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How Stean Gorge

view along How Stean Gorge How Stean Gorge is one of the wonderful, almost forgotten tourist attractions of the Victorian Age. It's hard now to visualise how the masses from the cities of the West Riding would stream out en-masse to places like Shipley Glen, Bolton Abbey and How Stean. There's not much left of the attractions at Shipley Glen, but How Stean being a natural feature it's pretty much unchanged since it opened in 1869.

Nowadays the attraction has been themed around the tale of Tom Taylor the highwayman whose hideout was a cave in the Gorge. How true this is I don't know, but the five pound admission fee for adults (2008) suggests his spirit lives on. To be fair, they have done a good job with information boards so at least some of the money has been ploughed back in. And as someone has pointed out in the comments, season tickets are very fairly priced.

So what do you get for your fiver - or more likely for your sixteen quid for a family of four. Well, you get to enter a fabulous limestone gorge with pathways cut along the side and some interesting bridges across. In the middle of the Gorge it's dramatic and can only be viewed from above, but at either end it's more typical limestone river scenery where you can get down and quite safely paddle and splash about in the water. Kids absolutely love it, particularly at the Northern end where there's exciting paddling through "the tunnel", and at the Sothern end there's tons of room to sit down and picnic while the kids paddle.

The highlight though is Tom Taylor's cave, which is really a long underground passage leading to a cave, from where you can climb out and emerge in the middle of the car park. The underground passage is absolutely pitch black, so you really do need a torch. It's also wet and drippy so be prepared to get a bit damp. As I hadn't brought a torch with me I did it without one, but I really, really would not recommend that. If you don't have a torch, use the flashgun on your mobile or wait for someone who has brought a torch and then follow them. 

view along How Stean Gorge The gorge can get quite busy in Summer as there's a largeish campsite a few hundred yards downstream, and  a lot of people from there visit. While I was there, kids were sneaking in through the cave entrance in the car park, and I saw one bunch get in through the door marked with the big red no entry sign half-way between the campsite and the gorge. So is that why prices are so high, or is that because prices are so high? Who knows.

At the entrance to the Gorge is a nice little cafe serving typical Brit holiday food - pie 'n chips, cornish pastie 'n chips and the usual culprits. But it's reasonably priced, the food looked good and the staff were very friendly.  If you like that kind of cuisine it's worth stopping off at as there's not over many tea shops in Upper Nidderdale.

You can also camp here, in which case you get free access to the Gorge. It's pretty basic with use of the loos in the cafe forecourt, and a sink with hot and cold running water, but it is a beautiful location and you can have a camp fire - it can be booked online via the web site (see below). It's also cheaper than Studfold Farm just down the road, so if you're backpacking or on a tight budget it's worth considering.

So overall, quite unmissable really, but if you're taking kids it's best to take a picnic and make a good long stay of it.

The official web site is here.

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Comments (4)
Family tickets are £16, Season ticket £10 adult,£7 children for as many visits as you want. Flood light after dusk when open. Adventure activities available for family's, via ferrat, abseiling and gorge walking as on web site.
posted by Stan Beer 20/11/2009 21:03:47
The labouring comments about price are really not required in this editorial; I cannot think of another place in Yorkshire where you can have a family day out for such little cost! Edit it out please!!!
posted by A Disgruntled How Stean Visitor - Russell Goodwin 28/01/2010 13:18:18
The price comments are most welcome and informing.At lease Dick Turpin wore a mask!
posted by David Marsden 10/03/2010 07:36:22
I'm going next month and welcome all comments, although I don't agree that comments re proces are laboured, they are informative and that's what I look for. I can make my own mind up after.
posted by Grahame G 07/04/2011 14:54:35
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