Published The Times June 18 2010. Photo Mike Kipling Photography/ Alamy

Ilkley has so much going for it - from Michelin-starred food and good shops to glorious scenery on the doorstep

How it rates

Roman fortress town, Victorian spa town (for spa think of bracing plunge pool) and now an affluent commuter town for the Bradford and Leeds professional classes. More villagey than its neighbour Harrogate, it straddles the River Wharfe, and runs up the hills to the north and Ilkley Moor to the south. The 80-mile Dales Way footpath to Bowness-on- Windermere starts here.

Architectural gems

The Manor House, one of the town’s oldest buildings, is now a museum and art gallery. The town hall, library, Kings Hall and Winter Garden display stout, late-Victorian municipal pride. Heathcote is a Grade I listed mansion, designed by Edwin Lutyens.

Smartest areas

The south-facing Curly Hill, Middleton, has views of Ilkley Moor and features a variety of detached houses, from Edwardian to present-day (£500,000 to more than £2 million). There are substantial Victorian houses and detached piles along Heber’s Ghyll Drive, and Grove Road on the north-facing southern hills. Some large houses have been converted into apartments.

Green spaces

Riverside Gardens flanks the River Wharfe. Middleton Woods has great bluebell displays. The area around the Cow and Calf rocky outcrop, which overlooks the town from Ilkley Moor, is popular with walkers. And, of course, the nearby Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, plus Bolton Abbey and the Yorkshire Dales.


Plenty of clubs along the flood plains: golf, rugby, three cricket clubs, several football clubs, Ben Rhydding Hockey Club, tennis, squash, and Ilkley lido, a Grade II listed outdoor pool.


Highlights include the Ilkley Literature Festival, the annual Ilkley Carnival and the Wharfedale Festival of Performing Arts. Theatre and community events at the Ilkley Playhouse.


Half an hour by train from Ilkley station to Leeds and Bradford. Leeds Bradford international airport is 11 miles away.


The Box Tree restaurant has a Michelin star, Martha and Vincent serves excellent food, and Farsyde is another quality restaurant. For tea and cakes, it’s Betty’s Café Tearooms; for pubs, Bar T’at is popular, as is Ilkley Moor Vaults.


Small independents include Morten’s ironmonger; Lishman’s, the butchers; and Sweet Indulgence, which has jars of Fizzy Wizzies in the window.


Four good state primaries feed the highly rated Ilkley Grammar School. There is considerable pressure on places. Private secondary schools in Leeds, and grammar schools in Bradford.

What’s new?

Government policy on green belt and conservation restricts new developments and there is limited space for infill. Arncliffe Homes’ All Saints has flats remaining, and Audley’s high-spec retirement village at Clevedon is halfway through completion.


Very little. People who move here tend to stay put.

Working... Please wait