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Walk 1 - Rombalds Way
To Walk 2 - 12 Apostles

Main route in Red.

Walk 1 Ilkley Moor - Western Rock Carvings

This walk will lead you along part of the route that Callan, Catigern and Drustan took out of the valley as they travelled north to the ice sheets around Samhain in 499BC. On the way there are several major rock carvings to stop and investigate as well as lovely panoramic views along the Wharfedale valley. The views as you walk along the moor edge on the Millenium Way between Windgate Nick and the Swastika stone are outstanding.

Here are some of the locations and features on the route:

  • White Wells - a spring that has been in use for millennia.
  • Rombald's Way (Ancient trackway) - an ancient traders route crossing the region from east to west.
  • The Badger Stone - intricately carved rock.
  • Windgate Nick - where Callan, Catigern and Drustan rested on their journey north.
  • The Piper's Crag Stone - carved rock.
  • Sepulchre Stone
  • Swastika Stone - famous carved rock (a memorial to Verbeia)
There are other carved stones that are just off our route. They are marked on the map. I've not shown pictures of the best rocks - so it will be a nice surprise when you get there.

The Stone Carvings - what were they really for?

There is no real consensus as to the actual purpose of the stones. The common denominator seems to be the so-called 'cup-and-ring' carvings that feature on them all. However the 'cups' are really just small holes and not all of them are surrounded by 'rings'. Dating of the stones is not easy. Weathering varies tremendously depending on how long they have remained exposed, their orientation and how sheltered/exposed is their locality. They have been dated anywhere from between 3500 and 2000 years old.

It's also difficult to say if the stones have shifted (i.e. their orientation on the spot) or been moved from one location to the other; trying to line them up or fit them together in any coherent way because of this is also fraught with problems. How many more are buried just under the surface is not known either.

Suffice it to say that some people went to a great deal of trouble to create them as the rocks are hard and the available hand tools not very effective. I would venture that most were made to mark ownership of land for grazing or timber, with a few being used to mark the location of settlements. I don't believe they are of any religious significance, but there is no convincing evidence either way. I like the fact that one person's guess is as good as the next!

Although the rocks are ancient, nevertheless they are not indestructable. To prevent any damage please don't walk on carved stones and don't try to clean them of lichen, other vegetation or graffiti as this could damage them and/or make them vulnerable to weather influences. For the same reason please don't remove turf from buried stones.

Walking on the moors

Ilkley moor is criss-crossed with many paths. If it's misty or covered in snow, the paths can be obscured and its not that difficult to get lost or disorientated.

The moor is blanketed in peat and as such can get very soggy after rain. Waterproof shoes/boots are highly recommended. I wouldn't go up there without a waterproof coat of some description if it's at all cloudy.

An OS map is handy - the Lower Whardedale and Washburn Valley has all the detail you could need.

Dogs, sheep, grouse and nesting birds

The open nature of the landscape means it's great for walking your dog. However, if you cannot trust your dog to stay with you, or come back immediately if called, I would keep it on a lead all the way. Between March and July some birds make nests on the ground and the average dog would find it hard not to chase the fluffy young birds (even if they had no intention of killing them). Sheep often have lambs with them in late spring and they are pretty jumpy if you get too near. Please don't let your dog go near them as they can get seriously stressed.

That said, I walk my dog every other day on the moor and we both enjoy it. Out of the nesting season there are often large spaces where he can explore and run around without bothering anything or anyone - but I always keep a look out for any sheep (often hard to see in the tall bracken).

There are no ladder styles on these routes either.

Getting there

By public transport:

From the bus/train station walk along Station Road. Turn left up Wells Road (just after the pedestrian crossing). Follow this steep road all the way up for about 1/2 mile (0.7km) until you see a sign for White Wells car park.

By car:

There are two car parks off Well's Road that climbs out of the centre of Ilkley. The first is on the right just after a cattle grid (as you travel out of Ilkley). The second is further up and on the left (signpost White Wells). You can also park on the road side between the two.

Starting off.

1.Assuming you have reached the White Wells car park. Walk up the track that continues up the moor out of car park. You will see a whitewashed building standing amongst some trees to your left some distance away. This building houses a cafe (if it's open there will be a flag flying) as well as an ancient spring. This is the very same spring visited by Drustan and Callan after they had found the body at the stone circle.

Walk up to the White Wells building (passing an attractive waterfall on the way). As well as housing a café the building also has an old Victorian plunge bath, fed from the spring. At the back of the café you will see the spring within an old stone 'cabinet' 2. Near this 'sacred spring' Callan found the Carvetii bracelet whilst Drustan cleansed himself. Follow the wide path up to the moor (signpost Millennium Way). This path climbs steeply for a while (ignore any smaller paths going off to the left) before opening out on top of Ilkley Crags.

