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Sounding like something out of a good Indiana Jones movie (when Harrison Ford was the young one)… A hunt for the ‘Swastika Stone‘ on Ilkley moor seemed like the perfect Sunday adventure for a couple of lazy morning ramblers.
The Swastika stone is thought to be either Bronze age (like many other stones found in the area) or Iron Age and there’s some ambiguity over the stone’s meaning too, although in a number of ancient civilizations similar designs are thought to relate to the sun. The stone is located a relatively short walk west of White Wells Spa Cottage, which has had accessible baths since 1703, was instrumental in giving Ilkley its Spa town status and has reported visits from the likes of Charles Darwin. The stones are such a short walk from here (a couple of miles I’d guess), we decided to extend our walk. I say ‘stones’ because there are in fact two Swastika stones. One is a Victorian replica which actually helps pick out the pattern of the considerably fainter original sat just behind.
Our walk continued past the stones, past Panorama Reservoir and onto Hardwick House farm, where I got momentarily obsessed with some very photogenic sheep! From the farm we walked down until we reached the River Wharfe where we followed the Dales Way back into Ilkley town centre. Nature on the walk included numerous encounters with curlews and red grouse, which seem to occur on many of our Yorkshire walks, and we also caught sight of a tree creeper.
We finished the day at the Cow and Calf Hotel with an enjoyable pint of Leeds Pale Ale but before making our ascent to the watering hole we stopped off to refuel. The Vintage Tea Room on Wells Road is an original, friendly and very well done tea room with irresistible homemade cakes and a list of speciality teas longer than my photography equipment wish list (which is larger than a News International legal bill!). A cream tea for two was just what was needed to make the final steps on our Ilkley walk!
An unplanned lazy lie in and poor visabillity meant we weren’t able to do the walk we had planned to do last week. We headed up to Ilkley Moor anyway, just to stretch the legs and get some air.
Parking as near to the Cow and Calf rocks as we could (this is evidently a popular weekend destination, as this was further than we would have liked), we changed shoes and set off. Neither ‘climbed’ nor ‘walked’ would be an accurate description of how we made our ascent, messily and laboriously may be more accurate. The top of the rocks themselves are not more than a 5 minute walk from the completely full car parks below but there are several places further up the road where you can leave the car if, like us, you leave it all rather late!
The rocks were fascinating. A variety of carefully carved etchings, both contemporary and old including many dated in the early 1800s, were scattered over the irregular surfaces of the Cow and Calf rocks. In fact, there are reportedly a number of engravings throughout Ilkley Moor thought to date from either the late Neolithic or the Bronze Age, and Rombald’s Moor (of which Ilkley Moor is part) is considered to hold the second highest concentration of ancient carved stones in Europe.
After spending a considerable amount of time walking around and examining the rocks we walked back down (disturbing a couple of red grouse on the way) towards the Cow and Calf Hotel where we stopped for a customary pint. I opted for a Black sheep (Black Sheep Brewery, Masham). The busy bar staff were friendly and the slightly crowded pub had a nice atmosphere, despite food clearly being the priority of this establishment.
The Ilkley Moor area is an intriguing landscape which clearly holds many points of interest. I will certainly be revisiting, just a little earlier next time, with a dinner table reservation at the pub for our return!