Walks on Ilkley Moor, Yorkshire, I find, are some of the most refreshing fresh air escapes you can have in the county. Miles of open moorland countryside, paths in every direction imaginable and absolutely packed with landmarks both historical and natural. With or without a hat.
The whole of the open space up there is well known as Ilkley Moor, but technically it is a group of named moors with Ilkley Moor being just a small part of it. The whole area is actually called Rombalds Moor.
If you walk a few miles in a given direction you will actually be crossing into moors of a different name like Burley Moor, Hawksworth Moor, Baildon Moor, Bingley Moor, Morton Moor, and Addingham High Moor.
Maybe the whole area is known completely as Ilkley Moor because of a certain famous Folk Song, which I shall go into more detail about shortly.
The walk I have given you the GPX for at the end of this post does try to stay in Ilkley Moor itself and incorporates many gems to see along the way, some of which I will show you here. From Stone Circles to epic views.
The Cow And Calf
What better place to start than the geological wonder of The Cow and Calf.
About 1 and a half miles up Hangingstone Road out the back of Ilkley centre you will come to a car park on the right. The car park sits directly beneath the rock formation known as the Cow and Calf.
The name comes from the fact there are two rocks of differing sizes. A huge rock outcrop with a small boulder type rock a short distance away from it. The real name for it is Hangingstone Rocks but that has been lost to the affectionate Cow and Calf of course.
Legend has it that the giant Rombald leapt across the valley to escape his angry wife. As he landed he split the rocks to this shape. His wife is said to have dropped a load of stones she had in her skirt. Further on the moors there is a historically important pile of stones like a huge giant cairn. It was built up in the Bronze or Iron Age in fact. But the giant legend gave it the name, Skirtfull of Stones.
Once you have took in the amazing views from the Cow and Calf just a few steps from the car park, I like to turn left and across the moor proper whilst keeping the Wharfedale valley views going.
As you walk along the tops you come across an overhanging stone rock. It is a wonderful rock to be upon to gaze over the valley. The town of Ilkley one way and Otley further down the valley. In fact from here you can see all the way up Wharfedale towards Bolton Abbey and into the Dales.
Not only is it a great spot to be, but it also has marks from history. In fact almost all the rocks on the moor have historical markings on them. If you are interested in Bronze age history then Ilkley Moor is a must see. There are cup rings, markers and Bronze Age insignia scattered everywhere.
Pancake Rock is no different. It has cup rings upon it but the weather of thousands of years plus walkers is slowly fading them away. But if you look closely you can see.
Ilkley Moor Baht ‘At – The Song
Ok, let us come away from the walk and history for a minute and talk about an old folk song that put the moors even further onto the map so to say. On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘At. That is proper old Yorkshire title and dialect, but in normal English it means, On Ilkley Moor Without A Hat.
It has become Yorkshire’s unofficial anthem.
Putting it briefly the song is about a lover being critical of the woman he is courting, for going on Ilkley Moor without a hat. He is worried she will die of exposure, then get eaten by worms, then the ducks will eat the worms and thus the singers themselves will eat the ducks. A happy song isn’t it?
The song came to being in maybe the 1920s and was created by a chapel choir on a ramble up on the moors. Here are the lyrics in their original Yorshire dialect and grammar.
It is said that this particular Yorkshire dialect actually was confined to the Halifax area strangely enough.
