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Bolton Abbey Waterfall: The Ultimate Visitor’s Guide (2024)

Bolton Abbey Waterfall: The Ultimate Visitor’s Guide (2024)

Bolton Abbey Waterfall is one of the most stunning waterfalls in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Hidden away in the Valley of Desolation on the Bolton Abbey Estate, you’ll find Bolton Abbey Waterfall (AKA Posforth Gill Waterfall and Valley of Desolation Waterfall). In this guide, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about visiting this epic waterfall.

About Bolton Abbey Waterfall (Posforth Gill Waterfall)

Bolton Abbey Waterfall is a lesser-known waterfall in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Although, Bolton Abbey itself is very well-known and sees many visitors throughout the year. Most people visiting Bolton Abbey will see various attractions and do various walks without seeing the immense Bolton Abbey Waterfall.

Indeed, we think you should definitely include visiting Bolton Abbey Waterfall when you visit Bolton Abbey. Admittedly, the waterfall is hidden in the Valley of Desolation, so it isn’t easy to find without knowing where to look. Of course, once you know where to look, it’s actually not too strenuous or time-consuming to find as it isn’t located too far from the Cavendish Pavilion and the Bolton Abbey Ruins.

Without further ado, let’s look at exactly where the waterfall is located.

Where Is Bolton Abbey Waterfall?

It’s located on the Bolton Abbey Estate in the south of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Specifically, it’s found along Posforth Gill Beck in the Valley of Desolation. To help you get your bearings, please click on the image below to access an interactive map of the area on Google Maps.

Bolton Abbey Waterfall map
Bolton Abbey Waterfall map

How to Find Bolton Abbey Waterfall

To find Bolton Abbey Waterfall, you’ll need to walk to it from the Cavendish Pavilion or the Bolton Abbey Ruins. Below, we’ll talk through some details about the walk.

Bolton Abbey Accommodation

Devonshire Arms Hotel & Spa

Devonshire Arms Hotel & Spa is the only accommodation on Bolton Abbey. 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 Waterfall Walk Details

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 4.8km (3 miles)
  • Time: 1.5 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 220m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead: Cavendish Pavilion

Bolton Abbey Waterfall Directions (Map)

Feel free to use this GPS-guided map to help you find Bolton Abbey Waterfall.

Bolton Abbey Waterfall Walk map

How to Walk to the Bolton Abbey Waterfall

Below, we’ll describe the Bolton Abbey Waterfall Walk to help you find the immense waterfall. Let’s start with where you should park!

Where to Park to Visit Bolton Abbey Waterfall

When it comes to Bolton Abbey Waterfall parking, there are actually a few options. Yet, the simplest and most convenient place to park is the Riverside Car Park next to Cavendish Pavilion. You could also park at the Bolton Abbey Car Park, but that makes for a longer walk. With this option, you’ll walk an extra 1km or so to get from the Bolton Abbey Ruins to the Cavendish Pavilion.

Please note, that 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. If you really want to avoid paying for parking, you could park at Barden Bridge. You’d then need to walk around 4km to reach Cavendish Pavilion.

Simply put, the easiest parking option is the Riverside Car Park at Cavendish Pavilion as that’s where the walk officially starts.

Cavendish Pavilion to Bolton Abbey Waterfall

At Cavendish Pavilion, you’ll find some helpful information boards and maps. Essentially, for much of the walk, you’ll follow signs to the Valley of Desolation and Simon’s Seat. That’s because the Bolton Abbey Waterfall Walk is just a small section of the longer Valley of Desolation and Simon’s Seat Walk.

After checking out these information boards, you’ll cross a bridge that passes over the River Wharfe. You’ll then turn left following a trail along the quaint stream of the river. Soon, you’ll turn right heading towards the Valley of Desolation. You’ll pass through a series of gates before walking along a wide grassy field that leads into the valley.

Valley of Desolation

After following through the stunning Valley of Desolation, you’ll soon approach Bolton Abbey Waterfall. There are various trails that you can take down to the waterfall. But, many of these side trails are steep and sketchy. Certainly, we don’t recommend taking these trails. Thankfully, there is one trail to follow that’s much easier and safer.

To reach this trail, you’ll need to keep walking through the Valley of Desolation until you reach a wooden bridge. Once you cross the wooden bridge, you’ll then turn left onto a trail that follows along the other side of the river. This trail gently descends down to Bolton Abbey Waterfall.

Bolton Abbey Waterfall (Posforth Gill Waterfall)

You’ll soon arrive at Bolton Abbey Waterfall – one of the most underrated waterfalls in the Yorkshire Dales. Personally, Beck and I visited during summer, so the waterfall wasn’t at its fullest. But, it was still absolutely spectacular. With no one else around, we got our drone and captured some mouthwatering aerial shots. Indeed, the waterfall isn’t hugely known (yet), so don’t expect too many people around!

Once you’ve explored the hidden waterfall, you can simply retrace your steps to complete the 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.

Barden Moor and Barden Fell Open Access

Of course, if you want to explore more of the Valley of Desolation, you can continue walking north of the wooden bridge. This will take you deeper into the Barden Moor and Barden Fell Open Access Land. Beck and I actually explored this area during the Valley of Desolation and Simon’s Seat Walk. Please click here for more details about this walk.

