BOLTON Abbey lies on the banks of the River Wharfe.

It is one of the most picturesque of the abbey ruins (along with Fountains) in large part to its setting and this leisurely walk will take you past the abbey, alongside the river and an exploration of the Bolton Abbey Estate.

I prefer starting this walk by parking at the large car park at the Cavendish Pavilion.

The price you pay on any of the car parks is the same (and lets you move about) and it will appear expensive (£10) but it does cover access through the estate and into the abbey ruins.

From the car park walk initially alongside the river until the path leaves it across a field.

The River Wharfe (meaning swift) is already an impressive river when it reaches Bolton Abbey but it still has a long way to travel before reaching the North Sea, via the River Ouse, at the Humber estuary. From the river path a sign suggests crossing the field by your own route to preserve grass!

Some steps lead up to the Memorial Fountain near the road that travels through the estate. There are some lovely views across the river towards Simon’s Seat from here.

At the memorial turn left and follow the road for 100 metres around the bend in the river and take the footpath on the left which leads directly to the abbey ruins.

In strict terms the ruins are a ‘priory’ and not an ‘abbey’, the distinction is more to do with the politics at the time and the priory was led only by a ‘prior’.

However, the ruins of the priory are highly impressive and it is worth taking time to explore them.

From the abbey walk down to the footbridge that crosses the Wharfe on one of the numerous well maintained paths.

Just upstream of the bridge are the 60 Stepping Stones which offer more of a challenge on a river crossing. They were originally put in place for the lay workers of the priory to cross the river.

I have no idea how they crossed the river after heavy rains and even today they should not be used when the water covers the stones.

A small beach on the far bank offers a great place to stop and view the priory, at this time of the year it is never too crowded which is not always the case. From the beach climb a short distance up the footpath that skirts the eastern banks of the river and in to the woods.

The following 500 metres (a third of a mile) are a delight as the path undulates through some attractive woodlands of birch, oak and mountain ash.

One notable site is the Money Tree (or trees), where old coins have been pushed in to the tree trunks over many years. The most plausible theory is passer bys used the tree as a wishing tree and received a wish for every coin and it just became a habit over the years.

Don’t pull them out though, this brings bad luck! The path drops to a tributary stream where there is a viewing platform with good views up and down the river.

From the stream continue heading north alongside the river to a large wooden bridge, cross the bridge and return to your car.


Distance: Roughly 2.5 miles

Height to Climb: 80 metres (260 feet).

Start: SE 078551. There is plenty of parking by the river at the Cavendish Pavilion. I prefer this start to the main car park as you enter Bolton Abbey estate.

Difficulty: Easy: Good footpaths and a short distance makes this a straightforward walk whatever the weather.

Refreshments: The café at Cavendish Pavilion offers drinks and lunches. I particularly like their policy on plastics, bring your own reusable cup.

Be Prepared: The route description and sketch map only provide a guide to the walk. You must take out and be able to read a map (O/S Explorer OL2) and in cloudy/misty conditions a compass. You must also wear the correct clothing and footwear for the outdoors. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers head out at their own risk.

Please observe the Countryside Code and park sensibly.

Jonathan Smith runs Where2walk, a walking company in the Yorkshire Dales:

•Jonathan has written a book, the “Dales 30” based on the mountains in the Yorkshire Dales.

• Beginners and Intermediate 1 Day Navigation Courses. Courses available throughout the year, check web for dates.

•Offers a Guiding serve for those less confident in the outdoors

To find out more details on any of the above and details of the 100s of walks in the Yorkshire Dales & Moors visit his popular website, https://where2walk.