Ilkley Moor, inspiration for the Yorkshire anthem On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at, is part of Rombalds Moor – the area of moorland between Ilkley and Keighley in West Yorkshire. The main car park is at the famous Cow and Calf Rocks formation and this is a reasonable start point for any visit. If you arrive by public transport it’s quite a hike up to the Cow and Calf from the centre of Ilkley – or you can get off in Ben Rhydding for a slightly shorter but steep walk up. Cow and Calf Rocks, also known as Hangingstone Rocks, are a large millstone grit formation consisting of a large outcrop and a smaller boulder (the calf) high on the moor overlooking the town of Ilkley.
The rocks are worth a visit at any time of year, but late summer is particularly good when the heather on the moorland comes into bloom (though there is a lot of encroaching bracken in places). It can get very busy, particularly on a sunny afternoon, but the rocks are (fortunately) lit best in the morning, so if you can get up early and come along at sunrise you may well have the place to yourself!
From the Cow and Calf there are paths heading in all directions over the moor and even with a map it’s easy to get lost as there are many well-trodden paths in addition to the public footpaths marked on the OS map, so it’s best to just allow plenty of time and explore!
Out on the open moor can be rather flat and bleak, but with heather in bloom it can be very colourful and a lone boulder or a boundary stone can make an interesting subject. You don’t necessarily need a sunny day with blue sky like the shot above – the heather will work well in diffused light and an overcast sky with some interesting cloud formations can be more dramatic.
Following the edge of the moor to the west from the Cow and Calf, passing the viewpoint over Ilkley at the old bath house at White Wells, you’ll eventually arrive at another famous spot – the fenced off and not particularly interesting (photographically speaking) Swastika Stone. However, the views from the crag here over Wharfedale are spectacular.