Bolton AbbeyLocation : BD23 6EX

Massive open spaces in the heart of the North Yorkshire countryside with everything a kid could want. It’s got a river with places to paddle and swim, rocks and boulders to build dams and even a set of stepping stone. You have great riverside walks through tree-lined valleys up to some dramatic fast flowing river sections at The Strid. If you and the kids really want to burn off some energy there are a couple of peaks to climb including Simon’s Seat. We have not tried this one yet but will provide an update once we have. There is the Abbey itself to explore and of course the cafe and shop which seems to always be our first stop.

Emma’s review

This is a very cool place that I love going to. Messing around in the river is the best thing. I like the walks up to the Strid although my legs do get tired by the time we get back to the car! Josh has loads of room to kick the football around and I did laugh when he fell in the river crossing the stepping stones. The food at the cafés is good and I always find something I like. Cooking hotdogs on the riverbank is awesome!

Take with you your footballs, frisbee, swim / paddling stuff, walking gear, picnic (or use the cafés), walkie talkies and plenty of energy!

Dad’s stuff

We normally park by the river in the Cavendish Pavilion area. As you approach Bolton Abbey from the south on the B6160 you will find the first car park next to a number of building, shops and the old Abbey wall. If you carry on driving for another couple of hundred yards, through the narrow archway you will see the large fountain / folly and the entrance to the Cavendish Pavilion area. That’s where all the space is and where all the footpaths to The Strid, the river, the abbey and cafe can be found. The parking seems to go on forever along the river-side extending back towards the abbey. We normally try and park the car facing the river before getting out the camping stove and cooking up some hot dogs on the river bank. The kids normally finish up paddling so take a towel and some spare clothes!

From the car park you can walk Downstream back towards the abbey and stepping stones or north, past the Cavendish Pavilion building and upstream along the riverside walks. After a quick stop at the toilet (next to the Pavilion / cafe) and a brief look in the small shop we head up the river side for a mile or so to admire the fast flowing waters of The Strid. Here, the river squeezes through a channel around 10 feet across (at it narrowest) and 30 feet deep. Keep your kids away from the edge because the water is very fast and turbulent, especially after some rain. If the water level is low enough there are numerous small holes in the rocks created by the swirling water. My kids can climb in and out of them without getting stuck.

From here, we tend to walk up the steep valley (on good footpaths) up towards the Wharfedale Montessori School and the B6160 to visit another small cafe. We stock up on tea, cake and ice cream before setting off back along they way we came to the Cavendish Pavilion.

The riverside walks do have Easter, Halloween and Christmas trails on them which mainly involves counting witches, pumpkins, Easter eggs or snowmen. It’s a good distraction from the exercise but Emma and Josh see through this now and their motivation is the cake and sweets at the cafe stop.

We have walked the other way from the car park to the abbey a couple times. The main draw here are the stepping stones stretching across a wide piece of the river. The precarious nature of water mixed with the chances of falling in is always something Josh can’t stay away from. He did get wet last time we tried it and even for adults, it’s got that air of excitement around it.


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