Bolton Abbey

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Find a trail - visit the official visitor site for Yorkshire

Opening Times:

1 Jan-20 Mar 9am-6pm;
21 Mar-31 May 9am-7pm;
1 Jun-31 Aug 9am-9pm;
1 Sept-28 Oct 9am-7pm;
29 Oct 2011-18 Mar 2012: 9am-6pm


£6 per vehicle, £3 per motorcycle or 50p per person for groups of 12 or more in one vehicle

Free Midweek Admission: 31 Oct 2011-16 Mar 2012 ex. Christmas (19 Dec 2011 - 6 Jan 2012 inclusive) and February half term (13-17 Feb 2012)

Venue contact details:

T: 01756 718009
E: [email protected]

Bolton Abbey

Turner made a number of visits to the Bolton Abbey Estate and produced a series of watercolours of the ruins of the 12th century Priory and nearby sites, including The Strid, Barden Tower and Addingham Mill.  In fact the area made a lasting impression on Turner.  Ruskin, the influential 19th century English art critic and social thinker, said that no matter what Turner painted in later life, he was always influenced by the memories of "the chanting waves of the Wharfe."

Turner first visited Bolton Abbey on his visit to Yorkshire in 1797 but had the opportunity only to make a very quick sketch while his coach changed horses at nearby Bolton Bridge.  He returned in 1808 when he made a small circuit of the Rivers Wharfe and Washburn from the home of his Yorkshire friend and patron, Walter Fawkes at Farnley Hall near Otley.  On that occasion he made some fine large pencil sketches and painted two watercolours for Walter Fawkes (Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire, University of Liverpool Art Gallery Wilton number: 531 and Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire, The British Museum, Wilton number: 532).

He returned again in 1816 when making an extensive tour of Yorkshire in search of subjects to illustrate a proposed 'A General History of the County of York' by Thomas Dunham Whitaker.

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Turner's Viewpoint

During his 1816 trip, Turner made a number of sketches and from those later developed a finished picture, one of the finest of his series of watercolours of Bolton Abbey (Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire, Board of Trustees of the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside (Lady Lever Art Gallery) Wilton number: 788). 

This picture of Bolton Priory, however, did not take its place in Whitaker's Yorkshire as originally intended, as sadly Whitaker died before he could complete his work.  Instead Turner used it for his own series 'Picturesque Views of England and Wales' and the engraved illustration was published in 1827, more than ten years after Turner last visited the site. 

In many ways this watercolour is the summary of Turner's memories of Yorkshire.  Bolton Priory is only obliquely his subject; rather it is his pleasure at being in the landscape, sitting on the stones by the river, tying his fly, fishing in the clear peaty water of the River Wharfe.

Discover The Landscape

The Turner Trails bench is located at Turner's viewpoint, downstream of the Priory on the River Wharfe's shoaling near the footbridge.

Turner's Religious Houses

Listen to Episode 4 of our Turner podcast series when Turner expert, Professor David Hill, is joined by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, as they look at Turner's sketches and paintings of Yorkshire's historic religious houses.

The Venue


Bolton Abbey, Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD23 6EX

Map reference: SE075540

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Directions to Bolton Abbey:

Follow the A59 Skipton-Harrogate road. Bolton Abbey is clearly signposted just off the A59 on the B6160