The Two Sides of Bolton Abbey

Bolton Abbey is one of Yorkshire’s most popular places to visit, for both locals and visitors to the area. Beautiful scenery, open spaces and, of course, the Abbey itself all make this place a wonderful day out for the family. If you’re visiting Bolton Abbey for the first time though, then you may not know that there are actually two sides to the Bolton Abbey experience depending on where you choose to park your car or bike.

Parking at the Bolton Abbey ‘top’ car park

If you are coming in to Bolton Abbey from the A59 then the ‘top’ Bolton Abbey car park will be the first car park that you come to. From this car park you will park your car close to a gift shop and toilet area and from here you will make your way into the village and down some steps to the abbey itself. One feature of this side of Bolton Abbey is the stepping stones and wooden bridge which will take you over the River Wharfe. There is a small beach area next to the River with a large open grassy area for playing games and relaxing. From here you can also access a woodland walk.bolton-abbey-beach

Image Courtesy of kevin frost under CC

Parking at the Sandholme ‘bottom’ car park

If you didn’t know the attraction well then it is quite possible that you might not even realise that there is a second side to the Bolton Abbey experience. Again, if you are coming in from the A59 then if you drive on further, past the first Bolton Abbey car park, and follow the road on then you will come to a second car park entrance for the Sandholme car park. This entrance is located just next to a stone monument/fountain called ‘The Cavendish Memorial Fountain’ and you will also pass what looks like a castle type building on your right before reaching the Cavendish Fountain. This car park is located right next to the river and is perfectly designed for those who are looking to have a barbeque and also for those who would like to have a picnic, as there are wooden picnic benches available for public use close to The River Wharfe. There are also parts of the car park area which are deliberately kept free of cars so that families can play ball games and relax without having to move away from their vehicle, perfect if you have a lot of gear and you don’t particularly want to have to cart it here, there and everywhere.


There is a great café area at The Cavendish Pavilion and Strid Wood Tea Rooms, which also sells ice cream. If you want to head off for a walk then there is a riverside woodland walk in Strid Wood with lots of wildlife to see and the renowned ‘Strid’ – which the wood is named after – which is an area where the River Wharfe is forced through a narrow gorge.


Image Courtesy of Gideon Chilton under CC

What about parking costs?

At £8 per vehicle the cost of parking is the same in both of these car parks but it can change depending on the time of year or for special events. Also, the last time I checked you can actually use your parking ticket to access both of these parking areas in the same day. So if you find that you’ve exhausted the fun available in one of the areas and you want to try the other side, then you won’t have to pay again to do so. It would be wise to check this for yourself though by contacting Bolton Abbey to see that this remains the case.

Both sides of Bolton Abbey offer a very different experience but both are great in their own way. The kind of day you have in mind will probably affect which car park you decide is best for you. If you want to have a barbeque then it will probably be wise to head down to the lower car park, as a friend also mentioned to me that he didn’t think that barbeques were even allowed at the top end. If you want to relax by the river though and let your kids have a paddle in the water – not recommended by the Abbey but is allowed – then I would probably head for the top car park as I personally feel that this is better suited for that kind of day.

Have you visited Bolton Abbey? Which is your favourite side?

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