With the breath-taking Ilkley Moor overlooking the town, Ilkley resides as a collection of the things we love so much about the small Yorkshire town placed casually amongst the grandeur of the rolling countryside; as if dropped from a height amongst the greenery. In the early 19th century, Ilkley rose to fame for its state of the art spa facilities, as well as for its clean country air and bustling social scene. And although a town is no longer deemed worth a visit on account of its potential for bathing in cold water, Ilkely has continues to retain its popularity in its ever-growing food and drink scene which compliments Ilkley’s potential for a fantastic day out.
It goes without saying that one of Ilkley’s main attractions is of course Ilkley Moor. Part of Rombalds Moor, the moorland between Ilkley and Keighley, the moor rises to 402 metres above sea level, and is well known as the inspiration for Yorkshire’s “county anthem”, On Ilkley Moor Baht’at, which is certainly well-worth a listen. The moor is ideal for a day out walking, hiking, or even climbing and scrambling on the famous Cow and Calf rocks.
Ilkley is also home to a true treasure trove of nostalgia at the Toy Museum. Housing one of the finest private collections of toys in the North of England, the museum is filled wall-to-wall with exhibitions of retro dolls and dolls houses, teddy bears, tin plate toys, lead figures, as well as a selection of games with wooden and paper toys. With toys dating from 350BC to the present day, the museum also plays host to a 1940’s English working model fairground; the perfect excuse to take a trip down memory lane.
For some more old-fashioned fun, Ilkley’s outdoor Lido is a go-to for the summer months; take a plunge at one of the country’s few remaining outdoor pools, and enjoy a picnic in the tranquil setting of the lido grounds and take in the fantastic views over Ilkley Moor. You can also test the waters of this famous spa town in the colder months in the indoor pool.
But Ilkley’s aquatic offerings don’t end there of course; for many city dwellers, Ilkley is the place to go in the summer months as Leeds folk flock to the nearest sprawling green spaces, and the nearest body of water. Ilkley’s stretch of the River Wharfe is celebrated with the Riverside Gardens, perfect for an afternoon walk, picnic, or even fishing expedition!
When it comes to food and drink, Ilkley really packs a punch. Real Food Ilkley is a speciality fine food and local produce market which is held on the first Sunday of each month (except January). Having grown over the years, the market now holds over 30 stalls showcasing a range of produce. Produce at the market ranges from bread and baked goods, to coffee, cheeses, condiments, organic fruit and veg and plenty more.
And Ilkely’s offering of fine foods only carries on in its independent eateries, as the charming streets are lined with cosy cafes, country pubs and lively restaurants. For a quick pit-stop on a busy day-out, Daniel’s Café is the ideal spot. The café, which gains its name as a token to owner, Miruna’s father, serves fresh hand cut sandwiches alongside homemade soups, hearty breakfasts, and delicious cakes and pastries. For more of the same, try the Ilkley Café Company, Toast House and the award-winning the Little Tearoom.
For evenings and late afternoons, Ilkely plays host to a number of cosy and inviting bars, including the Ticket Office, Ilkley’s first-class drinks carriage. Located within Ilkley’s historic railway station, the Ticket Office is the ideal spot to start, or end your evening. Friends of Ham is another favourite among locals, serving an award-winning offering of charcuterie alongside craft beer and quality wines all within an irresistibly atmospheric setting.
For the chance to take the tipple home, head to Fuggle and Golding tap house and bottle shop. Specialising in craft beer, this spot quickly became a local favourite and has earned a great reputation for its laid-back style and incredibly knowledgeable staff. And of course, the fabulously named Bar T’at; serving a frequently changing selection of ales and premium beers, Bar T’at follow a similar ethos with their food by opting for seasonal produce from local suppliers.