South Nab ring cairn

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Historical Environment Record No:
Bolton Abbey
OS Grid Reference:
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South Nab ring cairn MYD36477 (c) YDNPA, 2023

South Nab ring cairn MYD36477 (c) YDNPA, 2023

This ring cairn is situated on an intermediate summit between the triangulation point on High Park and the prominent bluff of South Nab, overlooking the Wharfe valley at Bolton Abbey. It is approximately 23 x 21 metres across, made up of a low and narrow flat-topped stone bank about a metre wide. Many stones are still showing through the turf and some kerb stones are still in evidence, although areas of stone clutter suggest the site has been disturbed in the more recent past. Its size puts it among the larger category of ring cairns found in the area, and in this it is similar to Skyrakes ring cairn near Skipton.

Ring cairns have a formal circular shape which is typical of Bronze Age ritual structures. Few have been excavated in the north of England and even fewer in the Yorkshire Dales, but they are common throughout upland Britain and enough have been excavated elsewhere to give us an idea of the way they were built as well as when and how they were used. They are often associated with cremations and many contain ritual deposits of charcoal, quartz and other materials. That they were the focus of various rites and ceremonies is now well established, although there appear to be regional variations in their appearance and usage. The majority of ring cairns in this country date to the 2nd millennium BC. In the past they have often been interpreted as the remains of prehistoric hut circles, which they closely resemble in size and shape. They are witness to the customs and beliefs of Bronze Age farming communities who lived here over three thousand years ago and are being increasingly identified in the landscape due to their prominent positions on the flanks and summits of hills.

View of South Nab ring cairn MYD36477 (c) YDNPA, 2023

View of South Nab ring cairn MYD36477 (c) YDNPA, 2023


From the Cavendish pavilion, Bolton Abbey (where there is a carpark – fee paying) cross the bridge over the River Wharfe and take the track opposite to Bolton Park Farm. Follow the track up the hill for three quarters of a mile until you pass through an enclosure wall and over a cattle grid. 25m further on a small grass track turns off to the left and heads up on to South Nab. Follow it for about 400m until Barden reservoir comes into view on the far side of the valley. The ring cairn is about 50m above on the hill. For further details on Access Land see the Countryside Access website Select OS grid reference on the home page and type in the grid reference listed above. This will give you a printable map of the area, as well as details concerning access. Public rights of way are unaffected by changes in access status.

Public Transport Details

Nearest town/village: Malham. Call Traveline on 0870 608 2 608 to plan your journey. After the welcome message key in 885 for North Yorkshire information.


A steep climb up the track and path. The track is well kept but the path may be wet and muddy.