Ilkley Moor & Rombalds Moor
Rock Carvings, Stone Circles, Enclosures and Cairns
South of Ilkley, West Yorkshire
OS Maps - Landranger 104 (Leeds & Bradford), Explorer 297 (Lower Wharfedale & Washburn Valley)

Carved Stone PRAWR 245 at Graining's Head
Stone PRAWR 245 at SE10774649 on Graining's Head. It has ten cups, five of which have rings.
Rombalds Moor is a large area of moorland roughly bordered by Ilkley in the north, Silsden in the west, Keighley in the south and Menston in the east. Within this expanse of gritstone, sandstone and shale are several smaller rather vaguely defined areas, the famous Ilkley Moor being but one part.

Although much of the area now consists of rough land overgrown with heather, bracken and wild grasses and with many places waterlogged with peat bogs there is evidence that upland areas may have been reasonable hunting, grazing or later farming land as many flints dating back as far as the Mesolithic era have been found here. This human occupation continued through the Neolithic, Bronze Age and possibly into the pre-Roman Iron Age as well.

These ancient peoples left traces of their presence in the form of a stone circle called the Twelve Apostles, large burial cairns such as the Great and Little Skirtful of Stones, many small cairns, huts and enclosures such as those at Backstone Beck, as well as several monuments whose purpose is as yet unknown such as the Grubstones and Horncliffe Circle.

However the moor is most well know for its rock carvings or rock-art. These are earthfast boulders, large flat slabs or prominent rocks that have cups, rings and grooves cut into them which are thought to date from either the late Neolithic or the Bronze Age period of prehistory. While some carvings consist of simple cups, others such as the Badger Stone, Hanging Stones and the Panorama Rocks have complex series of patterns (or motifs) combining many different elements.

It is unclear what the original meaning of these carvings were and there have been many theories put forward to try to explain them - maps of springs and waterholes, starmaps, sun or moon symbols, tattooists shop windows, representations of shamanic trance states, receptacles for offerings of milk or blood, territorial boundary stones, and so on. It seems everyone who sees the rock carvings has a different theory.

One thing we do know however is the many of the carved rocks occur in association with burial sites and it could well be that they had some ritual use in funerary rites, perhaps some even served as grave markers. Some of the stones also occupy prominent positions or offer good views, particularly those on the north of the moor overlooking the River Wharf valley. Although the carving occur across most of the moor, there are recognised concentrations in the north high above Ilkley, to the northeast along Green Crag Slack and in the south at Rivock Edge.

There are around three hundred identified carved rocks on the moor, indeed others are still being found and I have included some of the more interesting or well know stones in these pages (see full list below). If you are interested in finding some of the others then there is a book titled 'The Carved Rocks on Rombalds Moor'* written by the Ilkley Archaeological Group that has been out of print for many years but I am told is being revised for reissue in Spring 2003.

The book has been updated and published as 'Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding' by Boughey and Vickerman.  ISBN: 1 870453 32 8.

All PRAWR numbers are taken from this reference.
Carved Stone PRAWR 252
A carved stone at SE11154613. It has a cup with four or five concentric rings. Coming from the right hand side and the bottom of this motif are several grooves. (PRAWR 252)
Cup and double ring marked rock above the Cow and Calf Hotel
Cup and double ring marked rock above the Cow and Calf Hotel at SE13224651 (PRAWR 318).
List of the sites on Rombalds Moor covered by this website
Anvil Rock  
Bronze Age Cup Marked Rock

Backstone Beck
Prehistoric Huts & Enclosure

Backstone Beck Stones 1  
Bronze Age Carved Rocks

Backstone Beck Stones 2  
Bronze Age Carved Rocks

Backstone Circle  
Stone Circle ?

Badger Stone  
Bronze Age Carved Rock

Barmishaw Stone  
Bronze Age Carved Rock

Bradup Circle  
Bronze Age Stone Circle

Doubler Stones  
Bronze Age Carved Rocks

Great Skirtful of Stones  
Bronze Age ? Cairn

Green Crag Slack  
Bronze Age Cairns and Carved Rocks

Green Gates
Bronze Age Carved Rocks

Grooved Stone  
Bronze Age Rock Carving

Grubstones Circle  
Bronze Age Ring Cairn ?

Hanging Stones  
Bronze Age Rock Carvings

Bronze Age Carved Rock

Horncliff Circle  
Bronze Age Ring Cairn ?
Idol Stone  
Bronze Age Carved Rock

Little Skirtful of Stones  
Bronze Age ? Cairn.

Neb Stone
Bronze Age Cup Marked Rock

Pancake Rock
Bronze Age Cup Marked Rock

Panorama Stone
Bronze Age Carved Stones

Bronze Age Cup Marked Rock

Piper's Crag Stone  
Bronze Age Carved Rock

Bronze Age Carved Rock

Second Idol Stone  
Bronze Age Carved Rock

Sepulchre Stone  
Bronze Age Cup Marked Rock

Swastika Stone  
Bronze Age/Iron Age(?) Carved Stone

Silver Well
Bronze Age Cup Marked Rocks

Twelve Apostles Circle
Bronze Age Stone Circle.

Weary Hill Stone
Bronze Age Carved Rock

Willy Hall's Wood Stone
Bronze Age Carved Rock

Woofa Enclosure
Enclosure and Bronze Age Carved Rocks

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