Brimham Rocks

England road trip: day 13 – Nidderdale, North Yorkshire

Back in the summer we completed a two week road trip around the north of England. I’ve already blogged about the first 12 days but didn’t get around to writing about the last couple of days. Time to correct this…

Day 13 was a busy day, starting with GCSE results for the youngest teen. Fortunately he passed them all and got the right grades for sixth form.

Our plan for the day was to discover Nidderdale. Whilst it’s one of the Yorkshire Dales it isn’t actually in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Despite this historic oversight its high moorland and green meadows are protected as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Brimham Rocks

Formed over 325 million years ago, Brimham Rocks is a giant playground of strangely shaped rocks. The area has attracted tourists since the 18th century. Whilst the earliest visitors thought the rocks had been stacked by Druids they were most likely formed by glacial erosion during the last Ice Age.

Brimham Rocks
Brimham Rocks

Brimham Rocks is managed by the National Trust who walk a fine line between managing visitor numbers and minimising the impact they have on the landscape. Although it was busy when we visited the size of the car park hinted at even higher visitor numbers.

It’s easy to understand the popularity of Brimham. The rock formations are located in a relatively compact area and there are good walking trails between them. Clambering across the rocks seems to be encouraged, which makes this a mecca for adventurous young families.

Brimham RocksBrimham Rocks

I enjoyed exploring the formations, most of which had fanciful names such as The Gorilla or Dancing Bear. However, there were a few too many people for my liking. Instead my personal highlight was walking through the flowering heather, with its swathe of pink and purple flowers,

Heather at Brimham Rocks
Heather at Brimham Rocks

Pateley Bridge

A spot of poor planning on my part meant our subsequent visit to Pateley Bridge, the capital of Nidderdale, coincided with half day closing. At least that’s why I assume most of the shops and cafes were closed.

Pateley Bridge
Pateley Bridge

Disappointingly the museum was also closed, despite Trip Advisor saying the opposite. We mooched around for a while before heading out of town to find something to do.

The Coldstones Cut

Fortunately Trip Advisor redeemed itself by inspiring a visit to The Coldstones Cut, the highlight of my day. Put simply I’d describe it as a viewpoint over a quarry.

Entrance to Coldstones Cut
Entrance to Coldstones Cut

Having read about it further I can now advise it is “an iconic piece of public art”. This means it’s still a viewpoint, albeit one that cost (gulp) £500,000 to build.

View from Coldstones Cut
View from Coldstones Cut

Whilst there’s a fabulous view over Nidderdale it’s the view over the quarry that’s mesmerising. At 1400 feet above sea level Coldstones Quarry is one of the highest quarries in Britain and is the only surviving one in the area.

View from the Coldstones Cut
View from the Coldstones Cut

The quarry provides aggregates to major building projects. If you visit on a weekday part of the attraction is to watch the supersize dumper trucks ferrying stone from the quarry floor. At least, up close they are huge, they look tiny down in the quarry!

Stump Cross Caverns

I could have watched the dumper trucks in the quarry for hours. However, it was time to move onto our final stop of the day, Stump Cross Caverns. This is a show cave, although it has also diversified to provide a motorhome stop, private cinema and dining pods.

Stump Cross Caverns
Stump Cross Caverns

The caverns were formed around 500,000 years ago but were only discovered in 1860 by lead miners. Subsequent explorers discovered stalactites, reindeer and wolverine bones and possibly an underground lake.

Stump Cross Caverns
Stump Cross Caverns

Before entering the limestone cave we were given a short briefing and shown a map of the route. It’s a self-guided visit but is impossible to get lost. After picking up our torches and hard hats we descended the 60-odd steps and followed the trail through the cavern.

As we visited late afternoon we were treated to a slightly different cave experience. Armed with UV torches we had time to walk the trail before the cave lights were turned off temporarily. At this point we shone the torches over the stalactites and stalagmites, to see them shine blue in the torchlight. The lights aren’t off for long, so it’s not too scary, but it certainly makes you consider what it would have been like for the early underground explorers.

Stump Cross Caverns
Stump Cross Caverns

Returning to the surface we had a good look around the gift shop and resisted a return to the cafe. As we drove home, we were lucky to see a barn owl fly in front of our car. Wow!

Overnight

Another night at the AirBnB in Nidderdale.

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