Right on the outskirts of Leeds, on the edge of North Yorkshire, sits one of the most handsome and interesting market towns – it’s time to experience Ilkley.
Sat snugly in the Wharfe Valley, Ilkley is way more than just the gateway to the splendour of the Yorkshire Dales. Surrounded by God’s Own County, this pretty little town is a real looker, with stone buildings, green spaces and a picturesque river. So what’s stopping you? Download the First Bus app, plan your journey in minutes and buy the FirstDay ticket that will get you there, back and anywhere else you need to go in West Yorkshire for just £4.50.
The Box Tree
Head chefs have come and gone at Ilkley’s long-standing Box Tree – it celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2022 – but the standard has never wavered. Half the battle is the gorgeous chocolate box building with its beautiful windows and warren of rooms. The rest is in the service and food. Let charming sommelier Didier Da Costa guide you through the exceptional wine list, then feast on unforgettable dishes like curry-spiced monkfish and Yorkshire duck breast. The Sunday lunch is a rare treat.
The Box Tree, 35-37 Church Street, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 9DR.
Lishman’s of Ilkley
Lishman’s butchers has such a great reputation that it supplies meat to many of the finest restaurants in Yorkshire. Nip in to their Ilkley shop and you’ll see why, with a huge range of cuts to choose from. There are all the classics, but also game in season, cured hams, their own champion sausages, glorious pies and award-winning charcuterie. Their expert butchers will prep your purchases however you want them, and there’s even a hot counter for the most delicious roast pork sandwiches or marmalade-glazed ham butties.
Lishman’s of Ilkley, 25 Leeds Road, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 8DP.
The Cow & Calf Rocks
Also known as the Hangingstone Rocks, the Cow & Calf have become a hugely popular place for outdoor lovers to visit on the outskirts of Ilkley. Consisting of a boulder and an outcrop, they’re a landmark for walkers and a popular obstacle to climb for sensational views over Ilkley Moor and the valley below. Named for their respective sizes, popular legend is that they were formed by a fleeing giant called Rombald – take that with a pinch of salt, but also take in the wonderful vistas of Ilkley and the countryside.
The Cow & Calf Rocks, Hangingstone Road, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 8RW.
Toast House Cafe
Looking for a bite to eat on your visit to Ilkley? This cool and relaxed cafe is the kind of place you nip into for a coffee and cake and, before you know it, you’ve spent three hours wrapped up in its cosy, cocoon-like welcome. There’s great fair-trade coffee and looseleaf teas, while they bake all their own cakes, from an exceptional chocolate cake through to a very special courgette cake. Fill up on porridge, bruschetta and all manner of goodness sat atop perfectly chewy sourdough bread.
Toast House Cafe, 22 Leeds Road, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 8DS.
Betty’s Tea Rooms
A true Yorkshire institution, the Ilkley outpost of Betty’s Tea Rooms is just as grand and serene as their York and Harrogate branches, and there’s no finer window seat to people-watch from in the market town. Treat yourself to an indulgent afternoon cream tea, with all the necessary bells and whistles – a glass of pink Champagne is just the thing – or order up the cake trolley and prepare to drool. The Fat Rascal scone is a legendary treat – why not get a few to take away?
Betty’s Tea Rooms, 32 The Grove, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 9EE.
Dillon’s Premium Fitness Training
This family-run fitness facility – it’s owned by twin brothers Jon and Richard Dillon – is right at the heart of Ilkley, just off The Grove. They’ll put together a bespoke fitness programme exactly for you, using a mixture of the very latest technology and their own expertise to make sure you’re getting the right mix of cardio and strength training. It’s a small but very friendly place, and you can even join group training sessions, or opt for 1-on-1 coaching if that works better for you.
Dillon’s Premium Fitness Training, 25 The Grove, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 8AF.
In the summer months – from May to September – the outdoor lido at Ilkley is an al fresco joy. Serious swimmers, relaxed bathers and families all arrive to take advantage of perhaps the most picturesque pool in all of West Yorkshire – have a soak while you soak up your surrounds. In addition to taking a dip, there are also nearby tennis courts, a fountain and picnic tables, so you can make a real day of it here. There’s an indoor pool too, ideal for when the weather isn’t being quite so kind.
Ilkley Lido, Denton Road, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 0BZ.
La Casita – the Little House of Tapas – makes a virtue of its modesty. It doesn’t bang on about how ‘authentic’ its small Iberian plates are, but quietly goes about the business of serving up delicious food and a great wine choice. Classics such as albondigas (meatballs) and tortilla are all exemplary, but there are some treats on here too. Queen scallops with Serrano ham and charred cauliflower puree is a winner, as is the sensational pork ribeye. Order up a bunch, you’ll devour it all.
La Casita, 3-5 Cunliffe Road, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 9DZ.
Friends of Ham
A more intimate affair than their Leeds city centre HQ, Ilkley’s Friends of Ham still has the same attention to detail on its menu – expect the very best cheese, charcuterie, beer and wine. You can enjoy all those in the backroom with its log burner, ideal for cosying up on a cold one, or out on the terraces. Get yourself ensconced then order some orange wine, moreish smoked almonds and the likes of smoked beer rarebit, sharing boards or – be still our grumbling stomachs – whole baked Tunworth cheeses with sourdough and sides.
