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Bolton Abbey Walk: Everything You Need to Know (2024)

Bolton Abbey Walk: Everything You Need to Know (2024)

The Bolton Abbey Walk is a circular walk that follows along each side of the River Wharfe as it courses through the Bolton Abbey Estate. By doing the walk, you’ll not only explore the spectacular Bolton Abbey Priory Church and Ruins, but you’ll also see many other attractions along the way. In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about doing the Bolton Abbey Walk. On top of that, we’ll talk about the other best walks to do during a visit to the Bolton Abbey Estate.

Bolton Abbey Walk: The Ultimate Walking Guide

Just to set the record straight, the Bolton Abbey Walk is also known as the Bolton Abbey Circular Walk, the Bolton Abbey and The Strid Circular Walk and the Bolton Abbey to Barden Bridge Circular Walk. All of these walks refer to the circular walk where you follow either side of the River Wharfe between the Bolton Abbey Ruins and Barden Bridge.

If you’re a first-time visitor to Bolton Abbey, you’ll definitely want to consider doing the Bolton Abbey Walk. That’s because you’ll see most of the main attractions at the Bolton Abbey Estate along the route. Certainly, when it comes to walks around Bolton Abbey, this circular walk is a great option for covering a lot of the estate.

So, exactly where is Bolton Abbey?

Where Is Bolton Abbey?

Bolton Abbey is located in North Yorkshire at the southern end of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. To help you get your bearings, please click on the image below to access an interactive map of the area on Google Maps.

A screenshot of a map showing the location of Bolton Abbey

Now you know where Bolton Abbey is located, let’s look at the trail specs for the circular walk around the estate.

Bolton Abbey Walk Details

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 11km (6.8 miles)
  • Time: 3.5–4.5 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 250m
  • Difficulty: Easy

Read about the best walks and waterfalls in the Yorkshire Dales

In terms of the trailhead, there are many different starting points you can choose from. Personally, Beck and I started the walk at Barden Bridge. But, most people start the walk from the Cavendish Pavilion or the Bolton Abbey Ruins. For more information about where to start the walk, please read Bolton Abbey Walk Parking. In this section, we’ll talk through all of the different parking options (there are five different car parks to choose from!)

Bolton Abbey Accommodation

Devonshire Arms Hotel & Spa

Devonshire Arms Hotel & Spa is the only accommodation on the Bolton Abbey Estate. It’s an impressive four-star country house hotel that features an award-winning restaurant, an adult-only spa, a gym and an indoor pool.

Bolton Abbey Walk Map

Below, you’ll see a screenshot of the Bolton Abbey Walk route map. Feel free to use this GPS-guided map to help you navigate the route.

Given the walk mostly follows alongside the River Wharfe, trail navigation is fairly straightforward. But, we found the map useful to help us navigate a few sections. That’s because there are many different routes and trails throughout the estate, which means navigation is sometimes a little confusing.

Bolton Abbey Walk route map
Bolton Abbey Estate map
Bolton Abbey Estate map

Bolton Abbey Walk Along the River Wharfe

In this trail description, we’ll walk you through the main attractions you’ll see along the River Wharfe during the Bolton Abbey Walk. As mentioned, Beck and I started the walk from Barden Bridge, so the adventure starts there!

In terms of direction, it really doesn’t matter whether you go clockwise or anti-clockwise. Personally, we wanted to get to The Strid nice and early for optimal photography conditions. So, we did the walk in an anti-clockwise direction.

Barden Bridge

Setting off around sunrise, Beck and I headed across Barden Bridge. It’s an enchanting three-arched bridge that crosses the River Wharfe north of Bolton Abbey. After crossing the bridge, we turned left to walk along the picturesque River Wharfe. Right from the start, you’ll walk through beautiful woodlands with the river and farmland on either side of the path.

Barden Bridge on the Bolton Abbey Walk

DJI Air 2S

DJI Air 2S

Capture breathtaking aerial photography and videography with the DJI Air 2S. The DJI Air 2S Fly More Combo comes with all of the necessary accessories such as the remote controller, spare batteries and battery charger.

Bolton Abbey Aqueduct

After leaving Barden Bridge, you’ll soon reach another bridge! The Bolton Abbey Aqueduct, simply known as the Aqueduct, is another attractive turreted bridge. Even though you don’t need to cross the bridge to continue the walk, we recommend climbing up the bridge to enjoy stellar views of the River Wharfe. Then, simply retrace your steps to continue the walk to Strid Wood.

