On Ilkley Moor Baht’at

I spent the afternoon yesterday in Ilkley, the former spa town set in the Yorkshire Dales. It’s a picturesque place with what appear to be rather well-healed residents and visitors, being home to the Michelin-starred Box Tree restaurant, many boutiques and one of ‘Bettys‘ team rooms, synonymous with Yorkshire. It also features in the 2003 Calendar Girls movie (another location from the film featured on the blog a few weeks ago).

We had intended to visit the town’s two museums, the Manor House and the Toy Museum, but of course this being a Monday the museums were closed. We had no choice then but to visit the town’s Tourist Information Office and pick up the Ilkley walking guide, which has one or two walks centred around the town but mostly concentrates on the strenuous hikes up on to Ilkley Moor which sits above it. Setting off, the first thing that we found was the Darwin Gardens, dedicated to Charles Darwin as he lived here while he was writing ‘The Origin of Species’. The gardens feature the Millennium Maze, as well as some charming sheep sculptures crafted out of bundles of twigs. According to the locals these objects have been in situ for several years now and probably give an indication of how genteel Ilkley actually is – in most other places I imagine they would have been burned to the ground ages ago!

Leaving the gardens behind we started the very steep walk up to the Ilkley Crags that loom over the town. When we finally reached the top of the hillside it was a strange site, as if a giant in ages past had lost its temper, because the whole hillside was strewn with piles of huge boulders. After looking around we descended a short way down to the quarry and ‘cow and calf’ rocks, and made an interesting discovery – for centuries now, people who have made the ascent up onto the moor have left their mark behind in the form of deeply scored names and dates on the rocks going back two hundred years or more.

Ilkley is only some twenty minutes out of Leeds by train, so well worth a few hours of your time if you’re getting a little bored with the big city… oh and here is an entirely gratuitous shot, meant to make you go coo, of a little line of ducklings who were sitting next to their very placid mother near the small lake that we passed on our descent back in to the town. Enjoy!

About Pete Stean

Pete Stean is a London-based writer and photographer. He can also be found on Twitter and on Google Plus.


  1. Frazer Irwin says:

    Re Darwin Gardens Millennium Green. I was the one who came up with the idea to transform the former derelict West View Park into a Vision for the Future. There are a 1000 flagstones in the Millennium Maze for 1000 years & 1000 trees in the Family Hedges for the other. A Sundial & two stone mosaics designed by students from Ilkley Grammar School.

    Three buildings Darwin used in 1895 are within sight of the Millennium Green. North View House (now part of Hillside Court), White Wells and Wells House. I asked former Ilkley resident, Jilly Cooper, to officially open the Gardens on 24th June 2000. To which she agreed and travelled up from her home along with husband Leo. Letters from HRH The Prince of Wales and the Charles Darwin Research Station in Galapagos were read to people gathered at the opening cermony.

    The Maze can clearly be seen on Google maps by keying in Wells Road, Ilkley.

  2. Frazer Irwin says:

    Apologies. It should be 1859 in the previous post. Not 1895.

Real Time Analytics