RECOMMENDATION | A G&T Dales Trail across North Yorkshire
I still get the occasional wobble of uncertainty – was it the right move? Should we have stayed in London? Some days I don’t cope very well with village life in Yorkshire for all sorts of reasons. And then there are days like Monday. Days when I count my blessings for being lucky enough to live in a perfect pocket of Northern England.
Monday was my 37th Birthday and I chose to spend it alone with my husband roaming across the Yorkshire Dales. No kids. No technology. Just the two of us. And my Nikon.
Actually it was far from a roam – more like a march. But then we didn’t give ourselves a great deal of time to get from Addingham to Burnsall on foot for our restaurant reservation at 2pm at The Devonshire Fell hotel. Four hours. 12 miles.
A march along the Dalesway
We are super-lucky living in the small village of Menston just four miles outside of Ilkley. Menston is on a direct train line from Leeds – just 14 minutes on the choo-choo and three stops away. Head in the opposite direction (on the same line) and you are in Ilkley in less than 10 minutes. Great for those who don’t have a car and want to explore The Dales. Even better for us Menstonians who choose to celebrate our birthday by embarking on a G&T Dales trail. At 10am we set off from Addingham – it was a bit early even by my standards to crack on with the G&Ts so we avoided the pubs and were on our way. This first section of the Dalesway is made up of well-developed paths winding around the picturesque village of Addingham. The map (you’ll need one!) lead us down snicketts that cut through the back gardens of the village’s houses.
Before long we were dodging golf balls and traipsing over the links of Addingham Golf course. The views of Beamsley Beacon are quite spectacular from here, especially on a misty January morning.
Heading for ‘The Dev’
Heading over the brow of the golf course we made our way across a number of farmer’s fields and down a winding path that eventually brought us to our first G&T stop, and one of North Yorkshire’s most salubrious haunts – The Devonshire Arms. ‘The Dev’ – as those-in-the-know call it.
‘The Dev’, sporting its own heli-pad, several open fires and complimentary wellies, waterproofs and walking sticks for their well-to-do guests, epitomises everything that one associates with aristocratic Northern England.
Expect to be splattered by mud from the wheels of a Range Rover as you walk along the road and into the car park. Tweed is the fabric of choice. Green Hunters, a waxed Barbour, and a Beretta under ones arm.
Of course it’s January so this little corner of well-heeled, rustic Yorkshire is in full shooting mode. Partridge, pheasant and rabbit are the order of the day and ‘a shoot’ is as common in these parts as a kick-around -in-the-park is down the road in Menston.
A pre-noon perfectly presented double Bombay Sapphire and Fevertree Tonic by the roaring fire at ‘The Dev’ is a proper treat, and my first of the day. My southern-born and bred husband got into the spirit of the day and knocked back a single malt in cut crystal at the bar whilst waiting for his pint of Yorkshire Pale Ale to be pulled. How very upper-crust Yorkshire of him. Of course if you prefer tea before noon, there is a pretty little tea room just across the road that by all accounts, does a marvellous scone.
By 12 we were on our way. Marching across the Duke of Devonshire’s Estate of Bolton Abbey towards the romantic ruins of the twelfth-century riverside priory and on to the Cavendish Pavilion. Spring is in the air and clusters of snowdrops are dotted here, there and everywhere.
The Dales to ourselves
We had the Dales to ourselves, or so it seemed. We passed just one cyclist as we marched across the well-kept land that lead us past the ruins and down the track towards Strid Wood. In better weather, one can cross via the 57 stepping stones if the water is not too high. Although probably not advised if you’ve just swigged a double G&T in The Dev.
One of many wonderful reasons to visit Bolton Abbey, certainly in the summer months, is the ability to drive ones car right down to river, park up on the grass, and BBQ before a refreshing dip in the clean, rushing waters of the River Wharfe. BBQs on Hampstead Heath or Clapham Common? You’d be marched off and locked up.
The Cavendish Pavilion is a sizable cafe right by the river for those who prefer to leave the cooking or picnic prep and packing to someone else. They offer a wonderful selection of cakes, sandwiches and hot food, and best of all, cans of Gordon’s G&T. So of course we popped in and purchased one for the long walk ahead of us.
It’s a good half an hour’s walk from the pavilion to the “Strid”, a narrow, churning section of the River Wharfe surrounded by ancient woodland. The paths that follow the river edge through the woods from the pavilion up to the Strid are more often than not, like the M62 on a weekend.
However, on a weekday, out of school holidays, the experience is a much more civilised affair.
Walking hand-in-hand with the hubby along winding paths with the sound of the river in the background and a cool January mist in the air was rather romantic.
We crossed the river at Barden Bridge where the landscape changes from woodland to open fields, heather moorland and dry-stone walls as far as the eye can see.
It’s G&T o’clock
From here we caught a glimpse of the fortified Barden Tower, where there is a tea-terrace and restaurant. As we were on the wrong side of the river for a pit-stop at Barden Tower, we choose instead to crack open our G&Ts, found a little riverside spot, and washed a couple of packets of Seabrook down with our tipples in a tin.
With the most well-used Bolton Abbey pathways behind us, we make our way along the slightly more rugged riverside paths. It’s evident that most call it a day at Bardon Bridge. Beyond here the well kept concrete pathways of The Bolton Abbey estate funded by the £8 a car, car park fee turn into muddy tracks.
For me, this is the start of the real Dalesway and the further along you wander, the more breath-taking the scenery.
It’s approximately another 4.5miles from Barden Bridge to Burnsall. We followed the river Wharfe across fields, through the yards of a couple of farms, into another wood and back out the other side and before long, after a brief chat with a local pony and in desperate need of another G&T, we spotted the Devonshire Fell hotel standing majestically on the hillside, across the river in the distance.
We crossed the bridge at Burnsall and the mirage that was the Devonshire Fell hotel, and our final destination, started to look all the more real.
Had we have not been 40 minutes late for our restaurant reservation at The Devonshire Fell Hotel, the sister of The Devonshire Arms, then we would have almost certainly popped into The Red Lion for a swift one…
Through the picture-perfect village of Burnsall we skipped and we made our way up the hill to The Devonshire Fell. I could here the fizz of the Fevertree tonic in the distance. We had made it. 11.2 miles of Yorkshire scenery at its most beautiful.
We hobbled across the threshold of The Devonshire Fell Hotel splattered with mud and looking distinctly dishevelled and rather sweaty.
Still, the wonderfully warm welcome from David the G.M. put us instantly at ease. It’s the Yorkshire Dales after all – no Louboutins here. Just more Range Rovers, wellies and wax jackets.
We were shown to our table by window with the most breath-taking views across The Yorkshire Dales. Iain and I looked at each other and smiled. We were in for a treat – this was going to be the most perfect finale to what had been a simply wonderful day.
Look out for my review of the Devonshire Fell Hotel next week folks. You won’t want to miss it. G.A.Y. x
CLICK HERE to view our route. Tip – buy an ordinance survey map. The route is not totally obvious in some places.
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