Bolton Abbey North Yorkshire Bolton Priory Wharfedale

The ruins of Bolton Priory constitute one of the most frequented historical attractions in Yorkshire. In 2007 a new sculpture trail was opened in the grounds.

The priory is sometimes referred to as Bolton Abbey, after the local parish in which it is located. Situated in Wharfedale, Bolton Abbey estate lies amidst 30,000 acres of Yorkshire Dales countryside. It is encircled by over 80 miles of footpaths, which can be just as fun to explore as the ruins themselves.

The best thing about visiting Bolton Priory is being able to enjoy its location. Taking pride of place in the estate, it lies in a tranquil clearing. Surrounded by woodland, intersected by the River Wharfe and back-dropped by rolling dales.

As you approach the Abbey you can feel the history starting to come alive

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Sculpture Trail

17 sculptures we added to the circular walk around the grounds of the priory in 2007. The walk is 3.5 miles around. It can be started from the Strid car park or the Cavendish Pavilion. The sculptures are dotted along the pathway, mostly on the western side of the River Wharfe.

History of Bolton Priory

Founded by Augustinian canons in 1154, the priory was built on the site of an Old Saxon manor. The priests were gifted the land by Lady Alice de Romille, who owned the nearby Skipton Castle. After hastily establishing an initial shelter, the base stones of which can still be seen today, the priests began to cultivate the land. Later they provided amenities for both travellers and locals.

Picture in Bolton Abbey of the priory.

What to See at Bolton Abbey

There are literally dozens of walks to be had in the vicinity. There are some interesting sights to look out for on your walk.

  • Strid Wood - an ancient forest.
  • the Priest's House - constructed in 1515 and now a charming restaurant.
  • Barden Tower - restored ruins of a former hunting lodge for suppliers to Skipton Castle.
  • Valley of Desolation - owes its name to a great 19th-century storm which did desolate the area.
  • Geology trail - runs through the valley, taking visitors past its waterfalls, while dispensing vital knowledge of the area.
  • Sculpture Trail - 17 sculptures by British artists along the walk
  • Sandy beach - on the opposite side of the river to the priory
  • Grounds around the priory - prime spots for picnicking.

Architecture and Construction

The Priory's construction was a lengthy affair. Not helped by Scottish invasions, sickness and harsh winters. Work was still being carried out until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539.

Despite the inevitable decay of the rest of the structure, much of the monastic layout is still present. Immediately noticeable is the east gable, which has survived unscathed. It now stands as the building's highest point at 55 feet (the 188 ft central tower having collapsed some 200 years ago). The West Tower was destined to be even larger. However, its construction was halted with the Dissolution and its ruins now stand at a third of their intended height. The nave continues to serve as a church to this day.

Picture of Bolton Priory ruins as you walk up to them

Inspiration for William Wordsworth

In the 19th century, the grounds and the immediate area became a source of inspiration for William Wordsworth. He used the cemetery, which adjoins both the eastern and northern sides of the priory, as the setting for the poem The White Doe of Rylstone, which is based on local legend.

The nearby village of Bolton Abbey is the last stop on the Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway. Entry to both the church and the priory is free of charge.

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