With caves, waterfalls, rolling hills, steam railways, castles and coves, the Yorkshire Dales are a natural playground for kids and an exciting option for a family day trip from York. It’s such a treasure trove that it can be hard to know where to go, but Bolton Abbey is one of our top recommendations. Home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, the whole estate spans 30,000 acres of moorland and woodland, but it’s the area around Bolton Abbey that families return to time and again. Here’s why we’d recommend it as a great place to visit with children.
1. There are sixty stepping stones to cross
Whether it’s the exciting possibility of falling into the water or the challenge of jumping from one rock to another while the fish look on in amusement, there’s something about stepping stones that kids adore. No surprise, then, that the Bolton Abbey stepping stones are one of the most popular spots on the estate for families. Little legs are best off using the adjacent bridge (there are 60 stones!), but it’s great fun for older children (and adults). Speaking of stones, the pebbly river banks give plenty of opportunity for you to practise your stone-skimming skills or have a competition to see who can throw theirs the furthest.
2. There’s a welly walk
The prospect of ‘going for a walk’ is rarely greeted with enthusiasm, but the Bolton Abbey Welly Walk is an exciting, free walk through the woods with various activities dotted along the route. It’s not suitable for buggies or wheelchairs as it’s uneven and steep in places, but for confident walkers there’s a lot of fun to be had: climb the ladder and slide down the snake; climb through the spider’s web, make your way out of the maze and walk the slackline. There’s so much scrambling, sliding and balancing to do that your kids might even forget to complain (no guarantees, sorry). There are plenty of other walking routes on the estate – find a selection on the Bolton Abbey website.
3. Pack your bucket and spade – there’s a beach!
Okay, so it might not be the Algarve but there’s a large beach area – with sand! – that’s a great spot to paddle and play. Dip your toes in, build a sandcastle and enjoy a picnic with a view of the ruins of the priory. If you didn’t bring your own food, don’t panic: there are ice cream vans and tea rooms on the estate offering takeaway refreshments (and, in normal times, the opportunity to sit in and eat, too).
4. Just pay to park
Given that Bolton Abbey offers a full day out, we think that it’s excellent value at £10 per car if booked in advance (£12.50 on the day) and no further admission fee. There’s easily enough to do and see to fill the day – your only limit is your energy levels! There are a few car parks, so be sure to choose the one that’s closest to the area you want to explore.
5. There are some great things to do nearby
A day isn’t always long enough, and here’s an excuse to make a weekend of it: there are lots of other amazing family-friendly places within a short drive of Bolton Abbey. It’s a 15-minute drive to Fountains Abbey, a National Trust UNESCO World Heritage Site with incredible ruins, regular kids’ activities, tea rooms, an adventure play area and much more. Just over 20 minutes away, Brimham Rocks is a stunning place to explore with kids, with rocks to climb up, hide behind and picnic on top of (and plenty of walking routes, too). And don’t miss Billy Bob’s Parlour, an all-singing, all-dancing 1950s American diner in the heart of the Dales where you can eat, play and pretend to be extras from Happy Days or Grease. There’s an outdoor play area and excellent indoor play options too.
– Bolton Abbey, Skipton, BD236EX
– Travel time around 1 hour from York
– Parking £12.50 in advance via the Bolton Abbey website (more on the day)
– Toilets and baby changing available