When you’re ticking the boxes for a good quality of life where do you start? Gorgeous landscape on the doorstep? Top schools? Thriving cultural scenes? Indie shops?

The checklist soon fills up with gold stars in Ilkley. Proximity to fresh air and that famous landmark, Ilkley Moor, is one of the reasons for the appeal. You can work in a city like Leeds or Bradford and make your home in fresh-air Ilkley thanks to the briefest of commutes.

This is almost cycle-central - a magnet for cyclists who can whoosh from their town front door to empty lanes in moments.

Great British Life: Cyclists are very well catered for in Ilkley. (C) Kathryn ArmstrongCyclists are very well catered for in Ilkley. (C) Kathryn Armstrong

It has the feel of a well-heeled town, solid and knowing its own worth. You get the impression people come here and stay put, feeling quietly smug. Not least because Ilkley has been named the best place to live in Britain by the Sunday Times. That’s quite an accolade and very helpful should you think of selling up.

The Grove is literally Ilkley’s shop window – a grand parade of stores that combine high street names and Yorkshire independents, including the Bettys tea rooms that was known to be a favourite of Alan Bennett in days gone by. You can eat well at the famous Box Tree restaurant where you can even enjoy a ‘chef for the day’ experience.

The Grove is where you find a bustling market every Saturday with traders selling flowers, fruit and vegetables, cakes, coffee, charcuterie as well as accessories and gifts.


Great British Life: A view of Ilkley from the Cow and Calf Rocks above the town. (C) Getty A view of Ilkley from the Cow and Calf Rocks above the town. (C) Getty

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. One of many draws of the town is this eclectic mix of businesses - from well-known stores like Oliver Bonas and Jigsaw to indies such as Lily B, The Bath Store, Attic and Covet.

If bigger scale shopping is your thing Moss & Moor is a fabulous place to visit on the outskirts of the town. A garden centre – but lots more – with a great food hall, interiors areas and restaurant – as well as a huge plant section. The town is also home to one of Yorkshire’s Booths supermarkets championing local produce – and also home to Lishman’s award-winning butchers.

Great British Life: Ilkley's popular independent cinema (C) Kathryn ArmstrongIlkley's popular independent cinema (C) Kathryn Armstrong

In Ilkley 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 charcuterie 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 quirky Ilkley Cinema.

To learn a bit more about the place follow the Three Bridges Trail where you’ll discover historical facts about the bridges and their importance in Ilkley’s heritage.

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.

You’re spoilt for choice with walks to enjoy: Middleton Woods is beautiful year-round but famous for one of the finest displays of bluebells in the country.

READ MORE: West Yorkshire walk - Ilkley and Middleton Woods bluebells

Within a stroll of the town centre is the Riverside Walk, a three-mile circuit either side of the Wharfe that at Stockeld Way is crossed by a lovely stone bridge where there's a Narnia lamp, and takes in the pleasant Riverside Gardens. The circuit shows how leafy Ilkley itself is, in contrast to the bare moor looming to the south.

Ilkley Moor offers many routes including the fascinating prehistory trail, roughly four miles taking in ancient cup marks and the Twelve Apostles Neolithic stone circle.

For the intrepid, The Dales Way starts at Ilkley and ends 80 miles later at Bowness-on-Windermere and there's a blue plaque trail around the town too.


Great British Life: Attic fashion store in Ilkley. (C) Kathryn Armstrong Attic fashion store in Ilkley. (C) Kathryn Armstrong

Sarah Lyles is the owner of Attic Womenswear in Crescent Court, Ilkley. Her strong background in fashion retail, means Sarah stocks well-chosen independent labels that customers love. Regular fashion shows in-store and a weekly Facebook Live with colleague and pal Jo Cookson mean the pair are familiar, fashion faces in the town.

Says Sarah, ‘When it comes to food, Stef & Didi is a lovely place near us and I love Toast House – Emporio Italia is gorgeous, and very popular – it’s hard to get a table there!’

Jo and her husband live in railways cottages by the station in Ilkley and are part of the community – they’ve been involved in fund-raising to improve the gardens nearby. She and Will are also 80s music fans - they have a radio show with online RamFM.co.uk every Saturday night.

They’d take visitors to Ilkley to the Cow and Calf pub for brilliant countryside views on a clear day.

‘We would take people for a wander by the river, then maybe to Bettys at The Grove for a fat rascal. We’ve got the Lido for the summer, the indie cinema and lots going on – literary festival, beer festival, continental market, indie market every month and a carnival. It’s a vibrant place to be.’


Great British Life: Blssom on The Grove. (C) Kathryn ArmstrongBlssom on The Grove. (C) Kathryn Armstrong

Excellent schools, transport links and the good old Sunday Times’ ‘best places to live’ rating all go towards making Ilkley a super sought-after place to live and to move to. The combination of open space on the doorstep and great amenties draws in families to a town packed with amenities, charm and a culture fix.

Properties in areas like Grove Road are go-tos for families who want space, such as Edwardian homes with their handsome proportions and leafy, established gardens. In smart Ben Rhydding, with its own station, find spacious detached and semi-detached properties.

Not necessarily the place to bag a bargain, Ilkley’s properties are sought-after and you will see plenty nudging the £1m mark and running to £3m on the outskirts of town.

According to Rightmove, Properties in Ilkley had an overall average price of £521,464 over the last year. The majority of sales in Ilkley during the last year were flats, selling for an average price of £283,219. Terraced properties sold for an average of £435,829, with detached properties fetching £904,314. Overall, sold prices in Ilkley over the last year were 9% up on the previous year and 18% up on the 2020 peak of £443,034.