Friends of Ham, 8 Wells Road, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 9JD.
Ilkley Toy Museum
Over the last two decades, the Ilkley Toy Museum has been delighting visitors from far and wide with its private collection of toys from through the ages. In doing so, they tell a story for all ages of how games and childish enjoyment have evolved. There are early wooden dolls – ‘Miss Barwick’, from the mid-1700s, tells a fascinating story all on her own – and even Greek dolls, as well as more modern distractions. It’s open on Saturdays and Sundays, and under-5s can experience the pleasures of the past for free.
Ilkley Toy Museum, 2 Whitton Croft Road, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 9HR.
Close to the Toy Museum, Emporio Italia is a reliable, no-frills neighbourhood Italian that ticks all the boxes. The outdoor tables, with festoon lights and greenery, are ideal for outdoor dining, while you can huddle up inside in winter, devouring huge and hearty bowls of pasta. There’s real care and skill in the kitchen, who’ll rustle up timeless gems like linguine di mare or seasonal specials such as a pumpkin and truffle risotto. Service is ebullient – you’ll go home stuffed and happy.
Emporio Italia, 7 Railway Road, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 8HQ.
Chef Joel Monkman is the man in the kitchen at Host, with a pedigree that takes in Ham & Friends as well as Harvey Nichols’ Fourth Floor Cafe. His casual bistro is small but perfectly formed, with a wonderfully honed menu full of mouthwatering dishes such as Korean-glazed roast pork belly or aged Yorkshire beef teriyaki. He serves up a mean burger too, while the must-book Sunday roast includes a BBQ 45-day aged sirloin of beef with a Yorkshire pudding and all the trimmings.
Host, 60 The Grove, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 9PA.
The Cow & Calf Pub
No visit to the Cow & Calf Rocks is complete without a visit to the Cow & Calf pub – especially if you’ve been yomping across the countryside. Slake your thirst and warm your bones within the confines of a watering hole that’s all wooden beams, crackling fire and hearty ales. It’s four-legged friendly, so bring your pooch along to watch you sup a beer and tuck into stone-baked pizza, chicken and pancetta pie or a rib-sticking casserole that’ll heat you up for further outdoor adventures.
The Cow & Calf, Hangingstone Road, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 8BT.
Ilkley Moor Vaults
The Taps, as the Ilkley Moor Vaults are also known, occupies a historic building dating back to the 19th century, and there’s character galore inside. The food is reliably good – a lush fish pie, Indian-spiced fish and chips and a vast meat-free offering – and their famous Sunday roasts are always packed, so make sure you book if you plan on doing that (hint – you should). It’s also great for a few casual drinks, with a huge gin range, guest ales and a lovely outdoor area for when the sun is out.
Ilkley Moor Vaults, Stockeld Road, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 9HD.
King’s Hall & Winter Garden
This grand theatre, with its adjacent glass-roofed Winter Garden – is a hub for social events, shows and intimate nights in Ilkley, with a diverse calendar that means there’s never a dull moment for culture vultures. One night may see chat-show legend Michael Parkinson sharing his reminiscences, the next Italian prog-rockers Goblin playing their score to Suspiria live to accompany a screening. Comedy, music, children’s shows, orchestras, Ilkley Literature Festival – it’s all going on here.
King’s Hall & Winter Garden, Station Road, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 8HB.
The Flying Duck
When it comes to snug pubs, The Flying Duck takes some beating. An old farmhouse, built in 1709 and Grade II-listed, it’s now a Wharfedale Brewery pub, all stone floors and walls, oak beams keeping the ceiling up and a log fire that warms the body and spirit. Wharfedale’s highly suppable cask ales line the bar – they’ve travelled just yards from where they were brewed – along with guests, and there are pizzas, hot dogs and burgers line your stomach. In other words, it’s the perfect pub.
The Flying Duck, 16 Church Street, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 9DR.
Cask ales and good grub – the formula isn’t complicated at Bar T’at. With rooms both up and downstairs, you can find a corner here to while away some time in, with beers from Ilkley Brewery and Timothy Taylor’s always on the bar, along with a changing guard of guest ales. The pub grub is a cut above too, with classics like chilli-loaded nachos accompanied on the menu by Goan-spiced grilled chicken flatbread. It’s always busy, always buzzing, and the Sunday roasts aren’t to be missed.
Bar T’at, 7 Cunliffe Road, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 9DZ.
The Ilkley Cow
In search of the perfect steak in Ilkley? Look no further than The Ilkley Cow if you’re a bovine botherer. You can go all-beef, starting with steak tartare and then moving on to your choice of sirloin, rib eye or fillet, in a variety of cuts. Each will be cooked to your asking with sauces like chimichurri, smoked garlic hollandaise and bone marrow gravy. There’s plenty more on the menu, from veggie options to baby back ribs, but weekend carnivores should make a beeline for the Sunday roast.
The Ilkley Cow, 1-2 New Brook Street, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 8DQ.
