Ilkley Moor Walks: The 15 Best Walks on Ilkley Moor

Visiting Ilkley? There are plenty of Ilkley Moor walks to keep you active and entertained. The 1,670 acres of protected moorland are full of hiking trails – short and long. Whether you want to take a dip in a healing well, take a long hike to a famous local pub, or visit mysterious prehistoric rock carvings, Ilkley Moor has lots on offer.

This list is the result of multiple generations growing up exploring Ilkley Moor. Some are well-known, some are local secrets, and all make exciting hikes to complete when visiting Ilkley. I grew up hiking and riding on Ilkley Moor, and I can’t wait for you to discover these 15 best paths.

Let’s dive straight in. These are the best 15 Ilkley Moor Walks.

Short Walks

White Wells.
White Wells by Heidi Marfitt.

First up are the shortest Ilkley Moor walks. These shorter walks are perfect if you are short on time, hiking with young children, or just concerned about your fitness levels.

These paths are minimal effort and high reward – ideal for keeping young children interested. Each walk is a maximum of 1.5 hours, and most take under an hour to walk.

1. White Wells

Time: 30 minutes return

White Wells is an 18th -century cottage perched on the edge of Ilkley Moor. The building is somewhat iconic, and its adjoining plunge pool is what gives Ilkley its title of a spa town.

You can reach White Wells in just 15 minutes if you park at White Wells Car Park (LS29 9JS). The gravelled trail is wide enough for vehicle access and on a gentle incline. It is mildly challenging for those with pushchairs or using mobility scooters, but definitely possible. Just be aware that there is a tiny channel where you’ll have to cross water about an inch deep. It is easy to cross, and the waterfall nearby is very scenic.

It is a town tradition to ‘take the plunge’ at White Wells on New Year’s Day. On this day, you can join the crowds who flock to dip themselves into the tiny, unheated pool of natural moor water. However, you can often take the plunge by special request throughout the rest of the year, and it is well-worth enquiring if you fancy giving it a go.

Charles Darwin famously visited Ilkley to bathe in White Well’s water. If it is good enough for Darwin, it is good enough for us.

2. Heber’s Ghyll Waterfalls

Time: 1-hour return

Heber’s Ghyll Waterfalls is the cutest, most photogenic of these Ilkley Moor Walks. The trailhead starts on Heber’s Ghyll Drive, and you zigzag up through woodland until you reach the edge of Ilkley Moor. These ‘zigzags’ cross over a stream, and you’ll cross multiple wooden footbridges. Keep your eyes peeled for waterfalls and photo opportunities – there’ll be lots.

The walk should take approximately an hour to return. It does depend on your fitness and pace though, as you could reach the top in 20 minutes if you have a march on but over an hour if you stop regularly. It is all uphill and has sections of slippery steps, so allow yourself extra time if you think you need it.

Heber’s Ghyll is a beautiful walk all year round, especially in autumn. The orange leaves and stronger water flow make spectacular scenery for you to enjoy as you walk. If you want a romantic couple’s walk (or even somewhere nice to take photos), Heber’s Ghyll is an excellent choice. Families will also love this route, as, over lockdown, some local angel nailed plastic dinosaurs along the way. You can keep children entertained by spotting all the different dinosaurs en route.

3. Ilkley Tarn

Time: 30 minutes return

Ilkley Tarn is one of the prettiest Ilkley Moor walks. The tarn is a very shallow pond with ducks and small islands you can cross over to on stepping stones if the water is low enough. Ilkley Tarn is perfect for those with mobility scooters or families using pushchairs, as the whole route is pavemented.

To complete a loop of Ilkley Tarn takes under 10 minutes. However, you will want to stop at the wooden hut for views over Ilkley, to feed the ducks, or to cross over to the islands. It is a great spot to enjoy a slow, leisurely walk. It was a popular walk to ‘take the air’ in the Victorian period. If you want a romantic, relaxing way to experience Ilkley Moor walks, walking the tarn is my top suggestion.

