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Lower Wharfedale

I always think of Lower Wharfedale as the area from Bolton Bridge to Burnsall. Before Bolton Bridge it's a fairly uninteresting valley, after that it has a character all of it's own until it reaches Burnsall, then from Hebden it becomes a very different more upland landscape. Other people may argue with my definition, and the more astute may even notice that Appletreewick appears to have disappeared into a void between the two. Well that's fine by me, because since I was most rudely evicted from a pub in Appletreewick for daring to arrive on a motorbike I'm quite happy to ignore the place entirely.

Lower Barden reservoirLower Wharfedale really starts then at Bolton Bridge, followed by Bolton Abbey about a mile upstream. I lump these two together as I regard them as an odious stain upon the face of the Dales. They are part of the Devonshire Estate, owned by the dear old Devonshires' of Chatsworth fame, and they've been horribly over-commercialised into some twee pastiche of a rural English scene. At Bolton Bridge is the Devonshire Arms, a country house hotel/gastro pub  popular with folk wearing sta-prest slacks and braying about golf and share prices. Just up the road is Bolton Abbey which should be beautiful, but it's now a giant car park on the banks of the Wharfe with horrible toytown signs pointing to the "Cavendish this" and "Cavendish that".  I hate paying to park, but there's no escape at Bolton Abbey. Even worse than that, they demand money to walk along the riverbank to see the Strid, which to me is a crime beyond redemption. If you want to see the Strid, come out of season when there's less likely to be some petty Gaulieter in the ticket booth, though with all the cheap Polish labour they're employing nowadays even that may change. Still, if emptying the pockets of us proles allows the Devonshires to live the life they've become accustomed to, and to continue to buy even more crap modern sculture for Chatsworth, then who am I to argue.  So, unless you've decided to do the walk up Simon's Seat, leave Bolton Abbey rapidly behind and proceed upstream to Barden Tower.

In contrast to Bolton Abbey, Barden Tower is nice. It's a tiny little place, with a ruined castle, a bridge and little else. Oh, there's also a grand walk round the reservoirs. The tower itself is free to look round though in truth there's not much to see, but the grounds have been turned into a tearoom. And a good tearoom it is, better than any of the pretentious rubbish at Bolton Abbey. If you don't  fancy tea, go down to the bridge, where on a hot Summer's day an Ice Cream van can usually be found.

At this point you'll start to see signposts for Parcevall Hall, an ancient monastic residence, now a rest and recuperation retreat for tired C of E vicars - poor things. You can't go in the hall, but you can look in the gardens for a price. But the best thing about it, is that it guards the entrance to Trollers Ghyll, a magical little place that is well worth a visit. Just above Trollers Ghyll can be found Grimwith Reservoir which offers both gentle kiddie type walking and more adventurous routes out on the open moors.

Passing further up the dale, you come to Burnsall. Just on the hill overlooking Burnsall is the Fell Hotel, unfortunately yet another part of the Cavendish/Devonshire empire. Even more unfortunately, as the website itself says, "The Devonshire Fell is startlingly different from the original Fell Hotel, as indeed it is from anywhere else in the Yorkshire Dales. The Duchess of Devonshire has chosen bright contemporary colours for the interiors - her imagination running amok and creating an exciting boutique hotel ". Oh dear, oh dear.

However, Burnsall itself is an absolute jewel and well worth spending time at. The centrepiece of the village is the Red Lion, another Gastro Pub with prices for long pockets, but on the two occasions I've eaten there the food was first rate. It's another place where you can park for free or cheaply and amble by the river if that's what you want to do. Unfortunately, in Summer it's over-run by cars, so it's best seen out of season. If you do want to walk by the river, the Dales Way runs along the riverside all the way up Lower Wharfedale, except for Strid Wood of course where it has to detour around the back. So wherever you park you can walk by the river.

Images of Lower Wharfedale

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Comments (7)
Couldn't agree more regarding Bolton Abbey.Ugh!
But I also love Trollers Ghyll,and don't forget Jackdaw Nick next door.However I used to love Burnsall years ago but I revisited recently in the Summer and couldn't get near the place for cars.Totally spoiled!
posted by Geoff Proctor 05/03/2008 23:19:54
Disagree about Appletreewick. The new owners of the Craven Arms have worked wonders and is really worth a visit. Appletreewick is unspoilt and a hidden gem.
posted by Alison Bush 13/07/2008 12:10:20
I'd have to say that Otley and Ilkley are two of the nicest parts of Wharfedale. Otley Chevin and Ilkley Moor are certainly two of the most picturesque... and the moors between Ilkley and the Washburn are well worth a look. Further down the valley is the Harewood Estate, and its around here the river is at its most beautiful.

I'd have said Bolton Bridge to Burnsall is really the mid-point of Wharfedale, heading towards Upper Wharfedale...
posted by Des 18/09/2008 08:53:01
i agree about the cavendish problem but after having moved to otley in 1979 to find that i havent been living in wharfdale all along is confusing
posted by russ 26/12/2008 14:48:59
The best way to visit Bolton Abbey is to approach it from Storiths. Avoids all the Cavendish nonsense. But keep that under your hat!
posted by Liz 04/07/2009 13:46:43
Agree with Alison Bush re the Craven Arms. Excellent beer, food and service. Also a gorgeous view across from the frontage over the Wharfe. And Aptrick itself is a lovely little place...

I walked Otley Chevin only yesterday, for the first time. A total delight and scarcely a steep hill in sight! However I've been on Ilkley Moor three times and the walking is best done in a bathing cozzie with snorkel. Or else the moonscape of the land with no landmarks gives you agoraphobia. I loathe the place, almost as much as I loathe Bolton Bridge etc and the Devonshire Arms - so terribly terribly pretentious, my dear.
posted by Allan 08/07/2009 19:46:37
the writer of this walk sounds a right misery ,does he want the countryside to himself I have called at pubs in Appletree wick whilst on motorcycle and have been welcomed
posted by martyn 26/11/2009 15:42:19
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