Ilkley – A jewel in the heart of Yorkshire!


Whilst you may be coming to Ilkley primarily to learn woodwork there is also plenty going on in the town, so here is a little detail about Ilkley.

Ilkley is a spa town on the southern edge of the Yorkshire Dales, within easy travelling distance of Leeds and Bradford and not far from the market towns of Skipton and Otley.  Whilst it is now a thriving tourist centre, particularly popular with walkers, it has retained its identity and also much of its Victorian architecture.

The waters which led to Ilkley’s fame were known to have rejuvenating properties from the 17th and 18th centuries, and by the mid 19th century it had become a fashionable spa town; Charles Darwin is amongst those who took its waters. The coming of the railway in 1865 added to the town’s prosperity and made it easier for visitors to reach. The spa went into decline in the 20th century, and now the only remaining evidence is White Wells House, a white painted cottage on the edge of Ilkley Moor.

Ilkley Moor itself rises steeply from the town centre and is easy to access.  The famous Cow and Calf rocks are a popular attraction, and serious walkers can walk for miles on the heather and bracken-strewn moorland.  However they should take note of the warning provided by the famous Yorkshire anthem “On Ilkley Moor Baht ‘at”, about the dangers of catching cold when venturing on the moors without a hat and the cannibalistic tendencies of the locals. In 1987 a local policeman had a close encounter with an alien on the moor, as far as I can tell it was not wearing a hat!

Ilkley is now a tourist destination with lots of small independent shops selling everything from game and fine wine to expensive fashions and jewellery. Of particular note is Lishman’s of Ilkley, an award-winning butcher shop whose owner, David Lishman, became one of Rick Stein’s superheroes in 2003.  Ilkley is home to the Michelin-starred Box Tree restaurant where Marco Pierre White trained, and also to one of the famous Bettys Yorkshire tea rooms. The Victorian parades of The Grove and Brook Street have a selection of speciality shops and the town’s original Victorian arcade has been restored as an indoor shopping walkway complete with a fountain and hanging baskets.

Ilkley is also a lively cultural centre, with the largest and oldest literature festival in the North of England, an Art Trail and a varied programme of productions at its Playhouse. The Kings Hall & Winter Garden is another central venue, comprising a traditional Victorian theatre used for theatrical and musical events and an adjacent glass-roofed spa hall.

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