To avoid steps, park at Crossbeck Road Car Park (LS29 9TF) but otherwise consider parking at Craiglands Road (LS29 8RH). Parking at Craiglands Road means you get a nice shaded walk to the tarn, which is lovely in summer when there is less mud, and you want to stay out of the sun.

If you want, you can always extend the walk and head up a set of stone steps to reach Upper Ilkley Tarn (the moor’s second, less visited tarn) and White Wells. The boating pond by Darwin Gardens is also easy to add to a walk around Ilkley Tarn. It is popular for children to paddle but also very slippery, so be careful!

4. Cow and Calf

Time: 30 minutes return

The Cow and Calf are the postcard image of Ilkley Moor. Exploring the Cow and Calf rocks is an excellent place to start if you are looking for classic Ilkley Moor walks.

Park at the Cow and Calf Car Park (LS29 8RF) for free and head up the slabbed track towards the quarry. On your left, a path leads to the top of the cliffs and up onto the moor. Take this path and loop right at the top, around the quarry, and to the top of the Cow. This walk should take less than 10 minutes – 5 minutes if you are quick.

Take a seat on the Cow and admire the views over the valley. For scenic views of Ilkley, the Cow is the best seat in the house.

After, you can always have a wander around the edge of Ilkley Moor. If you continue straight, there is a small river, and if you turn right, you can take a loop through a wooded area and small quarry. Otherwise, head back down the same way you walked up. Perhaps treat yourself to a coffee or ice cream at the bottom.

5. Swastika Stone

Time: 30 minutes return

Remember that mysterious prehistoric rock carving? Well, that is the Swastika Stone.

You can reach the Swastika Stone in just 15 minutes from Keighley Gate Car Park (LS29 9QZ). The gravelled track is wide and flat for over ¾ of the route. You’ll spot the stone by its black railings. It is fenced off to protect it from being worn down and trodden on.

The carving is believed to have been created between the Bronze and Iron Ages. It is a little eery, and walking here alone always raises the hairs on the back of my neck. The bleak surroundings create a dramatic backdrop. If you get a foggy day on Ilkley Moor, hiking to the Swastika Stone is one of the most atmospheric things to do in Ilkley.

This hike is excellent for anyone interested in early art and ancient civilisations. Before WWII, the swastika symbol was mainly associated with the sun. Early civilisations frequently used the swastika to depict the sun in early carvings. Be aware that there is little to no information at the site, so research the stone beforehand to fully appreciate its significance when visiting.

6. Ilkley Moor Quarry

Time: 30 minutes return

This isn’t the quarry you see to the left of the Cow and Calf rocks. The quarry I am referencing is the quarry behind the Cow and Calf, the one you can reach by turning right into woodland on top of the moor.

So, why visit this spot? Firstly, because it feels like a movie set. When I was younger, I used to run through this quarry pretending I was in Lord of the Rings with my younger sister. We called it Helms Deep, and I found it hilarious to upset her by pretending to see an orc and then running off to leave her alone and scared. Mean, I know. But, if you want somewhere with a wow factor, Ilkley Moor Quarry is a fun spot to walk around.

Secondly, Ilkley Moor Quarry was actually used as a movie set. The quarry was used in scenes of the upcoming 2022 series of the Witcher. You can explore all the areas that feature in the newest episodes.

To reach Ilkley Moor Quarry, head up to the top of the Cow. As described for the Cow and Calf walk, park in the Cow and Calf Car Park (LS29 8RF) and walk straight up the flagged path toward the quarry. Take your first left and head up the trail onto the top of the moor. From there, turn right and loop around to the top of the Cow.

Keep your eyes peeled here though. You should spot a wooden sign on the left of the path just as you are approaching the Cow. Standing by the sign, you’ll be looking into Ilkley Moor Quarry, and here you should spot a tiny sheep track leading down to the right and into the quarry. Getting here should take around 10 minutes or less from the car park.

Medium Walks

A sheep on Ilkley Moor.
Ilkley Moor via Unsplash.

