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Stage One of the 2014 Tour de France passes through Skipton, North Yorkshire, after about 52km/32mi of the race. The riders will arrive from the east on the A6069 Otley Rd/Newmarket St, turn right up the High St, then left at the roundabout by the Black Horse pub, before crossing the Leeds and Liverpool canal over Mill Bridge, and heading out of town on the B6265 into the Yorkshire Dales. 

Castle Inn, Skipton    Skipton Castle entrance

Skipton is a town of 14,623 people (2011 census), on the Leeds and Liverpool canal, and near the river Aire. It has a historic castle, a bustling High Street with a regular market, and it's known as the Gateway to the Dales.

Name and history of Skipton

Skipton grew up around its castle, which was first built in 1090 as a wooden motte and bailey construction, by the Norman baron Robert de Romille. He was lord of the estates of Bolton Abbey. In the 1100s, the castle was rebuilt in stone, to help repel attacks from the kingdom of Scotland to the north. 

In the Middle Ages, Skipton became a market town selling sheep and wool products, after a Charter was granted in 1204. Indeed, the name of the town comes from the Old English sceap (sheep) tun (town). There are still sheep grazing in fields close to the centre of the town today, and there's a market on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. There's also the Auction Mart livestock market on the edge of town. 

Skipton castle   Skipton market

In the 1800s, Skipton became a mill town, helped by its links via the canal to Leeds, Bradford, and Liverpool. 

In the 1900s up to the present day, the main industry became tourism. Tourists are drawn to Skipton because it's a pretty town, with a historic castle, and just on the edge of the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. Other than tourism, local people are also employed by Skipton Building Society, and in the recruitment business. 

Skipton has a fair percentage of older inhabitants, and in 2012, the Craven district (centred on Skipton) was named the best place in England to retire.

The town of Skipton

The castle sits on the higher ground in the north of Skipton (see this town plan of Skipton). The High Street, which runs down the hill from the castle, is lined with shops, many of them independent. It won an award for the best shopping street in Britain in 2008. There's a Marks & Spencer in Skipton, which is appropriate, since Thomas Spencer was born in the town in 1858.

Water Street and the canal run parallel to the High Street, just to the west of it. On the canal, in the south of the town, you can find the canal boats, and the historic (dating from 1310) High Corn Mill. 

Canal boats, Skipton  High Corn Mill, Skipton

Sport, leisure, and culture in Skipton

Because Skipton is on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, it's great for walking, cycling, and climbing. There are football, cricket, and rugby union clubs, as well as a cyle club.   

Skipton castle is the most dramatic building in the town, even though Mark Steel joked about it being difficult to find or see in his Radio 4 'Mark Steel's in Town' show. At least the entrance is easily visible, but it is true that it's almost impossible to see the rest of it without paying to get in, because of the strategically high wall. 

You can hire canal boats, and there are short canal boat trips

Skipton has two theatres, the Mart Theatre (at the Auction Mart), and Skipton Little Theatre. There are plenty of restaurants and pubs. You'll find beer from the local Copper Dragon brewery in many establishments. 

Dave Ferguson cycles, Skipton   Sheep near Skipton

Tour de France in Skipton

Skipton is an official spectator hub on the route of Stage 1 of the Tour de France 2014.

The Skipton High Street spectator hub will be open on 5th July 2014, with a capacity of 12,000. There'll be family-friendly activities, big screens showing the race during the day and films in the evening, a stage with music and entertainment, and street entertainment. The hub will be managed by Pennine Events.

Craven District Council say the stage and big screen will be in the Town Hall car park. There'll also be a big screen and family-friendly activities at the Canal Basin. This will leave more room for spectators on the High Street. You can see these locations, and the Tour route through Skipton (indicated in yellow), on this map:

Map showing Tour de France route through Skipton town centre

Tour de France in Skipton: bikepark in Aireville Park

There's to be a managed, secure bikepark in Aireville Park, to the west of Skipton town centre. It's open from 5am to 10pm on Saturday 5th July, costs £3 per bike, and there'll be space for 1,500 bikes. The list of car and bike parks from Craven DC suggests that bikes can also be left at High Corn Mill.

Tour de France in Skipton: Rapha Tempest Festival at Broughton Hall

Rapha are organising a festival at Broughton Hall, a stately home near Skipton. The festival runs from Thursday 3rd to Sunday 6th July 2014 (departure on Monday 7th). It's on the luxury end of the camping scale, with prices to match. You can bring your own tent, or use one of theirs - with the option of luxury camping (pre-pitched tents with beds and bedding, at £320 per person for 4 nights, based on two sharing).

There'll be big screens showing the Tour, two outdoor stages with live music (including The Lightning Seeds) and DJs, bars with real ale and craft cider, mini cyclocross races, guided rides, and workshops and talks.

Tour de France in Skipton: numbers in town centre limited to 13,000

2nd June 2014

The Craven Herald reports that Skipton town centre will close to spectators on Saturday 5th July if numbers exceed a limit of around 13,000 people. The information comes from a 'roadshow' meeting, held for Craven DC, Welcome to Yorkshire, and Yorkshire Dales National Park to give information to businesses.

The wider area of the town can accommodate 30,000 people. Barriers are to be placed on Newmarket Street and High Street, and people will stand in four 'pens' on the High Street, for safety reasons.

Craven DC says that an astonishing 900,000 people are expected in the Craven District for the Tour.

Tour de France in Skipton: Le Petit Grand Départ cyclo-sportive

In advance of the Tour, Skipton Cycle Club and Craven DC are organising a cyclo-sportive event, le Petit Grand Départ. It'll take place on Sunday 1st June  2014, with two different distances - the 33-mile recreational ride from Skipton up to Kettlewell and back, and the 78-mile sportive ride up to Buckden, over to Hawes, to Ribblehead, and back to Skipton via Horton-in-Ribblesdale and Settle. Read about le Petit Grand Départ, Skipton...