it is because people once came to Ilkley to take the waters that it
has gained a reputation as one of Yorkshire's, and certainly Bradford's,
most genteel towns.
is also the West Yorkshire town that is most obviously in the Pennines
with the town rising steeply towards the moor. The Dales Way starts
here - a 72 mile stroll will take you to Bowness in Cumbria.
is an ancient town. The Romans recognised its attractions and built
a fort which they called Olicana. The remains of a wall can still
be seen behind the Manor House and the interpretive boards around
the site might just help you imagine what life was like in Ilkley
in 80AD. Burial cairns, stone circles and strangely carved rocks on
the surrounding moors suggest that people inhabited these parts long
before the Romans.
the Romans did for Ilkley...
cup and ring marked rocks on Rombalds Moor may date from as long
ago as 2800BC. Probably the most famous of these pre-historic rocks
is the so-called Swastika Stone, now protected by railings with
a replica in front of the original stone. Although similar carvings
can be found in Italy and Sweden the meaning of the stone is yet
to be explained but, you never know, the truth may be out there.
is a tradition - for some - to bathe in the White Wells spa
on New Year's Day.
these early visitors, Ilkley is predominantly Victorian in character.
Although it is no longer possible to visit Wells House (formerly
part of Bradford and Ilkley Community College and now being converted
into apartments) you can still see the building from afar. This
grand watering establishment, which opened in 1856, was designed
by Cuthbert Broderick, Yorkshire¹s most celebrated architect.
hydropathy in Ilkley had much more modest beginnings. The first
watering hole was White Wells on the edge of Ilkley Moor. In the
early eighteenth century a house and a bath were built and a roof
was added later.
All Saints Church
interested in finding out more about Ilkley's "healing" waters should
follow the Victorian Town Trail leaflet available from the Tourist
Information Office. Saint Margaret's Church, designed by Norman
Shaw and consecrated in 1879, is also worth a visit and is included
in the trail.
older parish church of All Saints stands in a commanding position
above the River Wharfe.The present building is largely medieval
although, as is often the case, it was rebuilt in Victorian times.
first church on the site was built by the Saxons, no doubt using
stone from the abandoned fort. Inside the church are three Saxon
crosses decorated with carvings of dragons and other strange beasts.
It is thought that such a major group of crosses may suggest that
Ilkey was an important place in Saxon times.
church boasts a 13th century doorway, a 16th century tower, 17th
pews and some fine stained-glass which gives the building a warm
feeling. There is also a life-sized effigy of Sir Adam Middleton,
a local landowner who died around 1320.
a stone's throw from the church is the Manor House, now Ilkley's
museum and art gallery. The origin of this building, also known
as the 'castle' is lost in time, but its west wing is thought to
date from the fourteenth century.
the 1950s the building narrowly escaped demolition when it was deemed
unfit for occupation. Happily it has been restored and now provides
an ideal setting for the display of artefacts relating to the history
of the town.The
art gallery upstairs plays host to an ever-changing programme of
down the road to the River Wharfe and the New Bridge. From here
you can walk along the river in either direction and get the impression
you are far from anywhere.
path through Riverside Gardens leads to the Old Bridge, passing
a very good adventure playground (for small children.) The bridge
was built in 1675 for packhorses and marks on its side show the
flood levels reached by the river at various times. Previous bridges
were washed away!