These medium-length walks are perfect for those who are comfortable walking for a few hours. With extra walking, you can reach some incredible spots on Ilkley Moor. Let’s take a look at the best.

7. Twelve Apostles

Time: 2.5 hours return

The Twelve Apostles are another one of Ilkley Moor’s prehistoric mysteries. The twelve standing stones are believed to date back to the Bronze Age, and their original purpose remains unknown. The apostles are placed in a circle and are pretty spooky. Was this a spot for sacrifices or early rituals? Possibly.

To reach the Twelve Apostles, park at White Well’s Car Park (LS29 9JS). Walk up to White Well as described in our shorter walks section, head through the whitewashed arch and continue up the stone steps behind White Wells. Continue up the moor until you reach a flag-stoned path. Following this path, you’ll get to the Apostles in no time.

The whole walk should take around 2.5 hours but allow a little longer to grab a coffee and cake from White Wells on the way back.

8. Poetry Seat

Time: 2 hours

Intrigued? You should be. Hiking to Poetry Seat is one of the best Ilkley Moor walks, especially if you are creative and love writing.

The ‘seat’ is quite literally a seat. A u-shaped stone bench, walled to protect visitors from the typical moorland breeze, Poetry Seat is quickly recognisable. The seat was created in 2010 as part of Ilkley’s Literature Festival celebrations and is designed as a place for people to go create and read poetry.

Built into the seat’s walls are two metal post boxes. One reads ‘poems in’ and the other ‘poems out’. Bring a pen and paper, and you can post a poem. Or, if you prefer to read rather than write, just pick a poem out instead.

So, how do you get to Poetry Seat? It is easy enough. The seat is located along the path to the Twelve Apostles, and it should take you around an hour to reach it from White Wells Car Park (LS29 9JS). Allow 2 hours to complete this walk, plus a bit longer to read or write when you get there.

9. Ilkley Moor to Silsden 

Time: 2.5 hours one-way

Sometimes one-way walks are more fun. You don’t have to pass things twice or drag your feet around a huge circuit. If you fancy a one-way walk, I recommend walking to Silsden from Ilkley Moor and then getting the bus or taxi back.

This route passes a lot. You’ll follow the Millenium Way from Keighley Gate Car Park (LS29 9QZ), passing the Swastika Stone, WWII plane crash memorial, and the Nab – a scenic viewpoint overlooking Silsden and the valley below. From the Nab, you continue downhill towards Lumb Beck Farmhouse Bed & Breakfast, taking a left onto Moorside Lane. In around an hour, you’ll reach the centre of Silsden, where you can grab food and a drink from a local pub or café.

10. Long Ridge Memorial Site

Time: 2 hours return

Long Ridge Memorial Site is a tragic spot, but one definitely worth walking to and paying your respects. On January 31st, 1944, a Halifax bomber plane crashed during a training session. One pilot from Ripon and four Canadian pilots died at the site of the crash. The spot is now marked by a memorial and plaque.

To reach Long Ridge Memorial Site, start your hike at Keighley Gate Car Park (LS29 9QZ) and follow the Millennium Way about five minutes past the Nab. The spot isn’t available on Google Maps. Still, you can always pick up a leaflet from Ilkley Visitor Centre if you are unsure or would prefer solid directions.

Walking to Long Ridge Memorial Site is great for anyone with personal interest or connections to the military and its history, especially as related to the RAF.

11. Cow and Calf to White Wells

Time: 2 hours return

Joining the Cow and Calf Rocks with White Wells is a great medium-length walk. The route takes around 1 hour one-way and provides a good introduction to Ilkley Moor, passing diverse scenery and two major attractions.

Start your walk at the Cow and Calf Car Park (LS29 8RF). Head up onto the moor, using the path left of the quarry. At the top, take the grassy path heading straight ahead and across the moor, crossing Backstone Beck and joining the Dales Way to continue up towards Ilkley Crags.

When you reach crossroads, take the right fork, passing a small forest and dropping down from above White Wells. At White Wells, you can see if the plunge pool is open for a dip or just grab some food and drink from the café.

