Things to Do in Ilkley: Ancient Stones to Riverside Strolls

9 months ago   •   11 min read

By More Yorkshire
Table of contents

Things To Do In Ilkley

Ilkley offers a delightful mix of natural beauty, history, and unique attractions for all ages. With its idyllic surroundings and welcoming atmosphere, there are plent of things to do in Ilkley.

As you stroll through Ilkley's streets, you'll discover a wealth of independent shops, cosy cafés, and award-winning restaurants that cater to a variety of tastes.

For those passionate about history and culture, Ilkley boasts impressive landmarks such as the ancient Ilkley Moor and the elegant Victorian architecture that can be found throughout the town.

Outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty of opportunities for adventure, whether it's hiking, cycling, or picnicking in one of Ilkley's many parks and green spaces.

Take a refreshing dip in the famous Ilkley Lido, a Grade II listed outdoor pool, or immerse yourself in the local arts scene by attending a concert or show in town.

Whatever your interests, Ilkley promises a memorable experience in a serene setting.

Ilkley Moor

Ilkley Moor, located in West Yorkshire, offers a wide range of enjoyable outdoor activities and astonishing natural scenery.

Outdoor Activities

Whether you're an avid hiker or a casual walker, Ilkley Moor offers numerous trails to suit your preferences.

You can embark on a picturesque walk along the Dales Way or take the shorter, 30-minute route to White Wells, an 18th-century cottage and plunge pool perched on the edge of the Moor.

You'll find many other interesting destinations on your walks too, such as the intriguing Swastika Stone on Woodhouse Crag, and the Twelve Apostles Stone Circle, a captivating cultural site.

Additionally, the Ilkley Crags are great for rock climbers seeking a challenge.

Nature and Scenery

The Moor is not only known for its scenic landscapes but also its diverse wildlife. As a Site of Special Scientific Interest, Ilkley Moor provides an ideal habitat for ground-nesting birds, making it an excellent spot for birdwatching.

From dramatic valleys and expansive moorlands, Ilkley Moor's breathtaking natural beauty is evident in every direction.

Be sure to visit Stanza Stone Beck, a small waterfall tucked away on the moor, which will no doubt leave a lasting impression.

When you visit Ilkley Moor, remember to keep the legendary Yorkshire anthem, On Ilkley Moor baht 'at, in mind as you explore the moorlands and everything this enchanting area has to offer.

Stanza Stones

Image Source:

If you're looking for things to do in Ilkley that are "different" and will provide you with some great stories?

The Stanza Stones are a perfect fit!

The Stanza Stones are a collection of 6 poems written by Simon Armitage then carved into natural rocks and stones, high in the penines, by Pip Hall.

Simon was inspired by the language and landscape of the Pennine Watershed, and was commissioned by Ilkley Literature Festival to create a permanent ‘Poetry Trail’ from Armitage’s home town of Marsden to the Festival’s base in Ilkley.

The stones are located on the watershed that borders Lancashire and Yorkshire high in the Pennines spanning a 47 mile stretch north and south of the M62 motorway.

Historical Sites

Ilkley has plenty to offer in terms of historical sites, with a rich past that dates back to Roman times. In this section, you'll find information on the Manor House, a Roman Fort, and various stunning architectural buildings in the area.

Manor House

The Ilkley Manor House is a significant landmark and an essential site for history buffs visiting the town.

This former medieval manor is now a museum, showcasing artefacts and displays that highlight the area's fascinating history.

As you explore the Manor House, you'll be able to appreciate its stunning architecture and take a step back in time while taking in the atmospheres of the rooms.

Roman Fort

Ilkley boasts a well-preserved Roman Fort called Olicana, which once served as an important outpost in the Roman Empire.

Located at the edge of Ilkley Moor, the fort is a remarkable remnant of this ancient era. Through the fort's ruins, you can get a sense of its past importance in defending the region and maintaining order across the Empire.

Architectural Buildings

While strolling through Ilkley, marvel at the numerous architectural gems that showcase its rich history.

Many of these buildings feature stained glass windows, a testament to the craftsmanship and skill of the artisans who created them.

Some notable examples include the Victorian-era All Saints Parish Church and The Grove, where you can admire grand Victorian houses lining the streets.

In summary, Ilkley is a town steeped in history, evident in its well-preserved Manor House, Roman Fort, and remarkable architectural buildings.

Entertainment and Leisure

Kings Hall and Winter Gardens – Image Source:

Playhouse Theatre

At the heart of Ilkley's cultural scene, you can find the Ilkley Playhouse, offering a wide range of exciting performances that cater to diverse tastes. Whether you're a fan of captivating plays, thought-provoking dramas, or light-hearted comedies, there's something to suit your taste. As a popular local venue, you'll not only enjoy the shows themselves but also the vibrant atmosphere and the sense of community.


