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In my opinion, Brimham Rocks is one of North Yorkshire's most beautiful spots. Situated on a hill, which overlooks Lower Nidderdale, you will find a collection of unusual rock formations with strange names, such as Flowerpot, Sphinx, Dancing Bear and Lover's Leap. 18th century historians believed that these rocks were carved out of stone by prehistoric Druids, but it is now understood that the rocks are the result of millstone grit being eroded by water, frost and wind. No matter how the rocks came to be here, they provide a stunning setting for a walk and a natural playground waiting to be explored.
We visited Brimham Rocks several times when our children were small. There are so many peculiar shaped rocks to climb on, with lots of crevices and tunnels to crawl through and it was paradise for our two adventurous girls. We took games of hide & seek to a whole new levels. However, if you are going to take youngsters to Brimham Rocks, careful supervision is essential, because there are some very steep drops. Looking back, it was never the most relaxing experience to be following a fearless youngster up a boulder and yelling if they went too close to the edge, but once the day was done and we were safely home with no bones broken, we always felt pleased with ourselves for giving them such a fun, stimulating experience.
With fond memories of the place, I had wanted to go back for some time, so this weekend we did. My kids are now teenagers and I was a little unsure what they would make of Brimham Rocks nowadays, but I felt that even if they considered themselves too old to climb, they would still enjoy the walk, which is picturesque and not strenuous in any way. However, I am pleased to report that my daughters still have the climbing bug and they enjoyed the rocks as much as ever! In fact, Brimham Rocks is a popular centre for bouldering (climbing which focuses on horizontal rather than vertical ascents) and therefore has something to offer different ability levels, from small children to more experienced climbers.
From my point of view, I enjoyed my day at Brimham Rocks more than I had done when my children were little. Not having to supervise them constantly meant that I was able to relax and enjoy the stunning views of the Yorkshire countryside. I saw a lot of people sitting on rocks, enjoying a picnic or a flask of tea. We didn't bring a picnic because we were eating out later, but there can't be many more attractive picnic venues than this one.
There is a main path, which leads to the visitor centre and a small snack bar, and several other paths, which take you through the rocks. The visitor centre provides information on the geological history of the rocks and the conservation of the site, and there is also a little gift shop, which sells local crafts and food gifts. You can get hot drinks, toasted teacakes, ice creams, soups etc at the snack bar. There are a few picnic benches nearby and, of course, plenty of rocks to sit on. We had a bit of a queue to buy our drinks, but that didn't bother us too much. The toilets were adequate and clean.
You can buy a guide book for £1 from the visitor centre, which identifies the different rocks, with their names, and it is good fun to try to spot them as you walk back and to see which ones actually look like their name suggests. Some are quite easy to identify, but others have to be stared at quite a while and from different angles before you realise what they are supposed to represent. My kids found it more fun to make up their own names for the different rocks and to decide what each rock shape reminded them of. For instance, they found one that they thought resembled a fat meerkat.
The place is free apart from a car park fee of £4 (for 4 hours) but you don't have to pay if you are a National Trust member. We spent about 2 and a half hours there, but could quite easily have spent longer, if we had taken a picnic.
It is essential to wear sensible footwear if you are climbing on the rocks. We were lucky to go on a sunny, dry autumn day, but I would not recommend the place in wet weather as the rocks would be much too treacherous when slippery. You really need a clear day because you need good visibility to appreciate the spectacular views. If conditions are good, it is a lovely, inexpensive day out for the whole family. Dogs are also welcome. Considering so many people have picnics here, the site was clean and litter-free. There are special events on at different times in the year and guided walks available. I even saw a poster advertising a llama treck, which sounded quite interesting!
I would definitely recommend this place. For me, it has a mystical atmosphere about it, something a little otherworldly, and it feels somehow humbling to be in the presence of natural sculptures that are millions of years old. Whether you want to climb, or simply enjoy the views, it is a lovely place to spend time. It can test your nerves a bit if you have really young children, because they need to be watched constantly to make sure they stay safe, but with careful supervision there is no reason why a small child can't have a fabulous time. Don't forget to bring a camera.
Brimham Rocks is open all year round from 11 a.m. to dusk
4 miles east of Pateley Bridge off the B6265
10 miles north west of Harrogate off the B6165
10 miles south west of Ripon.
I am very lucky to have the North Yorkshire moors less then a couple of hours drive from home, on a nice summer weekend we sometimes jump in the car and head off to
Brimham rocks in nidderdale North Yorkshire, it's an area of strange and fantastic rock formations, set within 400 acres of national trust moorlands it's an ideal place for a family day out or even for the more serious ramblers.
A walk in the park
Pulling into the car park there is not much evidence of the fascinating rock formations promised, it's just a car park in the middle of a wooded area but it's quite busy, people walking there dogs, families with young children and hikers with back packs and climbing equipment, all making their way past the ice-cream kiosk to a break in the trees were a path climbs slowly up through the woods, within a couple of minuets walking along the path you start to see some large rocks, not that impressive really but the children seem to love them as they climb all over laughing and shouting, all this activity doesn't seem to be bothering the wildlife to much as the rabbits go about there daily business, and the birds perch on the seemingly impossible to reach rock summits, there seems to be a pathway shooting off to another rock formation every 100 yards or so now, some rocks covered in kids and grown up kids, some with people stood looking puzzled at how to get started on the more tricky looking rocks, and now i can see why the backpackers had climbing gear with them, after climbing several rock formations myself and giving up on a few difficult ones we head for the buildings up ahead, these include toilets and a small gift shop, in front of the building there is a viewing area and an information point with a map showing the names of some of the larger rock formations such as The Dancing Bear, The Sphinx and The Anvil, all named after the shapes these formations resemble, from here the choice is yours you can find a nice spot and have a picnic or carry on beyond the building were the pathways fade and the ground gets a bit rough, some of the rocks round this way are more like giant cliff edges, and you can suddenly find yourself on the edge of a huge drop so keep your eye on the kids around this area, you could spend half a day walking up to the shop and back looking at the main formations, or make a day off it, have a picnic and explore a bit further afield, there is more then 40 acres of National trust land to explore!
What ever you decide you will really enjoy your time here, these strange rock formations look like they are from a different world, balanced on top of each other looking ready to fall at any time.
A bit of history (extract from Brimham rock website)
320 million years ago, a huge river washed down grit and sand from granite mountains in northern Scotland and Norway. A delta formed, covering half of Yorkshire. Increasing layers of grit and sand, along with rock crystals of feldspar and quartz, built up to form the tough sandstone known as Millstone Grit, the exposed sections of which can be seen today at Brimham Rocks.
Fantastic rock formations! good car parking, solid pathways in main area, shop/hot drinks available, breathtaking views,varied wildlife, picnic area's, suitable for all ages.
Not so good
Car park can get full, can get busy, some easy to climb but very high rocks so watch the kids! can be difficult to find the place!
Brimham Rocks, Summerbridge,Harrogate,HG3 4DW.
Brimham Rocks is located 4 miles east of Pateley Bridge of the B6265,
10 miles north west of Harrogate of the B6165,
10 miles south east of Ripon.
Admission free (but pay to park)
Attraction: 8am till dusk all year
Kiosk/shop: all summer weekends & some week day.
Parking (pay & display). £4 up to 4hrs, £5 over 4hrs; motorcycles free, pay machine only takes coins so take some with you.
Ordnance survey reference: 99:SE206650
Some useful links
Please take a look at the pictures on these link to see the fantastic rock formations: