At the start and end of the Dales Way

Published 16 July 2023

Stone bench at the end of the Dales Way, with a metal plaque on it saying "Ilkley 81 Miles 'Dalesway'"
The stone bench at the Windermere end of the Dales Way.

Having done more than a few walking trails by now, I’ve a bit of experience of what to find at the start and end of a walking trail. And I’ve decided that essentially there’s three groups of trail termini:

  1. Trails where a terminus is commemorated by some big structure. A monument. An obelisk. That kind of thing. A big statement. For example, the southern end of the Offa’s Dyke Path has a big lump of rock. The northern end of the West Highland Way has a statue of a rather old fashioned looking walker rubbing his feet.
  2. Trails where the start/finish points are commemorated by a sign or interpretation board. The Northumberland Coast Path‘s start at Cresswell has a little interpretation board. It’s changed now but when I did the North Downs Way, the start was simply a finger post near a busy main road. From what a friend told me recently, Overton Hill on the Ridgeway still only has that.
  3. Trails where there’s absolutely nothing. The walk just begins without any commemoration. These are usually smaller trails created or ones that are unmarked. Although I was surprised that the London LOOP had no real commemoration of its start and finish points.

As trails (usually) have two termini, it’s possible that the situation may be different at each end. Especially if a walk straddles different council areas.

Personally I’m a big fan of group 1. It’s nice to see someone’s made an effort. And it feels like your effort is being recognised and rewarded. And one of my favourites from this group has to be the Dales Way. Or should I say, two of my favourites.

Stone bench at the the Ilkley terminus of the Dales Way, with a metal plaque on it saying "For those who walk 'The Dalesway'"
The stone bench at the Dales Way’s southern end of Ilkley.

At each end of the Dales Way – in Windermere and in Ilkley – is a stone bench. They’re not identical benches. The one in Ilkley is made out of big pieces of stone. The Windermere equivalent is mostly thinner pieces. I presume they reflect the types of stone quarried out locally. Certainly the Windermere one reminds me of the slate stone walled houses you get in that part of the world.

Both have a plaque that specifically calls out their link with the trail. In Ilkley it says

“For those who walk the ‘Dalesway'”

Whilst, no doubt reflecting that most people walk the trail south to north, in Windermere you get to remember your achievement:

“Ilkley 81 Miles ‘Dalesway'”

Although it must be said that there’s some dispute about the actual distance of the Dales Way. But whilst you can argue when you get there about whether you’ve done 78, 81, or even 84 miles of walking, there’s one think you can’t deny. When you’ve just finished a long walk, it’s nice to be able to have a little sit down. And the Dales Way allows you to do it in style.

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