Walk to Simon’s Seat from Bolton Abbey

A walk from Bolton Abbey to Simon's Seat with stunning views awaiting you.

A walk from Bolton Abbey through the Valley of Desolation and across the moors to Simon’s Seat. The walk starts in the main Bolton Abbey car park. At your destination, there are breathtaking 360o degree views awaiting, especially north towards Grimwith Reservoir and Appletreewick Moor. The beauty of Wharfedale and the Yorkshire Dales is laid out before you. And to save you getting lost, return by the same route.

Brief details

Length: 7-7.5 miles
Difficulty: Uphill walking all the way to Simon’s Seat. Well made path for most of the way. Rough, rocky approach to the crags that make up Simon’s Seat. Reasonably well sign-posted at the start of the walk.
Type: Out and back along the same route.
Time required: c.3.5 hours.

Map of the walk

Map of a walk to Simon's Seat


Starting from the main Bolton Abbey car park (£6.50 entry fee, unfortunately), walk to the Cavendish Pavilion and then across the bridge over the River Wharfe. At the other side, turn left, through the gate – helpfully, there is a signpost pointing the direction of the Valley of Desolation and Simon’s Seat. The path will take you along across a pleasant pasture with the river on your left.

At end, there’s a gate and two path. One takes you further along the river and a second heads uphill. Take the uphill option – again there’s a signpost to guide you – and walk up path to the road. Then turn left and walk along the road up the slope for a couple of hundred yards to Waterfalls Cottage.

You’ll find another signpost here so there is no losing your way. Go through the gate and across a field dotted with trees, sheep and, possibly, cattle. The route will lead you in a right hand sweep past a fenced off marshy pond happily occupied by ducks and moorhens and towards a tumbling stream. You’ll walk up a short incline, along a narrow path, down the other side and into the Valley of Desolation which is anything but desolate. It’s pretty with grassy areas interspersed with trees for shade, and plenty of places to sit and enjoy the cascading stream running through the valley bottom. The name was given to the area a couple of hundred years ago after a particularly bad storm which uprooted trees and left the valley flattened.

Pass over the stream via a narrow bridge. The path then takes you up the side of the valley towards a wood. The path can be muddy and slippery after rainfall so take care. There’s a gate at the top. Go through this and head pretty much straight on. There’s an option to go immediately left or take a sharp right turn; ignore these. Getting through the wood takes c.5-10 mins and the path is wide although you are still on an uphill incline. Another gate at the edge of the woods opens out onto the moors.

The path is remains wide and well made but heads inexorably upwards. You’ll see it winding up over the moor ahead. It’s a long trudge with a drop on the left and a string of shooting positions on the right, their numbers are painted on stones at the side of the path. This is prime grouse shooting land and depending on the time of year the chattering sound of the grouse follows you across the moor.

There are a couple of attempts to lure you off the route as the path splits and heads off right. Stay determined and keep walking ahead and ever upwards.

Simon's Seat

Nearing Simon’s Seat

The path eventually takes a wide sweep right. At this point you are out on open moorland and are tempted to believe that every outcrop is Simon’s Seat, your destination. Regretfully, none of them are. The well made path you have enjoyed up to now comes to an abrupt end and you are then on a rocky road. Literally. Turn right and start hopping from rock to rock. The wonderfully named Truckle Crags is passed on your left and so will now be able to see Simon’s Seat – another tumble of rocks – but, in this case, with a Trig Point sitting atop. The rock strewn path continues right up to Simon’s Seat. Getting up to the Trig Point is tricky – you’ll need to do a bit of scrambling. It’s worth it though, because once up there the views all around are amazing, especially to the north towards Grimwith Reservoir and across Appletreewick Moor.

Panoramic view over Appletreewick Moor

Take a breather, have a drink and a bit to eat if you’ve brought something. Then head back the way you came, scrambling over the rocks until, with some relief, you get back onto the made path. It’s now downhill all the way remember, and you’ll have the memory of those view to cheer you. Once back at the Bolton Abbey car park, there’s always the Cavendish Pavilion where they do a decent cuppa or hot chocolate and, of course, cake.

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