Bolton Abbey is one of my favourite starts, a sentiment shared by the populace; there were more walkers than I have seen all year. This, my fourth visit for the Evening Press, was for a newish route up the Valley of Desolation and a little-publicised connection between two parts of the massive open access area.

We crossed the wide River Wharfe, climbed through woods of dogs mercury and garlic, left the crowds, entered a one-time deer park with ancient oaks, read an information board on the sub-arctic locals (giant elks and musk ox), admired fancy ducks on a pond, and then slipped into the Valley of Desolation.

Desolate it was not. Streams gurgled in a thousand little gin-clear cascades, with as many mossy boulders for a summer foot cooling. There are two waterfalls, and then a sumptuous mossy wood.

Then the moors: the heather dusted beige with last year's flowers, and a main track that snakes up to the famous vantage point outcrops called Simon's Seat.

We used that track for a short distance then turned off, forded Great Agill Beck, and entered a lovely landscape of stonewalled edge-of-moor pasture. The dark heather rises to the north; below, to the south, over curtains of forest, are fine views.

We were on what appears to be primarily a shooters' track, and we had it to ourselves and the rabbits until we came to an isolated house called Broadshawe that has wind generators. Here there was a squad of hikers, uniformed and from some institution; they appeared lost, and seemed bemused at having come across the only building in the landscape.

We followed them for a while, the girls admired their vigorous march while I admired the birds - swirling and flashing flocks of lapwings, lyrical curlews and the menace of a distant raptor.

Unusually, the views improve on the long descent, particularly to the hills to the west; that's over the access area containing the Barden reservoirs that will be my next destination here.

Don't forget to look over your shoulder as eventually you can see to the top of Barden Fell and its rock outcrops, the main ones being called Simon's Seat and Lord's Seat.

We were going to visit a trig point a quarter of a mile from our track but decided against it in case we upset the nesting curlews and a similar reason stopped us going to an outcrop called South Nab where a mix of crows and raptors hang out.

As you drop out of the heather zone into parkland and pasture, the Wharfe valley comes into sight, the river and the priory ruins, and beyond, the wind turbines at Chelker Reservoir.

These were immobile but back at base, the Cavendish Pavilion was humming with barely a seat for a sunshine cuppa. Walkers were filtering back, but there wasn't a long queue at the boot-scrubbing trough.

Fact file

Distance: Four and a half miles.

Time: Two hours plus.

General location: The southern edge of the Dales National Park.

Start: The Cavendish Pavilion, a mile up the road and up river from the village of Bolton Abbey.

Right of way: The complete route is along public rights of way, in open access area, and along permissive path.

Date walked: Sunday March 24 2002.

Road route: Turn off the A59 Harrogate to Skipton road at the roundabout near Bolton Bridge. Take the B6160 and then estate road (toll).

Car parking: Down river from the Cavendish Pavilion.

Lavatories: Various including at the pavilion.

Refreshments: Licensed caf and restaurant at the pavilion and teashops on estate. The Devonshire Arms at Bolton Bridge.

Tourist and public transport information: Admission £4 per car, orange badge concession £2.50. Wheelchair access is considerable and there are four electric scooters. Information at the Cavendish Pavilion. The Tourist Department at Bolton Abbey, Tel: 01756 718009 and 710227. E-mail: Website: Map: Based on the new (orange) OS Explorer OL2 Yorkshire Dales southern and western areas.

Terrain: Riverside, park, upland valley, moor and upland pasture.

Points of interest: A Duke of Devonshire estate managed for shooting, farming and tourism.

Difficulty: Moderate.

Dogs: Suitable for the riverside, but not allowed on the open access area used for this walk.

Weather Forecast: Evening Press and recorded forecast 0891 500 418.

Please observe the Country Code and park sensibly. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers set out at their own risk.


When in doubt look at the map. Check your position at each point. Keep straight on unless otherwise directed.

1. From the pavilion, bridge over River Wharfe, left to riverside path.

Steps/stile then right fork up to road. Left along road, gate to track/path on right at Waterfall Cottage (signed), through parkland. Ignore footbridge below first waterfall - path closed due to landslip.

2. Footbridge over Posforth Gill (There is a right fork that takes you a little way along the stream to see a second waterfall, retrace steps if you do this). Path uphill, gate into woods and straight on.

3. Gate to moor and track beside wall on right, 300 yards, track on right (keeping wall to right), ford then immediately fieldgate and grassy track/path that takes the side of the valley (gateways).

4. Track dips down to ford, uphill (ignore left fork after 150 yards), gateway and stay on track a few yards from wall.

5. Fieldgate and through yard between house and barns, fieldgate and right to track, ford/footbridge, cattlegrids/fieldgates and stay on track, pass farm, back to pavilion.

Click here to view a map of the walk

Updated: 09:50 Saturday, April 06, 2002