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

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

Simon’s Seat is an epic gritstone-capped summit located on Barden Fell in the Yorkshire Dales. There are various trail options for reaching Simon’s Seat. Easily, the best walk to Simon’s Seat involves a circular walk, which is also known as Simon’s Seat and Valley of Desolation. Other than visiting Simon’s Seat, this route takes in the mesmerising Bolton Abbey Waterfall (Posforth Gill Falls), The Strid along the River Wharfe and the underrated Valley of Desolation.

In this guide, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about the walk around Simon’s Seat and the Valley of Desolation. After describing the highlights of this specific walk, we’ll also talk about different Simon’s Seat walking route options. We’ll then cover information about how to get there and answer some FAQs.

Simon’s Seat and Valley of Desolation, Wharfedale, Yorkshire Dales

Also known as Simon’s Seat Circular Walk, Simon Seat’s Walk and Simon’s Seat Walk From Barden Bridge, this loop trail takes place in the sublime Wharfedale area of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Genuinely, the walk around Simon’s Seat and the Valley of Desolation is one of the best walks in the Yorkshire Dales.

Indeed, reaching the summit of the spectacular Simon’s Seat landform should be high on your walking to-do list. By doing the circular walk, you can also explore the incredible Bolton Abbey Waterfall in the Valley of Desolation. Then, you can scope out The Strid found along River Wharfe. That’s why this circular walk is excellent. It’s not just about accessing Simon’s Seat. There are a whole lot of other natural attractions on the Bolton Abbey Estate to scope out.

Before we describe the walk, you’ll find a GPS-guided map and trail specs such as the Simon’s Seat walk distance, below.

Aerial views during the Simon's Seat Walk

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Simon’s Seat and Valley of Desolation Details

  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 14.9km (9.2 miles)
  • Time: 4–5 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 450m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Grid Ref (Simon’s Seat): SE078598
  • Trailhead: Bolton Abbey or Barden Bridge

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.

Simon’s Seat and Valley of Desolation Map (Directions)

Here’s a map of the Simon’s Seat and Valley of Desolation Walk. Please click on the map below to access an interactive map on AllTrails where you can download the GPX file.

Simon's Seat and Valley of Desolation Walk map

Simon’s Seat and Valley of Desolation Walk From Barden Bridge

In this trail description, we’re going to tell you about the highlights of the Simon’s Seat and Valley of Desolation Walk in North Yorkshire.

FYI – typically, the walk starts at Bolton Abbey. But, we started the walk at Barden Bridge. Our trail description will reflect this.

Dan atop Simon's Seat, before doing a walk through the Valley of Desolation to find the Bolton Abbey Waterfall

Barden Moor and Barden Fell, Bolton Abbey Estate

If you follow our lead and park at Barden Bridge, you’ll initially head in a northerly direction, picking up the Dales Way. The early stages of the walk are serene as you follow along River Wharfe. After approx. 2.1km, you’ll veer right, eventually reaching a Barden Moor and Barden Fell Open Access Land sign. From this point, the walk steeply ascends Barden Fell through the moorland, to Simon’s Seat.

Simon’s Seat

After a steep and physically demanding climb, you’ll eventually reach the summit of Simon’s Seat. Atop this magnificent array of gritstone boulders, you’ll find an Ordnance Survey trig point. When we arrived, we were met with thick mist, which did obscure our views of the surrounding Yorkshire Dales.

Surrounding Simon’s Seat, you’ll see other impressive gritstone formations. These include the Lord’s Seat, Hen Stones, Truckle Crags and Long Crags. From Simon’s Seat, you’ll get a good view of the Lord’s Seat to the north. After scrambling around the boulders at Simon’s Seat, it’s time to continue the walk to the Valley of Desolation.

