Good Friday 2016 - possibly the most glorious day of the year so far in Yorkshire. I opened my bedroom curtains to blue skies and sunshine; somewhat disgruntled at the thought of a full four hours in the hairdressers that day. I packed my kids and the husband off to the park and hoped for a sunny Saturday - the day we had planned to head to Bolton Abbey in the Yorkshire Dales with a gaggle of friends and their offspring for the annual Bolton Abbey Easter Egg Hunt. The weather forecast didn't look good.
What a surprise! Saturday morning in Yorkshire brought with it grey clouds, drizzle and a forecast that promised heavy rain and winds. Add to this a hangover brought on by a medley of all sorts of alcoholic beverages from a girls’ night out in Leeds the night before, and I wasn’t exactly relishing the thought of soggy trouser bottoms and nine over-excited, shrieking children.
But … (standard hangover eliminating advice) I knew the fresh air would do me good.
Bolton Abbey itself is a wonderful 12th-century Augustinian monastery which sits beside the River Wharfe within the rolling countryside of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Easter is a perfect time to visit this part of Yorkshire if only to coo over the dozens of spring lambs that jump around and graze on the grass in the fields that make up the landscape like a patchwork quilt of various shades of green.
…Apart from on Saturday they were all taking shelter from the wind and rain against the dry stone walls. Still, even in the weather we were dealt, it’s picture postcard stuff. Especially with the clusters of wild daffodils and snowdrops scattered here and there.
If you approach Bolton Abbey along the A65 and through Ilkley, you soon realise that there is a lot of old money in this perfect part of Yorkshire. The winding country roads are broken up here and there by iron gates that open up to long sweeping drives and perfectly manicured lawns.
I never fail to gasp when we approach Bolton Abbey. In awe of the surroundings. Picturing myself as a lady of the manor; tending to rose bushes in my rose garden and sipping tea from a bone china cup and saucer whilst checking out the gardener ;-).
Meanwhile, the kids are screaming ‘are we there yet?’ over and over again and I’m abruptly brought back to reality as we drive along the country lanes, and then right at the roundabout up towards Bolton Abbey, past one of Yorkshire’s most luxurious public houses; The Devonshire Arms. It has a heli pad for anyone wishing to visit in their chopper. Naturally.
We always park in the Cavendish Pavillion car park which is easier for parents wanting to walk with prams. This is also where the Easter Egg Hunt commences. It’s £8 per car, which isn’t cheap for a car park up North, but that does include a map, clues and instructions for the hunt and the place is guaranteed to keep the little people entertained for a good few hours, whatever the weather, so it’s a small price to pay. They take credit and debit cards too.
You will drive past the Abbey itself to get to the Cavendish Pavillion car park. The first car park that you pass is better located for visiting the Abbey itself, and one should absolutely check it out. It’s a stunning ruin, it’s steeped in history and makes for a fantastic photo.
We approached the Cavendish Pavillion Car Park and as expected on Easter Weekend, it was jammed. Chelsea tractors, children sporting brightly coloured waterproofs and well-groomed dogs everywhere. There were still plenty of spaces though so no need to worry.
The egg hunt starts right by the Cavendish Pavillion cafe which boasts clean outdoor toilets and a lovely gift shop. The cafe itself offers a wide selection of snacks, meals, drinks, afternoon teas and sandwiches. On this occasion we bypassed both as we tried to keep up with the kids who were making a beeline for the white rabbit who was ushering children and their parents into a pretty little hut for face painting and photographs with props such as bonnets and bunny ears. All very well done.
With Easter egg hunt clues in hand we herded up the troops and cracked on (sorry!). The activity, which runs from March 25 right through to April 24 2016 is based around the approximately three mile (round trip) walk from the Cavendish Pavillion along the banks of the River Wharfe through Strid Woods to the Strid; a notorious stretch of water where the River Wharfe is forced into a deep and narrow channel creating what some would call rapids. I wouldn’t advise you to dangle your kids over, but it certainly makes for a fantastic photo. If fact keep your kids away. From the river as a whole – there are some pretty dangerous looking parts.
This walk is one of our favourites. Not least because it’s pram friendly with a decent path. Not that my two year old wants to be observing from the comforts of her pram – she’d much rather be following her big brother scrambling up the side of the steep grass banks, climbing trees, or sword fighting with makeshift swords made out of one of the many twigs and even logs that adorn the woods and its path. This is good old-fashioned imaginative outdoor child’s play at its absolute best. All for the sum of eight quid. You really can’t go wrong.
The walk is also pretty good for a hangover too. Which by this point is starting to subside so out came my Nikon and I started snapping away at the breath-taking scenery made up of woodland, blankets of wild flowers, trickling waterfalls, interesting rock formations and the River Wharfe which winds its way along through the valley, into the woods and beyond.
Don’t be put off if it’s raining. As with most woods; Strid Wood is made up of many trees. Very tall trees in fact, which to an extent do help to protect its visitors from the drizzle. And be aware of the wild garlic that covers much of the ground along the way. The smell is quite overpowering at times. There are certainly no vampires in this wood. But according to Teddy, my five-year-old, expect to see the trolls that live under the bridges here and there.
Most importantly, look out for the eggs!
Easter or otherwise, this place doesn’t need the Easter Bunny and meter high sparkly eggs to be magical. And pack a picnic – there are some wonderful picnic spots along the way.
Check out my image library above.
For more information visit Bolton Abbey’s official website.