Andrew and Sandra are experienced walkers from South Africa, who have walked many of the great long distance walks in the UK as well as within Europe. Read on to find out more about their trip along the Dales Way and why it has a special place in their hearts.
What is your walking history?
Sandra and I walked the Dales Way in August 2019. The previous year we walked a portion of the Via Francigena in Tuscany, Italy, also booked & arranged through Sherpa Expeditions. We live in South Africa and are keen walkers, and love the scenery and excellent public transport systems that make walking in Europe so enjoyable. We have walked extensively in Cornwall, along the South Coast path, and also in Yorkshire, along the coast, and in the Lake District. The Via Francigena was our first long distance walk together, and we enjoyed it so much we decided to tackle other long-distance walks of about a week’s duration.
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
We chose the Dales Way for our most recent walk because I was born quite close to Ilkley, the start of the walk, and although I have walked quite a lot in the areas around Burnsall, Grassington & Kettlewell, I have seldom ventured into the northern Dales. The area has outstanding natural beauty, so much so that several times during the walk we just stopped dead in our tracks, rendered almost breathless by the often stark beauty of the Yorkshire Dales.
How did you prepare?
Although both around the 60-year-old mark, we are quite fit and active. Sandra and I go to gym and yoga respectively, and walk at least 10 km per day three or four times a week. In preparation for this walk and the previous one in Tuscany, we maintained our normal exercise routine, just making sure that our walking shoes were worn in before departing, as most of our walking here in South Africa is bare foot on the beach or in sandals.
What was your favourite destination?
We enjoyed every hamlet, village and town along the route. Ilkley is a wonderful starting point and we booked an extra night prior to starting the walk, just to get over the long journey from South Africa. Burnsall is a beautiful village, of which I am particularly fond as my Mother’s ashes are scattered under one of the arches of the bridge over the Wharfe. Grassington is interesting, as the main town for walking in Wharfedale and all the tea rooms and narrow back streets; Kettlewell brings back childhood memories of sitting outside the Blue Bell with my parents on long summer evenings; Hubberholme & Cowgill we enjoyed for their remote location and friendly welcome at our overnight stops; Sedbergh is an amazing town with its bookshops, cafés and dramatic position under the Howgills.
Best food & drink?
Our favourite overnight stay was probably the George in Hubberholme, partly because we spent the evening with a group of fellow walkers around a roaring log fire, (yes, in August!), and also because the route along the river Wharf, branching off just before Hubberholme, was beautiful, even though the river was flooded in places, with our destination coming slowly into view as we left Buckden. The food was excellent at the George, a hearty pie after a hard day’s walking, and the wine selection good for such a small place.
We had many surprises along the way, several sightings of deer, usually in the early morning, many raptors circling overhead looking for prey, but the real surprise was seeing an otter in the swollen river Wharfe, just before Buckden. We stood for several minutes watching him swim backwards and forwards to his den on a small island in the river.
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
The walk was more strenuous than we anticipated, but manageable all the same. The stretch from Hubberholme to Cowgill was particularly challenging, especially in strong wind, driving rain and very cold weather for most of the day. During the section along the Pennine Way, we had to stop several times just to catch our breath in the face of very strong wind gusts. Our sense of achievement on completing this section was very rewarding, especially as a group of much younger walkers looked in worse shape than us on reaching Cowgill!
The last day’s walk, from Burneside to Bowness was also quite strenuous, made more so for us as we stayed quite a way out of Burneside, making the last day longer than anticipated. The views over Lake Windermere, as we dropped off the high ground down into Bowness, were truly breathtaking.
We thoroughly enjoyed our Dales Way adventure, the scenery, history, sights along the way and hospitality at the overnight stops were all amazing. We’d have no hesitation in recommending this walk.