AN ULTRA marathon run starting in Bowness and taking in the entire 80-mile length of the Dales Way is being planned as part of celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the path's opening as a tourist attraction.

The race, which is set to take place on August 17 next year, will see more than 250 competitors beginning their gruelling trek on the shores of Windermere and ending up at the eastern end of the path in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, a lung-busting 36 hours later.

The testing race is just one of a number of events being lined up by the Dales Way Association to celebrate the anniversary of the path, which has become increasingly popular over the years.

A mobile exhibition and a celebration lunch are among other events also planned.

Frank Sanderson, who played a key role in the opening of the path, said it had provided many memories over those 50 years.

"It's more popular than ever and the number of walkers using it is growing every year," he said.

Mr Sanderson began researching the history of the path when he took over the Blenheim Lodge Hotel in the 1950s and noticed a plaque on the wall behind the hotel marking its presence.

Only occasional walkers trod the Dales Way in those days, but Mr Sanderson began to issue certificates to those completing the walk and noting their experiences, and further research revealed a fascinating picture of a historic, centuries old route which may at one time have extended to the Langdales.

He said there was evidence the path once extended to the ancient stone axe factory at Langdale and that many years ago a ferry crossed Windermere to allow those accessing the axe factory to complete their journey.

Mr Sanderson said the work of the former South Lakes Organisation for Tourism was instrumental in establishing the route as an attraction for walkers, and he was delighted at how it had developed over the years and was looking forward to the anniversary celebrations.

The ultra marathon is being organised by the Punk Panthers ultra event group in conjunction with the Dales Way Association and further details, including entry arrangements, are expected to be revealed shortly.