For movie lovers, Ilkley offers plenty of opportunities to catch the latest blockbusters on the big screen. While there isn't a dedicated cinema in the town, the nearby cities of Leeds and Bradford house multiple cinemas to choose from. Alternatively, you can always attend special screenings and events in the area, such as the Ilkley Film Festival, to enjoy a unique cinema experience.

Kings Hall and Winter Gardens

The King's Hall and Winter Gardens is another fantastic venue in Ilkley, hosting a diverse range of events. From engaging theatre productions and live music performances to comedy shows and local festivals, the possibilities are endless. This historic location not only offers a splendid setting but also ensures an unforgettable experience for audiences.

Golf Club

For those seeking outdoor pursuits, the Ilkley Golf Club offers a challenging and outstanding golf course to test your skills. The well-manicured greens make it an ideal location for spending a leisurely day outdoors. Whether you're an experienced golfer or a beginner looking for a new hobby, you'll find the course both enjoyable and welcoming.

Food and Drink Spots

Ilkley is a delightful town with a wide selection of places for you to enjoy food and drinks. In this section, we will cover some popular spots for pubs and bars, restaurants and cafes, as well as beer and wine.

Pubs and Bars

When visiting Ilkley, you will find a variety of pubs and bars that cater to different preferences. For those who appreciate a good cask ale or craft beer, Discover Ilkley has a list of popular bars, including some that offer a fantastic selection of gin and wine. Bar T'at is a notable establishment with a frequently changing selection of ales and premium beers, like Timothy Taylor's and the Ilkley Brewery.

Restaurants and Cafes

Ilkley boasts an array of restaurants and cafes for every palate. If you're craving Italian cuisine, both Emporio Italia and Pranzo Italian Ilkley come highly recommended, offering delicious risotto, lasagna, and Sicilian dishes.

For a fine dining experience, consider a visit to The Box Tree, an award-winning restaurant that has been part of Ilkley's dining scene since 1962. This establishment is known for its tasting menu, perfect for a celebratory meal.

Don't forget to explore the many delightful cafes and tearooms in the town, where you can enjoy a leisurely lunch or an afternoon tea.

Beer and Wine

In addition to the pubs and bars, Ilkley also offers options for those looking to purchase beer and wine to enjoy at home or as a gift. Martinez Wines is an independent wine retailer located in the town centre offering a curated selection of fine wines for your consideration.

So, whether you're a fan of beer, wine, or looking for somewhere to enjoy a lovely meal, Ilkley has plenty of enticing options to choose from for an outstanding culinary experience.

Shopping in Ilkley

Ilkley is an attractive town that offers a unique and upmarket shopping experience. With a range of distinctive retail outlets primarily based around The Grove, Brook Street, and Leeds Road, you will find everything you need to make your shopping trip a memorable one.

Toy Shopping

For those with an interest in toys, Ilkley has something special in store. With a variety of shops catering to various interests, you can easily find a wide selection of dolls, dolls houses, and other toys that will delight both children and collectors alike. From traditional wooden toys to the latest in electronic gadgets, the toy shops in Ilkley cater to diverse tastes and budgets.

Swimming Pools

Image Source:

If you're looking for a refreshing dip in Ilkley, the Ilkley Lido is the perfect spot. This indoor & outdoor pool offers a fantastic view of Ilkley Moor and provides an ideal way to cool off on a warm day. This Grade II listed pool has a seaside atmosphere, and is open from May to September.

The pool complex features a 25m x 11m indoor pool along with an outdoor pool. The indoor pool area also has spectator accommodation, making it a great place to relax and watch others swim. When it comes to seating, you can comfortably enjoy a picnic in the tranquil setting surrounding the outdoor pool. Bring your own picnic or dine in the café which operates during summer months.

Remember to consider the weather when planning your visit to the outdoor pool. On colder days, you might want to wear a wetsuit for added warmth and protection. Wetsuits are not only advantageous for keeping you warm, but also provide buoyancy and help improve your swimming skills.

Your visit to the Ilkley Lido offers a perfect balance of relaxation and fun in the great outdoors. So next time you're in Ilkley, don't miss the chance to dive into the refreshing waters of this historic outdoor pool.

Walking Tours

When visiting Ilkley, you can immerse yourself in the town's natural charm and historical surroundings by taking one of the local walking tours. These walking tours provide a great way for you to explore various aspects of Ilkley's rich heritage.

One popular option is to explore the town through historical and heritage walks. There are several walking tours in Ilkley that focus on the town's history and cultural sites. You'll have the opportunity to uncover fascinating stories about the area's past while venturing through this charming Yorkshire town.

Another highlight of Ilkley's walking tours is the scenic Dales Way. This long-distance footpath stretches over 80 miles from Ilkley to Bowness-on-Windermere in the Lake District.

