Dales High Way.
Our final stop is at Austwick, a village tightly packed around a green in the lee of Ingleborough, the Dales’ second-highest peak.
We stay at the Wood View Bed & Breakfast, where our ebullient hosts David and Sue Dewhirst warn it would be ‘a crying shame not to see the view from the top’. So, fuelled by a massive breakfast, we clamber over glacial boulders known as ‘erratics’, then puff our way to the summit.
The rippling vista over miles and miles of the Dales is an exquisite climax to the week.
Hiking here is as thrilling as in any far-flung place on the planet.