This popular independent restaurant turns local ingredients into a menu of dishes inspired by the cuisine of Portugal – with a few other stops in Med along the way – all served in a simple but inviting dining room. A sprinkle of France, a soupçon of Italy and a dish or two that would do well in Lisbon are on the menu, with highlights such as pan-fried hake with braised gem lettuce and clams with chorizo. Save room for the signature dessert, the unmissable Portuguese tart, accompanied with a glass of port.
Quinta, 10 Wells Road, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 9JD.
You don’t have to own a bike to head to The Commute, but it certainly helps. This is a hub for all things two-wheeled, as well as a cracking cafe in its own right. They have a cycle workshop on site, with loads of bike parking outside, making this a great pitstop to refuel if you’re powering through the Yorkshire Dales on your trusty wheels. Coffee, pastries and treats are all delicious, with homemade sausage rolls and soups to warm you up before you get back on the saddle.
The Commute, 20 Leeds Road, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 8DS.
The Grove Bookshop
Curving around a corner of The Grove in Ilkley, this bookshop is a bibliophile’s dream. You can nip in for the latest Richard Osman or support local writers – it’s a shop with everything, big names or indie titles. Being independent lets them stock whatever they want, so as well as the best sellers and classics you’ll find some lesser-known gems. There’s a strong world travel section and regular readings and events, so you can pop along and meet your favourite author in the flesh.
The Grove Bookshop, 10 The Grove, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 9EG.
They take the number 39 seriously here. They’re not just at number 39, their classic menu has 39 items on it too. It’s a dog-friendly place, proudly independent, with spectacular in-house bakes that lure you in off the street. Grab a cafe and a cake, or opt for all-day brunch gems such as the 39 Benedict on their house crumpet, bacon pancakes or indulgent creamy truffle mushrooms. Sandwiches are a cut above too, from 8-hour slow-roasted pork shoulder with crackling crumb to a maple-glazed hotdog.
Thirty Nine, 39 The Grove, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 9NJ.
The influence for Brooks’ brilliant Asian tapas is drawn from across Southeast Asia, although there’s a heady dose of Sri Lanka on the menu. It spreads across three floors, which speaks to its popularity, people drawn from far and wide for Sri Lankan devilled beef, spicy liver badum and sea bass fillet marinated in curry paste and wrapped in a banana leaf. There’s plenty on the menu for vegetarians and vegans, and prices are so keen you’ll be tempted to stuff yourself. Do so, but save room for sensational desserts such as Pracida’s sherry fruit cake.
Brooks, 26 Brook Street, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 8DE.
The Gin Lounge
The Gin Lounge is everything a fan of mother’s ruin could ever want. It’s a distinctly grown-up affair – it’s strictly for the over-25s – and the range of gins is eye-watering. Over 200 are on offer, from well-known favourites to more obscure brands sourced from all over the world. Local brands such as Masons and Yorkshire Dales are served with the very best mixers, and the regular live music keeps things buzzing. Don’t feel like leaving? There are plush rooms you can hire for the night.
The Gin Lounge, 4 Cowpasture Road, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 8SR.
The table to book at Piccolino is in the rooftop terrace. Up there, the natural light and views over Ilkley will enhance the taste of what is already some really solid Italian fare. If you’re mob handed, order the Antipasti di Montagna, a generous sharing platter of meats, cheeses and breads, or sink your teeth into arancini stuffed with mozzarella and pork cheek guanciale. Pasta classics are reliable, pizzas are crowd-pleasing, steaks are well sourced and the specials board always holds a treat or two.
Piccolino, 31-33 Brook Street, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 8AE.
The Ilkley Cinema is small but perfectly formed, a two-screen delight that has comfortable seats – with cushions and even footstools – that gives it a front-room feel. It still shows the very latest movies, although it’s tailor-made for date nights as you can order food and drinks to be delivered to your seat, and there’s a bar so you can take your drinks in with you. There are events aplenty, as well as special screenings such as a kid’s club, parent and baby and ‘silver screenings’ for over-60s.
Ilkley Cinema, 46A Leeds Road, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 8DP.
The Ticket Office
Station-based pubs are often to be avoided, but that’s definitely not the case at The Ticket Office. Step out of Ilkley Station and it’s a great social hub that does a nice line in ales, wines, cocktails and grub. In summer, the outdoor seating comes into its own – it’s one of the best places to people watch in the whole town. With mates? Order up a cocktail tree which you’ll soon cut down to size, along with delish small plates such as Japanese fried chicken bao, wagyu beef sliders and truffle parmesan chips.
The Ticket Office, 11 Station Plaza, Station Road, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 8HF.
Get the bus to Ilkley from just £2
In the midst of a cost of living crisis, we’re all looking for ways to save money, so why not swap the car for the bus? The trip to Ilkley could be cheaper than you think – and if you’re wondering what bus to catch, it’s the X84 from Leeds city centre.
- Get a FirstSingle ticket to use on any First Bus in West Yorkshire for £2 on the app
- Pick up a FirstDay for £4.50 and get unlimited travel across West Yorkshire
- Buy tickets and plan your journey on-the-go with the First Bus app