Bolton Abbey, Stepping Stones

Rory Calland
National Trust, Visit Cumbria, Bolton Abbey

Bolton Abbey is one of the most fulsomely preserved English monasteries and sits as Wordsworth wrote “along the banks of crystal Wharf”. The western half of the nave has never stopped being used as a church by the parish. Colourful spectacles inside such as the Pugin windows and the altar’s painted backdrop are in particularly good shape.

Less than a hundred yards from the priory are 60 stepping stones, marking a precarious route across the breadth of the river Wharf. These slippery steps once represented the Augustine lay workers commute, as it were. Now they’ve become a little challenge for visitors and are synonymous with Bolton Abbey itself.

This corner of Wharfdale, immortalised by JMW Turner, is a fantastic day out. After you’ve investigated the priory and seen what fascinating relics lie in store there, the grassy area around the stepping stones is perfect picnic territory. The stones themselves offer a challenge, but a touch northwards is a shallow beach, which is a wonderful spot for families to play and take a dip.

It’s amusing to picture monks bouncing expertly from one step to the next, but some of the gaps are not laughing matters. So do make peace with the possibility of getting wet. Once you are in though, there aren’t many better rivers across our Northern landscape for swimming than the Wharf. It’s a key artery of the Yorkshire Dales and wends its way through some very magical landscapes.

Be very cautious if you make your way northwards along the Wharf from here, as around two miles along the river narrows into a harmless looking stretch of water known as The Strid. The Strid is perhaps the most lethal river passage in the world to fall into, so be sure you know its whereabouts.

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a large mansion house surrounded by three blocks of colour
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Where to go near Bolton Abbey, Stepping Stones

Hesketh Farm Park

Hesketh Farm Park is the friendliest place with lots of animals to meet, things to play with and space for running around.

The Riverside Hotel

A superb, picturesque riverside setting, en suite rooms, bar and restaurant, The Riverside Hotel makes an excellent base for exploring the moors.

Ilkley Lido
Ilkley Lido

Incorporating a tennis courts and a bowling green, Ilkley Lido is a grade II listed outdoor pool, with a stunning view of the moors.

Ilkley Manor House
Ilkley Manor House

Visit the collection of Roman artefacts in one of the oldest buildings in Yorkshire, or host a particularly special occasion at Ilkley Manor House.

The Box Tree Restaurant

The Box Tree has been a vital step in many top chef’s careers, and with two Michelin stars to its name you can expect a meal to remember.

Tinker Gallery

Ilkley’s contemporary art gallery, set up by artist Joanne Tinker, is a studio space in combination with a gallery.

Ilkley Playhouse

The Playhouse has a well established season of productions, also used as a venue for events, including the popular Ilkley Literature Festival.

Bed & Breakfast
The Crescent Inn

The Crescent Inn is a comfortable and cosy, pub style bed and breakfast that takes pride in championing local goods.

Ilkley Cinema

Ilkley Cinema combines relaxed and sociable spaces, state of the art screening technology, and a great programme of indies.

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Grove Bookshop

Grove Bookshop has been an integral part of Ilkely town centre for decades, feeding the town’s enthusiasm for literature.

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