Wheear 'as ta bin sin ah saw thee, On Ilkla Moor baht 'at?! Wheear 'as ta bin sin ah saw thee? On Ilkla Moor baht 'at?! On Ilkla Moor baht 'at?! Tha's been a cooartin' Mary Jane On Ilkla Moor baht 'at Tha's been a cooartin' Mary Jane| On Ilkla Moor baht 'at On Ilkla Moor baht 'at On Ilkla Moor baht 'at Tha's bahn t'catch thi deeath o'cowd On Ilkla Moor baht 'at Tha's bahn t'catch thi deeath o'cowd On Ilkla Moor baht 'at On Ilkla Moor baht 'at On Ilkla Moor baht 'at Then we shall ha' to bury thee On Ilkla Moor baht 'at Then we shall ha' to bury thee On Ilkla Moor baht 'at On Ilkla Moor baht 'at On Ilkla Moor baht 'at Then t'worms 'll cum and eat thee oop On Ilkla Moor baht 'at Then t'worms 'll cum and eat thee oop On Ilkla Moor baht 'at On Ilkla Moor baht 'at On Ilkla Moor baht 'at Then ducks 'll cum and eat oop t'worms On Ilkla Moor baht 'at Then ducks 'll cum and eat oop t'worms On Ilkla Moor baht 'at On Ilkla Moor baht 'at On Ilkla Moor baht 'at Then we shall go an' ate oop ducks On Ilkla Moor baht 'at Then we shall go an' ate oop ducks On Ilkla Moor baht 'at On Ilkla Moor baht 'at On Ilkla Moor baht 'at Then we shall all 'ave etten thee On Ilkla Moor baht 'at Then we shall all 'ave etten thee On Ilkla Moor baht 'at On Ilkla Moor baht 'at On Ilkla Moor baht 'at That's wheer we get us oahn back On Ilkla Moor baht 'at That's wheer we get us oahn back On Ilkla Moor baht 'at On Ilkla Moor baht 'at On Ilkla Moor baht 'at
Twelve Apostles Stone Circle
Back to the walk and the next big landmark, The Twelve Apostles Stone Circle.
Up on the moors this stone circle has captured the hearts of many as well as becoming a popular picnic spot for walkers in the summer.
Yes it is known as the 12 Apostles but this spot has actually been desecrated beyond recognition over so many centuries. Today there are 12 stones in a circle with a small mound in the centre which could have been an ancient burial mound.
Originally there would have been upwards to 20 stones it is believed. But it is known they had all fallen or disappeared by the mid 20th Century. In 1971 some people tried standing what was left back up. Then they have fallen and been re erected by unknown persons since. The ground around is bare and hollowed by people walking etc so the stone circle is very far removed from what it may have been alas.
Ilkley Moor Trig Point
From the twelve apostles the path is a joy to walk. Paved stones aids you through the bog when wet and keeps you on track.
Before long you come to the highest point of Ilkley Moor at 1319ft (402 m) and it is believed again to have been an ancient burial ground.
A chance for Malc to do his usual trig pose though.
From here I walk a little further onto the moors and start to head back down towards Ilkley.
With all this open space and miles of paths and terrains it is easy to see why Ilkley Moor is a dog walk paradise.
Malc and Pete absolutely love it up here. Running, playing and jumping. Tiring themselves out with a great deal of joy.
Please though be responsible and bear in mind that firstly there occasionally are sheep grazing on the moor so do not let your dogs worry them.
Secondly it is a haven for ground nesting birds. Skylarks etc. So please do not let your dog disturb them and ruin nesting season. It is respectfully requested that all dogs go on leads for the season of March to end of July for obvious reasons. You will see by the colours or snow in my pics that I do most of my ‘dog’ walks out of nesting season.
Before getting back to the start, my walk takes in the path along the top of Ilkley Crags. From here you get a super view not only over the town but of the Rocky Valley directly below.
This rocky valley keeps up the unique variety of the area. Formed by an ancient landslide this area provides views from the rocks and crags that will have you mesmerised. Time for a seat with a view.
My Walk Details and GPX
Distance: 5.5 miles
Parking: Free Parking at Ilkley Moor Car Park, Cow and Calf on Hangingstone Road
Refreshments: There is a cafe/snack booth in the car park or there is the Cow and Calf Pub a short walk from the car park
If you want a full day or half a day walking. Nothing too strenuous but packed full of views, landmarks and history then you cannot go wrong with a walk on Ilkley Moor.
Great walks for the mind. Great walks to refresh, and wonderful for the dogs in our life. Again there are paths in so many directions here that you can make it different each time and enjoy it all.
And yes, as you can see from the pics. I always seemed to be Baht ‘At.