The history of Ilkley

Since the findings of carvings in rock in the local area, historians believe that Ilkley has been inhabited since the early Bronze age. The remains of a Roman Fort occupy a site near the town centre believed to be from 79AD.

The Domesday book shows the 1st Baron Percy as the first landowner in Ilkley. About a century later, the Middleton family acquired the land but lost the majority of it to land deals and mortgage repossessions during the early 19th century, around the time Ilkley was becoming a fashionable spa town.

A hydropathic establishment was built in Wheatley, about a mile to the east of the town and was said to have been visited by Charles Darwin upon the publishing of his book On the Origin of species. Wheatley was re-named Ben Rhydding after the Hydro that once stood there, but a nod to its history given in the name of a public house close to Ben Rhydding Methodist Church.

Ilkley today

Ilkley is a charming spa town which stands in the shadow of Ilkley Moor and the famous Cow and Calf rocks. Although on the edge of the moors, transport links are good as it lies on the A65. There is a good electrified rail link in to Leeds with the nearest stations being Ilkley & Ben Rhydding. A Bus Link can take residents to various places around Yorkshire, and for those travelling further afield, to Leeds Bradford International Airport, around 30 minutes away in Yeadon.

Residents will find a number of culinary delights in Ilkley, as it is home of the world famous Betty’s Tea Room and the Michelin starred Box Tree restaurant, where Marco Pierre White trained.

For those looking for culture and history, The Manor House contains artefacts from the Roman Fort and documents Ilkley’s rise through Victorian times. Ilkley Toy Museum contains a delightful selection of toys dating back to 350BC. The annual Ilkley Literary Festival takes place in the town yearly and it was a location for the 2003 film, Calendar Girls.

Today, the town is famous for cycling, having formed part of the 2014 Tour de France, with the Cote de Cow & Calf forming a formidable climb for the Riders. The Tour de Yorkshire regularly passes through Ilkley with the 2018 Stage 2 finish being at the Cow & Calf Rocks, the first time the competition has had a summit finish.

Things to consider when buying a Property in Ilkley

Whilst not exhaustive, the below information indicates what you should look out for when purchasing property in or around Ilkley.

Conservation Area

Due to its historical significance, some properties in the area are likely to fall within a conservation area, which has been under review in recent years.

Conservation areas are designed to protect areas of significant historical value, from any harmful change, encouraging good quality design in new developments. Any buildings within conservation areas are protected from unauthorised demolition. New development also has to respond to the historic settings. Trees are also protected in conservation areas.

Planning permission is required for certain external works to a house within a conversation area, which wouldn’t normally need planning permission elsewhere.

Conservation areas mean extra care, planning controls and considerations if you wish to extend or change your property or garden. This is in keeping with the original historic architectural settings.

Conservation area restrictions will affect any owners who are seeking to work on the outside of their home or garden. The local planning authority is the organisation to seek if you wish to change or adapt your home in a conservation area.  They will explain what permissions will be needed.

Flood Risk

The River Wharfe which ruins through the town, whilst picturesque, can cause some problems, with certain properties being categorised as being in a High Flood Risk area.

We would strongly recommend that a good quality, reliable Environmental Search is carried out when purchasing in this area.

Particular attention should be paid to the Property Information Form and what the seller has had to say about flooding. This form also gives information on buildings insurance claims, which may have been made as a result of a flood.

Our property expert, Ashley Mallett, has told us what he loves about Ilkley:

I spent a lot of my childhood in the Peak District, and it’s the only area in West Yorkshire I’ve found that comes close to that atmosphere. It’s a quintessential, quaint, country feel area. The locals are extremely friendly and you’re never more than a smile away from a warm welcome, tea and biscuits.

There are some very high end shops and boutiques. You’re close enough to Leeds, Harrogate and York to commute, but it really does feel like you’re breathing fresh air here. The iconic Cow & Calf Rocks and the stunning moorland scenery are both relaxing features.

If you require any more information regarding property advice, call 01904 917 982 or email Ashley Mallet at

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