While walking along the Dales Way, you'll pass through breathtaking landscapes, traditional villages, and rolling hills. It's a great way to appreciate the delightful countryside while getting a taste of Yorkshire's rural charm.

If you prefer a shorter walk, consider exploring the nearby Ilkley Moor with its fascinating prehistory trail. This roughly four-mile route takes you past ancient cup marks and the Twelve Apostles Neolithic stone circle, offering a unique glimpse into the area's ancient heritage.

Taking part in a walking tour in Ilkley not only keeps you active but also offers you the chance to experience the town's rich historical and cultural offerings. Whether you're interested in heritage walks, exploring the Dales Way, or delving into the prehistory of Ilkley Moor, there's something for everyone to enjoy.

Visitor Reviews

TripAdvisor Reviews

When planning your visit to Ilkley, it's always helpful to check out the TripAdvisor reviews for the most popular attractions in the area. On TripAdvisor, users share their experiences, ratings, and photos, helping you to make the best choices for your trip.

TripAdvisor enables you to see user preferences and ratings for various activities and attractions. For example, if you're interested in outdoor activities, the Ilkley Moor is highly rated by users offering fabulous views and hiking trails. In addition, the Ilkley Manor House, a historical landmark, has also received positive reviews from TripAdvisor users for its cultural significance.

Exclusive TripAdvisor data allows you to see the popularity of various attractions and user preferences to help you decide what to include in your itinerary. You can quickly find the most popular attractions, tours and day trips, such as:

  • 1-Hour Public Cruise, with audio guides from £9.50 per adult
  • Day Boat Hire, self-guided tours from £169.56 per adult
  • Afternoon Tea Cruise in North Yorkshire, audio guides from £27.50 per adult

In addition to individual reviews, TripAdvisor provides user-submitted photos. These images can give you a clearer idea of what to expect from the attractions, help you visualise your visit, and make better-informed decisions.

Keep in mind that every traveller's experience and preferences might differ, so it's important to read through multiple reviews to get a well-rounded understanding of what to expect.

Taking advantage of TripAdvisor's wealth of user-generated content can make your visit to Ilkley even more rewarding. Use this resource to ensure you make the most of your time in this charming West Yorkshire town.

Things To Do Near Ilkley

Image Source:

Staveley and Bowness-on-Windermere

While visiting Ilkley, you may also want to explore nearby areas such as Staveley and Bowness-on-Windermere. Both of these charming villages offer a range of attractions and activities to suit all age groups.

Staveley, a quiet village, is known for its thriving arts scene, with local studios and workshops, such as Mrs Dutton's Wondrous Workshops, offering unique arts and crafts experiences. On the other hand, Bowness-on-Windermere, situated along the banks of the stunning Lake Windermere, provides countless opportunities for water-based activities such as sailing, fishing, and boat tours.

Victorian Period

Ilkley's history is steeped in Victorian tradition, which is evident in the town's splendid architecture. During your visit, take a leisurely stroll around the town to discover beautiful Victorian buildings and enjoy the serene atmosphere. The town's Victorian legacy can also be felt in some local events and festivals held throughout the year, which often include traditional performances and activities.

War Memorials

The area is home to several poignant war memorials. Taking the time to pay your respects at these sites can provide a deeper understanding of the sacrifices made by local people throughout history, particularly during World Wars I and II. These memorials serve as a testament to the strength and resilience of the communities that once stood here.


Museum enthusiasts will not be disappointed in Ilkley, as the town features a variety of interesting museums. Among them, the Ilkley Toy Museum boasts an impressive collection of vintage toys from various eras, while the Manor House Museum offers insight into the region's local history. For a larger selection of museums, nearby cities such as Bradford and Saltaire offer plenty to explore and discover.


In Ilkley, you have a variety of things to do that cater to history and culture enthusiasts, nature lovers, and adventure seekers alike. From exploring the charming town to venturing into the beautiful Yorkshire countryside, there is no shortage of activities to fill your itinerary.

One of the most iconic places to visit in Ilkley is White Wells, an 18th-century spa bath situated in the moorlands. Here, you can take a refreshing dip in the plunge pool and enjoy the outstanding views. Close to White Wells, you'll find the famous Ilkley Moor, which offers various walking and hiking opportunities.

If you're keen on long hikes, the Dales Way starts by the River Wharfe in Ilkley and is a popular choice for avid walkers. Stretching 79 miles and taking approximately 5-7 days to complete, this long-distance walking trail offers breathtaking scenery and memorable experiences.

When you want to unwind, treat yourself to a cinematic experience at the Ilkley Cinema or indulge in a gourmet meal at The Box Tree Restaurant, which holds two Michelin stars. Whether you prefer a casual afternoon tea or a memorable fine-dining affair, Ilkley has something to suit your tastes.

With so much to offer, Ilkley makes for a perfect getaway location, providing a blend of culture, adventure, and tranquillity for you to explore and enjoy.

Spread the word

Keep reading