I absolutely love cottage holidays. A converted farmhouse in the middle of lush countryside, roaring fires, home cooked food, fine wine, and good company. You cannot beat it. And best of all is the walking which is on tap every time you open the front door and step out into the great outdoors.
The Yorkshire Dales has so many options for exploring and walking. There are some great long distance trails; the Yorkshire Three Peaks is ever popular as walkers try and complete the 24 miles and peaks of Ingleborough, Pen-y-ghent and Whernside in under 12 hours. The Coast to Coast and Pennine Way also pass through the Dales, or maybe of more interest to some is the Inn Way; 76 miles in 6 days taking in 26 pubs along the way. One to add to my list I think.
A recent cottage break took family, friends, and I to Dentdale in the western reaches of the Yorkshire Dales national park. It’s a little quieter and maybe less visited than other areas of the Dales, but there are some lovely walks to be had here, and we spent a few days ambling about and exploring the valley and surrounding areas.
There are some lovely simple routes through the valley, and you can while away a couple of hours doing some circular routes either side of the river Dee which runs through the dale. Open valleys, rolling hills, and grazing sheep are the essence of the Yorkshire Dales and there are plenty of these features on view as you stroll either side of the river. Nature is in no short supply here either; apart from the ubiquitous Yorkshire sheep we saw some birds of prey, and were lucky enough to see an american mink hiding in a water pipe by the river bank.
The riverside walks will invariably take you through the pretty little village of Dent and its cobbled streets. The Dales Way passes through the village and it’s an obvious stopping point for post-walk refreshments. There are two lovely pubs in the village; the more traditional Sun Inn and the George and Dragon which is the tap room for the Dent Brewery which is located further up the valley and produces some fabulous beers.
We did a great walk, a route which involved taking a train from Dent train Station to Ribblehead and then walking over the shoulder of Whernside and back into Dent. Dent train station – which is actually in Cowgill as opposed to Dent – is the highest train station in England, and walking up the very steep road up to it would certainly be challenging enough for many. The Grade II listed station retains a charm from a different era; the old fashioned Dent labelled lighting, the cross track rail crossing to the southbound platform, and it is now possible to rent one of the station buildings as holiday accommodation. There are great views from here down to Dentdale and across to Whernside itself, but make sure you check the times of the trains; it’s chilly up here if you miss one and there are only 3 or 4 trains a day.
The train journey to Ribblehead is only a short hop of less than 10 minutes but it does pass over the famous Ribblehead Viaduct. Built in 1874 this iconic structure is hugely impressive, even more so when you walk under and passed it as we did when starting the walk back to Dent. As the walk starts to climb up hill there are great views back south to Ingleborogh and Pen-y-ghent, and Blea Moor to the north. We were walking at the side of, and up onto the shoulder of Whernside but low cloud meant that we only got glimpses of its distinctive flat topped peak, instead we had to make do with views of the waterfall at Force Gill which was at full tilt after a rainy few days.
The walk took us on good paths for the first part of the walk as we passed the lonely manned signal box at Blea Moor, before crossing over the tracks and onto the moorlands of Whernside. The moorlands here are typical of the north of England; long grasses, windswept hillsides, and occasionally boggy underfoot. You haven’t walked in Northern England if your foot hasn’t disappeared ankle-deep into a muddy marsh at some stage in your walking life.
As we reached our highest point on Whernside, low cloud meant that some of the views down to Dentdale were kept from us, but this gave us something else. An eery feeling as the cloud dulled the sounds around us so that all that we could hear was the running water of the streams pouring off the hill. As we came through the cloud on our way downhill, and Dent came into view, the low winter setting sun produced some lovely light on the clouds to enjoy as we trotted off the hill and into one of those warm Dent pubs for a well earned pint.
We started another walk from just outside Sedbergh, the Cumbrian town that is also in the Yorkshire Dales. This walk took us on to the Dales High Way, the long distance path that runs between Saltaire and Appleby-in-Westmorland, and up on to the Frostrow Fells before dropping back down into Dent village. There were great views from here to the fells that overlook Sedbergh; Winder Fell, Crook, Knott, and Arant Haw, and to the west the clear day gave us sight of the snow capped lakeland fells off in the distance.
This route took us through and passed Side Farm, where we were joined on our stroll by a flock of around 50 sheep. I assume that the farmer has the same colour jacket as I do as they came from all directions to join us with unfounded optimism of a feed no doubt, but walking is as much about the company as the routes themselves so we were more than happy for them to tag along for a while.
This was a gentle walk but as we came up and over the Frostrow Fells we had some lovely views back down into Dentdale and across to what was now a snowy Whernside summit. We dropped down back into the valley and on to Dent for one or two end of walk pints to toast a lovely fews days walking in the Dales.