Walk 2 Central Rocks & the 12 Apostles
8 km/5 miles, 2.5 - 3 hours
There are two variations to this walk. The shorter route marked in Red on the map or an extended route up to the Twelve Apostles (marked in Yellow).
Setting off from Ilkley (both routes)
From Ilkley town centre take Wells Promenade or Wells Walk by the stream under the trees up to the moor. Follow Wells Promenade until it bends right at the cattle grid (car park) and before the grid go slightly left by the stream to the gate. Aiming for the white building up ahead, continue through the gate, straight ahead and up, by the pond and up the steps to the footpath to the White Wells buildings (café).
1.Head for the back of the cafe building and take the main gravel and sand footpath (gravel and sand) leading up onto the moor. After a left bend near the foot of a rocky crag, 2. head left at a fork, taking the rocky path (remains of old paving) through Rocky Valley below the crags. When the path leads you out into the open, keep left, and head down towards the stream (Backstone Beck) 3..
Setting off from the Cow and Calf car park (both routes)
Looking up the the hillside from the carp ark you will see two paths going up it. A grassy path goes straight up and the paved one heads first right towards the rocks and then sharp left to meet hte grassy path at the top of the steep slope. The ggrassy path is quicker but its quite a pull up there. Once up there walk ahead where you will see a broad well-made track (made with limestone chippings) 2. heading across the heather before rising up again. Follow this until it runs out but keep in the same direction (with paths joining form left and right) until you meet the Backstone Beck 3..
The main route
3. It is at this point in the book that Callan and Drustan see smoke rising from the top of the moor. Cross the stream, keeping right and go right up the smaller path to the right of a big stone. Before the path starts descending again turn right and up a grass path parallel to and above the gully of the stream. Keep right at a fork, then turn right onto a larger track. 8. Keep on following this track with the gully on your right (albeit out of sight for most of the way), slowly ascending the moor. Approximately 100m up the track, there is a flat cup marked rock lying within a few feet to the left of it. 20m further on lies another flat cup-marked stone 5 m off the path.
20m further on the track a small path goes left by a low stone wall. This is the Beckstone Beck Enclosure, the remains of a settlement from the Later Bronze Age (800 – 500 BC). During excavation charcoal, flints and pottery fragments were found, indicating use of the site from 2500 BC. The wall that is now visible is a reconstruction on top of the original. It also shows two circular structures inside it.
Continue up the path by the gully. It is joined by a path from the left. 5 Metres after that, where the track turns right, there is a another small path sharp left.
4. Here you have a choice of extending the walk up to the Twelve Apostles stone circle. If you don't have time or energy for the longer route, skip down to the Shorter return route.
The extended route
Contnue along the main track as heads gently upwards (heading roughly south-west). After 300yards the track bends left in a more southerly direction. Continuing to rise gently, the track becomes grassier and (especially after rain) wetter. Looking ahead you will see a steeper slope which marks the high point of the walk.
Crossing a wide, flat expanse of heather and coarse grass, the grassy track eventually curves to the right (as it runs into a more boggy area) and almost peters out just before it runs up to a paved path. This is the main route up to and back down from the stone circle. Turn left onto the paved path and follow it up to and to the top of a small ridge. Bear left and in a short distance the Twelve Apostles stone circle will come into view.
6x. The circle is not physically impressive, but look around and you will see it commands views in all directions.
Retrace your route back down the paved path and past the point where you originally joined it (5x.). Stay on the path until it runs out just above the small Backstone Beck (marked Gill HEad onthe OS map). 7x. Cross the Beck and within a few metres take the smaller path to your right. Follow this as it dips down and within 50 metres you will see the very attractive Poetry Seat 8x.. This has been recently constructed from the ruins of an old farm building and is a fine place to sit and absorb the quiet and eat a sandwhich or two. It forms part of the Stanza Stones poetry trail.
After a no doubt well-deserved rest continue along the path as it eventually runs closer (but still above) the Backstone Beck in about 300 metres. Look out for two flat carved stones at this point 9. as desribed below. For the rest of the route back go here.
Shorter return route
Take the small path on your left into the heather. Follow this as it runs first slightly down hill for 30 metres and then take a small path heading up to your right. This path leads up and then along the edge of the higher ground. The gently sloping area to your right leads up to Green Crag (shown on the OS map - although its hardly a crag). The path crosses a broader path at the back of some large boulders. 5. Here there is also a stout yellow wooden pole marking the boundary between West and North Yorkshire. Go left and downhill just before the boulders, keeping left (not following the boundary line), past a 6 foot high standing rock (it has a M-sign on its back). 15 m after this there is a big rock lying on the right side of the path, which has several, rather weathered cup marks and one cup-and-ring. 6. After another 20 m there is a group of smaller stones just left of the path, one of which is the so-called Idol Stone, with 25 clear cups surrounded and divided by grooves.
Continue along the path. After 250 m the big rock to the right of the main path is the Haystack Rock, which has (beside modern day graffiti) 38 cups, 10 rings and interlinking grooves all over its top side 7.. Depending on the light they are best visible from the valley side of the rock.