Introduction to the site

Derived from two words, ‘Trow’ meaning ‘trough’ and ‘barrow’, the Anglo-Saxon word for hill. Trowbarrow Local Nature Reserve (LNR) is a disused limestone quarry with many important geological features including fossil beds, faults, paleo-karst and other interesting rock formations.

The Quarry has a number of different habitats in its boundary including species rich limestone grassland, juniper scrub, coppice and woodland.

The site was a productive limestone quarry for a century. The modern type of tarmac road surface was invented here, using bitumen and hot limestone aggregate. There was a huge "Hoffman" limekiln down by the railway line. Hoffman kilns allowed lime to be produced in vast quantities compared with traditional kiln designs when they were introduced from around 1860. You can still visit a disused Hoffman Kiln in the Yorkshire Dales National Park at Langcliffe, the kiln is well preserved and a scheduled ancient monument. Click here for more information about the Langcliffe kiln.

Trowbarrow's buildings and its quarrymen may have long gone, but you can still explore the heritage of the site while enjoying its present day tranquil atmosphere. Click the link to download the pocket Trowbarrow guide to the history, geology, wildlife and rock-climbs of the LNR.

trowbarrow mainwall and shelter stone

View of the main wall with the Shelter Stone in the foreground on the left



Rocks, Rock climbing and recreation

The limestone outcrops are studied by geologists and geology students, with the old quarry providing some of the best exposures of limestone stratigraphy anywhere in the UK.

There is a fabulous exposure of "paleo-karst" known as the Red Wall, a prehistoric limestone pavement formed millions of years ago and exposed through the extensive quarrying of the past. The site is a Local Nature Reserve and a geological Site of Special Scientific Interest. To find out more you can download a pocket guide to the site or a copy of the most recent edition of the site management plan from the docs link on the left of this page.

trowbarrow - climbers on the main wall

Climbers on the Main Wall

Recreationally, the site is of national importance for quiet recreational rock climbing. Organised groups are not allowed, as the site has many natural hazards, but informal climbing has been going on here for many years, attracting climbers of all abilities.

Whether its climbing on the internationally recognised routes of the main wall such as Jean Jeanie or Major Tom, tackling the bouldering problems of the Shelter Stone, or traversing the Red Wall there is almost certainly something to draw you back again and again. Click this link to download a pdf guide to Trowbarrow from the Rock and Run website

David Bowie songs have been the inspiration for naming some of the most famous of Trowbarrow's many climbing routes.

Many people also come to Trowbarrow to enjoy the challenging terrain of the quarry floor on their mountain bikes. There are many humps, hollows and water splashes (at least after heavy rain) along some exciting single track trails that criss-cross the quarry.

trowbarrow - mountain bikers at play

Mountain bikers riding on the main quarry floor




Natural highlights

Trowbarrow Quarry was a site of heavy industry in the past. Not only was the site an important quarry, a great deal of stone processing took place on site -  the "hot rock" production of tarmac was pioneered here for example.

Although the quarry was in the past a hard place for nature to have a foothold, since the site became an LNR, many interesting plants have appeared on site through natural re-generation. Among the species to be seen are the common spotted orchid, juniper and the guelder rose.

Trowbarrow can be a sheltered haven on a winters day, tucked away from the ravages of wind and rain, protected by the quarry walls and dense woodland. In summer the place can be a sun trap with the rocks of the quarry walls reflected and radiating the heat of the sun.

It is always a special place to venture into and enjoy! You can download the pocket guide to the history, geology, wildlife and rock-climbs of the LNR here - Trowbarrow guide
(This publication was first produced in the 1990s and is still available in A5 printed format from the AONB Office).

common spotted orchid

Common spotted orchid

peacock butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

eyebright flowering on the old quarry floor


Trowbarrow - Early Purple Orchid

Early Purple Orchid