Bolton Abbey: Duke of Devonshire's Yorkshire sporting estate where royal family have been shooting to introduce conservation retreats and bird safaris

The Duke of Devonshire’s Bolton Abbey estate in the Yorkshire Dales is introducing a conservation retreat with moorland ‘safaris’ as it focuses on more sustainable forms of tourism.

Bolton Abbey has always been renowned for its game shoot, which is considered one of the best in the country, and in the early part of the 20th century, King Edward VII, his son King George V and his grandson King George VI were guests of the Cavendish family, Dukes of Devonshire, to enjoy the grouse moors.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip also stayed for a week in 2005 at Bolton Abbey Hall on the estate, where her grandfather George V also slept during his visits for the shooting season. Prime minister Harold Macmillan was another dignitary to enjoy the Devonshires’ hospitality. Their patronage meant that the royal train called at the small Bolton Abbey Station in 1902, 1907, 1922 and 1947, carrying the King and the Prince of Wales’s horses as well the men themselves.

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Yet the estate, which has been owned by the Cavendishes since the 18th century, is now looking to a future that focuses on nature and conservation experiences for visitors.

Bolton Bridge spanning the River Wharfe on the Bolton Abbey EstateBolton Bridge spanning the River Wharfe on the Bolton Abbey Estate
Bolton Bridge spanning the River Wharfe on the Bolton Abbey Estate

In June, a retreat for guests has been organised, with activities including wild fungi foraging, fly fishing, guided dawn chorus walks and moorland safaris where they will spot birds such as curlews. They will stay at the Devonshire Arms Hotel.

Although the 12 guests will not take part in field sports, they will instead eat picnics in the huts usually used for shooting parties.

The walks and birdspotting will be led by the estate’s gamekeeper, while well-known Yorkshire forager Chris Bax will run workshops.

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The Bolton Abbey Estate said: “This retreat is a different type of experiential holiday, enjoying all that the wild has to offer and access to the privately owned estate which surrounds the hotel, and a lot of which is of course accessible as part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Guests will be taken on to the Dales and moorland, to explore bird habitats, try their hand at fishing and wild foraging, in the capable hands of experts in their field.”

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