Hidden away deep in the Yorkshire Dales, you’ll find Britain’s biggest and highest public artwork, 1,375 feet above sea level. Coldstones Cut offers visitors incredible views of the 30-hectare working Coldstones quarry below and the surrounding Yorkshire Dales, but the real surprise is that there’s no sign of this massive artwork from the road!
There’s one more surprise that visitors rarely get to see, and that’s what this vast work of art looks like from above. This quick guide shares that view plus how to get to Coldstones Cut and what to see there.
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Coldstones Cut is a great place to visit for an hour or two during a trip to the Yorkshire Dales – on a clear day, you can see as far as York, with the spires of York Minster just visible, over 30 miles away.
What Inspired the Coldstones Cut?
Four local partners worked together to develop and build the Coldstones Cut. They wanted to provide a safe place for local schoolchildren to visit and view the Coldstones Quarry.
5 Things to See When Visiting Coldstones Cut
A 500-metre uphill trek from the car park feels like a trip into the unknown. Suddenly, the path bears right to reveal the first signs that there’s something to see in this bleak and remote location.
The Yellow Bicycle Sculpture
A flight of steps carved into the hillside looms, topped by a giant sculpture of a yellow bicycle. This pays homage to the hardy competitors in the “Tour de Yorkshire” and the unforgiving Yorkshire landscape that they traversed.
Coldstones Cut is also on the route of the 170-mile coast to coast “Way of the Roses” cycle trail from Morecambe on the UK’s west coast to Bridlington on the east coast.
The Coldstones Cut Sculpture
The monumental Coldstones Cut artwork took for years to build, from 2006 – 2010. The sculpture was officially opened by the Director of the Tate Britain, Dr Penelope Curtis, on 16th September 2010 and it won sculptor Andrew Sabin the Marsh Award for Excellence in Public Sculpture for 2011.
Approaching the artwork from the top of the steps, the structure of this walk-through landmark sculpture begins to reveal itself. However, the scale can only be understood from the inside.
The first view is of the towering limestone street scene. A path carved between towering walls of limestone draws you forward and uphill to the quarry. The scale of the structure is reminiscent of Luxor (without the heat!) or Stonehenge. Huge blocks of perfectly formed limestone hewn from the quarry below form a great wall that gives no clues to what lies beyond.
Unseen from outside, two narrow walled stone paths branch off from the street, spiralling up and around to reveal open viewing platforms, high above the quarry. Check out the northern viewing area with its giant topograph showing the distance in miles to local landmarks and far distant places such as the Galapagos Islands, 9,985km away.
Circling back down to “the street”, the path draws you onto the central viewing platform where the full view finally reveals itself.
The Coldstones Quarry and Lime Kiln
Coldstones Quarry and its Lime Kiln have been part of this rugged and windswept part of the Yorkshire Dales for more than a century. When the quarry opened, the local hills were scarred with quarries. Today, Coldstones Quarry is the last one remaining in Nidderdale (an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which is part of the Yorkshire Dales).
Every year, 700,000 tons of aggregate are quarried and sent out across North and West Yorkshire from Coldstones Quarry. Choose your favourite vantage point to watch the quarrying operations below, including the blasting, extraction, and crushing of rock. Massive lorries working on the site look like tiny Tonka Trucks!
In 15-20 years the quarry will be exhausted and the land will be allowed to green over and return to nature, just like the other quarries in the area.
Nidderdale is a recognised Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and Coldstones Cut is a superb place to drink in the landscape. With 360-degree views available from the viewing platforms, the vista across the rolling hills and verdant valleys is spectacular in all seasons.
Did you know?: The Yorkshire Dales are river valleys, named after their rivers? There’s Airedale (River Aire), Nidderdale (River Nidd), Wharfedale (River Wharfe) etc
In the words of all-around naturalist and birder, Graham Megson “With a day off, I’d start early and choose Nidderdale, aiming to see birds and other wildlife that I don’t regularly see. Scan the hillsides for raptors – buzzard, kestrel and red kite.
You should see butterflies too: orange tips, speckled woods and green hairstreaks in Spring, small coppers, small heaths, ringlets, and meadow browns in summer. Mammals are harder to see, but watch out for brown hare amongst the commoner rabbits.”