Valley of Desolation

The Valley of Desolation is a beautiful stretch of moorlands. A clearly defined path winds its way through the moorlands, descending into the valley. At around the 9.2km mark, with the Laund Pasture Plantation to your right, you’ll arrive at a wooden bridge. Just before the bridge, you’ll find a side trail option to the Bolton Abbey Waterfall to your right.

Bolton Abbey Waterfall (Posforth Gill Falls)

Before passing the wooden bridge, take the side trail to your right. Passing through the forest, the trail descends to the base of a beautiful waterfall, known as the Bolton Abbey Waterfall, given its close proximity to the Bolton Abbey Estate. Although, the actual name of the waterfall is Posforth Gill Falls and it’s also known as the Valley of Desolation Waterfall.

Truly, the Bolton Abbey Waterfall is a mesmerising set of falls. Certainly, during the section of the walk from the Valley of Desolation to Bolton Abbey, this waterfall is the highlight.

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

Cavendish Pavilion

After admiring Bolton Abbey Waterfall, it’s time to retrace your steps to the wooden bridge. From there, you’ll pass the bridge and continue in a southerly direction through the Valley of Desolation, towards River Wharfe. Eventually, you’ll reach the river and a bridge. At this point, you have two options.

You can follow the River Wharfe back to Barden Bridge on either side of the river. We recommend crossing the bridge and following the River Wharfe back to Barden Bridge with the river to your right. That way, you can check out The Strid.

After crossing the bridge, you’ll arrive at the Cavendish Pavilion, which is a riverside venue that resembles a Victorian-style station building. If you’re feeling hungry, you should definitely head inside for something to eat or drink.

Cavendish Pavilion

The Strid

Also known as the Bolton Strid, the Strid is a point in the River Wharfe, located by Strid Wood, where the flowing river is forced through a narrow gap in the rocks. The Strid has been coined 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

Bolton Abbey Aqueduct

After passing Bolton Abbey, you’ll follow River Wharfe, towards the Bolton Abbey Aqueduct (AKA the Adequct). This is an attractive turreted bridge. Once you’ve scoped out the delightful aqueduct, you’ll soon arrive at another bridge – The Barden Bridge, near where you possibly started the walk!

Bolton Abbey Aqueduct

Barden Bridge and Barden Tower

After arriving at Barden Bridge, there’s an option to extend your walk to Barden Tower. Basically, if you like, you can scope out the former hunting lodge of the 15th and 16th centuries. The ruins are an interesting attraction to explore at the end of the Simon’s Seat and Valley of Desolation Walk.

Dan at Barden Tower

Alternate Simon’s Seat Walk Route Options

Other than the route described in this guide, there are other Simon’s Seat walking routes to choose from. If you’re only interested in a slightly shorter walk, you could simply do an out and back walk from Barden Bridge (approx. 10km) or Bolton Abbey (approx. 12km).

Otherwise, the most popular alternative route option is the Simon’s Seat walk from Appletreewick. Specifically, the walk starts and finishes in Howgill, an area in Appletreewick. Also known as Simon’s Seat short walk, this trail route is much shorter at around 6.5km. If your goal is to simply access Simon’s Seat, then this is a good option. But, we don’t recommend this trail option as you’ll miss out on the Bolton Abbey Waterfall, Valley of Desolation and the Strid!

How to Get There

The easiest and quickest way to be able to access the Simon’s Seat and Valley of Desolation Walk is to drive to a car park yourself. We’ll discuss the Bolton Abbey parking and Barden Bridge parking options below.

If you don’t have your own set of wheels, 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.

It’s also possible to use public transport to get to Bolton Abbey. But, you’re looking at a much slower journey time. So, we don’t recommend using public transport in this instance. 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. 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 the Dales Bus website for information about the latest timetable.

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.

