Weekend Walk: Valley of Desolation

The River Wharfe from Cavendish Pavilion
The River Wharfe from Cavendish Pavilion
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Any place with a name like the Valley of Desolation demands to be visited and, happily, it makes a splendid walk within easy reach of several Yorkshire towns and cities

The valley got its name after a violent storm there in 1826 ripped down trees and caused a landslide. There is little evidence of that destruction today. In fact, the small valley has a tranquil atmosphere, which is best appreciated by taking the suggested short detour to a small waterfall. The route continues onto open moorland and, at the end, passes the ruins of Bolton Priory, the much-photographed Augustinian monastery founded in 1154. Watch for mandarin ducks and goosander on the River Wharfe, red kites and nuthatches around Bolton Abbey. Note that in autumn the moorland may be closed some days for grouse shooting, so before making the journey check closure dates at www.boltonabbey.com

The waterfall in the Valley of Desolation

The waterfall in the Valley of Desolation

1. From the car park, cross the road near small green aiming for the wall gate into Bolton Abbey parkland. Further downhill follow the path left to pass the church entrance and continue ahead through a gate, walking beside the road for a short distance, then at the Cavendish Memorial go right. On the bend take a gate and steps on the right and drop down to follow the River Wharfe left to the Pavilion and bridge.

2. Cross the bridge and take a gate on the left to follow the riverbank. At the end of the field take the path rising up to a narrow road and turn left. When it levels out look for the signposted footpath on the right and follow the path across a field. Go through a gate and keep with the good path into the Valley of Desolation.

3. Cross a footbridge and go right, then look for the short detour path on the right, which leads to the waterfall. Retrace your steps back to the path and turn sharp right to walk uphill to a forestry track. Go right and follow the track. At the top, pass through a gate to access open moorland.

4. Continue ahead on the track and about 250 yards further on take a path forking right. Follow a wall a short distance and go right to cross fields by a path worn in the turf. Continue to follow it past Agill House, and drop down to cross the ford over Hudson Gill Beck. From here the path bends sharp right and leads over fields to Broadshawe farm.

Signpost to the Valley of Desolation

Signpost to the Valley of Desolation

5. Pass farm building on the left and follow the track right to pass Broadshawe farm and cross sheep pastures and moorland. At a junction turn right and follow the track downhill, enjoying fine views over Wharfedale. Through a gate at the bottom, pass Bolton Park Farm, cross the road and walk towards the bridge (crossed earlier) and Cavendish Pavilion.

6. Just before the bridge turn left to follow the riverside path. Cross a footbridge further on and after a short steep stretch of road fork right to follow the path which eventually re-crosses the Wharfe at Bolton Abbey by Waterfall Bridge. Keep the Abbey on your right and follow the rising path up to the wall gate and return to the car park.

Difficulty rating: 2 stars.

Distance: 6 miles

Time: 3 hours

Map: OS Explorer (1:25000) sheet OL2 Yorkshire Dales Southern & Western areas or sheet 297 Lower Wharfedale & Upper Washburn Valley

Parking: Large car park at Bolton Abbey (BD23 6EX). Turn left north of the Devonshire Arms Hotel.

Public transport: Bolton Abbey is served by the Ilkley-Grassington 74/74A buses. Also DalesBus at summer weekends and bank hols. Details at www.wymetro.com or www.dalesbus.org or call 0113 2457676.

Toilets & refreshments: Bolton Abbey, Cavendish Pavilion.