The mistaken impression I got from most of the previous fieldnotes is that (a) it's a bit of a slog getting to the stones and (b) they're not that easy to find. As someone famous for misreading even the simplest of maps/directions and blithely walking past circles standing in plain sight I thus approached my visit to this one with some trepidation. Well, all I can say after my visit is that this was one of the easiest I've made so I thought I'd set out my directions in the hope they'll inspire others to follow because the Twelve Apostles are well worth spending half an hour with, almost for the views alone; were those really the dishes of the Fylingdales early-warning (or whatever they're used for now) station gleaming whitely in the far distance off the the north-east?
So; if you're coming by car, drive into Ilkley town centre then follow the sign for 'Ilkley Moor' which leads to a turning signposted 'Cow and Calf Rocks.' Follow this all the way to the cafe sited under said rocks where you can park. Unless you want to mingle with all the sightseers on the rocks, take the rougher left-hand path which goes behind them and stay on this until you reach the Backstone Beck. On crossing, again take the rougher left-hand path; although this climbs more steeply it cuts a large corner off the route you would otherwise follow in taking the lower, smoother path until it intersects with the Dales High Way. When you reach the High Way by the higher path you simply turn left on to it and keep going until you reach the stones; after crossing another small beck the path is laid out in large flagstones so your feet won't even get wet. I reckon it's a mile/mile and a half at most.
It's a very evocative spot, unusual in that you can see urban areas to north, south and east yet you're still in the sort of seclusion that only a moorland site can offer. Don't expect to have the stones all to yourself especially at weekends, judging by the number of walkers about on the Sunday afternoon of my visit though I still got twenty minutes; it's probably less busy during the week.
They're a quirky little group, sitting in their clearing surrounded by gorse and heather. I imagine it could get quite dark up there on a day when the clouds are low and the rain horizontal but on a pleasantly bright mid-September afternoon the moor was a fine place to be and I left the stones uplifted and ready for the two-hundred-mile drive back to London.
I visited the 12 apostles having parked in Ilkley and walked round the cow and calf. This is not a route for those who are not hardy or physically fit. It was a demanding route with steep parts and chest high vegatation in places.
The stones are also very difficult to find without an OS map. I didnt have one that day and I had to ask a fellow walker. Turned out I had strayed right past the stones and didnt notice them just off in the distance.
Once you do find them it truly is a magnificent place. It oozes history, it has a wonderful feel to it almost as if the stones want to talk to you. The stones are very small and some of them not standing naturally now. The stones almost say to you that 'we are small but still proud to stand on this moor'. The place is very quiet, eben some of the locals dont know its here. A wonderful place where one can relax and reflect on times gone by and what must have gone on in the past at this place, worth a visit. Only ruined by the noise of the planes at Leeds Bradford.
What is also beautiful is the view north towards Menwith hill. The air force domes sitting proudly on the hill. Looking from the 12 apostles over to that is the ancient and the new sitting together on the moors.
There is an easier way to get to the apostles, without having to struggle up the hill from the Ilkley side of the moor. If you drive up to bradup circle (Kieghley side of the moor) and follow the road to the top it brings you out by the tv masts. Park your car at the small car park and go through the gate. Turn right and follow the path (I warn you, it gets abit boggy) until you come to the far corner of the square where the ashlar chair is (probadly should have mentioned you need a map). Turn left and follow the path till you hit the brow of the ridge, here turn right and after a few minutes you'll find the circle over a slight rise in the path. You will miss a fair few sites if you go this way but it will save your legs if you are going on the moor just to see the twelve apostles.
Oooo.... but this is nice! This pretty stone circle has been badly damaged over the years, but such is the feeling for it that people continually re-erect the stones, propping them up with whatever they can find.
I was breathtaken by it and not just cos I'm unfit: bright, lofty 'John Constable' skyscapes and a 270 degree view! The Twelve Apostles sit in a green clearing amid the purple heather and sing to the heavens! Flopping down absolutely shattered I opened my flask, lit a fag and thought I had died and gone to heaven. Sadly, I was too pooped to paint anything at the time.* Next time, then!
*though I did make a little study when I got home.
Try the approach from Hangingstones Road. If you're in a car, you can park by the Cow & Calf Rocks... if not, it's a bit of a hike from Ilkley Train Station, and the edge of the moor is very steep, but this route takes you through the amazing prehistoric landscape of Green Crag Slack and Backstone Beck.
Once on the moor, to the west of the Cow & Calf are the Hangingstones - an outcrop down by the Victorian Quarry. This flat outcrop features some of the strangest variations on cup and ring marks you'll find anywhere.... and an amazing view over Wharfedale.
From the Cow & Calf continue straight forward and up the ridge in front of you. This takes you onto Green Crag Slack where there are hundreds of Cup and Ring marked rocks. The Pancake Stone (that can be seen balancing over the edge of the moor), The Haystack Rock and the Planets all lie along this ridge. The path to the South West takes you to the Idol Stone, Green Crag and the Woofa Bank Cairnfield. To the South East, the path curves round to the Backstone Beck enclosure (a Neolithic & Bronze Age walled settlement area containing a couple of well designed rock carvings).
