Simon’s Seat Circular Walk

Two sheep seen on the walk up Simon's Seat
Two sheep seen on the walk up Simon's Seat

By Vicky · Published Sep. 1st, 2023

This circular walk from Bolton Abbey up Simon’s Seat is a great hike by a lovely river, up through woodland and out onto the stunning moor.


The Simon’s Seat Circular Walk starts from the car park at Bolton Abbey, where there are also public toilets. The car park is very expensive, at £15 for the day, or £12.50 if you book online in advance. There are very few other parking options nearby. If you’re early in the day, there’s a small free car park here but you have to be lucky to get a spot. Starting here makes the walk 2 km longer in total.

Simon’s Seat Walking Map

Get the route by downloading the .gpx or .kml file below. For navigation with on your mobile phone, simply download the .kml file and open to add it to the bookmarks.


Simon’s Seat Circular Walking Route

This circular walk starts from the car park at Bolton Abbey (or if you’re lucky, the small car park 1 km further away). From the car park, cross the road and head down the large track into Bolton Abbey estate.

Bolton Abbey

Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire
Bolton Abbey ruins, Yorkshire

On your left you’ll see the evocative ruins of Bolton Priory. The Abbey was destroyed in 1539 during the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. St Mary’s Parish church still remains at one end, and you can visit inside. It’s a lovely little place to explore, surrounded by the lovely Wharfe Valley.

Bolton Abbey Stepping Stones when river level is low
River level low – can cross stepping stones
Bolton Abbey Stepping Stones when river level is high
River level high – don’t cross the stepping stones

After you’ve seen the ruins, head to the river. You can either cross on the bridge, or if the water isn’t too high you can attempt the stepping stones. Don’t cross the stones if the river is flowing too fast, and don’t let young children attempt these by themselves. The river is quite wide, and it’s easy to panic in the middle! The much safer route is to simply walk over the bridge.

Turn left along the path by the river and check out the views back to Bolton Abbey. Continue walking along the river, always staying closest to its banks. In about 1.5 km you’ll come to another bridge, with the Cavendish Pavillion on the other side. If you want refreshments or a toilet break, head there now.

Leaving the River Wharfe

A waterfall in Desolation Valley on the walk up Simon's Seat
Yorkshire countryside
A sheep in Yorkshire

Otherwise, don’t cross the river but continue a couple hundred meters and look out for the path cutting right. This leads up to the road above where you turn left. After a short distance along the road, take the first path to your right. This leads you into some fields.

Follow this track upwards as it starts to parallel a stream. This leads you into the Valley of Desolation. Unlike the name suggests, the valley is actually very pleasant. The Valley of Desolation gets its name from a storm that occurred 200 years ago and knocked down all the trees. Today the trees have regrown and you’ll walk through a lovely forest. Keep your eye out for the small waterfalls in the stream to your left.

You’ll soon leave the trees and come out onto the open moorland. The path continues to follow the stream closely, first on its left then over to the right-hand side. You’ll also see a line of grouse butts (small circular stone shelters) as you walk up the path. These can be useful if you want to have a break out of the wind!

The Top of Simon’s Seat

On a circular walk up Simon's Seat
Views from the top of SImon's Seat

Near the end of the stream, the path bends left. Turn right at the T-junction towards the rocks for the final ascent to the top of Simon’s Seat. This first set of rocks is not the top, but you’re almost there and you’ll be able to see the rock jumble at the peak of Simon’s Seat.

There are great views from the top of Simon’s Seat, though it can be a little cloudy and misty! There are plenty of little nooks in the rock to shelter if it is cold and it’s a great spot for lunch.

Walking from Simon's Seat to Lords Seat
Walking from Simon’s Seat to Lords Seat
The Path along the Wall down from the top of Simon's Seat
The Path along the Wall

When you’re ready, head right on a path along the flattish top towards some more stones. This blob of rocks is called Lords Seat. Just after the rocks there’s a wall. Turn right along the path next to the wall. This paths leads you gradually, and then more steeply downhill away from the top of Simon’s Seat.

The path becomes a larger track, which continues by the wall. At one point the track slightly leaves the wall but then returns a short distance later. Then there’s a small amount of uphill, and the main track bends right, away from the wall. Continue on the main track as it leads down through a heather-covered area on the side of a slope.

Storiths Village and back to Bolton Abbey

Turn left at an obvious junction about 1.5 km from the wall. This path crosses a stream, then ascends slightly on the other side around some fields. Continue following the track and you’ll soon reach Storiths, a little village with a great cafe – Back O’ Th’ Hill Farm.

Back at Bolton Abbey after walking up the circular route to Simon's Seat

From here, a road then a track through the fields leads downwards and back to Bolton Abbey Estate. You come out at the first bridge, which you can cross and then make your way back to your car. This is the end of the Simon’s Seat Circular Walk.

Guidebooks to explore more of Yorkshire

The Rough Guide to Yorkshire* is a great little guidebook and has a section on Ilkley and things to do nearby. The Yorkshire Dales Pathfinder Guide* has a good collection of short hikes suitable for the entire family and the Guide to North Yorkshire Pub Walks* has some fun walks in the Dales for those who are hungry and thirsty.

For other short countryside hikes nearby, why not walk up Almscliffe Crag, Sharp Haw and Flasby Fell, Beamsley Beacon, or Embsay Crag.

FAQS: Simon’s Seat Circular Walk

How long is the Simon’s Seat Walk?

The circular walk up Simon’s Seat from Bolton Abbey is roughly 17.5 km, or about 11 miles. To make it shorter, you can start from Barden Bridge, in which case it’s about 6 miles, but you miss out on the nicest parts.

Where do you park to walk Simon’s Seat?

There’s a large car park at Bolton Abbey which is the easiest place to park if you want to walk up Simon’s Seat. However, it’s quite expensive (£15, or £12.5 if you book online). There are no real alternatives apart from a very small car park opposite the Abbey Tea Rooms, which fills up very early in the day.

Is Simon’s Seat walk difficult?

The walk up Simon’s Seat is not hard, but you do need a moderate degree of fitness. There are no technical difficulties, but make sure to take a map (either paper or an online app such as Maps.Me). It’s easy to get quickly lost, especially if the clouds come down.

Why is it called the Valley of Desolation?

The Valley of Desolation gets its name from the destruction that followed a severe storm roughly 200 years ago. The wind knocked down almost all of the trees in the valley, making the area very desolate for a while. Today the trees have all regrown.

Why is it called Simon’s Seat?

It’s unclear exactly how Simon’s Seat got its name. Some say it was simply named after the owner of the estate, while others believe it involved a story about a shepherd boy called Simon finding a baby near the hill.

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