Offlist Walk: Ilkley Moor

30 01 2011
30th January 2011
with Mrs NLW
7.1 miles
Explorer 297 (Lower Wharfdale & Washburn Valley)
Cold, overcast

Our cottage was based on Wells Road to the south of Ilkley, right on the northern edge of the moor, so we set off to reach the top of the moor right from our cottage. We briefly headed up the old Keighley Road before heading off west on the first major footpath on the right, this path is well-kept as it is part of the Bradford Millennium Way, it runs parallel to Panorama Drive as we head towards the swastika stone.

West Buck Stones and Rombald's Moor

We leave the main path for a while (an error) and have to pick our way through several slippery gulleys before re-emerging on the path near the swastika stone, which is a disappointment! The stone, on which someone back in either the bronze or iron aged carved a curvy swastika is understandably fenced off, but the fence is so close to the stone and so ugly that it is impossible to view the carving properly.

We continue heading west until we find the very faint track we are looking for heading south up onto the moor. We have come this far west so that the climb is gentler, and that is how it pans out, we pick our way through some high grass – following the desire lines formed by sheep. there is a brief scramble up a ridge onto the top of the moor. We continue picking our way south until we reach the plantation on Rombald’s Moor, then follow the edge of the wood south-east – downhill – across a bog – and then back uphill to the rocky outcrop of ‘West Buck Stones’ where we quickly have lunch before the cold drives us on again.

We head east towards ‘East Buck Stones’, as we get there we see two people sitting on top of the stones, but when we walk around we find a group of around 30 people of differing ages including children, they appear to be settling down to drink tea from thermos flasks for a while, no idea what they were doing there. We say hi but continue east towards Cowper’s Cross and the top of the Keighley Road, here we head along the road for a hundred yards or so before heading up a path alongside the Wireless station on Rombald’s Ridge. This path features prolonged sections of stone paving which is necessary given the boginess, there are some awkward sections where there is no paving – the ground is generally frozen but some puddles feature weaker ice than others and there is no way of knowing until you put your weight on it; the best tactic I found was to move quickly. Eventually the path passes the Thimble Stones, and then leaves the boundary wall to head for the summit. A great deal of bog jumping later we reach the trig-point and cairn, the top of the moor is a lot higher than Ilkley itself, but most of the height gain happens early on so that you don’t really get the impression of being that high, and the towns of Ilkley and Keighley are both hidden from view by the two sides of the moor.

We continue east through a series of hillocks until we meet the well-established Dales Way Link route to Bradford, we are going to head back using this path but first there is a quick detour in the opposite direction to see the Twelve Apostles stone circle. The circle isn’t overly impressive, I wouldn’t make the journey especially to see it, but it’s certainly worth the 10 minute detour.

Back on the link way we start to head downhill. Here the boggy sections are alleviated by a series of wooden boardwalks; however, many of these have broken boards and we have to be constantly vigilant, it does not make for pleasant walking. After the boardwalks, and a few more hillocks we come to a cross-roads,

White Wells Cottage Spa

I am unsure exactly where we are on the map so I climb the nearest hill to get my bearings, I can see that the path straight on will lead towards White Wells which is the way we need to head. Unfortunately we soon discover that this path takes us straight down Ilkley Crags (which may explain why a number of walkers headed off to the east). The descent of the crags would probably have been OK had it not been for two issues: the yellow mud that was smeared all over the steep rock steps, and Mrs NLW’s bad back; we took it slowly though, and eventually we triumphed.
Only a short walk later we reach White Wells Spa Cottage, which isn’t as nice as it looks on the brochures, but we didn’t actually go into the cafe so I could be wrong. From White Wells we head downhill again, over a brook, and then through White Wells car park onto Wells Road and back to the cottage to put our feet up.

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