Enormous rocks

Posted: April 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

The moors and woods around here are full of massive bloody rocks. Not quite Monument Valley size, but still larger than many other famous rocks in the UK. Layered strata of shale and very hard sandstone called Millstone Grit (it’s gritty, they used to make millstones out of it) exposed to lots of rain and gale-force winds, oftentimes together, give some very fine formations. But strangely, they’re not that well known. Here are a few I’ve taken pictures of over the last few months. There are literally hundreds more.


A pinnacle of rock in front of the Hell Hole rocks quarry. Local legend (or at least the schoolyard version I heard as a child) has it that the quarry owner sold his soul for riches, hence the name. My dog Magnus is in the foreground. I saw a peregrine falcon up there a couple of weeks ago.


The Bottleneck Bride at the Bridestones (it’s about 20 feet tall). This collection of rocks is a mile away from my parent’s house. This one of my favourite places in the Calder valley. It’s the tallest summit actually bordering the valley itself, and can be seen for miles – the really tall hills can only be seen from the very tops of the moor. There’s hardly ever anyone there despite the magnificence of the stones and the views.


These are part of the Bridestones also, one of about two dozen equally impressive formations at the site. Six-year-old boy included for scale purposes. The name “Bride” probably comes from the Celtic goddess “Brigid”. West Yorkshire was once the kingdom of Elmet, a holdout of the Celtic peoples in the face of Saxon colonisation. There a number of names with “wal” in them signifying “welsh” villages (foreign – at least from a Saxon point of view), so they probably lasted a long time as a distinct culture. In fact, according to a recent study, their genetic marker is still dominant in our population.

If you’re interested in roaming the moors round here like I do, I can recommend The West Yorkshire Moors by Christopher Goddard. A great book packed full of hand-drawn illustrations, great walking routes, and historical, geological, and natural historical facts (although I have spotted one mistake).

If you want to visit the Bridestones, go to Blackshaw Head in West Yorkshire. Drive along the Long Causeway towards Burnley. You’ll ascend a hill above the village, where there is an old radar station. At the top of this hill – Pole Hill – there is a sharp left turn just before the hamlet of Kebcotes. Drive about a quarter of a mile down this to where there is a rough lay-by on the left. On the righthand side of the road is a stile. You can see the beginning of the rocks from there. Follow the path to them.

  1. Michael Grey says:

    ” I can recommend The West Yorkshire Moors by Christopher Goddard.”

    Awesome, thanks for the recco. I love reading your little posts about Yorkshire, although they do make me a bit homesick, but I’ll add this book to my pile for when I make a trip back home.

    Also, if you haven read ti yet I can recommend The Old Stones of Elmet by Paul Bennett. While it’s not a guide book, it goes into the history or standing stones and henges around Yorkshire, many of which are well worth a visit.

  2. Peter Smith says:

    I came to your blog through a meeting at a convention which in turn was the result of reading some of your fantasy writing so not the most directly Yorkshire landscape-centric route but as a Yorkshire native I love these pieces.

    I had forgotten all about the Bridestones. The last time I went there I was probably no older than the boy you have used for scale (incidentally I presume he is your own and not a passerby you seized for the purpose). I remember the bottleneck as being more dauntingly flimsy looking at the base but that was obviously the frisson of danger I felt standing under the overhang.

    I currently live within a short distance of both Almscliffe Crag and Brimham Rocks and now have the urge to abandon work this afternoon and go scrambling on big rocks. Why must you tempt my Instant Gratification Monkey so?

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