Druid’s Temple is an intriguing attraction found on the Swinton Estate near Masham in Yorkshire. At first glance, the temple appears to be pre-historic, like the famous Stonehenge. But, in reality, the temple is nothing more than an elaborate folly!
Still, there is a lot of uncertainty about the history of this place, making it one of the most mysterious and fascinating attractions to visit in Yorkshire. So, even though the temple isn’t a pre-historic monument, it’s definitely still worth scoping out!
In this guide, we’re going to tell you about all of the most important things to know about visiting the Druid’s Temple.
Read our guide about Swinton Estate
Table of Contents
1. What Is the Druid’s Temple?
Essentially, the Druid’s Temple is a folly, which is a building constructed primarily for decoration, but suggesting through its appearance some other purpose or significance.
The temple itself consists of a prominent stone circle with stone features such as cairns, chambers, obelisks, altars, menhirs, dolmens, sarsens and free-standing stones. Certainly, the temple very much resembles an authentic pre-historic temple built by Druids.
2. What to Know About Druid’s Temple’s History
We know that the temple was commissioned by William Danby, who was a former owner of Swinton Estate. The temple was likely built between the late 18th century and early 19th century. So, no, this isn’t a pre-historic site such as Stonehenge or Avebury (both built around 5,000 years ago). Although, some people refer to the Druid’s Temple as Yorkshire’s Stonehenge!
William had travelled throughout Europe and was likely influenced by the Romantic movement. This was a time when poets such as William Blake and William Wordsworth were intrigued by and wrote about Druidism. Certainly, it could be a combination of being cultured and eccentric, that led William to the idea of building the folly. At the time, unemployment was a significant problem. So, William employed locals to help build the folly.
Today, the temple is a notable tourist attraction in Yorkshire. Indeed, it’s one of the most interesting places to visit in Yorkshire and is certainly a worthwhile experience exploring it. So, exactly where is it located?
3. Where Is the Druid’s Temple?
The Druid’s Temple is located in Druid’s Wood in a village called Ilton near Masham and Ripon. The temple falls inside the Nidderdale Area of Natural Beauty (AONB) in the Yorkshire Dales National Park in North Yorkshire.
To help you get your bearings, please click on the link below to access an interactive map of the area.
4. How to Find the Druid’s Temple
Now you know a little history and the whereabouts of Druid’s Temple, let’s talk about how to find it! Yes, the folly is hidden away in Druid’s Woods on the Swinton Estate. But, thankfully, the temple is easy to find with obvious trails to leading to the attraction.
Let’s start by looking at how to get there in the first place.
5. How to Get There: Druid’s Temple Directions
The quickest and easiest way to get to Druid’s Temple is to drive yourself to Swinton Bivouac, which is where you’ll need to park. Simply, put Swinton Bivouac into your sat nav and follow the directions.
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.
There is no public transport to Swinton Bivouac or to the Druid’s Temple. Certainly, to explore the Nidderdale AONB, having a car is ideal.
6. Druid’s Temple Parking: Swinton Bivouac
You’ll find a small parking area at the Swinton Bivouac. Parking isn’t free. Currently, the parking fee is £3. Of course, this price is subject to change. Please let us know in the comments if you were charged differently.
To make payment, simply head inside the Swinton Bivouac Cafe. You can pay with cash or by card. If you visit outside of the cafe’s opening hours, you can pay via an honesty box on-site. Basically, you’ll pop £3 into one of the envelopes provided and write down your car registration on the front of the envelope.
FYI – it’s forbidden to park at the end of Knowles Road, which appears to be closer access to the temple. The end of Knowles Road is an emergency access area, so no parking there is permitted.
7. Things to Do at the Druid’s Temple
From Swinton Bivouac, you can walk to Druid’s Temple. Of course, walking to the folly and exploring it is the main thing to do during a visit. But, there are actually many other things to do during a visit. Certainly, to make the most of your visit, you’ll want to explore beyond the attraction itself. With this in mind, let’s look at all of the best things to do during a visit!
Visit and Explore the Druid’s Temple
The main thing that people do when they visit is simply walk to Druid’s Temple from Swinton Bivouac, explore the site, and then walk back. From Swinton Bivouac, it’s around a 10 minute walk to the attraction. You’ll initially walk along a public footpath called Ripon Rowel, before turning left onto Knowles Road. You’ll then enter Druid’s Wood, following a well-defined public footpath (Jubilee Walk).
