Ilkley Moor Walks: 4 Circular Routes

Are you looking for some Ilkley Moor walks inspiration? This vast moorland has miles of trails and pathways just waiting to be explored, making it a hiker’s paradise!

So, whether you’re looking for a short walk, a long walk, a scenic walk or just something different, this guide has you covered. With 4 circular walks around Ilkley Moor, you’ll be able to visit the coolest landmarks without getting lost.

Each route comes with a map, downloadable GPX file, directions and advice on where to park. Plus, there’s a jam-packed FAQ section at the bottom of the page too for all your other questions.

Where is Ilkley Moor?

The vast Ilkley Moor sits on the hills overlooking the quaint spa town of Ilkley in West Yorkshire. Located just a few miles south of the Yorkshire Dales and Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the moor is about a 45-minute drive from Leeds and 15 minutes from Otley Chevin Forest Park.

Ilkley Moor is technically part of Rombald’s Moor, which also encompasses Addingham High Moor, Baildon Moor, Bingley Moor, Burley Moor, Hawksworth Moor and Morton Moor. However, locally, the whole area is mostly just called Ilkley Moor.

Overview of the Ilkley Moor Walks: 4 Circular Routes

Twelve Apostles and the Eastern Ilkley Moor Walk
5.7 km | 1.5 to 2 hours
The Peak of Ilkley Moor and the Twelve Apostles Walk 

11.5 km | 3 hours
Hebers Ghyll Waterfall and Moorland Views Walk
4.4 km | 1 hour
Ilkley Moor Cow and Calf Rocks and White Wells Walk
3.7 km | 45 mins to 1 hour

Haystack Rock - a large rock, but small in comparison to others on Ilkley Moor.

The Twelve Apostles and Eastern Ilkley Moor Walk

Car Park | Haystack Rock | Grub Stones | Twelve Apostles Stone Circle | Ilkley Crags | Car Park

Distance: 3.5 miles/5.7 kilometres
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Walking time: 1.5 to 2 hours

Start and endpoint: Ilkley Moor Car Park (by Cow & Calf Rock Cafe)

This Ilkley Moor walk has great photo spots – particularly if you like standing on top of rocks with a view!

First, head uphill out of the car park. Importantly, do not head into the Cow and Calf rocks, as this is a dead-end. Then, at the top of the hill, there is a crossroads in the paths. Turn left and then almost immediately veer off the more trodden path to head diagonally across the moorland.

Haystack Rock – a large rock to the side of the path – is the first waypoint on the route, although not the most impressive. Nevertheless, it is still a cool photo spot. Continue on diagonally behind Haystack Rock. Here, the path is not too trodden but it is easy enough to follow. Carry on past the small lake and you’ll start to see the Grub Stones ahead.

The striking rock formation that is Grub Stones is easy to climb and has fantastic views over North and West Yorkshire. As well as the nearer Lower Lanshaw Dam and Carr Bottom Reservoir. Be sure to take in the scenery and enjoy taking yet more cool, standing on rocks photos! 

From here, you’ll need to walk back on yourself slightly as you head up the gentle incline along the main path to the Twelve Apostles Stone Circle. The history of the Twelve Apostles Stone Circle is not well established. However, the current stones were placed there in the 1970s as the originals had suffered from substantial erosion. Even today, the site continues to be subject to severe erosion due to the number of walkers visiting.

From the Twelve Apostles, re-join the main path and continue in the same direction as before. At the top of the hill, the path splits – turn right and walk back across the moor in a straight line for about 1.5 km. As the path turns right, you’ll be at the top of Ilkley Crags. This is another impressive rock formation. Here, you’ll have views over Ilkley and the Yorkshire Dales, as well as another good photo spot.

To get back to the car park, simply follow the path straight, across Backstone Beck and then to the steep downhill section towards the café.

The Grub Stones on Ilkley Moor - a great place for a photo due to the uneven and protruding rocks. Plus, fantastic views are available from the top.

