Ilkley is primed for walks with inbuilt pizzazz. A paradise of sorts when it comes to routes and rummaging through ancient architectural treasures and well-kept, cultivated outland, the local terrain is made for walkers, be it a tame, relaxed stroll in-and-out of the cultural hot-spots or a well-performed hike in some of the most resplendent and serene environments on offer.
What’s notable about the budding walking territories is that each offers much to observe. Be it valuable archaeological finds, live performances, curated exhibitions, community-derived productions, on-stage entertainment, ongoing fairs or the natural landscape, the topography of the walkers eye here is second-to-none. Putting the focus on viewing, and on seeing what’s taking place in the surroundings, be it immediate or historical, really emphasises what’s special about the space and its property, enforcing a love of panorama, and appreciation for new-found outlooks and vista.
Nowhere is this more plainly done than via Saltaire Boat Trip. Tranquil and refined, a drift down this cornered-off channel offers finesse and refinement without the la-di-da. The set-up is casual enough to allow for no booking, with the on-board atmosphere aiming toward collectedness and composure. Combined with a walk along the canal edge, the event really transforms the surroundings anew, evolving the scene into one of aplomb, poise and well-earnt self-possession.
Construction likewise takes a well-earnt focus among the top walks of the area. Kings Hall and Winter Gardens, Yeadon Town Hall and Ilkley Manor House all offer notable takes on the standing monuments of Ilkley’s past, as well as unique grounds on which to ramble. A walk on these historic sites is a walk through today’s foliage and greenery with a reminder of the ways the very same ground has been used and trailed through in various occasions and moments in the past. Distinct to the venues, too, is their vivid statement. The buildings are colossal, and no walk would be complete without a visit to their innermost corners, prominently marked with artefacts and collected objects. Salts Mill, on the other hand, uses its history as a platform to bounce off, transforming it into a contemporary space showcasing visual art, including work by the prominent David Hockney. A walk here is a walk aided by the beauty of visual art, as well as the beauty of nature, and the remains of time gone by.
Walking through, on, in or across any of these monumental heirlooms, enclosures or natural terra firma, reinstates the grandness of opening yourself up to the scope of space, and the invaluable sanctimony of being alert to the objects, essence and atmosphere you might, very easily, come across.
Here are our picks
Kings Hall and Winter Gardens, Station Road, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 8HB - Visit now
Kings Hall and Winter Gardens is located at the centre of Ilkley and hosts a variety of performative events which pull-in vast and sundry crowds on the regular. The hall itself is likewise performative; traditional and grand, entrance to it is impressive, with black-framed arched windows fronting the opening, pillared columns and corrugated iron detail. Inside, a classic theatre, complete with surrounding balcony features, holds family shows, concerts, performing arts events and fairs. Typically hired for private parties, including weddings, the scenic property is more than mildly striking, posing as an aesthetic glimpse into a historic and predominant architectural feature. The Winter Garden, on the adjacent glass roof, is a hidden sanctuary, paved with serenity and concealed space. Often decorated with bunting, fairy lights, glamour and floral arrangements, the location is ideal for spritzing up a party, evening outing or occasion.
Salts Mill, Victoria Rd, Saltaire, Ilkley, BD18 3LA - Visit now
Salts Mill is a former textile mill turned to an art gallery, shopping centre and restaurant complex. The roots of the mill lie in bravado. Working conditions, at its time of construction, in 1853, were poor, and this mill was constructed with a view to providing a better, cleaner and kinder labour environment. When completed, the mill was the largest industrial building in the world by floor area. Renovation began in 1986, when the mill was sold, and the transformation brought it modern, inviting, chic systematics, well-suited to contemporary amenities. Now, the mill combines an array of leisurely activities, utilising its space fully to accommodate to vying entertainment sectors. The visual arts are especially mainlined. David Hockney, a local to the area, is proudly recognised, with many of his paintings on display at the mill. Attractive and well-curated, the site is ideal for a leisurely wander, providing room and scope enough to spend a good chunk of time among its splendour and quirky newness.
Yeadon Town Hall, High Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS19 7PP - Visit now
Yeadon Town Hall is a 560 capacity theatre and music venue producing a rolling programme of performative and live events. It’s uses are varied. School rooms, a library, an archive, a concert hall, a theatre, a community space and meetings rooms represent just some of the ways the inside space has been transformed in the past. Built to cater to exactly this, the building represents a stately and uniform blank canvas onto which organisations can project their ideas and creative events. The versatility of the venue is made full use of, with the programme of running times and performances typically full. Taking time-out and coming together as a community are truly at the heart of what the building and the occasions which take place within it do. Functioning as a community market and town hall tavern, the site is exemplary for taking a slow, mild amble, providing range and activity enough to get as involved as you’d like. Situated at the heart of Airebrough, the space is ideal for visiting after a wander around the local town, or for milling in itself, resplendent and characterful as it is.
Ilkley Manor House, Castle Yard, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 9DT - Visit now
Ilkley Manor House is a venue like no other in its majestic vision and appearance. Ornate, picturesque and traditional at once, the building is the cherub of event-locations, used commonly for weddings and other personal ceremonies. The vision of the site is to create an ambitious heritage, and it is the latter of these which truly performs visually. The architecture is beautiful. Brown-tone brickwork, faded over time, sits in a posture that takes on the surrounding greenery, which drops in to create a myriad of shadow and atmosphere that only encourages the inherent romantic aspects. The courtyard is a spectacle, providing ample space to take in the light, location and comely scenery. Inside, rooms are many and delightful, with several showing exposed beams and brickwork which elaborates on the coalescence of outside with in. Walking here is a treat, with the option to stroll across the parkland, toward Riverside Gardens, or to explore the artefacts kept and curated on-site, including a diverse and celebrated exhibition of standout Roman artefacts.
Saltaire Trip Boat, Victoria Rd, Saltaire, Shipley, BD18 3LA - Visit now
Saltaire Boat Trip offers a unique and serene way of exploring the canal, switching-up the perspective to offer new ways of seeing the greenery, heritage and feature-points along it. With no need to book and at a price-point of £4 per person, its easy to slip into the tranquil and placid harbour of being on-board. Combined with a walk further along the waterway, lined with sturdy pathway and accessible route, the half-an-hour float provides an accessible and gentle escape from the usual flow, signposting satisfying scenery and an easy-on-the-eye view. From spring to summer the boat trips run daily, posing the opportunity to sidle into a refreshing and relaxing flow of leisure and respite. The advantage of the location is that multiple easily-navigated walking routes span out from it, providing the chance to pre-plan a suitable route and make a full, scenic day of it.