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Ilkley

Stage One of the 2014 Tour de France passes through Ilkley, West Yorkshire, after about 35km/22mi of the race. The riders will arrive from the east on the A660/A65 from Otley, and pass through the centre of the town, with Ben Rhydding and Ilkley Moor up to the left, and Middleton to the right. They'll then continue towards Addingham, Chelker Reservoir, Skipton, and the Yorkshire Dales beyond. Read about the Tour de France in Ilkley.

Signpost to Cow & Calf, Ilkley    Ilkley seen from Ilkley Moor

Ilkley is a town of 14,809 people (2011 census), on the river Wharfe. It has Victorian stone houses, and is overlooked by Ilkley Moor (which features in the well-known Yorkshire song, 'On Ilkley Moor Baht 'at').

History of Ilkley

Ilkley has been inhabited since the Bronze Age. In the Roman period, it was the site of a fort, probably from 79AD. It is thought to have been the fort of Olicana; so residents of Ilkley are known as Olicanians.

Ilkley was just a village until the mid-1800s, when a new town was built by William Middleton on the site. Already known for its waters, it attracted more visitors after the Ben Rhydding Hydro was built. (Ben Rhydding, to the south east of the town centre, is now part of Ilkley). Charles Darwin, who visited and took the waters, helped it evolve into a fashionable destination.

These days, Ilkley is a well-to-do town, within commuting distance of Leeds and Bradford. It's a nice, and fairly expensive, place to live, as you can read in The Guardian's 'Let's Move to Ilkley' piece, from 2010.

Ilkley, post box and shopping street   Ilkley centre

The town of Ilkley

The A65 runs through the centre of Ilkley. Just south of the main road are the shopping streets and civic buildings. There's a good number of independent shops, cafes, and restaurants. Lishman's, on the main road, is an award-winning butchers; Ilkley has one of the six branches of Betty's tearooms; and the Box Tree is a top restaurant, with a Michelin star (albeit we can only award them flat tyre for their website). 

Lishman's Butchers, Ilkley  Bettys Tearooms, Ilkley, West Yorkshire

Sport, leisure, and culture in Ilkley

Ilkley, surrounded by beautiful countryside, and on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, is great for walking cycling, and climbing. Many of these activities are centred on Ilkley Moor, and the Cow and Calf rocks. The road up there featured as a climb in the 2005 and 2007 Tours of Britain; there are plenty of rock climbing routes on the rocks and crags; and Ilkley Golf Club is just the other side of the road from the Cow and Calf.   

Cow and calf pub, Ilkley  

For the hardy, there's a Lido (open air baths).

Alan Bennett's film, A Private Function, was made in Ilkley. It was also one of the locations for Calendar Girls. Ilkley hosts a Literature Festival in October every year, and Alexander McCall Smith is one of the authors appearing in 2013.

On Ilkley Moor Baht 'at

This Yorkshire folk song may have been composed around 1850 by members of a Halifax chuch choir. It tells the story of a man courting Mary Jane on Ilkley Moor, with no hat. The song tells him that he'll catch his death of cold; be eaten by worms; the worms will be eaten by ducks; the singers of the song will eat the ducks; and they will thus have eaten the man. 

These are the words:

Wheear 'as ta bin sin ah saw thee, 

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at?! 

Wheear 'as ta bin sin ah saw thee? 

Wheear 'as ta bin sin ah saw thee? 

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at?! 

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at?! 

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at?!

Tha's been a cooartin' Mary Jane 

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at

Tha's been a cooartin' Mary Jane

Tha's been a cooartin' Mary Jane

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at

Tha's bahn t'catch thi deeath o'cowd 

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at

Tha's bahn t'catch thi deeath o'cowd

Tha's bahn t'catch thi deeath o'cowd

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at

Then we shall ha' to bury thee 

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at

Then we shall ha' to bury thee

Then we shall ha' to bury thee

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at

Then t'worms 'll cum and eat thee oop 

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at

Then t'worms 'll cum and eat thee oop

Then t'worms 'll cum and eat thee oop

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at

Then ducks 'll cum and eat oop t'worms 

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at

Then ducks 'll cum and eat oop t'worms

Then ducks 'll cum and eat oop t'worms

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at

Then we shall go an' ate oop ducks 

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at

Then we shall go an' ate oop ducks

Then we shall go an' ate oop ducks

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at

Then we shall all 'ave etten thee 

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at

Then we shall all 'ave etten thee

Then we shall all 'ave etten thee

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at

On Ilkla Moor baht 'at

Some people fear that the song may be dying out, and there's a campaign to get school children to learn it - see this BBC Look North report about 'On Ilkley Moor Baht 'at.'   

Read about preparations for the Tour de France in Ilkley...