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Bolton Abbey and the River Wharfe

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Bolton Abbey and the River Wharfe
Author: Lancashire Walks, Published: 12 Nov 2018 Walk Rating:star1 Bolton Abbey and the River Wharfestar1 Bolton Abbey and the River Wharfestar1 Bolton Abbey and the River Wharfestar1 Bolton Abbey and the River Wharfestar1 Bolton Abbey and the River Wharfe
North Yorkshire, Bolton Abbey
Walk Type: River or lakeside
Bolton Abbey and the River Wharfe
Length: 9 miles,  Difficulty: boot Bolton Abbey and the River Wharfe boot Bolton Abbey and the River Wharfe
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An 8.5 mile circular walk (which can easily be shortened) from Bolton Abbey in North Yorkshire, close to the border with West Yorkshire. Bolton Abbey is one of my favourite places to visit in autumn and you will enjoy beautiful leaf colours at that time of year on the lovely riverside journey. 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 been under their stewardship ever since.

The terrain is relatively easy, with some inclines in the second half of the walk. The route follows compacted stone paths, plus paths in woodland and grass meadows that can be muddy. With well-signed paths and tracks on each side of the River Wharfe and four crossing points, it is easy to follow a shorter version of the route depending on weather and the time you have available. You will need to negotiate several gates and footbridges but there are no stiles on route. The stepping stones on route are optional as there is a footbridge alternative alongside these. There is a chance of encountering livestock in the riverside meadows at times. Allow 4-5 hours.

The walk starts and finishes from the small car park opposite Abbey Tea Rooms on the B6160. This is close to Bolton Bridge and about 5 miles east of Skipton. Approximate post code BD23 6HB.

Walk Sections

Start to Dales Way
Start to Dales Way

Start point: 53.973 lat, -1.8939 long
End point: 53.9722 lat, -1.8921 long

Standing in the parking area with your back to the B6106 and Tea Rooms, walk ahead along the old road (heading directly away from the B6106), heading towards the River Wharfe. Just before you reach Bolton Bridge, turn left onto a public footpath and the Dales Way.

Dales Way to Stepping Stones
Dales Way to Stepping Stones

Start point: 53.9722 lat, -1.8921 long
End point: 53.9834 lat, -1.8865 long

This public footpath takes you across wide riverside meadows to enter the grounds of Bolton Abbey Estate. Soon after you will reach the ruins of the priory. Here you can cross the river either by stepping stones or if you don't fancy them by the bridge - a decision that depends much on water level.

Stepping Stones to Cavendish Bridge
Stepping Stones to Cavendish Bridge

Start point: 53.9834 lat, -1.8865 long
End point: 53.9938 lat, -1.8829 long

On the far side, turn left onto a path, with a fine view of the priory on the opposite bank. The path enters woodland, climbing through trees with lovely views of the river before descending to Cavendish Bridge.

Cavendish Bridge to Aqueduct
Cavendish Bridge to Aqueduct

Start point: 53.9938 lat, -1.8829 long
End point: 54.0068 lat, -1.9141 long

Cross this bridge to reach the 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, you will come to the aqueduct across the river, 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.

Aqueduct to Barden Bridge
Aqueduct to Barden Bridge

Start point: 54.0068 lat, -1.9141 long
End point: 54.0127 lat, -1.9223 long

(If you find you do not have time to continue on the full walk, you could use the aqueduct to cross to the far bank and go back on the riverside path to Cavendish Bridge to shorten the walk). For the full walk, pass under the aqueduct and keep ahead on the path until you come to Barden Bridge. You may want to take a short detour here - by turning left on the lane a short climb will bring you to Barden Tower, an imposing ruin that was once a hunting lodge.

Barden Bridge to Woodland
Barden Bridge to Woodland

Start point: 54.0127 lat, -1.9223 long
End point: 54.0064 lat, -1.9104 long

Back on the main route, cross Barden Bridge and turn right onto a footpath that follows the river back downstream. After passing an inviting stone bench, your route enters woodland on a path that quickly climbs to attain fine views of the valley below, made especially magnificent in autumn.

Woodland to Memorial
Woodland to Memorial

Start point: 54.0064 lat, -1.9104 long
End point: 53.9864 lat, -1.8871 long

A stone shelter offers another resting place, whereafter the path descends to river level and back to Cavendish Bridge. Cross the bridge and turn left, pass through the car park and follow the drive uphill past the paybooth to reach 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.

Memorial to End
Memorial to End

Start point: 53.9864 lat, -1.8871 long
End point: 53.9732 lat, -1.894 long

Turn left alongside the road and in 250yds turn left into the churchyard of the Priory. You may wish to wander around the grounds before descending back to the river and retracing your steps back along the Dales Way to Bolton Bridge and the parking area where the walk began.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2018 by iFootpath and the author lancashirewalks and may not be reproduced without permission.


The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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