Rural campaigner Colin Speakman looks at the increasing popularity of the Dales High Way long-distance footpath

EARLIER this year, the Dales Way Association heard from a group of walkers from USA who planned walk from Skipton to the Lake District this summer. They discovered they could do it by using the recently established Dales High Way long distance footpath, as far as Dentdale, from where they would join the popular Dales Way to head west from the Lune valley to Windermere.

The fact that this journey is now possible on foot reflects the growing network of official and semi-official long distance walking trails now being developed throughout the North of England including several in the Yorkshire Dales.

The Dales High Way story is an interesting one. It was the creation of Tony and Chris Grogan, a unique husband and wife team who are walkers, writers, photographers, cartographers and publishers. Tony and Chris operate their specialist publishing company, Skyware Press from their home in Saltaire.

They first walked and researched the route in 2007 and, in 2008, turned it into a 90-mile trail, which starts near their home in the World Heritage village of Saltaire and ends in Appleby, in Cumbria.

It was inspired by the Dales Way which it parallels for much of the way. But whereas the Dales Way is essentially a riverside walk, A Dales High Way as its name implies crosses the tops – over Rombalds Moor to Ilkley, Addingham and Skipton Moors to Ilkley, then over Sharp Haw, and Weets Top into Malham, Kirkby Fell to Settle, Smearsett and Ingleborough to Ribblehead, Wold End to Dent where it meets the Dales Way, then Longstone Fell to Sedbergh.

North of Sedbergh the route has new relevance because it provides a direct link into the northern Howgills and Bowderdale, now the newly extended area of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, heading to Newbiggin on Lune, and through the Orton Fells to Great Asby and Hoff to Appleby.

So together with Wainwright’s Coast to Coast, which crosses the new areas west-to-east, A Dales High Way is a fine south-to-north way of discovering this stunningly beautiful addition to our national park. If the Dales Way is ideal for people who are not such strong or experienced walkers, as much of the route is along relatively gentle valley paths, A Dales High Way is very much the next stage up, as most of the route follows footpaths across rough grazing or moorland, with some quite sharp ascents and steep summits to conquer, but with magnificent views as rich reward.

So A Dales High Way is ideal for people who have done the Dales Way and now feel they can tackle something a little more ambitious. With plenty of places to stay in towns and villages along the route, most walkers can walk it comfortably within a week.

But what the route does have in common with the Dales Way is excellent public transport access, most particularly the legendary Settle-Carlisle Line and local stations on the MetroTrain network. So if you don’t want to backpack and stay overnight you can walk the trail in day stages – though some are quite long – in time for a late train back to Skipton and West Yorkshire.

A Dales High Way is now an officially accepted route within the Yorkshire Dales National Park and in both Bradford and Cumbria. It is marked on Ordnance Survey maps as a recreational path and the distinctive waymark is now increasingly used along the route and as a logo in publicity. There is even a thriving Friends organisation, with its own website,, and regular newsletter, that campaigns to secure improvement to the route, better waymarking and signing and to keep members informed of changes including accommodation availability.

The definitive guide book, by Chris and Tony, is in two parts – A Dales High Way Route Guide in essence the detailed maps you need for the route in rucksack-pocket sized format, and the slightly larger A Dales High Way Companion which contains a wealth of information about what to see along the walk – local and natural history, geology, background information, and some excellent photographs. You can buy both books locally or online direct from the publishers –

Some people grumble that we now have too many walking trails. Not all proposed routes are of sufficient quality and interest to survive more than a few years. But A Dales High Way is well-established, providing as it does such a wonderful, high level, high quality route through Craven and into the national park, and meeting a different need to the already internationally known Dales Way.

We now know walking is supremely important activity for human health – the best possible preventive and curative medicine for a wide range of conditions, antidote to the sedentary lives most of us lead that causes the horrors of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancers and many other illnesses. Walkers also spend money, especially when they stay overnight, and long distance walking now makes a very significant contribution to tourism businesses in Craven. New routes also mean that trade is spread to different villages, guest houses, pubs, shops, and their suppliers.

Such economic activity creates jobs, including jobs for younger people, that help keep the Dales alive. Not the whole answer of course, but by attracting people not just from nearby conurbations but from all over the world, the local economy is supported. Thanks to the brilliant work of Welcome to Yorkshire, the Yorkshire Dales are increasingly recognised as an international destination for sustainable tourism, of which A Dales High Way is an outstanding example.