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:
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.
- 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)
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.
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.
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.