Continue along the path to the south, up onto the next ridge and bear right until the path joins the boardwalk up to the Twelve Apostles.
Here, break off the main path and follow the small path that leads from the eastern edge of the circle towards an obvious outcrop about 1000 yards away. Here you will find the Grubstones circle (a small circle likely to be the kerbstones of a robbed cairn) in the heather about 10/20 yards south of the gamekeeper's hut. Watch for the gamekeeper tho'... he's an arse. You'll spot him on his quadbike if he's around!
You can then head back to Ilkley by taking the path around the resevoir dyke, over Lanshaw Delves and Green Crag and back down to the Haystack Rock (look out for the Little Skirtfull of Stones Cairn and the Idol Stone on the way.
Wednesday 20 August 2003
I always forget how far it is from the White Wells car park at SE118470 to the 12 Apostles. It's the approach I first read about, so it's the approach I still use. I always reckon on about 20 minutes, but it's always more like 35-40 minutes.
I'd certainly recommend an OS map for a first visit, but the 1:50,000 Landranger 104 does fine for finding the circle. If planing to investigate the moor more fully, I'd go for the 1:25,000 Explorer though.
From the car park, follow the metalled lane up the hill to the White Wells building and the toilets.
Follow the clear wide track as it zigzags between the buildings and starts its craggy, dramatic and strenuous ascent onto the moor itself. (I also always forget how steep this part is…. Maybe next time I'll try coming from the Cow and Calf!!)
From here it's more or less 'follow your nose' and the 'straightest' path until reaching a fork at around SE123454. Take the left fork, which briefly descends to ford a small gill.
The path then begins to climb fairly gently but I find that this final section does turn into rather a 'drag'…. Parts of this section are on wooden walkways to cross boggier areas, but these could CERTAINLY use some repairs! Watch your feet!
As you reach the final crest onto pretty much the very top of the moor the circle comes into view, easily visible despite deep heather, on a slight but clear detour from the main path across the moor.
There are 12 stones. Or there were on this day. I've never seen it with more, but I've seen it with fewer!
"How so?" I hear from non-locals. Simply because there are actually 9 stones 'in-situ', but it's rare that some enterprising soul or souls haven't seen fit to add 2 or 3 extras to make up the 12….
Luckily they sensibly don't (fingers-crossed) try to actually dig the impromptu stones in, but just use bits of rock to 'wedge' them upright. (They're usually remarkably appropriate in size and shape too….)
I always forget how much I love this place. It's right on the 'roof' of West Yorkshire and (on a reasonably clear day) commands excellent views for at least 135 degrees.
I also have to say that I find the proportions of the circle remarkably pleasing – the stones averaging around 3-4 feet high with a circle diameter of around 50 feet?
To me it's typical Yorkshire. Down-to-earth and well-used – the paths are very well worn yet I've rarely seen anyone actually at the circle, and impressive without being ostentatious!!!
A wonderful circle to call your 'local'….
By the way, in my edition of Burl, he says 'nearly all' the stones are down. So some restoration has gone on, probably since 1995.
Don't lean on the stones - they'll probably fall over! Its a terrible shame but one or two of the stones are probably not in their correct positions at all. Still, as others have said, its a great walk up to the circle and you are rewarded with a fantastic view when you get there :)
Yesterday went back to the Apostles for the first time in about 15 years. The surrounding weather is almost always miraculous up on the moors and, as usual, the stones are sited in the best place to capture the surrounding view. Although the cloud was thick overhead the sun flickered over the buildings in the valleys so that they looked like the cooling embers of a vast fire.
Lovely walk up to the Twelve Apostles. Plenty of mud and puddles, path repairs on the way up meant we had to take several boggy diversions, then when the circle was reached the land immediately was drier and more forgiving. The darkness descended while we were up at the circle. I took a few snaps, and stayed long enough to get a feel for the atmosphere of the place. The circle is very fragile, some of the stones sit on the surface of the soggy moorland, propped up by smaller stones. They must get blown over by the wind and propped back up all the time.
The walk back was interesting, my torch wouldn't work, so we found our way down with the little remaining light and using our feet to feel the way.
If you're up north around the winter solstice and don't mind the elements, this is a great place to see the solstice sun up. The circle's a bit of a mess, gradually more so each year it seems... But it's got such a good vantage over the Aire valley to the south, perfect for sunrises.
Only once did I see the sun's disc rise clearly over the horizon at solstice - and when it was exactly halfway over the horizon, it was bisected by a mast of some sort. Quite an odd coincidental alignment. I've failed to identify the mast so far - anyone have any idea about this?
The Twelve Apostles by Brian Barker - this short article refers to theories from Bradford University which state that this monument had astronomical uses, and briefly describes the involvement of 17th Century Masons in its reconstruction.