Renowned for its fresh air, moorland and stunning landscape, situated in the Wharfe Valley, is the former spa town of Ilkley.
The famous Ilkley Moor and the Cow and Calf Rocks overlook the town and inspired the well-known Yorkshire anthem “On Ilkley Moor baht ‘at”. The song was written in classic Yorkshire dialect and translates to “On Ilkley Moor without a hat”.
One of Ilkley’s greatest attractions is walking. The moor is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to its attractive north facing landscape, significant nature conservation and historical importance, making it the ideal spot to admire the panoramic views on offer.
This will be the first time Ilkley has hosted a start or finish of the Tour de Yorkshire, however it’s not the first time that the quaint Yorkshire town has been involved with the race. The town featured during the inaugural 2015 edition as stage 3 finished in Leeds shortly after the penultimate climb of the day up the ‘Côte de Cow and Calf’ where masses of crowds lined the road.
In 2017 the race passed through Ilkley again, this time in the opposite direction and with local lad Scott Thwaites of Team Dimension Data riding shortly before his debut at the Tour de France in July.
Ilkley was also on display during stage 1 of the 2014 Tour de France Grand Départ, taking a similar approach to the town as the 2017 Tour de Yorkshire did. Passing through Ilkley the 198 riders progressed to Addingham, which saw the world-famous race ride on its roads on both the 5th and 6th July in 2014.
‘Ilkley’s favourite son’, Alan Titchmarsh was born and raised in Ilkley. After leaving school he went on to work as an apprentice gardener with Ilkley Council where he found his love for the trade. Titchmarsh studied for a National Certificate in Horticulture at Hertfordshire College and pursued a career in gardening journalism.
Best known for the hit TV-series Ground Force, Titchmarsh presented the show between 1997 and 2002, making him a household name.
Notable for her portrayal of Lucy Pevensie in The Chronicles of Narnia film series, Georgie Henley attended Moorfield School for Girls in Ilkley before attending Bradford Grammar School. Her acting career began when she joined the Ilkley ‘Upstagers Theatre Group’ at a young age and Georgie continues to act; with her most recent starring in the 2017 ‘Access All Areas’.
Despite being born in Liverpool, Clive Hornby, Emmerdale’s longest-serving cast member made his home in Ilkley while he portrayed one of the soap’s most popular characters, Jack Sugden.
Hornby started his role at ‘Emmerdale Farm’ when the series occupied a daytime slot back in 1980 and remained for a further 28 years, during which he could often be found out on Ilkley Moor learning his lines.
Colin Montgomerie was born in Scotland but was raised in Ilkley. His father, James Montgomerie, moved to the area when he became Managing Director at Fox’s Biscuits based in Batley.
Montgomerie was educated at Leeds Grammar School and spent many years with Ilkley Golf Club. Five years after leaving Ilkley Montgomerie turned professional and was named Rookie of the Year on the European Tour. He went on to win 31 European tour events and is one of Europe’s most successful Ryder Cup players.
Much-loved TV presented and journalist Richard Whiteley was born in Bradford in 1943. The Countdown host presented the show for 23 years before he died in 2005. He lived in Burley Woodhead, just 3 miles from Ilkley where he resided with his partner and British actress Kathryn Apanowicz.
ICONIC LANDMARKS OF PAST AND PRESENT
Ilkley Moor’s attraction isn’t attributed to just one area; it appeals to a wide range of visitors each with differing interests.
People have lived on the Moor since the Stone Age and for this very reason, the land is not the same as it once was. Here stood a vast covering of trees, but by the Bronze Age c2500BC these were being cleared away by the area’s inhabitants; with many of the trees you see today dating from the early 1900s.
The Moors owes much of its appearance to the long-term exploitation of the land by way of human interaction. The area has been used as a resource since the ice age, as a source of food, habitation, water, fuel, building materials and most recently recreational activities.
Since 1703 there has been bathing at White Wells. In 1791, one bath became two and one of these is still visible today. The water here has no significant mineral content but the coldness of the water has been shown to stimulate circulation.
White Wells was instrumental in establishing Ilkley as a spa town. In the 19th century, a large number of hydros were built to allow people to ‘take in the waters’. When Charles Darwin visited the town in 1859, it is thought that he visited White Wells to do just this.
Visitors now can still use the plunge bath and New Year’s Day is the most popular with over a hundred plungers taking part in what has become a tradition.
Cow & Calf Rocks
High on Ilkley Moor, the famous Cow and Calf Rocks are a large rock formation that consists of outcrop and boulder; and are also known as the Hangingstone Rocks.
