The Lanshaw Lad boundary stone between Ilkley Moor and Burley Moor

Ilkley Moor & Burley Moor

Walk Summary

A fine ramble visiting some of the many interesting features on Ilkley Moor and Burley Moor including the Cow and Calf, White Wells, Ilkley Crags, the Twelve Apostles and the Great Skirtful of Stones.

Distance: 7.2 miles
Total ascent: 1310ft
Walk Rating: ****
Parking: Cow and Calf, car park
Route: Download Route [GPX]

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Walk Report

With England playing Sweden in the World Cup in the afternoon I only had time to go out for a medium sized walk not too far from home. As I had a visit to Ilkley Moor on my to do list for the year it seemed the perfect option for me as Ilkley is only a 25-30 minute drive from home.

The other reason why this was such a great option for me is that there are so many paths on the moor. This, combined with the numerous features of interest in such a relatively small area, meant that I could basically ramble until it was time for me to head home for the match.

"Here I turned right a short distance to reach the Twelve Apostles. This is a small but well preserved stone circle, much better than some of the other barely recognisable circles that can be found on these moors."

There are a few different options for where to start a walk on Ilkley Moor. On this occasion I decided to start at the car park below the Cow and Calf rocks. The advantage of this is that you can practically step out of the car and one of the finest features of the moor is virtually in front of you. So it was that I left the car park to pass between the Cow and Calf. Footmarks and handholds on the latter suggested it is possible to scramble up. I didn't fancy my chances of making it back down so quite easily resisted the temptation to give it a go.

Rather than heading up to the top of the Cow, which I've done many times before, I decided to head west. After an initial scramble to the side of the Cow I took a path heading into some trees before a thinner path in the bracken brought me alongside Backstone Beck. Turning right I descended to a footbridge below which there was a tiny waterfall. Continuing on a wider path brought me to the eastern end of the small sheet of water called simply 'The Tarn'.

A wide path circumnavigates The Tarn so I decided to walk all the way around it. It is quite possibly the only tarn I know of that has its very own lamp post! There are also a number of seats and I imagine it could be quite interesting to get a picture of it at night time. Retracing my steps to western end of the tarn I took a path climbing up to the left.

Following this I eventually made my way to the white walled building called White Wells, a former spa. Given its lofty position and superb views I guessed that there would be an Ordnance Survey cut benchmark somewhere. It proved easy to find as the indentations had been painted black. Just beyond the corner it was located on I took a path that climbed up on to the magnificent Ilkley Crags.

Although the main path avoids the main edge it is definitely worth making the small detour. The views are dramatic with the bracken filled moor below providing the foreground to a superb view which extends beyond Ilkley all the way up Wharfedale as far as Great Whernside and Buckden Pike.

From Ilkley Crags I joined the Millenium Way, climbing gradually up the rocky edges receded to reveal the extensive moor above. After about 15 minutes or so I came to the boundary stone known as the Lanshaw Lad. Here I took a path to the right to make a detour to visit the moorland summit. Another 10 minutes or so along a fairly new slabbed path brought me to the trig point marking the highest point of Rombald's Moor, the name for the numerous moors of which Ilkley Moor is undoubtedly the most famous. While the view lacks the depth of that from Ilkley Crags it is even more extensive in terms of the panorama and now extended south and west to include the Bronte Moors and Pendle Hill.

Rather than retracing my exact steps to Lanshaw Lad I took a slightly more roundabout route. I did this by taking a thin path south from the trig point to a nearby wall. Turning left I followed this to reach Ashlar Chair and to the boundary between Ilkley Moor and Burley Moor. From Ashlar Chair I took a path that for a while followed the boundary back to Lanshaw Lad.

Here I turned right a short distance to reach the Twelve Apostles. This is a small but well preserved stone circle, much better than some of the other barely recognisable circles that can be found on these moors. After taking a few pictures I continued east on a good path passing high above High Lanshaw Dam, before passing some modest crags and a rather random hut.

Continuing on I made another detour to visit the Great Skirtful of Stones. The Great Skirtful of Stones are the remains of an old burial mound. It was somewhat smaller than I remembered it but for those interested in antiquities it is definitely worth seeking out.

Returning to the main path I decided to cut straight down the moor to Lower Lanshaw Dam. Walking along the grassy dam of this lovely little sheet of water I joined another path. Turning left on this I was hoping to find the path marked on the map heading towards Green Crag. In the end I had troubling finding it and as the GPS on my phone was playing up I wasn't entirely sure if I was following the right route. I did pass close by another tumulus, which may or may not have been the Little Skirtful of Stones, before eventually finding a path leading to Green Crag.

At the larger stones I came across a wider path descending the moor so took this. This soon levelled out for a while until, not long after passing a single large solitary stone, it dropped down again to join another path just above the Cow and Calf. From there it was just a couple of minutes back to the car.

Despite the uncharacteristic navigational problems I had towards the end of the walk this was a thoroughly enjoyable few hours of walking. Ilkley Moor and neighbouring Burley Moor have so many interesting features. There are so many options for route making that, short or long, no walk in the area is without interest.

2 thoughts on “Ilkley Moor & Burley Moor

  1. May it be pointed out the real reason the Twelve Apostles on Burley (not Ilkley) Moor appear in remarkable condition is they are not the original stones. Those there now were brought from various parts of Rombald’s Moor by a group of local lads during the seventies.
    Historic places on the Moor often are not what they appear to be.

    1. Hi Frazer, thanks for that. I think perhaps the most incongruous example of this I’ve recently come across is the Bleasdale Circle in Bowland. What is supposed to be the only example of a timber circle in England now has concrete blocks marking the locations of the original timber posts!

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