Hebden Bridge has a near-embarrassing number of accolades to its name. Winner of best Small Market Town at the Great British High Street Awards in 2016 by a record-breaking number of votes, Hebden Bridge is home to a proud and tightly-knit community of people, who champion their garlanded market, celebrated Trades Club and historic Picture House cinema – but also come to the aid of the town’s fiercely independent businesses in a crisis. This is a place that has seen off infiltration from major corporations and chains, and has bounced back from devastating flooding on Boxing Day, 2015. Name-checked in the National Geographic’s ‘Cool List 2019’, Hebden Bridge is home to the Hebden Bridge Arts festival and the annual Handmade Parade, a mecca for walkers and cyclists with an impressive roster of good cafés, restaurants, bars and pubs.
The town takes its name from an ancient packhorse bridge, built in 1510, which still bears old inscriptions recording repairs over the years. Some of Hebden Bridge’s houses and shops are built onto the steep, wooded hillsides of the Calder Valley – occasionally opening out onto a different street at the bottom than they do on the opposite side at the top – with the Rochdale Canal and River Calder coursing through the centre of town. A great jumping off point for exploring the surrounding countryside with Hebden Bridge Cruises, the town is also within striking distance of National Trust site Hardcastle Crags, Stoodley Pike and the moors, the birthplace of Ted Hughes at Mytholmroyd and Sylvia Plath’s grave at Heptonstall.
Now known for its creative spirit, independent shops and excellent bars and restaurants, Hebden Bridge’s fortunes were first forged by the textiles industry – the Fustian Knife sculpture in St George’s Square a nod to the hard-wearing cloth made locally. The decline of this industry led to the influx of young people, environmentalists and hippies looking for a closer connection with nature in the 1970s – a shift that came to shape the town Hebden Bridge is today, with its idealism, activism, organic shops and workers’ cooperatives. Read on for our guide to the very best cultural attractions, places to eat and drink, shop and stay here.