A variety of sandstone, the rocks are made of millstone grit and are named Cow and Calf as one is large and has a smaller section sitting closer to it.
Ilkley Manor House
Originating in the 14th century, The Manor House of Ilkley was built on the remains of the area’s Roman Fort. Formerly known as The Castle, this mainly 17th century house was divided into cottages in 1804. In 1955, it was then saved from demolition when Percy Dalton donated it to the community. It was converted into the Art Gallery and Museum in 1961 and has recently been passed back over to the community who aim to raise the funds and turn it into a heritage, community and arts centre.
Ilkley Lido was built in 1935 and is one of only 127 Lidos remaining in the country. The season usually starts with a water temperature around 14 degrees Celsius rising to 22 degrees at its peak and entertains 4,000 visitors on a hot summer’s day.
Opened as part of the Silver Jubilee celebrations for King George V, the Lido was designed by Archibald Skinner, Ilkley’s Surveyor and Water Engineer. The Lido was built to ASA standards of the day and was considered to be one of the largest heated pools in the country. With an unusual shape, resembling the cross section of a sliced mushroom, the pool is of architectural interest and rarity.
In August 1935, a café was built and Taylor’s of Harrogate employed to run the catering; the building remains unchanged externally to this very day.
NEARBY BIKE LIBRARIES
The Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries scheme was set up as a legacy of the grandest ever Grand Départ of the Tour de France back in 2014 and aims to give every child in Yorkshire access to a bike. Since its inception the scheme has seen 46 libraries set up, over 5,000 bikes donated and in excess of 40,000 opportunities for people in the county to cycle.
AWARE Bike Library
AWARE (Airedale & Wharfdale Autism Resource) is a parent-run group supporting families with children and young adults on the autistic spectrum (formal diagnosis not required). Members include families and supporters in general, as well as health, education and social care professionals.
AWARE Bike Library has been operating since 2016, it provides regular sessions where young people with autism are able to loan bikes. The volunteers at the Bike Library are able to adapt donated bikes to suit young peoples’ special needs, by taking pedals off, and by allowing users to try out different bikes.
The sessions AWARE offer includes Learn to Ride and Improve Your Confidence and are based around national standards outcomes.
Ilkley is home to the UK’s largest cycling club, Ilkley Cycling Club, which has over 1000 members. The club formed in 1896 and was known at that time as the ‘Ilkley and District CC’; it survived two world wars before disbanding in the 1950s. After an absence of over 50 years the club was reformed in 2011 to become the one of the country’s largest and most inclusive sports clubs.
The Tour de France Grand Départ in 2014 had great impact on cycling in Ilkley, when the peloton passed through the town on the 5th of July 80,000 people cheered the caravan past and went wild for the riders as they made their way along the course.
Each year, on a summers night in June, Ilkley CC host the Illkey Cycle Races attracting some of the largest names in Yorkshire Cycling such as Tom Pidcock and Scott Thwaites. After four years the crowds and stature of rider continues to grow. The cycling club also organises one of the county’s biggest sportives, The White Rose Classic. It started in 2012 and now the sell-out event attracts 1000 riders taking in some of the Yorkshire Dales most classic climbs over three routes. Entry fees go towards grassroot cycling initiatives, including a local development programme for young riders.
In 1859, after writing ‘On the Origin of Species’, Charles Darwin came to Wells House on Ilkley Moor to receive “the water cure”, a form of hydropathy which includes drinking and bathing in cold water.
On a winters morning in 1987, retired policeman Philip Spencer claims an extremely compelling account of alien abduction. On a trip out to visit his in-laws, Spencer, equipped with a compass and camera allegedly caught a glimpse of the creature before being taken aboard an unidentified flying object.
Legend has it that the Calf was split from the Cow when the giant Rombald, who was fleeing from an enemy, stamped on the rock as he leapt across the valley. The enemy? None other than his angry wife. Whilst giving chase, she is said to have dropped the stones held in her skirt to form the local rock formation The Skirtful of Stones.
On the 12th March 1967, “All Along the Watchtower” singer and guitarist, Jimi Hendrix played an unforgettable gig at Troutbeck Hotel, one of Ilkley’s finest hotels at the time. 900 fans crammed into a 200-person venue to see the star, it’s told that the gig lasted just one or two songs before being shut down by the police.
Ilkley is home to the renowned, Michelin-starred Box Tree restaurant where Marco Pierre White began his career back in the 70s. The restaurant is now owned by Simon and Rena Gueller who won and have retained the Michelin star since 2005.