This was a really good walk, which I thoroughly enjoyed. If anything, it exceeded my expectations. Having read the guide book before I went on holiday, I wasn’t sure how good the walk would be – I got the impression that it kept generally to the lower parts of the dales rather than going over the tops. In the event, although this was partially true, there were plenty of times when we went up high, especially over Nine Standards Rigg and above Gunnerside. The contrast between the pastoral scenes besides the rivers Ure and Swale and the bleakness of the wild moors above the dales made for a very varied and interesting journey. There was plenty of historic interest on the route too, including several castles, Lady Anne Clifford’s Highway and the lead mines between Gunnerside and Reeth. The wildlife was good too, with Curlews, Oystercatchers and Lapwings frequently to be seen, as well as the trout in the river Swale. One of the real joys of the walk at this time of the year were the flower-filled meadows, bright yellow with buttercups but also containing many other flowers that I’m afraid I’m too ignorant to be able to identify.
The five of us at the finish in Richmond Market square - myself, James, Olwen, Gill and Anne
We were very fortunate to have such good weather for our walk, warm and dry all week. It was slightly too warm on the first day, but even then a cool breeze ensured that it was never too uncomfortable. Perhaps the good weather has influenced my opinion, but I certainly thought that A Dales Walk was a better walk than The Dales Way, which I walked two years ago (again with HF Holidays, and at the same time of year) – we had two or three days of indifferent weather on that walk, so perhaps my comparison is a little unfair. However I thought that A Dales Walk was more varied, and that it involved more ascent and descent which made it a more interesting route. It also had more of historic interest, which is quite important to me although perhaps not to other walkers. Also, A Dales Walk ‘does exactly what it says on the tin!’ as it is entirely in Wensleydale, Mallerstang and Swaledale, whereas The Dales Way is a bit of a misnomer as, although it starts in Wharfedale, it ends up on the shores of Windermere, not somewhere that most people would associate with The Dales! Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed The Dales Way and think that it is a fine walk, but of these two ‘Dales’ walks, I personally preferred A Dales Walk.
If any one reading this is thinking of walking A Dales Walk, I would recommend doing it in late May or early June. A fair proportion of the route is through countless hay meadows in both Wensleydale and Swaledale, and these are obviously at their best when the flowers are in full bloom.