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Dalesway Link – A fascinating walk from Bradford to Ilkley

Updated: Sep 7, 2020

The Dalesway is a long distance trail between Ilkley and Bowness on Windermere in the Lake District. The walk is about 75 miles and is a wonderful walk which I did over 6 days many years ago. There are now three Dalesway link walks which join the Yorkshire centres of Leeds, Bradford and Harrogate with Ilkley.

On August Bank Holiday Monday, my wife and I along with my black Labrador Bronte decided to walk the Bradford to Ilkley stretch. Some friends of ours decided to walk the first stretch to Shipley with us before heading back towards Leeds along the canal.

The route directions and easy to follow maps can be found on a PDF produced by Bradford District Council which is available on this link:

We caught the train down to Bradford Foster Square and the walk started from outside Bradford Cathedral. The cathedral is on a site which has been used for Christian worship since Anglo Saxon times, but the building we see today is a mix of Norman elements from the 14th century with additions made in Victorian times and later in the 1950’s.

We headed out from the Cathedral towards Canal Road, crossing the road and picking up a footpath which followed the Canal Road corridor, a thin stretch of woodland called Boar’s Well Nature Reserve. I had no idea this trackway existed which ran along the right had side of Canal Road, this route is a wonderful urban greenway and its amazing that it exists so close to the city centre.

NB If you want to know more about the links of the Boar to Bradford – read my earlier blog:

Eventually the path comes out on Kings Road, which we followed for a short period joining Queens Road for a short stretch before turning left and picking up a path through Brow Wood. The Path briefly crosses Poplar Park Road before picking up a path through Bolton Woods.

There are some great views back over the city from the paths with Manningham Mills and Lister Park in clear view.

Coming out of Bolton Woods we turned left and followed the road before picking up a well marked path along the edge of a playing field which brings you out near Shipley Train Station.

At Briggate we crossed the road and followed the signs for the Leeds – Liverpool Canal.

The next stretch is much easier to navigate and far easier walking along the canal towpath.

The Leeds Liverpool Canal is the longest canal in Britain, built as a single waterway stretching 127 miles. Construction started in 1770 with the first stretch opened in 1774, but it was not actually completed until 1816. The canal was hugely important to Yorkshire because although many rivers were navigable out to the Humber, allowing trade out to Europe and the Low Countries, the New Leeds - Liverpool canal opened up transport of goods from Yorkshire across the Pennines and out to the west allowing exports of textiles and goods to America.

By turning left, the footpath runs through Shipley to Saltaire where we saw some more of Bradford’s Industrial heritage as New Mill and Salts Mill, once thriving textile mills come into view.

In Saltaire we briefly crossed the bridge into the village to explore the Saltaire United Reform Church. This Grade 1 listed building was paid for by textile baron and philanthropist Titus Salt who gave his name to Saltaire the model village he built for his workers. Salt is buried along with his family in the mausoleum of the church.

I did laugh at the name of the Canal barge moored in Saltaire offering refreshments and ice creams - Are Jay Bargie!

The path continues on past some sports pitches until Hirst Lock. Here we had to take a sharp right turn picking up a path which took us over the River Aire on a footbridge, then through a housing estate to a path into Trench Woods. This path ascends steeply up a slope taking us into Shipley Glen.

Shipley Glen was once West Yorkshire’s premier tourist location both in Victorian times and up to the 1960’s. The Glen is made up of steep slopes of semi natural woodland above Loadpit Beck. On the top of the slope the woodland and millstone grit out crops give way to heathland and when we were there the heather was in bloom creating a sea of purple.

The Glen is home to The Shipley Glen Cable Tramway which dates to 1895 and is the oldest working cable tramway in Britain. It is still open on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. In the height of the Glen’s popularity there was a fun fair as well as boating and a Japanese Garden.

There were still plenty of families enjoying the open space and many people walking or having picnics. We continued along the Glen until it met Glen Road. From here at the corner of a wall on the right hand side of the road we continued along a path straight ahead passing a disused quarry which is now a bike park up through pasture to Glovershaw Farm. Here we crossed Glovershaw Road (and its sign to Eldwick) and took the path up to Golcar Farm.

Golcar Farm is now the Mainline Centre for Border Collies offering dog training and sheepdog experiences. We followed a permissive path around the farm and its interesting hen houses as we went cross country climbing gradually across pasture to Dick Hudson’s Pub up on the Otley Road.

Opposite Dick Hudson’s pub, there is a narrow walled track up onto Bingley Moor. We followed this and stopped next to a dry stone wall for our sandwiches.

From here the walk was fairly straightforward on a clear path over first Bingley Moor and then Burley Moor past stone marker stones to the 12 Apostles stone circle. These bronze age standing stones were featured in an earlier blog if you would like to read more:

Just past the stone circle Burley Moor becomes Ilkley Moor and the path goes off to the right. We followed the track made up of stone flags towards Ilkley. Interestingly the stones which have been laid to conserver the Moors and prevent erosion were once the floorings of Mill Buildings of long gone textile factories in Bradford!

When we met Ilkley Craggs at a T junction where a path runs along parallel to Wharfedale, the official Dalesway Link path turns left and heads past White Wells and into Ilkley Town to the River Wharfe and the start of the actual Dalesway walk.

We decided to head to The Cow and Calf Rocks, one of Wharfedale’s iconic landmarks and stop for a quick pint at the Cow and Calf Pub. From here we followed a series of paths past the Audley Clevedon Retirement Village back home into Burley in Wharfedale. Our fitbit showed a distance of 15.5 miles when we go home.

This is a great days walk and took about 7 hours with a couple of refreshment breaks. It has a bit of everything – urban greenways, canal walking, woodland, farmland and then heather moorland. Highly recommended if you like some stunning landscape as well as a bit of history and heritage!

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