One Thing You Won’t See
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Coldstones Cut is the aerial view of the sculpture.
Described by some as looking like huge snail shells, others have said it looks like a giant woman’s reproductive system! Is it meant to represent Mother Earth, positioned as it is, above a working quarry that ravages that very mother earth day after day?
How to Visit the Coldstones Cut
The Coldstones Cut is in a remote part of Nidderdale. While hardy hikers often walk here from the nearest town of Pateley Bridge (2.9 miles – mostly up very steep hills), the best option is to drive. Set your Sat Nav for Greenhow Hill, Harrogate, N Yorkshire, HG3 5JL.
Find free parking at the Toft Gate Lime Kiln car park, moments from the Toft Gate Barn Cafe as you approach from Pateley Bridge.
By Public Transport
Public transport to Coldstones Cut is limited and time-consuming. Here are the basics, but remember to check your route and connection times. Moovit is a helpful app for bus times and here’s where I book trains and buses.
- From Leeds or York
- Train to Harrogate (45 minutes)
- Bus to Pateley Bridge (number 24). It’s a scenic journey, with 54 stops along the way (53 minutes)
- Walk to Coldstones Cut (allow 1 hour)
- From Leeds Bradford Airport
- “Flying Tiger” Bus (number 747) to Harrogate (30 minutes)
- Bus to Pateley Bridge as above
For more information, read Train travel in the UK. How to book tickets and use the trains
What to wear
This is a very exposed place. Even on the warmest, sunniest of days, the weather here can be unpredictable. The wind can bite, and rain can appear from nowhere, so take a warm jacket. As the path to the site is steep, with loose stones underfoot wear closed-toe shoes too – trainers or walking shoes are ideal.
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North Yorkshire has the lowest crime rate in the UK, but the Coldstones Cut site is remote and not visible from the road. If you’re planning to visit as a solo woman traveller, think about your personal safety before setting out.
Facilities at Coldstones Cut
Apart from the sculpture itself and the car park, there are no facilities at Coldstones Cut. No toilets. No bins and nowhere to buy refreshments.
While not very wheelchair friendly as the steep path is a little rough, with lots of loose chippings, it is manageable. Once within the structure, everything is well designed for wheelchair users.
Best times to visit
- For the best views: Sunrise and sunset are the most beautiful times to visit as the large limestone walls, and open countryside are spectacular when bathed in golden light. These are the times that many photographers favour.
- For the best thrills: Visit during the working week to see the quarry in action. You may even see some of the rock being blasted!
- For solitude: Early morning at the weekend
The Toft Gate lime kiln, located near the car park is also worth visiting, to see the abandoned kilns and workings.
Eating near the Coldstones Cut
The nearest town is the pretty Pateley Bridge. Try The Old Granary Tea Shop for afternoon tea or pop into a proper British pub for a great pub meal. The Royal Oak and the Yorke Arms serve tasty food, but watch out for the massive “Yorkshire portions”!
Top tip: Pick up a takeaway pizza from Olley’s in Pateley and head over to Brimham Rocks to watch the sunset!
Places to Stay in Pateley Bridge and Nidderdale
The Yorkshire Dales bursts with beautiful places to stay from chic hotels and B&Bs, to “escape from it all” countryside cottages. One of the most delightful breaks in the Pately Bridge Nidderdale area can be in a quirky Airbnb. What about a romantic shepherd’s hut, a luxurious glamping pod, or a cool apartment with all the mod cons?
Things to See Nearby in Nidderdale
Nidderdale is an excellent place to experience the best of Yorkshire – here are some ideas, to help you plan your trip:
Pateley Bridge: For the Nidderdale Museum and the Oldest Sweet shop in England (2.9 miles)
Brimham Rocks: (7.2 miles) An other-worldly collection of enormous balancing rock formations with magnificent views over Nidderdale.
Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal Water Garden: One of the largest, best-preserved ruined Cistercian monasteries in England, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site (14 miles)
Pin for Later – A Trip to Coldstones Cut. Britain’s Biggest Artwork
Have you been to Yorkshire? Did you visit the Coldstones Cut? Did you know it existed before you read this post? I’d love to get your thoughts about this post and to hear about your trips to Yorkshire too.