The Victorian Arcade, Ilkley (Photo: Sarah Mason)


The Victorian Arcade, Ilkley (Photo: Sarah Mason)



The Yorkshire Anthem inscribed on the walls of Bar Tat in Ilkley (Photo: Sarah Mason)

Ilkley’s name is well-known thanks to the Yorkshire anthem, ‘On Ilkla Mooar Baht ‘At’, which tells the tale of a man courting Mary Jane on the moors without a hat, thus catching cold.  (Have a look on youtube for a clip of Brian Blessed rapping on a recent version of this folk classic – very entertaining.)

Ilkley is popular with walkers but muddy boots are matched in equal measure by the smarter footwear of those who come to experience the elegance and gentle pleasures of this former spa town.  Ladies ‘who lunch’ visit Betty’s Café & Tearooms, seek out the Manor House Museum and “promenade” along the Grove.

Know what the locals know…

Ilkley is a foodie town, home of the Michelin-starred Box Tree, Ilkley Brewery, several gastro pubs and fine independent food shops, including Lishman’s Butchers.

Ilkley Brewery's 'Mary Jane' - a tipple inspired by 'On Ilkla Mooar Baht 'At'

Ilkley Brewery produces ‘Mary Jane’ – a tipple inspired by ‘On Ilkla Mooar Baht ‘At’ (Photo: Sarah Mason)

Charles Darwin spent time at Wells House in Ilkley in 1859 where he supposedly received hydropathic treatment, although some say he was lying low following the publication of  ‘On The Origin Of Species’. Darwin Gardens in Ilkley is named after him.

Ilkley Literature Festival attracts many visitors who come to hear well-known writers and speakers, but the town also hosts  the Ilkley Complementary Medicine Festival, a leading event of its kind.

Cranbrook is the name of the tune associated with On Ilkla Mooar Baht’ At’.  It’s an old Methodist hymn tune and in some parts of Yorkshire is still used for the Christmas carol ‘While Shepherds Watched’.   (Go on, try it, it really does fit…)



Connect with our ancient visitors on Ilkley and Rombald’s Moor, where there’s evidence of Neolithic and Bronze Age settlers.  Look out for The Twelve Apostles stone circle and numerous cup and ring marked stones.


Cow and Calf Rocks (Photo: Sarah Mason)

Walk up to the Cow and Calf rocks and spot the 19th century grafitti.

Visit Create Cafe and buy yarn, paint pottery and eat cake.  Or pick up a locally-inspired gift from Nora’s.

Enjoy refreshments at White Wells Spa Cottage, open when the flag is flying. You could even take a plunge in the old baths…

Head out on a Stanza Stone trail.  The Puddle Stones and Beck Stone, rocks with a poem by Simon Armitage carved on them, are not far from Ilkley.  And who knows, you may stumble across the secret seventh stanza stone while you’re at it.  (Let us know if you do – we haven’t found it yet.)

For more information and ideas on where to stay:

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