Dan and Beck at Barden Moor and Barden Fell Open Access

How to Get to Bolton Abbey Waterfall

The most convenient way to get to the Cavendish Pavilion at Bolton Abbey is to drive there yourself. If you don’t have your own set of wheels, then we recommend hiring a car. You’ll find a wide variety of cars on Discover Cars for very reasonable prices.

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.

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. 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 Things to Do in Bolton Abbey

Other than chasing the Bolton Abbey Waterfall, there are many other things to do at Bolton Abbey. Below, we’ll quickly run through other things to see during a visit to Bolton Abbey.

Bolton Abbey Ruins

Of course, you’ll need to explore the historic Bolton Abbey Priory Church and ruins during a visit. As you know, we recommend visiting Bolton Abbey Waterfall from Cavendish Pavilion as that’s the shortest walk. But, if you want to explore Bolton Abbey Ruins and Bolton Abbey Waterfall, then you could start the walk from the Bolton Abbey Car Park, which is next to the ruins.

Bolton Abbey Estate Walks

There are many different walks and route options available at the Bolton Abbey Estate. Certainly, you’ll want to spend a whole day at Bolton Abbey, walking along different trails, to see all of the attractions and places of interest. Below, we’ll highlight three of the best Bolton Abbey walks.

Dan walks alongside the River Wharfe near the Strid and Strid Wood

1. Simon’s Seat and Valley of Desolation

Perhaps the best walk at Bolton Abbey is the Simon’s Seat and Valley of Desolation Walk (AKA Simon’s Seat Walk). 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. That’s what Beck and I did once.

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

Dan at Simon's Seat

2. Bolton Abbey Walk

The Bolton Abbey Walk is a popular route option. The approx. 10.5km trail follows along each side of the River Wharfe, passing many attractions in the Bolton Abbey Estate along the way. Other than passing Barden Bridge, Bolton Abbey Aqueduct, Bolton Abbey Ruins and Cavendish Pavilion, you’ll also pass The Strid.

Read more: Bolton Abbey Walk – Everything You Need to Know

Bolton Abbey Aqueduct

3. The Strid

The Strid is infamous for being the most dangerous stretch of river in the world! Found deep in Strid Wood, the waterway has apparently 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.

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

The Strid

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.

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.

Dan at Devonshire Arms Hotel and 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 nice scenic views of the Dales.

Other Waterfalls in the Yorkshire Dales

Other than Bolton Abbey Waterfall, the Yorkshire Dales has plenty of sensational waterfalls to see. Below, we’ve listed the other best waterfalls to see in the national park.

Other lesser-known waterfalls worth visiting in the Yorkshire Dales include Buckden Beck Waterfalls, Cow Close Gill Waterfall, Gastack Beck Waterfall and Ilkley Moor Waterfall.

Read more: The Top 48 Waterfalls in the Yorkshire Dales

Dan at Hardraw Force
Hardraw Force

What to Wear and Take

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

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 Bolton Abbey Waterfall

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

Is Posforth Gill One of the Best Waterfalls in the Yorkshire Dales?

Yes, it’s one of the best and most underrated waterfalls in the Yorkshire Dales.

Why Is it Known as the Valley of Desolation Waterfall?

That’s because it’s located in the Valley of Desolation.

How Do I Get to the Valley of Desolation Waterfall?

Please use this blog post to help you find this hidden waterfall. Read Bolton Abbey Waterfall Directions (Map) for more information about directions.

How Far Is the Walk to the Waterfall From Bolton Abbey?

From Cavendish Pavilion, it’s an approx. 2.4km (1.5 mile) one-way walk to the waterfall.

What Is the Postcode For the Waterfall at Bolton Abbey?

The most relevant postcode in relation to the waterfall is the Riverside Car Park, which is where you’ll want to park. The postcode for the Riverside Car Park is BD23 6AN.

Do You Have to Pay to Go to Bolton Abbey?

No, but you have to pay for parking.

How Much Is Parking at Bolton Abbey?

Regardless of which car park you use (Riverside Car Park or Bolton Abbey Car Park) or how long you stay, it’s £12.50 for prebooked parking or £15 if you pay upon arrival. As mentioned, a free parking option is located here at Barden Bridge. But, you’ll need to do a much longer walk to reach the waterfall.

Is Bolton Abbey Waterfall Kid-Friendly?

Yes, but the trail leading down to the waterfall can get slippery and muddy, especially in winter. So, supervision and caution are necessary.

Other Yorkshire Dales Guides

Hardraw Force

For more information about the best things to do in the Yorkshire Dales, click the button below. Otherwise, to help you get started, read our 42 Best Yorkshire Dales Walks or 48 Best Yorkshire Dales Waterfalls guides.

Best Villages to See in the Yorkshire Dales

Bonus Tips

  • Bolton Abbey walks with dogs: unfortunately, the Barden Moor and Barden Fell Open Access Land prohibits dogs. So, you can’t take pooch to the Valley of Desolation or the Bolton Abbey Waterfall. Thankfully, dogs are allowed on all other parts of the estate. Essentially, any walk that doesn’t enter Barden Moor and Barden Fell is a dog-friendly zone.
  • Bolton Abbey Waterfall swimming: this isn’t the best waterfall for swimming as the pool at the base of the falls isn’t huge or that deep.
  • Visit Ilkley and Otley: near Bolton Abbey, you’ll find more brilliant walks at 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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