Soon enough, you’ll reach the impressive folly. Take your time to explore the immense attraction. There are many stone structures to see; although, it isn’t a huge site. So, you won’t need hours and hours. But, that doesn’t mean you need to rush either!
See Druid’s Temple From the Vantage Point
One of the best vantage points to enjoy the folly is from above. Certainly, you’ll want to initially walk inside the stone circle and get a close look at all of the fascinating structures. But, afterwards, don’t head back to Swinton Bivouac just yet.
Follow the path that gently ascends away from the site. After a short climb, you’ll arrive at a decent vantage point, which offers a fantastic perspective of Druid’s Temple. Indeed, this is one of the best places to photograph the folly.
Visit the Stone Formations
Other than the main stone circle, there are many interesting standing stones dotted within Druid’s Woods. Certainly, you’ll want to visit these other standing stones as part of your visit. Some of them are around three metres high, which is quite astonishing! All of these stone stacks were meticulously positioned to resemble a prehistoric site. Such was the precision of William’s orders, at first glance, it almost seems like the real deal!
The Druid’s Temple Circular Walk
Most people simply do an out and back walk from Swinton Bivouac to the Druid’s Temple. But, it’s possible to do a longer circular walk to explore additional stone structures, see more of the woodlands and enjoy other viewpoints and attractions. Let’s look at some extra things you can see and enjoy in Druid’s Wood by doing a longer walk.
Druid’s Temple Circular Walk Stats and Map
Below, you’ll find the trail specs for doing a longer circular walk around Druid’s Wood (AKA the Druid’s Plantation).
- Type: Circular
- Distance: 7.9km (4.9 miles)
- Time: 2 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 230m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Swinton Bivouac
- Map: AllTrails
Also, here’s a map of all of the walking routes at Druid’s Wood. Essentially, the longer circular walk combines walking on Ripon Rowel, Knowles Road, the Jubilee Walk and then a combination of permissive walking paths and mountain bike tracks.
Check Out the Swinton Estate Viewpoint
Not far from the Druid’s Temple, you’ll find a magnificent viewpoint of the Swinton Estate. In the distance, you’ll be able to see Leighton Reservoir.
Visit the Home of the Rock Troll
Along the longer Druid’s Temple Walk, you may see a sign about the Home of the Rock Troll. The sign asks that you leave a stone or a rock for the Rock Troll!
Lobley Hall is another worthwhile attraction that you can see by doing this longer circular walk. The dilapidated hall is actually a grade II listed building, that’s much older than the Druid’s Temple, dating back to the mid-17th century.
Bird Watch at the Bird Hide
Located on the outskirts of Druid’s Woods, the Bird Hide provides an excellent lookout for birdwatching. The heather moorland surrounding the woodlands is a natural haven for many species of birds including endangered breeds. By birdwatching at the Bird Hide, you may be lucky enough to see curlew, golden plover, red shank, lapwing, merlin and hen harriers.
Cycle the Mountain Bike Trails
There are quite a few mountain bike trails surrounding the folly in Druid’s Wood. Certainly, if you enjoy mountain biking, we highly recommend biking along these trails. There is a mixture of trails with varying levels of difficulty.
There you have it – all of the best things to do during a visit to the Druid’s Temple! Now, we’ll look at some essential things to know before you visit.
8. Things To Know Before You Go
There are a few things worth knowing before visiting the Druid’s Temple. At the end of the day, the site falls on private property (Swinton Estate). So, the estate has set some rules regarding a visit to the site. We’ll list some of these conditions for visiting below.
- Stick to the paths: there are many well-defined trails to follow. For safety, it’s recommended to stick to these paths.
- You can’t visit at night: the permissive routes should only be used during daylight hours.
- Don’t visit in high winds: because of the risk of falling branches, you shouldn’t visit if it’s very windy.
- Don’t climb on any of the structures: treat the temple with respect and don’t climb on top of the stone structures. All it takes is one person to damage or vandalise the site for much stricter rules to come into place.
- Don’t fly your drone: unless you have recording permission, it’s essentially a no-drone zone.
- It’s a dog-friendly site: but, dogs are only allowed on the permissive paths. So, you may need to have doggo on a lead.
9. What to Do Nearby Druid’s Temple
After visiting Druid’s Temple and exploring the surrounding woodlands, there are many other places to see nearby. Below, we’ll list some of the best things to do in the nearby area. Later in our guide, we’ll talk about other awesome things to do in the wider Nidderdale AONB (click here for all of the details).
