I’ve just completed a solo walk along the Dales Way from Ilkley to Bowness and what a glorious walk it was too! I took a rather leisurely seven walking days to complete it and the weather was generally very kind to me. Although I started off in rain and finished in rain, the intervening days were generally fine with sunny periods.
All the places I stayed along the route were perfectly acceptable and all spotlessly clean. Breakfasts varied from OK to excellent and the standard of the accommodation was generally in line with the price paid. I booked them all in advance, choosing not to run the risk of having to sleep under the stars.
This is where I stayed (prices are for single accommodation and include breakfast):
Mrs Betty Wolstenholme, 93 Little Lane, Ilkley. Cost £20. Very welcoming.
Mr & Mrs Hirst, Wharfe View Farm House, Burnsall. Cost £21. A lovely old farmhouse.
Lynn Thornborrow, West Winds Cottage, Buckden. Cost £20. Lovely tea & cake on arrival.
The Station Inn, Ribblehead. Cost £29. A little disappointing.
Mr & Mrs Playfoot, Riverview, Lea Yeat, Dentdale. Cost £30. Very well appointed.
Mrs M (Susie) Thurlby, Wheelwright Cottage, Sedbergh. Cost £25. A real character from Melbourne!
YHA Kendal, Kendal. Cost £16. 2 miles off route but right next to the Brewery Centre.
YHA Windermere, Windermere. Cost £12.50 (b’fast extra at £3.75). About 2.5 miles off route but fantastic views over lake.

Evening meals:
Ilkey. Excellent fish & chips from the chippie along the E side of New Brook Street for c. £5. Good Theakstons Best in the nearby ‘Yard’.
Burnsall. Only one eating place without prior booking - the Red Lion Hotel. Quite expensive with most main courses costing £12 - £15 but Sausage & Mash at c.£10 was very adequate.
Buckden, Having seen a rather negative comment with regard to the Buck Inn on this forum, I decided to eat at the Village Restaurant which was absolutely fine. Starter, main course, beer and an Irish coffee all for about £14.
Ribblehead. The only place is the Station Inn – disappointing except for the views from the garden.
Dentdale. The Sportsman Inn at Cowgill. Excellent beer and the spicy lasagne was great. Quite how this pub manages to survive given its location I have no idea.
Sedbergh. The locals recommended the Dalesman which looked very nice but I tried the (only) Indian restaurant which was perfectly adequate.
Kendal. I had fish & chips again, just S down the road from where I was staying at the YHA.
Windermere. The Youth Hostel is rather out on a limb about 1 mile N of Troutbeck Bridge. I chose to walk (N from the hostel) about 40 mins (past the Mortal Man which is reached after 25 mins) to the Queens Head – excellent food. The confit of duck (£13 I think) was a fitting celebratory meal to end the walk.

For planning, the Dales Way Handbook 2005 (£1.50) was invaluable; both in terms of potential accommodation and travel arrangements. I used the Harvey’s Dales Way map (1:40,000) in conjunction with the Dales Way route guide; the latter was just superb and has the right amount of detail – thoroughly recommended and excellent value at £5.99 (saves buying and carrying a large number of 1:25,000 OS maps). With this one map and one route guide, I negotiated my way with relative ease. Two places to watch out though - N of Grassington, take care immediately after negotiating the well waymarked official detour around Town Head farm. The route turns left (W) at a stone wall for c. 200m to an unmarked stile through the stone wall. Then once out in the open, the track splits twice. Keep taking the higher right hand route. I also went hopelessly wrong around Staveley on the final day and ended up walking alongside the new Staveley by-pass which wasn’t a particularly pleasant experience. I suggest that walkers concentrate more carefully than I just after crossing and turning NW alongside the railway line.
Note the warning in the DW handbook with regard to the crossing from Upper Wharfedale to Dentdale via Cam Houses, the highest and most exposed part of the walk. I met two walkers at the Sportsman Inn in Dentdale who were abandoning the walk because they had underestimated the difficulty of this section.
I managed to pack all my clothes etc into a 25 litre rucksack – total weight (including a 1 litre of water) about 20lbs. Personally, I wouldn’t want to carry much more than this anyway. A compact pair of binoculars was useful – not only for viewing all the birds (dippers, kingfishers, goosanders, buzzards, ravens etc) but also for spotting the stile or waymark across fields.
Mobile phone reception was extremely patchy. Only large population centres like Kendal and Windermere appear to be covered by my network operator (Virgin/T-Mobile) – there was no reception at all in the Wharfe valley after leaving Ilkley, not even in villages like Burnsall and Buckden.
I used a Garmin Extrex Legend GPS device and recorded each day’s walk as a track log. I would be happy to send the file (i.e. a *.gdb file for use in Garmin Mapsource software) containing the filtered tracks (i.e. cleaned up for wrong turnings, lunch stops and overnight accommodation detours etc) and my manually constructed routes on request. For those without the Garmin software, I would be happy to send the information in an MS Excel spreadsheet (i.e. *.xls file).
Note however:
 I took a big detour from the official route towards the end of my first day by walking around Skyreholme and the N side of Appletreewick and Kail Hill.
 Having made an overnight stop at the Station Inn at Ribblehead, I decided against re-joining the official route from Holme Hill into Dentdale via Newby Head and instead went over Blea Moor along the track which follows the railway tunnel (and past the old air shafts and spoil heaps from the original construction). As I had lots of time and the sun was shining I also detoured up Arten Gill and along ‘Galloway Gate’, dropping back down into the valley via Dent station (and, if time permits, I can recommend taking the train from there and spending a couple of hours looking around the market town of Appleby).

Hope some of this helps. Enjoy & savour every step of the way.