Exploring Beautiful Bolton Abbey with the family

by MiniTravelTribe
View of Bolton Abbey priory and river Wharfe

At the southern edge of the Yorkshire Dales, Bolton Abbey is a popular day trip for local families. It is also well worth a visit if you are on holiday in the Dales. It’s less than a hour’s drive from our home so we have visited many times for outings there in all seasons. Find out everything you need to know here for visiting Bolton Abbey with kids.

Bolton Abbey itself is a ruined Priory on the banks of the river Wharfe. There are spectacular views all around and a variety of walks available, from short family ambles to longer hikes depending on how fit you are feeling! There are plenty of other family friendly attractions in the area too.

What to do at Bolton Abbey with kids

Family crossing stepping stones over river at Bolton Abbey
Crossing the stepping stones at Bolton Abbey

There is plenty to explore with the kids at Bolton Abbey. Our family trip there usually consists of a wander around the priory ruins followed by a picnic by the river and a family walk. Our kids are fasciated by the ruined priory and there is pretty open access to wander around this area. From there it is a short stroll down to the river and the stepping stones if you dare! Now I like to think of myself as pretty adventurous but I do find these stepping stones pretty hairy. Particularly when crossing with young children. On our recent visit the first stepping stone was missing so we had to wade through the water to get to the first stone! If you’d rather not do the stepping stones there is a bridge instead!

Wandering the Welly walk

A popular attraction with kids is the welly walk which is a path along the river (opposite side to the priory) with various challenges for the children to do along the way. It’s a good way to get reluctant walkers to keep going. You can make it a round trip walk by crossing the river at the Cavendish pavilion and walking back to the priory on the other side of the river. You do have to walk up along the road for a short section in this part. The whole path is pushchair friendly, as with all the main walking trails around Bolton Abbey.

If you wanted to take on a longer walk the Bolton Abbey website has ideas for other walks in the area from here.

Family-friendly trails

There are often seasonal trails set up, usually starting at the Cavendish pavilion and walking upstream. We have been to the Christmas and Easter trails but they also have a Halloween themed trail too. Check out the Bolton Abbey website for further information on any seasonal trails.

Children studying trail map at Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire Dales.
Studying the Christmas Trail map

Where to park At Bolton Abbey

Bolton Abbey is best accessed by car. There are three different car parks to choose from and there is a flat fee for a daily parking rate. Once this fee has been paid you can then use any of the three car parks. The village car park is closest to the priory itself and the stepping stones. The riverside car park is a short drive further along the road from the village (it’s the first left). This is a good place to park if you don’t want to walk too far and lots of families park here by the river and just set up camp for the day for a picnic/ play / paddle in the river.

Currently due to Covid restrictions you have to book parking in advance for one particular car park. There are other COVID restrictions in place such as one way routes on some of the trails to restrict people passing each other and additional outside toilets. We felt it was really well managed when we were there.

Around Bolton Abbey

If you are at Bolton Abbey with the family the following could be good add ons to your trip. Equally they could just as easily be a visit in their own right!

Billy Bobs

Only a short drive from Bolton Abbey, Billy Bob’s is a bit of a local legend. It started as an ice cream farm and cafe and has now expanded into a fantastic family friendly diner (American themed). As well as great food and ice cream there is a fab outdoor play area and play barn. It is definitely worth checking out if you are in the area. A particular hit with my youngest is the old-style American school bus inside that you can sit and eat in. Unfortunately for us the largest table in there only seats four…. the downsides of being a family of five!

Hesketh Farm Park

This farm is brilliant, especially for younger children, and you could easily spend most of the day there! At Hesketh farm there are of course all the farm animals you would expect as well as play areas, tractor rides and the possibility of feeding / stroking many of the animals.

Mini Travel Tribe Top Tips:

  • If you don’t have a picnic the Cavendish Pavilion next to the riverside car park is big and family-friendly. There is also a team room in the village itself, near the village car park.
  • If you do pack a picnic there are lots of riverside picnic benches at the riverside car park. There is also a lovely little beach by the river opposite the priory (near the stepping stones) and a grassy field behind. Just beware of ducks here as a particularly cheeky one was standing on my knee to try and steal my sandwich on our last visit!
  • Walking trails around the estate are all push-chair friendly.

If you are in the area, Bolton Abbey is a really easy family-friendly day out, combined with beautiful scenery. If you’re in the area for a while you may want to check out other Yorkshire Dales attractions such as Brimham Rocks, or Malham. Hope you have fun and please leave me a comment below if you have any additional tips!

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1 comment

Adriane 06/10/2020 - 2:06 am

Bolton Abbey looks like the perfect place to spend time with small children, particularly during COVID. I will have to visit when travel is back to normal!


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