A dramatic riverside setting, a ruined abbey and miles of woodland walks in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. We had arrived at Bolton Priory, a historic site by the River Wharfe, after a long and varied riverside walk from Ilkley.
Bolton Priory, a Historic Abbey
There has been an abbey here since 1155, founded by the Augustinian Friars (also known as the Black Canons). The Friars controlled a massive estate, made wealthy by sheep farming and lead mining but, like many monasteries across England, the Priory was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539 and gradually fell into disrepair. However the abbey church was spared and allowed to remain as a parish church.
Today the ruins sit peacefully by the river, with sheep grazing contentedly on the grass. And the church still serves the local community.
We were passing through on The Dales Way, a 78 mile trail through some of England’s most dramatic countryside. Our path followed the river past the Priory and into the woodlands beyond. We crossed the river by the bridge, not liking the look of the stepping stones below!
The whole of the Priory and the woodlands are now owned by the Duke of Devonshire’s Chatsworth Estate. They include more than 80 miles of footpaths, but we only had time to note the children’s Welly Walk (an adventure trail) and the ominous sounding Valley of Desolation (site of a great storm and now a nature trail) before heading up to Strid Wood.
The Strid is a place where the River Wharfe becomes very narrow and the water very fast. There are warning signs everywhere telling people not to try to jump from one side to the other. I wasn’t tempted to jump, but I did climb carefully over the slippy rocks to photograph the water.
We could have spent a lot more time exploring the woodland, but we had a long walk ahead of us. We would have to come back.
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