What’s the difference between Burley Moor and Ilkley Moor? Nothing!
The boundary of one runs effortlessly into the other and no-one would know the difference. The terrain is basically a match, comprising wild heather upland with scattered gritstone outcrops, although Ilkley Moor does boast the iconic Cow and Calf Rocks.
So, whether you walk on the famed Ilkley Moor or its unknown junior partner, Burley Moor, the enjoyment is just the same – as today’s circuit proves. It’s a belter!
Once Burley Moor has been attained, this walk moves quickly up through the gears to the status of high quality. Try to pick a day of winter sunshine and you will head home with a glow.
Menston, the starting point, is of Saxon foundation. Before the Normans set foot on these shores, it was one of the countless properties held by the Saxon Archbishop of York; Doomsday Book of 1086 tells us that the new king, William of Normandy, confirmed the archbishop in his estates after the Conquest of 1066.
Some time around 1300, Menston came into the possession of the Brerehaughs, a family of some wealth and distinction who also held numerous manors in the Bramhope area. In the early 17th century, the Brerehaugh heiress married Charles Fairfax, son of the 1st Lord Fairfax of Denton, near Ilkley, and, thus, Menston was added to the vast Fairfax holdings spread throughout Yorkshire.
The Fairfaxes also owned Menston Old Hall which was superseded in 1653 by the present Fairfax Hall which we pass at the beginning of this walk.
Oliver Cromwell stayed at the Old Hall in July, 1644, just before the Battle of Marston Moor, near Tockwith, gaining intelligence and planning dispositions for the battle with another Fairfax, Sir Thomas, the revered Parliamentary commander and brother of Charles Fairfax.
Cromwell and the Fairfaxes are said to have held their discussions around a stone table in the garden of the Old Hall and this table was later removed to Farnley Hall, near Otley, when the Fawkes family acquired the manor of Menston, Farnley Hall being the Fawkes’s main seat.
PARKING: Park by the roadside at the western end of Main Street, Menston, in the vicinity of The Malt Shovel (pub up for sale, on our visit) or park in Burley Lane, opposite the pub, alongside the church wall beyond the yellow lines.
MENSTON and BURLEY MOOR
5 miles: Allow 2 ½ – 3 ½ hours. Map: O/S Explorer 297 Lower Wharfedale.
From the Malt Shovel, walk along Main Street in a westerly direction with Derry Hill on your left, then the Menston Arms and then, on your right, Fairfax Hall – ancient seat of the great Fairfax family - and the Fairfax Club. When road swings left, go off right along Bleach Mill Lane and follow it for half a mile to the gates of Bleach Mill House and, here, bear left round edge of the former bleach works.
The bleach mill was in full operation in the 1860s. In the 1871 census, James McKinley is shown as the manager. The works bleached yarns and linen from surrounding mills and later made tarpaulins which were stretched out to dry in the adjoining fields. The works closed in 1927 after complaints that waste from the operation was poisoning nearby streams, killing fish.
On passing the property, go over a stone stile to a marker post and turn left up the slope with the Carr Beck on your left. The path eventually leaves the beck to go half right up into a field – turn left up edge of field to an immediate gap stile in stout wall.
Go up left edge of field with remains of old mill buildings on your left. Follow the path towards the houses at the scattered community of Burley Woodhead. Cross a stile and footbridge to gain the houses and, on arriving at a row of stone cottages, turn right up the tarred access road to emerge in Moor Road, which links Hawksworth with the Cow and Calf Rocks.
Cross it with care (blind bend) and take the access drive opposite, soon sweeping right and then left round the corner of a stone house – take the left branch in the vehicle track, past a white garage door. Soon, as a road on the right joins our road, turn LEFT over cattle grid towards a farm.
Follow the farm access track as it soon sweeps left, uphill, to pass between properties to a redundant stile ahead with garage to its right. On entering the field, go half right across the field corner, passing to the left of an old green shed, to pass through an opening into next field.
1: Put your back to the opening and go half left up the field to a large tree which has a small section of wall and part of a metal guard to its left. Pass through opening at the section of wall and go slightly right up next field to two large trees by a wall. Pass to left of the two trees to gain the wall at a wooden pole when a hidden gate appears on your right.
Go through to enter Access Land on Burley Moor. Turn left up the wall for 50 yards to a gate on your left and, here, go half right for a few yards to strike a vehicle track. Take the right branch towards a brick shelter to arrive, almost immediately, at a fork just before the shelter – take the left branch to pass to the left of the tiny brick building.
Soon, Carr Bottom Reservoir pops into view to your right. Press on – what delights! - with, eventually, Lower Lanshaw Dam appearing to your right. Continue to a prominent shooting hut and go past it towards a jumble of large gritstone boulders.
Just before the boulders, at a white-topped post, turn right down a good path towards Lower Lanshaw Dam. Follow the path to a fork at a marker post and take the right branch, which passes the end of Lower Lanshaw Dam and then bears left past a four-square boundary stone.
2: Continue on the strong path down off the moor with no diversions whatsoever and ignoring any cross paths. Eventually – have patience! - you will pass a marker post with yellow tape and with a Millennium Way arrow on its far side. There is a big house, Crag Top, to your front right. Carry on straight ahead with another track soon entering from your left. The track then gains the edge of Burley Moor with outstanding views (the huge house below is 19th-century Moor House). Bear right along the rim of the moor.
The path soon begins a gradual descent with a house to your right and passing a marker post. Continue down to Moor Road at Burley Woodhead. Turn right along footway for 60 yards and then turn left, across the road, to a fingerpost for Menston and go down the concrete drive.
Just before house gates, go through metal kissing gate on your right and go straight across two fields, through a gap stile, and straight across next field to pass to right of houses to emerge in house drive. Cross over and take the path opposite (to right of Redwalls).
On emerging in field, press on by wall on your right, past the high stone walls of a property (Hagg Farm) and onward, past all the farm buildings, along a grass vehicle track with black hay bags to your left. Go over stile to left of gate and straight on to pass a marker post at the joining with the outward leg (which went up to the right).
Keep on, past Bleach Mill House, and follow the vehicle track back into Menston and turn left along the road to the finish.