The White Wells Spring.

Looking West by Cranshaw Thorn Hill Cairn.

Once on the top the views really open out. The track is quite narrow by now, follow it as it curves round (it looks more like a small stream bed after rain) and is eventually crossed by a wider one running from left to right (there is a small cairn of stones to the right). 3. Turn right at these crossroads and follow this as it heads west and up. You are now on the ancient Rombald's Way (although there is no definitive evidence of its exact rote). This trackway crossed through what was then southern Brigantia, acting as a major trade route from east to west. Follow the track as it rises up to and past a large stone cairn that marks Cranshaw Thorn Hill. The view westward is now impressive.
A little further on and the track splits - keep to the left and follow this as it roughly runs along a contour. Parts of this can get pretty soggy after rain. Continue along the track for about 1/2 kilometre (1/3 mile). Shortly after crossing a small stream you should see a white capped rock to your left 4. This is worth a closer look as it has a carving (facing north) that is very reminiscent of an elephant's eye.

A little further on the track is crossed by another running north south. Turn south (left) here and follow this up the moor, leading at last to a bench 5. To the right of this bench (dedicated to a John and Barbara Broadley) sits the Badger Stone. The south and west sides are covered in a series of cup and ring carvings (and much else besides). It's well worth having a close look at the carvings and imagining what their purpose originally was. There are several paths leading away from the stone, taking either of the two to the west will lead you back down to the main track (the stone itself lies in an approximate SE to NW orientation).

The Elephants Eye Stone.

Follow the track across the moor (it crosses several streams feeding into Spicey Gill) and soon a rough roadway will come into view. This is the Keighley Road (at this stage only passable with a 4x4 or similar) 6. If you are feeling weary you could turn right and follow this down the hill, turning right at the road junction, back to the White Wells Car Park.

Where the path meets the roadway, cross over and follow it across a flat expanse of land (still recovering from a large fire several years ago). Where it forks, take the left hand path and head towards a metal gate in the dry stone wall ahead. Go through the gate and immediately to your right is an impressive slab of rock - the Neb Stone 7. On its surface are two possible cup and ring marks (but they look like natural holes to me). Continue past the stone and head diagonally right (cross-country as it were) down hill to run into a path that runs across the flat land below.

The Silver Well Stone.

Follow this path and very soon it takes you over a flat carved stone 8. Luckily it's not a well used path (at least for the carving's sake). I've called it the Silver Well stone as I've not heard of any other. You get the impression that if the peat was scraped away there would be many other stones revealed in this area.

Follow the path westwards (ignoring any turnings right and down) and it slowly curves to the left. It finally runs up against Black Beck where it rejoins the original Rombald's Way path 9.

Cross the beck and head through the gate up onto higher ground. The path's easy to follow and runs up to the edge of High Crag as it levels out. The views are just great from up here. Down below you can see the broad path on which you will eventually return (but not yet). Ignore any right leading paths and follow the edge up to a memorial stone to an RAF Halifax Bomber, which crashed here on January 21, 1944, killing all the crew 10.

Continue along the path for as long as it skirts the edge, eventually following it down to meet the path 11. (now called the Millennium Way) on the northern edge of the moor overlooking Hardwick House farm. Going a little way down the path, on your left you will see the Piper Crag stone. More carvings including 30 cups with some rings around them.

Go back up to the main path. You now have a choice of continuing further west to the edge of the moor at Windy Gate Nick, along the track that Callan took 12. It’s a great place for a rest and to admire the views. You would then retrace your steps back to this point. Or you could turn east straightaway to start heading back towards Ilkley.

If heading west, simply follow the path through several gates as it skirts the edge of the moor. To your right (north west) rises Counter Hill and the remains of the Conaldtradh settlement. It's probably 1.5 km (0.9 miles) to the end, but worth it.

The Sepulchre Stone.

From point 11. follow the path along the ridge as it heads gently down towards Ilkley, there are several stones to view along the way: The Sepulchre Stone 13. which sits in an open field backed with wind swept larch trees whose branches sweep down to the ground, it's a very pleasant spot. The stone is to the left of the path and stands alone on the grass. It looks like it was made up of layers of rock that have somehow melted. Next along the route is the Swastika stone 14. This is surrounded by iron railings. The carved stone immediately behind the rails is in fact a modern copy of the original which lies just behind it (and is much eroded/worn). In the Year of the Celt this is said to be a memorial stone to the lost settlement of Verbeia.

Continue along the wide track and enjoy the views as you follow it gently downhill all the way back to Keighley Road 15. Cross the road and follow the Millennium Way again as it continues along a contour to meet the track just above the White Wells car park 1.

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