Day 1: Ilkley to Barden Bridge (Part 2/9)
Total Miles Planned: 9.5
Actual Miles Walked: 13.5 (including distance walked to the start of the Dales Way, one wrong turn, and one longer than expected walk to a tea room for lunch)
Weather: about 14°C (57°F) pouring rain, sunny warmth, drizzling rain, cold wind, and pouring rain (basically, all the seasons, but without snow). Or, as another Dales Way walker said, “a proper British summer”.
Pints of beer consumed at the end of the day: 1 ½ for Lisa; undetermined for Michelle
Day One of our walk was all we expected and more. We woke to bright sunshine and dressed accordingly. But one minute in, the sky darkened and it started to pour rain. It didn’t look like it would clear, so we pulled over and put on our water-proof trousers and rucksack covers. Unfortunately, though, our boots were already covered in cow poop, so putting trousers on over them was a bit of a challenge.
Once we were properly kitted out and looking the part, we walked through the most beautiful scenery, including rolling hills and dales, and dense forest paths. We walked through farm fields shared with herds of sheep and cattle, and climbed stiles and steps over Yorkshire dry stone walls.
When I stopped to take a selfie with a cow, I was treated to a surprise cow kiss! (I think Michelle was a little jealous of the affection that was bestowed on me)M
At mile 6, we came upon Bolton Abbey. Set amid 30,000 acres of countryside, the property contains, among other things, walking paths, tea rooms, the Priory Church, and the beautiful ruins of an Augustinian Priory. The priory church is still active, and has been holding worship service since…wait for it…the year 1154. Yowza!
And although we still had three miles to go on our walk today, we took some time out to explore the ruins and have lunch at the tea room. There are also many forest trails on the property, including one called “The Valley of Desolation”, which we avoided in the interest of karma.
Re-energized from a delicious sandwich and a sugary ice cream cone, we set off on the final three-mile stretch to Barden Tower. Another glorious ruin, Barden Tower dates back to the 15th Century (practically modern compared to the Priory!) and also hosts weddings, corporate functions, and private parties at the Priest’s House restaurant on the property. We were delighted to see a beautifully dressed bride and her wedding party, the women wearing fascinators and the men in tuxedo tails, celebrating their special day. Two antique Yorkshire buses served as the wedding party’s transportation.
In my effort to be an efficient trip planner, I learned that although public transport bus back to Ilkley is not regularly scheduled to stop at Barden Tower on Fridays, we might be able to catch a bus back to Ilkley if we flagged down the driver as he went past. Sure enough, that is what we did. Back at our hotel, we popped into the pub for a rewarding pint. What a joy to meet new friends there, who treated us to a bit of “Yorkshire hospitality” by buying us each a pint.
We were sorry to leave them, but our tired bodies demanded we get some rest in preparation for Day Two of the Dales Way. Without a doubt, Day One was both challenging and satisfying. A success all around!