Bolton Abbey Aqueduct

Strid Wood

Soon, you’ll enter the sublime Strid Wood. This mesmerising woodland is actually a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Strid Wood is an acidic oak woodland, which is known for its bluebells in the Spring. It’s also home to a variety of wildlife including roe deer, otters, kingfishers, slow worms and greater spotted woodpeckers. So, keep an eye out!

The Strid

After enjoying views of the river from an elevated position, you’ll then descend down to the edge of the River Wharfe to visit The Strid. Indeed, The Strid is a highlight of the Bolton Abbey Walk!

Before arriving at the edge of the river, you’ll pass a danger sign nailed to a tree, warning of the dangers of visiting. As you pass the sign, you’ll hear the loud noise of water rushing through The Strid. You’ll notice the banks of the river are completely covered in moss, which looks truly mesmerising. Of course, this means the rock platforms are quite slippery, so take care.

The Strid is infamous for being the most dangerous stretch of river in the world! Apparently, the waterway has claimed the lives of many who have dared enter the water.

Despite its infamy as a place of death, there is no official death toll at The Strid. Although a couple honeymooning in the area in 1998 was reported missing in the news, there is no proof that anyone has ever died at The Strid. The deathly reputation doesn’t come from any actual deaths it seems but from a cautionary tale!

Nevertheless, the moss-covered chasm at The Strid is truly a sight to behold and worth seeing during the Bolton Abbey Walk.

Read more: The Strid – Visit The World’s Not-So-Deadly Stretch of River

The Strid

Cavendish Pavilion

You’ll then walk through more of the majestic Strid Wood before arriving at Cavendish Pavilion. Located in the heart of the Bolton Abbey Estate, the Cavendish Pavilion resembles a Victorian-style station building. It’s a popular place to visit for a bite to eat, while it’s also a wedding venue. Indeed, if you’re feeling peckish, you should head inside for something to eat or drink.

Cavendish Pavilion

Cavendish Memorial Fountain

After passing the Cavendish Pavilion, you’ll walk through the Riverside Car Park towards the Bolton Abbey Ruins. Soon, you’ll enjoy exquisite views of the ruins. Before reaching the ruins, you’ll pass the Cavendish Memorial Fountain. Built in 1886, the former drinking fountain is certainly an ornate structure.

Cavendish Memorial Fountain

Bolton Abbey Priory Church and Ruins

Once you’ve passed the Cavendish Memorial Fountain, you’ll eventually reach the attractive ruins at Bolton Abbey. Indeed, exploring the ruins at the Bolton Abbey Priory Church (AKA Bolton Priory) is another highlight of the Bolton Abbey Walk.

Bolton Abbey Ruins

Bolton Abbey Stepping Stones

Once you’ve wandered around the impressive ruins, it’s time to cross back over the River Wharfe. The well-known Bolton Abbey Stepping Stones used to be a popular way to cross the river. But, crossing via the stepping stones is often discouraged as maintenance work is usually ongoing. So, you’ll likely need to cross the river via the bridge.

Bolton Abbey Stepping Stones

Woodland Riverside Path to Pickles Beck Ford

Once you’ve made your way to the other side of the river, you’ll turn left and follow a trail across a meadow. Soon, you’ll join a woodland riverside path that crosses the ford at Pickles Beck. The footpath then continues to a wooden bridge that leads you to the Cavendish Pavilion. To complete the Bolton Abbey Walk, you’ll continue along the river until you arrive back at Barden Bridge! Along the way, you’ll enjoy views of The Strid from across the river.

Dan on the Bolton Abbey Walk

Barden Tower

Once you reach Barden Bridge, you’ve completed the Bolton Abbey Walk. Near the bridge, you’ll find the impressive Barden Tower, which are former hunting lodge of the 15th and 16th centuries now used as a wedding venue. Barden Tower isn’t part of the official Bolton Abbey Walk. But, you could possibly walk there from Barden Bridge if you wanted to extend your walk. Otherwise, we recommend driving to Barden Tower afterwards.

Dan at Barden Tower

How to Get to Bolton Abbey

The most convenient way to get to Bolton Abbey is to drive there yourself. If you don’t have your own set of wheels, then we recommend hiring a car.

Car Hire

If you don’t have your own car, you should hire one using Discover Cars. Personally, we use Discover Cars and highly recommend them for finding your ideal car hire at an affordable price. Booking online is super easy and the free cancellation policy is great.

