Bolton Abbey – 26th June 2022


Strenuous: Carole                                                                                                    Distance : 11 miles

From Bolton Abbey passing Bolton Priory and crossing R. Wharfe we follow the river along the Welly Walk and Dales Way and make our way into the Valley of Desolation. Crossing Barden Fell we climb up to Simons Seat (1591ft/485m) for a lunch, hopefully with spectacular views.  We then descend to Howgill   re-join the Dales Way and follow the R. Wharfe passing Barden Bridge and along the Strid to the Cavendish Pavilion for drink etc.   We return to the coach via the Cavendish Memorial and the ruins of Bolton Abbey.                                                                                   

Moderate Leader :  Pam                                                                           Distance : 8 miles

From the coach we will head out on the Dales Way to Posforth Bridge and climb through the Valley of Desolation and plantations to Barden Bridge.  We will turn towards the River Wharfe and head towards the Cavendish Pavilion via the Strid and Strid Wood. From the Cavendish Pavilion we will make our way back along the Wharfe to café / pub and car park.

Easy Leader :  Jackie                                                                                Distance : 5.50 miles

This is a very straightforward walk along the River Wharfe and back on the opposite bank.

Beautiful river scenery throughout.  We start from Bolton Abbey, down to the river which we can cross on a footbridge, or stepping stones if you are feeling brave!  We follow the river on the east bank for about 2.75 miles to a footbridge which also carries a water pipe over the river.  We return on the west bank through attractive woodland, past The Strid where the river squeezes through a narrow gap, and along to The Pavilion (café and toilets) and continue along a wide track back to Bolton Priory and the village of Bolton Abbey.


Bolton Priory was founded in 1154 by Augustinian canons (known as Black Friars because they wore black and not, as a schoolboy once wrote, because of their dirty habits. It became a wealthy establishment which, in its heyday, had up to 20 canons, several lay brethren, and employed 200 people. It was suppressed in 1539, three years after the Act of Dissolution. The Priory had always been the village church which is why the King allowed a portion to remain intact – it is still a rather grand church for such a small village.

The tall structure on the roadside at the top of the entrance to the Cavendish Pavilion car park is a covered fountain erected by the electors of the West Riding as a tribute to the memory of Frederick Charles Cavendish, son of the 7th Duke of Devonshire.

The woodlands between the Cavendish Pavilion and the Strid have been made into a nature reserve, with six waymarked footpaths. The woods contain superb specimens of mature trees, including oak, ash, yew and Scots pine, and there are drifts of bluebells, wood sorrel, wood anemones, celandine and campion. Birds to be seen include dippers, wrens, finches, tits, magpies and jays, with the occasional glimpse of a heron or great spotted woodpecker. At the Strid, rocky ledges close in like pincers, forcing the River Wharfe through a channel only a few feet wide. The river has hollowed out the sandstone to create underground chambers of treacherous depth. Many have drowned attempting to leap across the swirling torrent, and the area should be approached with caution.

Barden Bridge is a fine example of a Dales humpbacked bridge dating from the late 17th century. Its buttressed arches serve as breakwaters when the river is in flood. Barden Tower was once the home of the celebrated Shepherd Lord Henry Clifford, who was brought up in secret exile by Cumberland shepherds during the reign of his father’s enemies, the Yorkist Kings. After the succession of Henry Tudor in 1485, Henry Clifford regained his estates but always preferred his isolated retreat at Barden to his ancestral home at Skipton Castle. In 1643 Lady Ann Clifford inherited the estates and, after ordering considerable restoration, lived there from about 1659 until her death in 1676. The Tower became the property of the Dukes of Devonshire in 1748 and is now in the care of the Trustees of the Chatsworth Settlement. It has not been lived in since Lady Ann Clifford’s death and has been in ruins since the 1800’s.

Beamsley Beacon is the bold ridge that stands above the Wharfe to the south east. As its name suggests, it was one of the many hills in England where a warning fire was lit in former times when there was a national emergency, and dates from the time when people lived in fear of a Napoleonic invasion. It is a particularly fine viewpoint, especially to the south and west where Ilkley Moor forms the right-hand side of Wharfedale.

The Valley of Desolation acquired this name after a severe storm in 1826 which caused considerable damage. Today, however, the name is hardly appropriate, for the tree-cloaked slopes, attractive stream and the two waterfalls make it instead a place of sylvan beauty.