(Review of Bolton Abbey by Kirsty Graham, Leeds)
As we descended down to the banks of the River Wharfe at Bolton Abbey on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, it truly felt like we had gone back in time. Not to a time when monks roamed the old Abbey – and they most certainly did before Henry 8th had his way, but to my childhood when summers were filled with fresh-air-filled family days by a river, basking in the sunshine, bathing in the water and playing on the makeshift beach. Long before the X Box and the Nintendo Switch.
My nostalgic throwback thoughts and magical memories were soon interrupted by my toddler who was lobbing ‘Makka Pakka’s stones in to the river – why must they always be throwing things?
The beautiful weather certainly added to our fabulous day, but I reckon on any day of the year, rain or shine, Bolton Abbey is a wonderful, proper wholesome Yorkshire day out.
The last time we visited Bolton Abbey was BC (before child). Based on memories of our previous trip to one of Yorkshire’s finest heritage sites we were a little worried that he might be a tad too young. Well we were wrong.
Although at the tender age of two our little man was too young to swim in the river with the rest of them, he thoroughly enjoyed paddling in the shallow waters and haring up and down the the makeshift beach that has been created by the receding river.
For an urban chick like me, it was rather a bizarre sight to see people river swimming, bobbing around in small boats and even paddle-boarding down the Wharfe. Note to bring the dingy next time.
The little ice-cream van parked upon the banks of the river provided much-needed refreshments for visitors. We chose to head over to The Cavendish Pavilion Cafe for a drink – just a 20 minute walk down the river. And it’s licenced, which is always a bonus.
To the left of the river heading towards The Cavendish Pavilion is car park number two (number one sits across the road from the entrance to the Abbey). The car park features a BBQ area for those who want to park up and BBQ some bangers on the banks of the river.
Take the highroad to the right and the walk is much more of an adventure. The path winds through mature woodland with various steep inclines – luckily no steps, so it is just about manageable with a pram.
It’s a fabulous little walk – there a various activities built into trail, creating a child’s assault course, which certainly kept our little man entertained along the way.
Luckily for us it was a dry day, but due to the shady nature of the trail I’d definitely recommend wellies if there had been any recent rain.
We crossed the bridge and arrived at The Cavendish Pavilion bloody starving! Unfortunately we had just missed the hot food – serving finishes at 4pm. However, there were some delicious sandwiches available so we grabbed a couple of those, and, more importantly, cold bottles of cider which we’d definitely earned by that point.
There was just time for us to devour some delicious local ice cream from Leeds lovelies – Northern Bloc, before we ventured back to the car. We opted for the easy route back to the car – which was parked in car park number one up in Bolton Abbey Village.
It’s £10 a day to park in both of the official car parks and well worth the money. Bolton Abbey is a full day’s affair, unlike some other ‘free’ days out, which cost the same to park and at the most, can be stretched out over a couple of hours with a toddler.
If trains are your thing, there’s a steam railway between Bolton Abbey and Embsay – we didn’t get to ride this time – we will definitely come back and hop on that.
Additionally, there are plenty of free seasonal activities to keep you and your brood entertained on The Bolton Abbey Estate. A Halloween pumpkin trail and the annual Easter Egg Hunt make for a great day and Santa himself spends a little time in his Gypsy cart deep in the Woods in December (cost applies to a Santa visit).
All in all a great day out that feels like a million miles from the urban clutches of Leeds – in reality it’s less than 20.