We’ve been lucky enough to have some amazing weather recently, and I’ve been loving it. There’s something about the sunshine which makes it almost impossible to feel down or stressed – when the weather is good all I want to do is get outside and enjoy it. Last Sunday Bolton Abbey was my chosen spot for a day of adventuring, and it felt so therapeutic to get out of the house, breathe in some fresh countryside air and enjoy the beautiful Yorkshire scenery.
For those who don’t know, Bolton Abbey is an estate near Skipton on the southern edge of the Yorkshire Dales. There is, of course, the remains of an old abbey there, and the River Wharfe runs right through it with lawns and sandbanks on either side that make it a popular alternative to the beach for the West Yorkshire folk who don’t want to commit to driving all the way to the coast. It also has an awesome row of stepping stones across the river which I have fond memories of leaping across when I was a kid, always saying cautious of the one wobbly stone near the middle.
Bolton Abbey’s popularity with families and tourists means it can get pretty crowded on a nice day, but if you bother to go past the river and venture up into the surrounding woodland it doesn’t take long for the crowds to disappear. The ‘Welly Walk’ filled with fun activities and obstacles for kids is pretty busy, but there are some lovely views from the high vantage points and if you carry on to the end of this route you’ll see sign posts for the Valley of Desolation (don’t ask me to explain the over-dramatic name, I can’t), Barden Bridge and Simon’s Seat. This is where you’ll find the real tranquillity.
We opted for the Valley of Desolation, partly because the name seemed to suggest we might see some orcs but also because it’s a nice manageable distance of just under 3 miles each way. There are a couple of hilly sections but on the whole it’s an easy walk, taking you through bluebell woods, fields and forest, and we spotted some tiny ducklings in the pond en route through the fields.
Near the end of the trail, which continues on to Simon’s Seat, you can branch off right down a barely noticeable track and at the end you’ll find a beautiful waterfall – if in doubt just follow the sound of the water. Amazingly barely any of the visitors to Bolton Abbey that day had made their way to it; we sat and ate our lunch on the rocks at the bottom of the falls for almost an hour and barely a single person appeared the whole time we were there. Another couple appeared at the top of the falls at one point – we looked at each other as if to say ‘how did you get there?’, the guy briefly looked like he was considering trying to climb down the waterfall, and then they disappeared again.
Even when we returned to the busy riverside I had a lovely sense of calm and contentment. When you live in a city like Leeds with a big urban sprawl it can be easy to forget how much natural beauty we have practically on our doorsteps, and sometimes you just need to get some physical distance from the rush of day-to-day life and go on an adventure. I promise I’m going to do more of that this summer, not least because the ice cream you reward yourself with at the end of a long walk always tastes extra delicious.
Where are your favourite countryside spots in Britain? I want to hear some day trip tips, especially from fellow Yorkshire folk!