Exploring Brimham Rocks
From rocks to moorland, Brimham offers a whole host of different features for visitors, as well as being a unique habitat to varied plants and animals. Here are a few highlights and what not to miss on your first, second or thousandth visit.
Brimham Rocks provide a wonderful place for an adventure for all the family but please explore safely
The rocks and paths can become slippery when wet. Always keep a close eye on children, there are sudden drops and steep slopes across the site. If you need assistance, please call the emergency services (999) and ask for mountain rescue.
Many holes, tubes and tunnels can be seen in the rocks but the Smartie Tube is the most famous. There are several theories about how these holes formed. One is that ancient trees, such as giant ferns died and fell over. The trunks were then surrounded by sediment that later turned to rock. The trunks then rotted away, leaving the holes.
Prominently seen from in front of Brimham House, the Eagle shows how some rocks appear to be performing a balancing act. One theory for the split in these rocks is a ripple eﬀect caused when the continents of Africa and Europe first collided several million years ago.
This is a good example of bedding planes. Look at the rocks, you can sometimes see layers that make up their structure. These were formed from the changing course of a river that originally laid down the sands that the rocks are made from millions of years ago.
Looking at the pedestal of the Idol you can see the natural erosion of the softer rock beneath the balancing harder stone. Although it appears to be several rocks, it is in fact all one structure. Heavy grains of sand and ice would have been sand blasted during high winds, causing more erosion closer to the ground.
Druid’s Writing Desk
The bizarre shape is possibly explained by the same erosive forces that formed the Idol. Whatever the explanation, it’s well worth a visit due to its outstanding location with beautiful views looking out over Nidderdale. The name likely dates to Victorian times as at that time some believed that the Druids had created the rocks.
Another rock formation that's possibly a result of the same forces, Mushroom rock is one of the outliers being separated from the greater concentration of rocks. It’s well worth the walk as in doing so you visit the stunning moorland.
This was known as Brimham House, a late-18th-century building constructed for ‘the accommodation of strangers’. Currently it houses a photographic exhibition about the social and geological history of Brimham along with a short video showing how the ranger team manages the moorland.
Brimham bonus: Check out the area behind Brimham House. It’s often missed by visitors and some of the best rocks can be found there.
Wildlife at Brimham Rocks
The heather moorland at Brimham Rocks is a unique habitat, home to a variety of plants and offers shelter to numerous insects and ground nesting birds. Discover what you may come across on a stroll across the moor.
Brimham is home to several invertebrates, some of which are unusual in the area. It is particularly rich in species of spiders and beetles, including the green tiger beetle and solitary ashy mining bees, which feed exclusively on heather flowers and whose burrows you may spot around the paths and main rocky outcrops.
Birds, such as red grouse and meadow pipits, prefer the more remote areas. The woodland areas support birds such as robins, tits and finches, while swallows and house martins nest among the rocks and buildings.
34 belted galloway cows graze across Brimham's north and south moorland from spring - autumn. The gentle but hardy breed are busy grazing the moorland vegetation, eating the moor grass and squashing the bracken to help maintain a healthy habitat.
Although the titular rocks are the reason many visit, Brimham Rocks also features a beautiful area of heather moorland. It is classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to its globally significant plant life.
On the heathland parts of Brimham, the dominant ground cover is heather along with patches of bilberry bushes and some bell heather. You can find cowberries and lingonberries here too, which are a northern moorland species found mostly in Yorkshire.
Purple moor grass is common on barer patches of heathland, in woodland areas and around the Rocks. Brimham is home to Yorkshire’s largest colonies of bog asphodel found on wetter parts of the heathland.
Heather moorland is internationally important because it is rare worldwide and is mostly found in northern Britain. Moorland is a patchwork of dwarf shrubs such as heather and bilberry. It is an open landscape into which we don’t want to introduce shade and must remove trees.
Moorland is a semi-natural habitat created by the removal of woodland by humans thousands of years ago.
Heather at Brimham Rocks
Three types of heather make up the moorland at Brimham Rocks:
Common heather (ling)
Common heather (Calluna vulgaris) flowers from August onwards and is the most common type of heather found at Brimham Rocks. It is often referred to as ling, a name that comes from the Anglo-Saxon word for fire – 'lig'. This reflects that historically it was used for fuel to build fires. Other uses include broom making, basket making and as a flavouring in beer. The leaves are so small and close to the stem that they almost look like scales overlapping one another. The tiny flowers are pale purple and it is possible to tell the petals apart upon close inspection.
There are plenty of ways to explore Brimham Rocks, from walking and cycling, to orienteering and geocaching. Discover the outdoor activities on offer.
Discover the millions of years of natural history evident at Brimham Rocks, which has been enchanting visitors for centuries.