On Ilkley Moor : The Colin Speakman Way

I’ve been regularly walking/hiking in the Dales and in Yorkshire in general since 1995. In the summer this year my sister and I tackled my (she did many of the national long distance paths during the 1970s) first long distance walk in Shropshire – Wild Edric’s Way. It was pretty tough in places – those places being along Offa’s Dyke where WEW shared the path with Offa’s Dyke Path. I learnt from this recent recording of Ramblings on Radio 4 that The Dales Way is often a first-attempt at a long distance path for many people. At various times I have walked along all of that part between Ilkley and Beckermonds finding some of it a bit too low level. It’s OK as part of a walk but it’s the sense of achievement on gaining a higher level path or peak and the views that go with it that I find the most satisfying. Still that did not deter me from setting out on Sunday to my second Ilkley Literature Festival outing which was a ramble with Colin Speakman – author of Walk!, and over 50 walking and other guides to Yorkshire and the man responsible for putting the Dales Way on the walking map.

Colin Speakman meets his audience

We assembled in swirling rain by the main entrance to The Rombalds Hotel  on the doorstep of the Moor. Due to the weather our walk was to be somewhat curtailed – Colin’s ‘Plan B’. We were to take the donkey path up to White Wells and then the historic packhorse way (which links Ilkley with Bingley via the famous ‘Dick Hudson’s’ pub) through Rocky Valley and across the moor to The Cow and Calf Rocks. After a visit to the Hanging Rock quarry and the Hanging Rock itself our path would head down to the tarn and from thence back the Rombalds Hotel for tea.


Our first stop was only steps from the Rombalds – the boarding house where Charles Darwin had stayed in Ilkley on his visit to the spa for ‘the cure’ in 1859. It was then a steep climb up to White Wells built in the 1760s.

The steep path out of Ilkley to The White Wells.

The White Wells plunge pool.

Turn the tap for the curative spring water!

The Famous Cow and Calf Rocks

The Hanging Stone Rock with Early Bronze Age Carvings

Hanging Stone Quarry

The Tarn – a natural water feature which was ‘improved’ by the Victorians who created the paths for a ‘walking’ cure.

At the end of our walk – what could be better than a Rombalds tea and scones with jam and cream – yummy!


13 comments on “On Ilkley Moor : The Colin Speakman Way

  1. Marie-Noëlle says:

    How brave of you to walk in the rain !!!
    I used to walk/hike a lot …. for hours (before getting stopped by health problems).
    5, 6, 7 hours … a day … BUT I never ever got rewarded with scones !!! I would have walked for much longer, had I had scone crumbles in prospect !!!
    ; )

  2. Well, at a Literary Festival there is usually a good reason for this – so that the author may sell his/her book and then sign it in person. However, both Jane Brown and Colin Speakman were very low key about their books and I didn’t even see a copy of CS’s. The events are organised by the Festival committee and most are indoor talks with a small bookstall but that is not so easy with an outdoor event such as the two that I attended. Thank you so much for dropping by, MN and for your comments!

  3. Rhona says:

    Brrrrr, it looks rather chilly in the rain. The fact that it was ‘the coldness of the water’ and not its mineral content that stimulated early bathers at the wells is alarming too. I am assuming there were no takers for the plunge pool from your group that day. Warming up with scones and hot tea on your return seem a good way of fending off the cold. Lovely photos, Barbara, thank you,

  4. Funnily, not so very cold, Rhona. Especially not on the uphill climbs ;-). Anyone may plunge in the pool but you are advised to tell the cafe owners. We didn’t have time! Thank you for looking, Rhona.

  5. sherry says:

    It looks like miserable day for a walk. Just looking at the picture of that pool gave me a chill. I’d have waited in the tearoom, that’s more my pace.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Wonderful walking country even on a wet day. Those scones do look good. You earned them.

  7. It is so good to get out and stretch one’s legs and breath in some fresh air – if we waited in Yorkshire for good weather a walk would almost never happen! Lovely to have the dales on my doorstep. Thanks for visiting the blog, Elizabeth.

  8. Barbara what a great walk! These often seem like the best bits of a local literary festival. The du Maurier one has loads which I never seem to get to as I live just too far away. Love the cream tea! And can I *wave* to Rhona!

  9. Yes, indeed, Lynne. The walks brought the Festival to life for me this year. I hope they’ll do more in future. Such a nice change from sitting for an hour on an uncomfortable chair just listening. Variety – that is what is needed. I’m sure Rhona is waving madly back! Thanks for dropping by.

  10. Barbara I am really enjoying ‘visiting’ I feel as if I am travelling to these places too.

  11. Thank you, Lynne. Every so often there may be a burst of activity but this week it’s work and housework!

  12. […] usually pick a couple of talks or events to attend each year and this year was no different. On the first Saturday I chose to hear Alexandra […]

  13. […] decided to explore the church, enjoy the view from it (one of the best in the country according to Colin Speakman who came along on the walk) and then to head down a further three-quarters of a mile to the lower […]

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