Weekend Walk: Bolton Abbey

with Bob Clare of www.lancashirewalks.com

Thursday, 4th October 2018, 8:30 am

At this time of year travel agents offer all sorts of enticements to go to New England to see “the fall”. I am sure witnessing this spectacle would be worth the expense of flying across the Atlantic and wandering through picket fenced villages in New hampshire and Massachusetts and I would not want to put anyone off, however seeing autumn colours can be easily observed much closer to home. In Lancashire the woods of the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty are stunning this time of year as indeed is most of the Lake District. But if you were to put me on the spot for a favourite place to visit in autumn I would say Bolton Abbey in Wharfedale. It is the site of an Augustinian monastery – a priory rather than abbey (to be particular about it) which fell into ruins following the dissolution of the monasteries in the mid 16th century. During the 18th century the estate passed into the ownership of the Dukes of Devonshire and has ben under their stewardship ever since. Today it is a popular visitor attraction and does much to appeal to families. Check out the website www.boltonabbey.com to see what is afoot for half term.

The following is a suggested route to enable the reader to make full use of their visit but as was indicated above with well signed footpaths and tracks on either side of the River Wharf, maps at several locations and four crossing places it is easy to work out one’s route according to time available and the weather.


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Start: Small car park opposite Abbey Tea Rooms on B6160 BD23 6HB (for the main estate car park use BD23 6EX)

Distance: 8 ½ miles

Time: 4– 6 hours

Grade: Mainly easy with some inclines in the second half of the walk

Maps: OS OL 2 Yorkshire Dales Southern and Western areas


1. From the B6106 continue along the old road towards the River Wharfe. Just before you reach Bolton Bridge turn left onto a public footpath and the Dales Way. This takes you across wide riverside meadows to enter the grounds of Bolton Abbey Estate and soon after reach the ruins of the priory. Here you can cross the river either by stepping stones or if you don’t fancy them by bridge a decision that depends much on water level. On the far side turn left on a path with a fine view of the priory that enters woodland climbing through trees with lovely views of the river before descending to Cavendish Bridge. Cross this footbridge in front of the Cavendish Pavilion, the estate’s visitor centre with a tearoom, toilets, shop, picnic area and information point. Turn right to enter woods following the river for a mile to the Strid where the river narrows to cascade through limestone rocks. Inspecting this feature requires a degree of care and has been the scene of numerous fatalities, so much so the Daily Mail referred to claims of it being “the most dangerous stretch of water in the world”! Hyperbole that may be but to fall in here would be like being inside a washing machine with boulders. Moving swiftly on, continue upstream to exit the woods. In 250yds come to the aqueduct which carries water from Nidderdale to holding reservoirs nearby. In keeping with the estate its castellated turrets provide a decorative feature that hides the pipework (if you find you do not have time to continue you can use the aqueduct to cross to the far bank and go back to Cavendish Bridge). Pass under the aqueduct and keep ahead on the path until you come to Barden Bridge.

2. By turning left on the lane a short climb will bring you to Barden Tower an imposing ruin that was once a hunting lodge. Back on route cross Barden Bridge and turn right onto a footpath that follows the river downstream. After an inviting stone bench the way enters woodland on a path that quickly climbs to attain fine views of the valley below made especially magnificent in autumn. A stone shelter offers another resting place whereafter the path descends to river level and Cavendish Bridge. Cross and turn left, pass through the car park and follow the drive uphill past the paybooth to the Cavendish Memorial Fountain close to the B6160. This is dedicated to Lord Frederick Cavendish who was assassinated in 1882 by Irish Nationalists while walking in Phoenix Park, Dublin. Turn left onto the road and in 250yds turn left into the churchyard of the Priory. You may wish to wander around the grounds before descend back to the river and returning along the Dales Way to Bolton Bridge.