Simon’s Seat is the gritstone capped summit of Barden Fell and is one of the most popular of the lower hills in the Yorkshire Dales.
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Simon’s Seat’s popularity is partly due to its relatively close proximity to Bolton Abbey, one of the main tourist traps in the Yorkshire Dales. A well known path leaves the River Wharfe at Cavendish Bridge, just upstream from Bolton Abbey, to head for the summit of Simon’s Seat four miles away.
It is a fine walk contrasting the wooded valley of Posforth Gill, with two optional detours to visit some waterfalls, and a gradual ascent of the heather moor above. Most people who ascend this route usually return the same way.
Another reason for the popularity of Simon’s Seat is its summit, a tangle of gritstone crags and boulders tumbling down the steep slopes of the moor above the side valley of Skyreholme. A pleasant little scramble is required to reach the highest rocks, one of which is mounted by an Ordnance Survey trig point, a spot that is generally accepted as the summit.
The panorama from the summit is exceptional, combining stunning views down into Skyreholme and Wharfedale with more distant views of the higher fells in upper Wharfedale and beyond. Other features of interest in the view include the limestone gorge of Trollers Gill, Grimwith Reservoir and bleak moors that stretch north beyond it.
The summit is definitely a place to linger and explore, to simply reach the top and head off again is to miss the point entirely. On one occasion, in hill fog and wind, I sheltered behind one particular rock to eat my lunch. As I did so I fancied I could see a doleful face staring out of the large boulder in front of me. Ever since I have called this rock ‘Simon’.
Simon’s Seat is not the only gritstone feature on Barden Moor. A quarter of a mile to the west there is another fine gritstone crag called Lord’s Seat which is definitely worth a detour to visit. Also close by are the Hen Stones, Truckle Crags and Long Crags. There also some fine gritstone crags on neighbouring Carncliff Top, a hill that doesn’t quite have enough prominence of its own to be classed as a separate hill.
While the approach via Posforth Gill is undoubtedly the most popular there are other options available. These include walking up through the woods above Howgill to reach a moorland path or the more direct option, a zig-zag path from the end of Howgill Lane which climbs directly up to the summit rocks.
From the west one enjoyable alternative is to climb to the top of Forest Road and head for Simon’s Seat via Great Pock Stones. If doing this route make sure to make a detour to visit The Great Shack, a giant shake hole on the moor a quarter of a mile west of Lord’s Seat.
Whichever route one takes, walking up to Simon’s Seat is a most rewarding experience. It is also well suited for building oneself up to tackling the higher fells deeper into the Dales.