Peak of Ilkley Moor and the Twelve Apostles Walk

Car Park | Ilkley Crags | Twelve Apostles Stone Circle | Peak of Ilkley Moor | Cowpers Stone Cross | Ilkley Moor Crop Circle | Ilkley Crags |  Car Park

Distance: 7.1 miles/11.5 kilometres
Difficulty: Moderate
Walking time: 3 hours

Start and endpoint: Ilkley Moor Car Park (by Cow & Calf Rock Cafe)

If you’re looking for a longer Ilkley Moor walk, then this one is for you! At almost 12 km, you’ll get a full tour of the best natural and man-made attractions the moorland has to offer…

Head uphill from the back of the car park and then continue straight at the path crossroads. Keep straight on this path as you cross the small Backstone Beck stream. After which, you’ll see the striking views from the top of Ilkley Crags. You’ll feel like you’re top of the world!

From Ilkley Crags, turn left heading uphill over the vast moorland for about 1 km. Then, turn left when the path splits. After another 400 metres, head left and then quickly right along the main path to the Ilkley Moor’s Twelve Apostles Stone Circle. This small stone circle is thought to have been created originally in the Bronze Age but may have been restored many times in years since.

Continuing on, retrace your steps for about 200 metres. Then, continue straight along the path made of large stones. After 1.1 km, you’ll reach the peak of Ilkley Moor, marked by a stone trig point on the right of the path. Here, you’ll have dazzling views of the Yorkshire Dales – weather permitting. Including the distinctive Pen-Y-Fan and the Menwith Hill Air Force Station, known for its unique large white domes. 

From the trig point, continue until the path splits in a T-shape – head right on the dusty and rocky path. The next landmark you’ll reach is Cowper’s Stone Cross to the left of the path. Constructed originally in the 12th century, this is another monument that has been repaired, reconstructed and replaced over the years due to damage.

Now, Cowper’s Stone Cross is not that impressive. But, it does serve as a good waypoint to find the next landmark – the Ilkley Moor Crop Circle. From the stone cross, return to the main path and turn left in the same direction you were heading before. After about 200 metres, turn left off of the path. Then, continue over more wild terrain until you have a good view looking down to your right of the crop circle.

The origins of the Ilkley Moor Crop Circle are much more modern than its medieval neighbours, with the circle appearing only in 2017. Although, whether this is the work of aliens or humans is yet to be discerned…

From the crop circle, it’s the home straight back to the car park! Return to the main path, continuing north and downhill. After 600 metres, you’ll need to turn right off of the main path onto a trodden grassy one. Keep to this path as it weaves its way up, down and side to side over the moor. Continue along the top of Ilkley Crags and back across the stream. After which, it’s just downhill into the car park.

You’ll sure deserve a well-earned drink at the Cow and Calf pub over the road after this Ilkley Moor circular walk!

The crop circle that appeared in 2017 on Ilkley Moor - best views are from above"
The famous Ilkley Moor Twelve Apostles stone circle. This is a great place to walk to!

Ilkley Moor Waterfall Walk: Hebers Ghyll Waterfall and Moorland Views

White Wells Car Park | Hebers Ghyll Waterfall | Swastika Rock | White Wells Car Park

Distance: 2.7 miles/4.4 kilometres
Difficulty: Easy
Walking time: 1 hour

Start and endpoint: White Wells Car Park

If you don’t want steep hills, then this will be your top pick of these Ilkley walks. Featuring just a little bit of incline, this short walk near Ilkley takes you along a stretch of the northern perimeter of the moorland to the Ilkley Moor waterfall.

From White Wells Car Park, walk along Wells Road and then left onto Keighley Road. After 300 metres, head off-road and onto the Millennium Way path to the right signposted as a public footpath. Continue for 1.2 km until you reach the Hebers Ghyll Waterfall, which is located to the right of the path. This small but pretty waterfall is under the cover of the woodland making it perfect for exploring or seeking cover from the sun.

The next landmark is the Swastika Stone, named as you may guess, as it has a swastika carving in it. The swastika design is pretty artistic and since the stone pre-dates the Nazis by possibly a couple of thousand years, it’s not associated with any totalitarian or fascist ideologies! From the waterfall, Swastika Stone is about 400 metres following straight along the path.

The final leg of this Ilkley Moor waterfall walk takes you back to White Wells Car Park along a path parallel to that you have already walked. Follow the path straight for about 1.6 km, where it crosses Keighley Road again. Continue heading east on the path and turn left once you reach a road called White Wells. The car park is another 300 metres from here.

