Otley, a quaint market town which often gets overlooked as nothing more than a pit-stop on the route to the Dales, but we can guarantee that Otley is so much more than the A road that runs through it. With access from all transport links and plenty of cheap places to park, Otley really packs a punch when it comes to keeping you entertained for a full day out. The town sits at the foot of the spectacular Chevin, a popular trek for many as well as a regular training spot for Olympic triathletes Jonny and Alistair Brownlee, and is the gateway town to even more breath-taking greenery in North Yorkshire. Otley’s charm is equally down to its historical townhouses and cobbled courtyards, as much as it’s down to its vibrant commercial centre full of independent shops, bars and eateries.
As the title of ‘market town’ might suggest, Otley has a rich history of markets held in the town, and some of the first markets are recorded to have been held all the way back in 1227; although it has only been held in the current Market Place from around 1800. Now, Otley’s infamous market is a treasure trove of everything from artisan and local produce, to crafts, clothes, handmade jewellery and gifts, which spills over from the market square into neighbouring streets and into high street shops and tea rooms.
The River Wharfe and its neighbouring park, Wharfemeadows, also play a large role in making Otley a great place for a day out; both just a short walk away from the town centre, here you can enjoy an afternoon boating along the river or a riverside walk and trip to the nature reserve. Close-by, sitting adjacent to the river is the superbly named Tittybottle Park, which earned its name from the nannies, children and mums who visited when it was formed in 1909.
Lining many of Otley’s cobbled streets, are bustling bars, eateries and independent shops which in themselves are worth dedicating a whole day to exploring. For a good old-fashioned day out treat, uncle joes fish and chips serves up the local’s favourite portion. And to make it even better, across the road at North bar customers of Uncle Joes are welcomed to take their hearty portion and enjoy them with a pint or two of their choice of cask or draught ale.
For something slightly sweeter, head to Manor Square for Sift. This cafe unmistakably specialises in beautifully crafted cakes from triple peanut blondies to raspberry cheesecake brownies, the counter is truly a sight to behold for those die hard sweet-toothers. But don’t worry, savoury fans are covered too with sausage rolls and sandwiches galore. But Otley’s offerings of tea rooms and eateries by no means ends there; for more daytime coffee, cake and sandwiches, try Bloomfield Square, Salami & Co, Milk Bar café and bistro, Chippendales Tea Rooms, The Pink Tea Rooms, among a whole host of others. For an evening bite to eat, there are plenty of local favourites to choose from, including the cosy Thai restaurant, Nam Jai Thai, as well as Il Vicoletto, Bon Apps River Lounge and Italian Restaurant, Il Bucco, alongside many others.
Market towns are notoriously great spots for pottering around and trying to find any hidden gem independent shops; in Otley, you certainly won’t struggle to find them. One of Otley’s independents which many people travel near and far to pay a visit is a plant nursery aptly named Otley’s Courtyard Planters. Based in a historic cobbled stable-yard, this charming nursey caters for both expert gardeners and novices alike. With the owners having lived within the courtyard since the 1970’s, and can certainly offer knowledgeable advice on the best plants or pots for any situation.
A stone’s throw away is the Curious Hop, a speciality beer shop selling an extensive range of craft beers, real ales and world beers along with an amazing selection of ciders. But we must also pay honourable mention to Chevin Health & Wholefood store, Jenni’s Dresser, Patisserie Viennoise, and of course, the infamous 20p shop.