16 June 2014 by Chris Grogan
The first time I saw a walker with a copy of A Dales High Way route guide I nearly frightened the poor fellow to death.
He was moseying along, enjoying the peace and quiet of Crummackdale when I spotted him. Instead of the usual restrained nod or quiet “good morning” he was no doubt expecting from a fellow walker I leapt on him in delight. Our first walker, a real person with a real guide book in his hand, proof at last that A Dales High Way had a life apart from us.
It started out as a game. Something my husband and I played when we were out walking together.
“If I was creating a long distance walk mine would follow the lakeside.”
“Well mine would go through the mountains...and then down to the lakeside," and so on and so on over the years until one day we realised our fantasy route really was taking shape.
We wanted to walk through the Yorkshire Dales. The western Dales I’d grown up in and we both loved so much. We wanted to climb to the high places, the fell tops and vantage points. To stand on the peaks and look back at where we’d come from and ahead to what tomorrow would bring.
We wanted the route to be demanding, to be tough enough to feel a sense of achievement but not so scary that we dreaded the challenge ahead, and we wanted to end each day somewhere we could get a hot bath, a good meal and a decent pint. Easy huh! Well no. As you can probably imagine it took months of planning and even more months of walking to reach a definitive route.
We chose Saltaire, our home village and a World Heritage site that’s well worth a visit in its own right, as our starting point and headed north to finish 90 miles later in Appleby-in-Westmorland. This gave us a distance we could complete in a week, long enough to relax into but not so long it would cost a fortune in accommodation or cause problems at home.
It also gave us a high point every day: Rombalds Moor, part of which is better known as Ilkley Moor, with its fine views of Wharfedale on day one; two climbs on the second section between Skipton and Malhamdale; the wonderful limestone scars of Attermire and Warrendale Knotts on day three followed by Ingleborough on day four.
After Ingleborough the route goes around the flank of Whernside to Dent before heading over the Howgill Fells into the Eden valley and the end of the road. Not the end of the fun though. Appleby is a stop on the Settle Carlisle railway line and we whizzed home in a couple of hours through the landscape it had taken us a week to walk.
All the route needed now was a name. We’d always been fans of the Dales Way, the beautiful riverside path that for many people is an introduction to both long distance walking and to the Yorkshire Dales. Our route complements the Dales Way, offering a different perspective as it takes walkers away from the valley bottoms and onto the fells. Both routes cross the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the Dales Way as it goes west through Wharfedale and Dentdale, ours as it heads north into Malhamdale and Ribblesdale. It’s a Dales Way but a high level one.
It became known as A Dales High Way.
And why A Dales High Way not The Dales High Way? Well, as Wainwright says in his A Coast to Coast Walk: “vary it to suit yourself.”
Make it YOUR Dales High Way. If you fancy climbing Pen-y-ghent, so you’ve “bagged” all of the Yorkshire Three Peaks, you can veer off the route at Stainforth and pick it up again on the slopes of Ingleborough. If you’ve always wanted to explore the Howgill Fells, you can stay another night in Sedbergh allowing you to head for the hills.
Initially we planned the route just for ourselves but once we’d walked it and enjoyed it and passed the maps on to friends and family we began to realise that other people were interested. In September 2008 we published a guide to the route, the little book I spotted in the hands of the lone walker, and the rest is history. The route has grown in popularity and now around 1,000 walkers a year complete it. It is waymarked with our own little Dales High Way logo and it’s starting to appear on Ordnance Survey maps.
And six years later do I still get a thrill when I see a walker coming towards me with a little green guide book in their hand? You bet I do.
Chris Grogan writes a regular blog www.highwaychris.co.uk/blogspot and you can follow her on twitter @Highwaychris. Since the creation of A Dales High Way Chris and her husband Tony have published a number of walk guide books.