Skipton, the southern gateway to the Dales grew wealthy as a trading centre for sheep and wool. A small and friendly town with nostalgic cobbled side streets, it began life when the owners of Skipton Castle acquired a market charter in 1204 and never looked back.
The town still keeps its essentially medieval layout dominated by the magnificent castle, parish church, and traditional high street market place with radiating alleys and covered passages between what were originally narrow landholdings known as tofts and crofts. Today these are busy pedestrian areas packed with fascinating shops and boutiques, inns and courtyards.
A bustling centre
Today, the four times weekly market is a tourist destination in itself. The town also now boasts many pubs, cafés and shops along with a vibrant night life and some world-famous festivals such as Yarndale and the Skipton Puppet Festival. Check out the Welcome to Skipton website for details of what's on offer and the types of visitor accommodation available.
In the eighteenth century, the Leed-Liverpool Canal was built right through the heart of the town and today the towpath offers easy walking routes in and out of the town. Canal boats can be hired for day trips. On the May Bank Holiday, Waterways Festival brings the town's canal basin to colourful life.
History and heritage
Skipton Castle, was carefully located in the Aire Gap between the Craven limestone dales to the north and the gritstone moors to the south, and was built in the late eleventh century. It is one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in the country, giving excellent views over the town and Skipton Woods. A gentle and picturesque short walk along the canal towpath takes you from the heart of Skipton, under the castle cliffs and into these delightful woodlands.
The town also boasts the outstanding Craven Museum located in the Town Hall with a variety of exhibits relating to many aspects of Dales life, but most notably the lead mining industry. It is also home to a rare Shakespeare First Folio; dating back to 1623 there are only 230 copies in the world and the Craven Museum copy is one of only four First Folios on permanent display in the world.
There is an excellent network of trains centred on Skipton, with connections to Leeds and Bradford including the celebrated Settle-Carlisle line and the equally scenic Leeds-Skipton-Morecambe line which goes through Giggleswick and Clapham. The main railway station is located along Broughton Road.
There are regular bus services to and from Leeds, Bradford, Manchester, Preston, as well as Settle, Kirkby Lonsdale, Ilkley and Grassington. Visitors by car will find several car parks around the town including the Town Centre car park behind the Town Hall which has public toilets with a Radar key accessible toilet (BD23 1ED). Toilets are also available in the bus station. Maps of the town can be found on the Welcome to Skipton website
For railway enthusiasts
Just a bike or bus ride away from Skipton is the nostalgic Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway, where on most weekends and during holiday periods you can ride in a 1950s coach behind a sturdy, puffing steam locomotive past beautifully preserved or even rebuilt stations. At the end of the line, an easy walk awaits you from Bolton Abbey Station to Bolton Priory a popular beauty spot.