To find out more about renting a car with Discover Cars, read our Discover Cars review and Discover Cars Insurance review.

Bolton Abbey Walk Parking

There are four official car parks at the Bolton Abbey Estate and it’s possible to park at either one of them to start the Bolton Abbey Walk. Additionally, there’s roadside parking at Barden Bridge. Below, we’ll talk about the best options when it comes to parking for the Bolton Abbey Walk.

Dan on the Bolton Abbey Walk

Rules and Prices For Booking Bolton Abbey Parking

All of the official car parks at Bolton Abbey cost £15 if you pay on the day and £12.50 if you pay online in advance. The only free parking option is at Barden Bridge, where you’ll find free roadside parking.

The four official Bolton Abbey car parks include the Bolton Abbey Car Park, the Riverside Car Park, The Strid Wood Car Park and Barden Field Car Park.

The biggest and most popular car parks to use for the Bolton Abbey Walk are the Bolton Abbey Car Park and the Riverside Car Park. So, we’ll look at these two car parks in more detail below. Additionally, we’ll look at the free parking option at Barden Bridge.

Certainly, the Strid Wood Car Park is a moderate-sized car park that you could use. But, people generally use this car park if they want to specifically visit Strid Wood Tea Rooms or The Strid in isolation.

The Barden Field Car Park is definitely another option too. But, with free roadside parking opposite this car park, it seems logical to use the free roadside parking at Barden Bridge instead.

Bolton Abbey Car Park

The Bolton Abbey Car Park is the most well-known and popular car park as it’s located closest to the ruins. Certainly, many people start the Bolton Abbey Walk from this large car park, which is located here.

Riverside Car Park

The Riverside Car Park (AKA the Bolton Abbey Riverside Car Park) is the next popular option for parking when it comes to doing the walk. It’s another large car park with plenty of space. You’ll find it located north of the ruins here.

Barden Bridge Free Parking

Personally, we recommend parking for free at Barden Bridge. From this roadside parking area, you can start the Bolton Abbey Walk.

Public Transport

It’s also possible to use public transport to get to Bolton Abbey. That way, you don’t have to pay for parking either. But, unfortunately, you’re looking at a much slower journey time. So, we actually don’t recommend using public transport. If you’re visiting by train, the closest stations are Skipton or Ilkley. From there, you’d have to catch a taxi to Bolton Abbey. We recommend using a combination of Google Maps and Trainline to plan and book your journey.

Booking Trains


Trainline is one of the best online platforms for booking trains. By using Trainline, you can easily find the best available prices and times for your journey. We always use Trainline to book our train journeys in the UK and in Europe.

A better public transport option is getting a bus as you’ll be taken directly to Bolton Abbey. Each day brings about a different bus service going to Bolton Abbey. Please head to Dales Bus for information about the latest timetable.

Other Bolton Abbey Walks and Trails

Other than the Bolton Abbey Walk, there are many other walks and trails to explore across the estate. When it comes to shorter Bolton Abbey circular walks, the Bolton Abbey to Cavendish Pavillion Walk is a great option. During this walk, you’ll complete a ‘mini-version’ of the Bolton Abbey Walk, doing a shorter 3km (1.85 miles) loop near the ruins.

In terms of other walks at Bolton Abbey and walks from Bolton Abbey, we’ll list a few more below.

  • Bolton Abbey to Hare Head: one of the longer routes in the area, which explores more woodlands and goes to Hare Head.
  • Cumberland Trail: a wheelchair-accessible trail near the Strid Wood Car Park.
  • Bolton Abbey Welly Walk: a fun adventure walk for kids.

One of our other favourite walks at Bolton Abbey is the Simon’s Seat and Valley of Desolation Walk, which visits Bolton Abbey Waterfall.

Beck looks at Bolton Abbey

Simon’s Seat and Valley of Desolation

Simon’s Seat is an epic gritstone-capped summit located on Barden Fell. During this walk, you’ll explore the Valley of Desolation. So, it’s possible to see the Bolton Abbey Waterfall during this walk.

Read more: Simon’s Seat and Valley of Desolation – The Complete Walking Guide

Dan at Simon's Seat

Bolton Abbey Waterfall Walk

Also known as Posforth Gill Falls and the Valley of Desolation Waterfall, Bolton Abbey Waterfall is one of the most underrated waterfalls in the Yorkshire Dales.

