Yorkshire walk - Bolton Abbey and the River Wharfe

Kings Bridge over the Wharfe at Bolton Abbey Photo: WoutervandenBroek/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Kings Bridge over the Wharfe at Bolton Abbey Photo: WoutervandenBroek/Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

James Austin from York is delivery officer for The Ramblers. Here he shares a favourite walk by the river Wharfe and Bolton Abbey

Bolton Abbey Priory Photo: mauinow1/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Bolton Abbey Priory Photo: mauinow1/Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

This walk was published in June 2019, so the details of the route may no longer be accurate, we do advise these articles should only be used as a guideline for any potential route you take and you should double check an up to date map before you set off.


Huddled around a particularly narrow section of the River Wharfe, Strid Wood has something to offer everyone, no matter the season. In spring, the woods are carpeted with bluebells, while in summer wild garlic predominates. Autumn is a riot of colour as the ancient sessile oak trees shed their leaves. The wide, well surfaced paths and regularly shelters make the woods ideal for winter walking, with seasonal trails adding to the atmosphere.

This six mile circular route takes in one of the most picturesque and dramatic parts of the Wharfe; the Strid itself. Within the space of a few hundred yards the thirty foot width of the river is compressed into a six foot gap which looks narrow enough to stride across - though the name actually originates from the old Anglo-Saxon word 'Stryth' - meaning turmoil.

This section has gained a fearsome reputation due to its depth and undercurrents and has been called 'the world's most deadly river'. Its dangerous nature was even immortalised in poetry by Wordsworth, who recounted the story of young William de Romilly, 'the boy of Egremont,' who was said to have been killed trying to jump the river. But given that de Romilly was signing estate documents well into adulthood, it may be that this story was overstated.

The Strid's reputation shouldn't overshadow the river's beauty and one of this walk's great advantages is the way it allows you to see the river interact with the landscape. At the upper end of the walk the river is languid and wide as it enters the wood, it then narrows dramatically as it hits the Strid before widening as the river exits the rapids and heads towards Bolton Abbey.

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The walks starts from Strid Wood car park. From here, head down the gentle slope towards the river, bearing right until the path runs alongside the river itself. Follow this along to the right, downstream, until you meet the Cavendish Pavilion. Along the way you will pass various art installations and, with luck, you may see kingfishers or otters around the river.

The Cavendish Pavilion was opened in 1890 and its Victorian grandeur is the perfect place to have some light refreshments. To continue the walk, continue following the path past the car park as it bends with the river, then climb up to the road on your right as the path does. Pass the memorial fountain, erected as a memorial to Lord Fredrick Cavenish after his murder by Irish nationalists in 1882, and follow the road along for 200 metres, then turn left towards the ruined priory.

Bolton Abbey is one of the highlights of this walk. Founded in the 12th century as an Augustinian monastery it was raided by Scots in 14th century causing its temporary abandonment. Much of it was abandoned during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, though some of the nave remained in use for local worship. Restoration continued throughout the 19th century, including a new stained glass window by Pugin and resulted in the Abbey's present semi-occupied state.

It forms a romantic backdrop to this section of the walk as you head past it and down towards the river. Cross via the bridge or - if you're feeling brave - the stepping stones, and turn left. You have a choice of route here - either to take the lower, easier path or the higher, more picturesque one. Either way, follow the route along as it runs through the wood, keeping an eye out for the roe deer which sometimes inhabit this area of woodland. The two paths will converge at a small bridge and you can continue onwards, until you meet a road and a bridge.

Cross this bridge and follow the path on, leaving the road and passing the Cavendish Pavilion on the far bank. The path climbs upward, away from the river before dropping back down where the wood ends after two miles. Be careful on this section of the route - the path is rocky and uneven underfoot. If you want to avoid this and the climb, cross the bridge at the Cavendish pavilion and follow the path to the right back to the car park.

Continue on the main path after it exits the wood and cross the river at the first bridge you meet. Turn left here and follow the path back into the wood, downstream. Take the first rightward path you meet the begin climbing up the hill past the Montessori school to the car park where you started.



Start/finish: Strid Wood car park, BD23 6AN

Distance: Six miles, 10km

Terrain: Woodland and riverside paths (and optional stepping stones). Some uneven surfaces and some sloping sections.

Time: Three hours

Parking: Strid Wood car park

Refreshments: The Cavendish Pavilion and Abbey Tearooms en route

Map: OS Explorer Map OL2, Whernside, Ingleborough & Pen-y-ghent