The highest point of Ilkley Moor - marked with a concrete trig point and overlooking the Yorkshire hills

Ilkley Moor Cow and Calf Rocks and White Wells Walk

Car Park | Bottom of Ilkley Crags | White Wells | Northern Moor | Top of Ilkley Crags | Car Park

Distance: 2.3 miles/3.7 kilometres
Difficulty: Easy
Walking time: 45 minutes to 1 hour

Start and endpoint: Ilkley Moor Car Park (by Cow & Calf Rock Cafe)

If you just want to get out for some fresh air rather than a hike across the countryside, then this is the Ilkley Moor walk for you!

Starting at Ilkley Moor Car Park, head uphill and continue on straight at the path crossroads. Keep going across Backstone Beck and take the path on the left that heads slightly uphill towards Ilkley Crags. At the top, you’ll have fantastic views over Ilkley and the valley looking towards Skipton. Plus, this is also a wonderful photo spot with rocky protrusions and overhangs.

Continue walking along the ridgeline of Ilkley Crags, when the path splits take the left-hand option keeping straight. Further on, the path then turns to the right running right behind a small wooded area. Keep heading towards White Wells – the iconic white building overlooking the town of Ilkley. It’s the perfect place to stop for lunch or just to take in the view.

From White Wells, take the path that is at 4 o’clock (when facing towards Ilkley), south-east back towards Ilkley Crags. This path is less prominent than the main path heading directly south from White Wells. Continue straight for about 300 metres and then take the path to the right that zig-zags back to the Dales Way.

Here, turn left and follow the path for about 800 metres in the rocky valley of Ilkley Crags. Once you cross Backstone Beck, you’re just a short downhill walk back to Ilkley Moor Car Park.

The iconic Cow and Calf rocks next to the Ilkley Moor Car Park. The path on the left is that which takes you to many of the Ilkley Moor walks described in this blog post.

Ilkley Moor Walks: FAQs

Is Ilkley Moor Open?

Yes, the moorland and public footpaths are open all day, every day. The only exception to this may be when there are wildfires on the moor. Sadly, this is becoming increasingly common due to carelessness and purposeful destruction.

Is Ilkley Moor Car Park Open?

Yes, the car park is also open all day, every day. However, it gets full very quickly, particularly on weekends as people from near and far flock to enjoy these Ilkley Moor walks. 

Luckily, there is plenty of Ilkley Moor parking along the sides of Hangingstone Road. And, while many people do just park on the road, this makes it difficult for vehicles to get through. So, try and park on the embankments.

Looking east over Ilkley Moor with the snowy ground clear in the image foreground.

Can you camp on Ilkley Moor?

This would be classed as wild camping and is illegal in England. Wild camping, when you stay outside of designated camping areas like campsites or caravan parks, is not permitted without the landowner’s permission.

Additionally, Ilkley Moor Yorkshire has fallen victim to devastating fires in recent years. These have been caused by campfires, cigarettes and BBQs. As such, the moorland is patrolled, particularly in the drier, summer months, to move hopeful campers on and prevent more wildfire.

However, there are a few campsites close to Ilkley Moor for those who want to enjoy the great outdoors safely and responsibly.

Can you cycle on Ilkley Moor?

It’s allowed, but it certainly isn’t practical in places. In particular, the hill up out of the car park onto Ilkley Moor is very steep and you’d probably have to carry your bike. 

Additionally, in some parts of the moor, the path is made up of large stones, which are quite narrow, several inches tall and have gaps in between. These stones are not wide enough for two people to fit side-by-side, so would not be wide enough for a cyclist to overtake a walker.

Overlooking the cow and calf rocks from the moorland.

How big is Ilkley Moor?

Using the main roads around the moor as a boundary, the whole moorland is approximately 12.5 km from east to west and just under 5 km from north to south at its widest points.

Who owns Ilkley Moor?

Ilkley Moor Yorkshire is owned by the City Council of Bradford. They set the rules of what is and isn’t allowed, such as the ban on BBQs and grouse shooting.

Do you have any questions or want any more information on these Ilkley Moor walks? If so, drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you!

Information correct as of May 2022 but is subject to change in future.


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