Long Walks

Moorland heather on Ilkley Moor.
Moorland heather via Unsplash.

Love a challenge? These longer Ilkley Moor Walks are at least 4 hours long and perfect for testing your fitness.

12. White Wells to Dick Hudson’s

Time: 4 hours return

Walking to Dick Hudson’s is the most popular long-distance walk on Ilkley Moor. The walk takes roughly 2 hours each way, although you may wish to allow extra time to stop off at different attractions along the way.

Start at White Wells Car Park (LS29 9JS) and continue past the Twelve Apostles, eventually crossing a stile and following a walled track downhill to reach the pub. The route has a real ramble feel, and you’ll have great views over Ilkley Moor, Menwith Hill (the huge golf ball-looking buildings), and will pass the Apostles, Poetry Seat, and White Wells on your way.

After grabbing a pub lunch and pint, you can either get a taxi back to White Well’s Car Park or walk the 2 hours back.

13. White Wells to Shipley Glen

Time: 6 hours return

Hiking from White Wells to Shipley Glen takes some serious undertaking, but if you want a challenge – why not? You can complete the walk one way in around 3 hours or return in approximately 6 hours. Shipley Train Station is well-connected to Ilkley, so you can always catch the train back after hiking it one way.

This route is diverse and exciting. You’ll cross Ilkley Moor and head across Bingley Moor, finishing in Shipley. There are sections on the Leeds/Liverpool canal, Roberts Park in Saltaire, and Shipley Glen Woods. If you feel like putting your navigational skills to the test, this hike is one of the most challenging.

Park at White Wells Car Park (LS29 9JS) and continue past the Twelve Apostles, Horncliffe Well, and Weather Reservoir. You’ll drop down through Bingley Moor, reaching Saltaire and entering Roberts Park. Continue until you reach the canal and finish your walk in Shipley.

14. Cow and Calf Rock to The Malt Shovel, Menston

Time: 6 hours return

Hiking to Menston is a good idea if you want to take a scenic, mildly challenging walk and then reward yourself with good hospitality and delicious pub food. The route lets you explore an area of Ilkley Moor that you’d very rarely otherwise see, and you can walk the 6-hour return hike or just hike 3 hours one-way and catch the train back.

Park at the Cow and Calf Car Park (LS29 8RF) and walk onto the moor using the path to the left of the quarry. Once you are up, take the path leading straight over the moor, joining the Dales Way track to your left just before you cross a small river (Blackstone Beck). You remain on the Dales Way track for around an hour, and you’ll pass The Haystack Rock, a notable boulder and landmark. Once you reach a crossroads, take a right turn, and join the Millennium Way heading further up onto Ilkley Moor.

When you reach a second crossroads, take your first left, passing a small farm building and dropping down into Menston on a farm track. Once you get to Hillings Lane, it is just a 5-minute walk to The Malt Shovel, where you can buy a well-deserved pint and bite to eat.

15. Millennium Way

Time: 2-4 days

Okay, ready for a real challenge? Millennium Way is a 45-mile beast of a hike, looping in a scenic circular route around the best of West Yorkshire’s moorland.

You’ll pass the Bronte Falls above Haworth, past the vintage steam train line in Oxenhope, and (of course) head across our very own Ilkley Moor. As a circular route, you can start from several places. However, I recommend starting and finishing in Ilkley. You can then plan hotel stops at the villages and towns you pass through.

A cross on Ilkley Moor.
Ilkley Moor via Sean Coleman.

Those are the top 15 Ilkley Moor walks, but honestly, Ilkley Moor has many more to discover. You could easily spend a week or more hiking all the different trails. I hope you have a fantastic time exploring.

Feel free to drop suggestions about more routes for other readers in the comments below.

You can read my complete guide to visiting Ilkley Moor here, plus my guide on places to eat and things to do in Ilkley. If you are looking for more walks in the area, I highly recommend walking in the Yorkshire Dales or visiting nearby Bolton Abbey for walks around the estate.

 

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