Thousands of visitors have trodden the country paths linking Bolton Abbey station with Bolton Abbey itself since the railway first reached Wharfdale in 1888, and it seems an awful lot of sheep have been using them too. And not in a good way.
After a 20 minute steam journey from Embsay on the E&BASR we carefully negotiated our way through the beauties of the Yorkshire Dales (and round heaps of sheep droppings) towards Bolton Abbey. Though Bolton Abbey is, technically, a Priory despite it's name just to confuse the issue.
There are other gates to get into the Priory grounds but the best and most breathtaking is through the small break in the walls opposite the village tea rooms that surround and hide the Priory in the valley until you pass through to catch it suddenly in it's ruined, brooding glory.
Though most parts of the Priory lie in impressive ruins, the church built in what was the Priory's nave has been continually holding services since 1170 and was one of the few religious buildings to avoid the dissolution of the monasteries on the orders of Henry VIII in the 16th century.
While in the valley surrounding the Priory, 60 stepping stones span across the River Wharfe. Once the way Priory workers reached the Abbey, they're now an extra diversion for visitors and one of the ways (there's also a bridge for the less adventurous) across the river to ...
....an actual, real-life, sandy beach in the middle of the Yorkshire Dales. Yes, really
The Priory's surrounding 30,000 acres also have lots to offer, from the nearby dry land stepping stones (more my kind of stepping stone to be honest) to roughly 80 miles of footpaths through and to some of the stunning scenery around the Priory, like Strid Wood and the beautifully named Valley of Desolation.
But before we could explore the grounds any further, it was time to make our way back to the station for the last steam train of the day back to Embsay and the road home.
Though not before loitering outside the Duke of Devonshire's house, the former Priory gatehouse, in the hope of being invited in for tea.
We weren't. But maybe next time...
See the Bolton Abbey website for details of opening times and admission prices.