Bolton Abbey, Jewel of the Yorkshire Dales

by David Murray on 24 August 2011

in Abbeys, Rivers, Wharfedale, Yorkshire, Yorkshire Dales NP

The River Wharfe at Bolton Abbey - Yorkshire Dales - Wharfedale

The River Wharfe, with bridge and stepping stones, at Bolton Abbey

Growing up in the Lancashire-Yorkshire borderlands I quite often found myself crossing the Pennine watershed from the red rose into the white rose county. One of our frequent outings was to Bolton Abbey. As a child, following in the footsteps of former generations, I did exactly what the children are doing in the photograph above – take on the challenge of the stepping stones over the River Wharfe, sometimes getting very wet!

This beautiful spot on the Duke of Devonshire’s estate (now managed by the Cavendish family’s Chatsworth trust) is a favourite destination for thousands from the large cities of the North and much further afield. The 30,000 acre estate has 80 miles of footpaths. You can walk along the river bank, wander through woodland, admire the power of the Wharfe forcing its way through the rocks of the Strid, or climb higher onto Barden Moor and Barden Fell. Alternatively, for those less energetic, there are tea rooms and an area allocated for barbecues.

The “Bolton Abbey” itself, although its has been known as such for centuries, is not strictly an abbey but a priory. It was founded in the 12th century the land having been given by Lady Alice de Romille, mistress of Skipton Castle, to the Augustinian order of monks who had earlier set up a small monastery at nearby Embsay. It developed over the next four hundred years in spite of occasional setbacks due to destructive visitations by Scottish raiders. At the time of the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s the main priory buiding was still work in progress. The shell of the east end still stands proudly over the river whilst the west end continues to serve as the local parish church.

Bolton Abbey, Wharfedale, Yorkshire Dales

Bolton Abbey, by the River Wharfe in the Yorkshire Dales

Bolton Abbey should not be missed by any visitor to the Yorkshire Dales. To my mind it is probably the most beautiful spot in the whole of Yorkshire. Check the Bolton Abbey web site for more details.

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