An introduction to Ilkley

by Frazer Irwin

Gateway to the Yorkshire Dales

Ilkley, Verbia of the Romans and Ylcanley of Saxon time. For over four thousand years the area has been populated by various tribes. None more so than the Victorians and the present crew! Rombalds Moor, of which Ilkley Moor is but a small part, covers an area from Hawkesworth in the east to Skipton in the West, with the Dales of Wharfe and Aire being North and South respectively.

The Town has been in existence only a comparatively short time. In 1800 it was nought but a mucky little hole with a beck running through it. A scattering of farms and thatched cottages, a population of around three hundred ( give or take the odd dying wretch ) and not much else apart from a cold spring high on the Moor. A few years earlier, the then Squire Myddleton, built what was to become the Country's first Cold Water Spa. So it was these small buildings that became the Foundation of Modern Ilkley. Over a passage of time the 'Well' or 'Bath' house became known as White Wells.

The taking of 'spring' water which brought about such change to Wharfedale and its effects on the local countryside were astronomical. Hamer Stansfeld ( Lord Mayor of Leeds ) put Ilkley and Wheatley on the map! One might say he turned "water into wine" or as they say in Yorkshire "Water into brass". Large Hydropathic establishments grew from the virgin earth, such was the demand for this remarkable substance. The first of many mill owners, industrialists and their families moved to the countryside for fresh air without fumes. Not only had Ilkley become a fashionable watering hole, it was now a commuter town.

Modern Ilkley is a commuter town with an ever growing population. The town boasts a thriving business community with over two hundred outlets and excellent shopping facilities within easy reach by bus, car, rail or the nearby Leeds/Bradford airport. Ilkley also boasts many clubs, groups, activities and hosts exhibitions and festivals which have gained the town international acclaim. Quality hotels make the town a popular venue for holidays, conferences, country pursuits or just dining at one of the town's many eating houses. offers you an extensive guide to the town and its environs. We hope you enjoy your visit and follow up with a visit to the town.