Read more: Bolton Abbey Waterfall – The Ultimate Visitor’s Guide

Bolton Abbey Waterfall

Places to Stay Near Bolton Abbey

Given the wealth of activities and places to see at Bolton Abbey, you may want to stay in the area during a visit. There is actually only one accommodation option on the estate itself (Devonshire Arms Hotel & Spa), but there are also some lovely places to stay near the estate. Below, we’ll walk you through all of these options.

Dan at Devonshire Arms Hotel and Spa

Devonshire Arms Hotel and Spa

Also known as Bolton Abbey Hotel, Devonshire Arms Hotel & Spa is an impressive four-star country house hotel that features an award-winning restaurant, an adult-only spa, a gym and an indoor pool.

For a memorable experience at Bolton Abbey, we highly recommend staying at Devonshire Arms Hotel & Spa.

Station Cottage

Located near Bolton Abbey Estate at the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway, you’ll find the charming Station Cottage. The cottage is a lovely holiday home set on the River Wharfe and features a spectacular garden.

Howgill Farm

Located in Howgill, near Simon’s Seat, Howgill Farm is another gorgeous holiday home. The cosy farmhouse features a BBQ, garden and sun terrace. From the farmhouse, you’ll enjoy scenic views of the Dales.

What to Wear and Take

These are our gear essentials for visiting the Bolton Abbey Walk.

Osprey Skarab 30
Osprey Skarab 30

The Osprey Skarab 30 is our go-to hiking backpack for day hikes. This well-designed unisex backpack is comfortable and spacious, so you’ll have plenty of space to pack everything without feeling the strain on your upper back.

Osprey Ultralight Raincover
Osprey Ultralight Raincover

A waterproof backpack cover is an absolute must when you’re adventuring outdoors. The Osprey Ultralight Raincover Medium is a high-quality waterproof cover that’ll keep your backpack bone dry.

GRAYL Reusable Water Bottle
GRAYL Reusable Water Bottle

The GRAYL GeoPress is the best water filter bottle that allows you to purify 710mL (12 ounces) of water. This bottle will make water safe to drink wherever you’re hiking.

BUFF Original Ecostretch
BUFF Original Ecostretch

The BUFF Original Ecostretch is a great option when it comes to multifunctional headwear. We use the Ecostretch as a neck gaiter to keep the sun off our necks and it helps us keep warm in cooler climates.

Sony Cybershot RX100 VII
Sony Cybershot RX100 VII

Capture epic photos and videos with the Sony Cybershot RX100 VII. This is hands-down the best compact camera. We love using this simple point-and-shoot camera when we’re hiking as it’s lightweight and durable.

To find out more about all of the gear that we use and recommend, read our guides about our favourite hiking gear, travel gear and camera gear. Otherwise, read our comprehensive travel packing checklist.

FAQs About the Bolton Abbey Walk

Below, you’ll find the most frequently asked questions about the Bolton Abbey Walk.

Dan on the Bolton Abbey Walk

Can You Walk Around Bolton Abbey For Free?

Yes, but you’ll need to pay for parking if you park at any of the official Bolton Abbey Estate car parks.

How Long Is the Bolton Abbey Walk?

The Bolton Abbey Walk distance is approx. 11km (6.8km).

Is the Bolton Abbey Walk Easy?

In the grand scheme of walks in the Yorkshire Dales, we rate the Bolton Abbey Walk difficulty as easy. Of course, difficulty ratings are subjective.

Which Car Park to Choose For the Bolton Abbey Walk?

We recommend the free roadside parking at Barden Bridge.

Where to Park in the Riverside Car Park?

This is a fair question as the Riverside Car Park is actually very long! But, in reality, it doesn’t really matter where you park as you’ll do a circular walk from wherever you start! Perhaps, if you wanted to relax at the Cavendish Pavilion afterwards, it’d be better to park near the Cavendish Pavilion end of the car park!

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Bonus Tips For the Bolton Abbey Walk

  • Dog rules at Bolton Abbey: you’re allowed to take pooch on a lead for this walk as it doesn’t enter the Barden Moor and Barden Fell area where dogs are prohibited.
  • Head to the Bolton Abbey ruins early: beat the crowds!
  • Other walks near Skipton and other walks near Bolton Abbey: head to Ilkley Moor and Otley Chevin.

Please leave us a comment below.

Daniel Piggott

Dan is a travel blogger, physiotherapist, hiker, natural wonder seeker and world traveller. He loves writing travel guides to help his readers explore the most beautiful destinations in the world.

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