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  • Writer's pictureKate

My First Solo Hike - Wharfedale - Yorkshire Dales

Updated: Feb 7

Location - Simons Seat, Valley of Desolation, and Bolton Abbey

Distance - 14km

Hours - 4-5 hours

Ascent - 495m

Route Map GPX (For OS Maps) Download:

Simons Seat and The Valley of Desolation
Download GPX • 21KB

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Small waterfall on the way up to Simons Seat
The walk up Barden Fell

My first solo hike in The Yorkshire Dales came after a long year of being stuck inside the house or, if we were lucky, being allowed out in our local area, all because of COVID. However, once we were allowed to travel further, I decided to get out on my own, so I went for a long walk'. I knew Wharfedale well as I've camped there since being a kid, so I decided that would be an excellent place to start. So I plotted a route on an OS maps app (see above), packed my bag (full of sweets), and set off. I parked at Barden Bridge as I knew there was a layby there.

The walk starts along the river Wharfe towards Howgill; it was a gorgeous day with the sun making a regular appearance. You then steeply ascend the bank of Barden Fell through a forested area on a sound 4x4 track. I could tell that exercise had not been on my agenda recently; I felt like my heart would jump out of my chest. Still, I was determined to get to the top. There were gorgeous little waterfalls along the way and lots of wildlife. Once you leave the forest area, you hit the fell and moorland, and a good path leads you to the rocky outcrop of Simons Seat, which sits 485m above sea level, where the views are breathtaking!

Path up to Simons Seat rocky outcrop, Barden Fell, Wharfedale
The walk up to Simons Seat (485m)

Apparently, Simons Seat is named after Simon Magus, one of the wise men.

View from Simons Seat summit looking onto Wharfedale
The view from Simons Seat

By now, I was utterly immersed in nature and all my surroundings. I had a feeling of freedom that I had not felt since travelling around Africa nearly 20 years ago. Being out on my own, being in nature, having the time to listen to the birds and waterfalls, and seeing the wildlife was pure joy. As I was on my own, I could go at my own pace, stop when I wanted, take photos, and go where I wanted. I wasn't accountable to anyone, and I knew this was something I wanted to do regularly.

A waterfall in The Valley Of Desolation, Bolton Abbey Estate
The Waterfall in The Valley of Desolation

On descending Simons Seat back down Barden Fell, you enter The Valley of Desolation, which owes its name to a storm in 1826. A stunning waterfall was relatively hidden but identified on the map; it was so peaceful, with no one else around, and I could have sat there for hours. Finally, moving on from there, you head down to the Bolton Abbey Estate, where there are toilets and a cafe. The estate is gorgeous along the river, but it can get busy.

Bolton Abbey - Link here

Bolton Abbey and The River Wharfe at sunset
Bolton Abbey on the River Wharfe

The Strid canyon on Bolton Abbey Estate
The Strid

The walk then heads along the River Wharfe and takes you back to Barden Bridge. This bit of the walk passes The Strid, considered a natural wonder that forces the water of The Wharfe through a very narrow opening with tremendous pressure, generating a fantastic sight. Once you've passed The Strid, it's a gentle stroll back to the car crossing over a turreted bridge, an aqueduct that carries water from the reservoirs to cities in West Yorkshire. I highly recommend this walk for a first solo hike as it's a bit of a challenge but not too far away from civilisation, so it makes you feel safe. Unfortunately, no dogs are allowed upon Barden Moor at the time of writing.

Please note: The Strid is very dangerous, and lives have been lost. See more info

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If you don't already use the Ordnance Survey App, you can download it here, enabling you to download the GPX route from above straight into it. I use this App to plan all my hikes, and as its OS, it mirrors the paper map you should always use in conjunction.

Read more of my blog posts here:

Please check the weather before heading out; I use The Mountain Weather Information Service (MWIS) and look on The Met Office. As I'm out on my own, I always leave a map of my route with loved ones at home, and I check in throughout the day. I now also use a Garmin Mini, so I can still be in contact, and they can track me if I don't have a phone signal.

Disclaimer: At the time of this walk, all the rights of way were open, and the terrain was easy to navigate, I followed all rights of way as per the OS maps, but things could change. Please be aware that the weather/farmers etc., can change things and therefore, the route may not be as possible as it was for me. Please make your checks beforehand. Also, note that the facilities mentioned in Bolton Abbey Estate may not be open. Please get in touch with me if any information that I have included has now changed.

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