Why you should move to Ilkley

R1PH04 Sunny evening view over buildings (mainly residential) nestling in Wharfe Valley under moorla

The pretty town of Ilkley nestled in the Wharfe Valley - Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

Ilkley was named as The Sunday Times Best Place To Live 2022 in April, we explore why the spa town is such a desirable location

Whether you’re from Yorkshire or further afield, you’re likely familiar with the words ‘On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at’ - the famous folk song which originated from these parts in the early 1900s. The song is about one lover chiding another for his lack of headwear while out on the unforgiving Ilkley Moor. Positioned high above the town, it’ll certainly blow the cobwebs away if you’re seeking a bracing hike, but it’s worth it for the stunning views. This West Yorkshire town situated in the Wharfe Valley first made itself known for its therapeutic air and powerful, moorland waters, with people flocking from all around to take in its health benefits in the 19th century. Nowadays, it’s more popular with hikers exploring the famous Cow and Calf Rocks that sit above the town, while tourists take advantage of its many tearooms and independent shops. Boasting excellent commuter links to Leeds and Bradford via train, along with beautiful properties and excellent schools, it’s no wonder it's such a popular place to relocate. This small town also hosts many popular festivals, such as the famous Ilkley Food Festival in June and the very first Ilkley Pride which will see a parade through the town on July 2. For those wishing to live an active lifestyle, Ilkley couldn’t be more suited. Not only does the famous moor lend itself well to hikers and rock climbers, it’s also a popular spot for cyclists and the town has an excellent range of sporting clubs and activities. However, the jewel in the town’s crown has to be its mix of a cosmopolitan offering with stunning countryside views.  


As you drive into Ilkley, you’ll likely notice the pretty parade of shops and independent eateries that wouldn’t be out of place in a genteel suburb of London. This is just one of many draws of the town – the eclectic mix of businesses you’ll find along the high street – from well-known stores like Oliver Bonas and Crew Clothing to indies such as Lily B and Nora’s Interiors. Take a stroll and you’ll also happen upon some charming independent bookshops and antique shops – perfect for finding a keepsake of your trip. The range of drinking and dining options in the town is also rather impressive. Not only is the famous Box Tree restaurant found here, but Bettys Tearooms and Café is also a resident in the town – perfect for a spot of afternoon tea or something sweet. There’s a good mix of well-known restaurants such as Piccolinos mixed in with some independent eateries with the likes of Friends of Ham serving up delicious characuterie boards and unique wines. While The Gin Lounge is the perfect spot for a G&T with a selection of over 200 gins and quirky bedrooms if you’ve had one too many. The entertainment options in the town are endless, with a Lido to enjoy during the summer months and the quaint Ilkley Cinema that feels as though you’ve stepped back in time. To learn a bit more about the place why not follow the Three Bridges Trail where you’ll discover historical facts about the bridges and their importance in Ilkley’s heritage. Sitting at the heart of the town, Manor House is a must-see for history buffs – this 14th century building was built on the footprint of a Roman fort. For a truly authentic Ilkley experience, make your way up to White Wells – when the flag is flying you know the café is open. Here you’ll find a famous bathing well that has been in use since 1703 where it’s possible to still take a plunge in its icy waters.  

Bag a property 

Being a former Victorian spa town, Ilkley is full of gorgeous properties to buy with row upon row of stone terraces and townhouses and it was recently named 'best place to live' in the Sunday Times' annual list of the UK's top townsProspective buyers will also find a number of grand Georgian villas for sale that make handsome homes. The town itself is full of pretty tree-lined streets, but one of the most desirable areas is north across the River Wharfe in the village of Middleton. With stunning south-facing views across the valley it’s clear to see why it’s so sought after. Prices vary depending what you’re after – a large detached townhouse can go from anywhere between £600,000 to £1.75m and even higher. For a smaller townhouse you’re looking more in the region of half a million upwards, with semi detached properties ranging between £250,000 to £450,000. Terraces and cottages are more affordable and generally start at £200,00 while an apartment can set you back anywhere between £125,000 all the way up to £600,000. There are also plenty of rental opportunities in the town, with prices starting at £675 for a one-bedroom apartment.  

Town life 

Most Read

Mother and daughter duo Sally and Amy Metcalfe opened their New Brook Street Deli in the heart of Ilkley in October 2020 – two weeks before going into the second national lockdown! Luckily, thanks to the support of their amazing hometown and community that is Ilkley they are still open today and going stronger than ever.

Thy love the place, ‘You cannot help but fall in love with Ilkley. Having both lived and worked here all our lives. There is something so heart warming and special about our historic hometown.  

'From its absolutely stunning scenery, moorland views, woodland walks and the world-famous ‘Ilkley Moor Baht ’at’. Food Markets and events on The Grove to the amazing array of independent boutiques, bars, cafes, restaurants, and shops. There’s so much to shout about!  

Ilkley also has a fabulous sense of community; we are like one big family. If someone is in need you can guarantee there will be a party of people to help you within a matter of minutes, no matter what.’ 

mother and daughter stand in their cafe

Mother and daughter team, Sally and Amy Metcalfe, own New Brook Street Deli - Credit: Mark Bowness

2CJX4N2 Shops on The Grove, the main street in Ilkley, North Yorkshire, England, UK.

Pretty shopfronts on The Grove, the main street in Ilkley - Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

2A3H57G Betty's Cafe Tea Rooms on The Grove in pretty spa town Ilkley, in the Wharfedale Valley in W

The famous Betty's Cafe Tea Rooms where you can indulge in afternoon tea or pick up a fat rascal - Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

shop front of a butchers in Ilkley

Lishman's is one of the best butchers in Yorkshire - Credit: KevinGibsonPhotography

a river runs alongside the town

Ilkley is perfectly positioned on the River Wharfe - Credit: Kevin Gibson Photography Ltd

shop front of an antique shop in Ilkley

The town is full of cute independent shops - Credit: KevinGibsonPhotography