Swinton Bivouac Cafe
Located right by the parking area at Swinton Bivouac, you’ll find the delightful Swinton Bivouac Cafe. It’s a delightful cafe offering yummy treats, whilst having lovely decor. You should definitely head to the Swinton Bivouac Cafe after exploring the folly.
Swinton Estate: Swinton Park
Other than the Druid’s Temple, there are many other places to see at the Swinton Estate. Other than the Country Club and Spa and the Cookery School, there is the spectacular Swinton Park. Featuring a deer park, lakes, parklands and gardens, there is much to explore at the spectacular Swinton Park.
10. Where to Stay at the Druid’s Temple
Swinton Bivouac Yurts and Tree Lodges
Swinton Park Hotel
Other than Swinton Bivouac, the Swinton Park Hotel is another brilliant place to stay at the Swinton Estate. When it comes to hotels in the Nidderdale AONB, the Swinton Park Hotel is one of the best. The Swinton Park Hotel offers a luxurious castle hotel stay in the heart of Swinton Estate, next to the stunning Swinton Park.
11. Other Things to Do in Nidderdale AONB
There are many other awesome places to see and things to do in the Nidderdale AONB. Let’s look at some of the best attractions in the area, so you know what else to do in Nidderdale.
- Hackfall Woods: gorgeous woodlands next to Swinton Estate with plenty of natural attractions and monuments to visit.
- Masham: this gorgeous town isn’t too far away. So, you should definitely stop by after visiting Swinton Estate.
- Brimham Rocks: a beautiful area of uniquely shaped gritstone rock formations.
- Stump Cross Caverns: one of the most famous show caves in the UK.
- How Stean Gorge: an immense limestone gorge where you can do many adventurous activities.
- Swinsty Reservoir and Fewston Reservoir: you can walk around each of these reservoirs individually or walk around both of them during a longer circular walk.
- Yorkes Folly: visit another folly in the historic town of Pateley Bridge.
12. What to Wear and Pack
Below, you’ll find our gear essentials for exploring Druid’s Temple.
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
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
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
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.
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.
Below, we’ll answer the most frequently asked questions about the Druid’s Temple.
Is Druid’s Temple Real?
In a sense, no it isn’t – it’s a folly, rather than a pre-historic site.
Who Built Druid’s Temple?
Under the commission of William Danby, the former owner of the Swinton Estate, the temple was built by locals in the area.
What Was Druid’s Temple Used For?
The temple is actually a folly. This means it was designed as a decorative monument rather than having any particular religious or cultural use or significance.
Where Do You Park at Druid’s Temple?
Is Druid’s Temple Free?
Other than parking (£3), it’s free to visit.
How Long Is the Druid’s Temple Walk?
The return walk from Swinton Bivouac to the temple only takes around 15–20 minutes. Of course, you’ll spend at least 20–30 minutes at the site. So, a visit may take an hour or so. Whilst, the longer circular walk itself can take around two hours, plus time spent exploring the folly itself.
Is the Druid’s Temple An Easy Walk?
Yes, the popular walk between Swinton Bivouac and the temple is very easy. But, the longer circular walk is of moderate difficulty.
Is Druid’s Temple Pram Friendly?
Yes, the trail between Swinton Bivouac and the temple is wide and mostly even and well-maintained. Although, after heavy rain, there may be muddy patches and puddles. The longer circular walk, however, isn’t pram friendly.
Other Yorkshire Dales Guides
Best Villages to See in the Yorkshire Dales
- Grassington: Everything You Need to Know About Grassington
- Hawes: The 16 Best Things To Do In Hawes
- Ingleton: 10 Awesome Things To Do In Ingleton
- Masham: Everything You Need to Know About Masham
- Buckden: The 5 Best Things To Do In Buckden, Yorkshire
- Keld: The 5 Best Things To Do in Keld, North Yorkshire
- Clapham: The Top 13 Things To Do During A Visit to Clapham, Yorkshire
- Ribblehead: 15 Awesome Things To Do In Ribblehead
My Bonus Tips For Visiting the Druid’s Temple
- Longer walks involving the Druid’s Temple: consider Fearby to Druid’s Temple Walk or Masham to Druid’s Temple Walk for a longer and more challenging walk. Personally, we didn’t do these longer walks, so we can’t specifically recommend doing them.
- Visit during summer: as mentioned, you’re only permitted to access paths to the folly during daylight hours. By visiting in summer, when there are much longer days, you can visit much earlier or later in the day for a quieter visit.
- Other things to do nearby: visit the Himalayan Garden and Sculpture Park or the famous Fountains Abbey.
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