Bolton Abbey Parking

There isn’t an actual Simon’s Seat car park. Most people start the Simon’s Seat and Valley of Desolation Walk from the Bolton Abbey Car Park. But, regardless of how long you stay or whether you even visit Bolton Abbey, it’s £12.50 for prebooked parking or £15 if you pay upon arrival. If you plan on exploring the ruins at Bolton Abbey or spending the whole day there, you could possibly justify the price. But, if you’re just planning on doing the walk to Simon’s Seat and the Valley of Desolation, we think the price of parking is very steep.

A free alternative parking option is to park at the roadside parking at Barden Bridge.

Barden Bridge Parking

You can park at the Barden Bridge Car Park for free. It’s unrestricted parking there, making it the best choice for parking for walking to Simon’s Seat and the Valley of Desolation. Although, there are only around 15–20 spots available. So, make sure to arrive early to avoid missing out.

What to Wear and Pack

These are our hiking gear essentials for this 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.

Best 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.

Other Yorkshire Dales National Park Walks


The Yorkshire Dales is home to many other amazing walks. Click the button below to read about some of the other best walks in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

FAQs About This Truly Rewarding Walk

Below, you’ll find frequently asked questions about Simon’s Seat and the walk.

Bolton Abbey Waterfall in the Valley of Desolation during the Simon Seat's Walk

What Is Simon’s Seat?

Simon’s Seat is a gritstone-capped peak located on Barden Fell on the Bolton Abbey Estate. Certainly, it’s a popular peak to climb in the Yorkshire Dales.

Where Is Simon’s Seat in Yorkshire?

Simon’s Seat is located near Skipton in the Wharfedale area of the Yorkshire Dales National Park in the northwest of England. For your reference, please find Simon’s Seat map below.

Where Do You Park For the Simon’s Seat Walk?

For the walk described in this guide, you can park at either the Bolton Abbey Car Park or Barden Bridge Car Park.

How Long of a Walk is Simon’s Seat?

If you do the circular walk described in this guide, it’s approx. 14.9km.

How Far Is Simon’s Seat From Bolton Abbey?

It’s around a 6km walk from Bolton Abbey to Simon’s Seat.

How High Is Simon’s Seat?

It’s 485 metres high.

Is Simon’s Seat a Mountain?

No, as it falls shy of 600 metres, which is the height required for mountain status. If you want to climb a mountain in the Yorkshire Dales, you’ll want to climb one of the Yorkshire Three Peaks – Ingleborough, Pen-y-ghent and Whernside, or, even do the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge itself.

Why Is it Called Simon’s Seat?

No one knows for sure. There are two main theories. One, it was named by Druids after Simon Magus, who claimed to be one of the Three Wise Men. Second, it was named after a baby called Simon who was found by a shepherd boy on Barden Fell. It’s also possible that it was simply named after a previous landowner.

Where Is Barden Fell?

Barden Fell is located in the Barden Moor Open Access Land. Simon’s Seat is located on Barden Fell.

Can You Walk Dogs to Simon’s Seat?

Simon’s Seat isn’t dog-friendly. The Barden Moor and Barden Fell Open Access Land is a no-dog zone. So, you’ll have to leave pooch at home.

Is Simon’s Seat Kid-Friendly?

In reality, this is a fairly long walk, so if you can manage to get the little ones around this loop, then consider it kid-friendly!

Best Villages to See in the Yorkshire Dales

Bonus Tips

  • Check out more of the Bolton Abbey Estate: explore the Bolton Priory Church and the well-known stepping stones.
  • Simon’s Seat bouldering is a popular option for climbers: another great activity to consider at this gritstone summit!
  • Trail closures: between August and December, game shooting takes place on the moor, so it may be closed at times. Check here for access restrictions.
  • Explore nearby waterfall walks in Yorkshire: explore Ilkley Moor Waterfall and Hebers Ghyll Waterfall (guides coming soon).
  • Explore other national parks in and near Yorkshire: don’t just stop at the Yorkshire Dales. Head to the beautiful Lake District and North York Moors National Parks.

Please leave us a comment below – we’d love to hear from you!

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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