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What To See And Do In Ilkley In West Yorkshire

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Absolutely Yorkshire explores the countryside town of Ilkley, one that’s full of adventure

Ilkley is a town that lies on the South Bank of the River Wharfe in the city of Bradford. Being on the southern end of the Yorkshire Dales, it is surrounded by acres of charming countryside. Contrasting with its harmonious nature, Ilkley is known for being a well-established climbing destination, as well as thriving in multiple sports, such as tennis and cycling.

Its Victorian architecture, wide streets and floral displays is what makes the spa heritage town so unique, with it being a previous winner of Britain in Bloom. To top it off, Ilkley is also home to one of only five Betty’s tea rooms in the UK. Here are more reasons why Ilkley is worth a visit. 

Manor House
The Manor House

AT ONE WITH NATURE 

Ilkley is the ideal place to relax, enjoy nature and explore history. Just by Ilkley Park Riverside Gardens is where you will find one of the town’s oldest buildings, Ilkley Manor House. Considered to be one of Ilkley’s treasures, the Manor House is home to a local heritage museum and an art gallery.

Just a 10 minute walk from the Manor House is Ilkley Toy Museum, which is a wonderful place to take a journey back to your childhood and explore the enchanting history of toys throughout the ages.

As well as being home to many historic sights, Ilkley hosts an abundance of events throughout the year. The town has hosted a complementary medicine festival twice a year, since 1988, which attracts over 2,000 visitors. Additionally, it is the destination for one of the longest-running literature festivals in the North. Hosted every October, it is a celebration of all things reading and writing. Ikley’s plethora of personality meant that it was used as a location for films such as A Private Function and Calendar Girls.

CLIMB YOUR WAY TO THE TOP

One of the area’s most cherished gems is Ilkley Moor, the perfect place to visit on a clear evening, just as the sun is setting. North of the Moor is where you will find the village of Ben Rhydding. Also sitting proudly in the North is Ilkley Quarry, also known as the Cow and Calf. The Cow and Calf is a widely popular destination for generations of climbers, with the most known climbing routes being the Milky Way and The New Statesman. If you’re not a climber, Ilkley Moor still makes for a great place to take a stroll and regain your touch with nature.

Bluebells
Bluebells at Middleton Woods

WHERE TO WALK

As well as Ilkley Moor, the town is full of places to take a relaxing stroll. Being very popular at this time of year, Middleton Woods is a great choice. Famous for its vibrant bluebells, it makes for a lovely scenic walk. Ilkley Riverside Gardens is another great destination for a walk, or to spend a sunny afternoon, located alongside the River Wharfe.

Also alongside the River Wharfe is where you will find Ben Rhydding Nature Reserve. It is home to various habitats and provides an excellent place to watch birds and butterflies. Visitor parking is available and dogs are allowed if they are on a short lead, so it makes a great place for a day out. 

SUMMER SPORTS

As well as being famous for its climbing roots, Ilkley also offers access to multiple other sporting activities. The serene town is even home to one of four of Yorkshire’s only public open-air swimming pools. Ilkley Pool and Lido is especially popular in the summer, being a great destination to enjoy the sun, relax and take the children for a family day out. It hosts sessions throughout the week, including Aquacise, Swim For All and Ladies Only sessions. There are also bowls, a putting green and tennis courts, as well a cute cafe to indulge in. Ilkley is also the ultimate destination for tennis and squash lovers, with it being home to one of Yorkshire’s most renowned tennis and squash clubs. Ilkley Lawn Tennis and Squash Club has five indoor and outdoor floodlit courts, as well as 14 grass courts which cater to all abilities and ages, making it the best experience of tennis. There are also four squash courts, a fitness suite that hosts 60 weekly expert-led classes, and SERVE, which is the relaxing, atmospheric cafe bar. In addition to Ilkley Lawn Tennis and Squash Club, the town is the location of Yorkshire’s third oldest golf club, and has many other sporting clubs, such as rugby clubs, cricket clubs and a karate club, which is run by former UK champion, Mark Outterside. 

Additionally, Ilkley is one of Yorkshire’s first-rate cycling hubs, seeing many high-profile cycle races pass through yearly. In 2005 and 2007, the town hosted stages of the Tour of Britain race, with Ilkley Moor being a climb on both occasions. The Tour de France, in 2014, even passed through, approaching the town from Otley. Because of this success, the Tour de Yorkshire was created as a spin-off and Ilkley has ever since been included as part of the route. 

Bettys
Bettys

TO REST YOUR HEAD

If you’re looking to stay in Ilkley, it has a range of hotels and guest houses that are highly rated. One of Ilkley’s top cocktail bars, The Gin Lounge Rooms, also houses suites, each of which is named after inspirational women who were ahead of their time. Anne Lister, Ann Walker and Emily Wilding are among many of the trailblazing women that the Edwardian suites were named after. There are multiple luxury rooms, each unique with their own authentic characteristics, which are available at only £99 a night.

Ilkley Riverside Hotel and Country Pub is another one of the town’s renowned hotels. Situated near Ilkley Riverside Gardens, it offers incredible views of the River Wharfe and Ilkley Moor. It is considered to be one of the best hotels in Ilkley, winning the Tourism Flower Award multiple times, and boasting of its warm and friendly atmosphere. 

When it comes to food, the spa town has a range of options of where to dine. Outside the Box Cafe, The Veggie Cafe and Avanti Coffee House are all great places to grab a coffee or a quick bite to eat. If you’re looking for somewhere a little fancier, the Sachi’s Restaurant and The Olive Branch are exquisite options. Additionally, La Casita serves unforgettable tapas, Piccolino is a fabulous Italian restaurant and The Ilkley Cow is one of the best steakhouses around. 

If you want more information about Ilkley, head to visitbradford.com

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