Ilkley Moor Circular Walk from White Wells to the Cow and Calf

This circular route overlooking Ilkley was only around 4km long but steep! Enjoy fantastic views and visit two of Ilkley’s much loved landmarks – White Wells and the Cow and Calf. A great walk for children who like a challenge, just be conscious there are lots of possible paths so awareness of direction is a must!

Distance: 4 km

Starting Point/ Parking: It’s circular! We started at the Darwin Gardens car park off Wells Road but you could also start at the Cow and Calf. We just like getting the climb over with at the start.

Facilities: Ilkley has a number of bars and restaurants, we like Friends of Ham which is conveniently at the end of Wells Road. On the walk itself, if the flag is flying at White Wells this means the cafe is open too! The Cow and Calf Country pub also offers a cosy environment and great food- located directly opposite the rocks.

Terrain: Rubble paths and tracks. Steep ascents and descents with some big steps that little legs might find a challenge. Not suitable for buggies.

Route: We roughly followed this route– although at the Cow and Calf we slightly detoured and took some time to explore the rock formations. In a nutshell, head up past White Wells to the moor, and then along the top of the crags until you see the path down to the Cow and Calf. And then head back to the start on a path below Ilkley Crags.

Be aware that there are multiple tracks on Ilkley Moor; it’s difficult to know if you’re following the right one. If you’re not confident using an OS map, you should be able to check your position and direction using GPS/ a phone map. On the whole if you’re following a path in the right direction you should be able to find your way. Ilkley Moor in open access land so no need to worry about trespassing!

Route Description

From the Darwin Gardens on Wells Road, head towards the Moor to find the little boat pond. You’ll see steps behind this heading up to White Wells- the white building half way up the hill. Head up to the building and soak in that glorious view!

Behind the building you should see a clear path that takes you past another viewpoint and up towards Ilkley Crags. There is a steep climb here- with some big steps that little legs will need help on.

Once you’ve reached the tp of the crags, turn left and follow the clear track all the way along the crags and then downhill to the Cow and Calf. There is a little stream to jump over and more fantastic views over Ilkley and the Wharfedale valley.

Once you’ve enjoyed the rock formations and had time to explore, it’s time to head back. As a rough guide you need to take a lower path back along and under the crags. We started on a footpath signposted for Ilkley, eventually picking up a more substantial track that took us to Ilkley Tarn. From here, there is a concrete path that takes you back to Wells Road.

This is an absolutely beautiful walk! It started with the three year old SCREAMING but even he was won over by the end! If it really does all go wrong, you can always just choose to head up to the White Wells Spa and then take the path down to Ilkley Tarn for a little circular route.

You might also like this route in Ilkley at the other side of the Wharfedale Valley!

Let us know if you make it- and please do tag us in any pictures, we love seeing them!!