- For other places with the same name, see Skipton (disambiguation).
Skipton is a market town in North Yorkshire, 27 miles northwest of Leeds. The name means "Sheep Town" and the town's wool trade was boosted by its position in the "Aire Gap" - the river valley that together with the Ribble creates a low-level route through the Pennines. The castle was built to protect the trade and route, and later the canal, main road and railway all came this way. With a population in 2011 of 14,623, Skipton now earns its living from tourism, as it's at the southern edge of the Yorkshire Dales. This page also includes the settlements of Gargrave and Bolton Abbey.
The TIC (+44 1756 792809) is at 35 Coach St, just north of the branch canal bridge. It's open M-Sa 09:30-16:00.
From London, the Midlands and beyond, travel to Leeds and change. That's swiftly done as trains from the south usually pull in a few steps from the Skipton trains.
Skipton has two trains an hour from Leeds (40 min) and from Bradford Forster Square (40 min); these may also stop at Shipley, Saltaire (for Salts Mill), Bingley and Keighley (for Worth Valley steam railway). Skipton is just outside the West Yorkshire Metro travel zone, so you may find a better fare by split-ticketing to the edge of the zone, eg to Keighley or Steeton & Silsden.
Most trains terminate (as does electrification) at Skipton, but every couple of hours a train from Leeds continues north through the Dales via Gargrave, Hellifield, Clapham, Bentham and Carnforth to Lancaster, thence to Morecambe or Preston. Another 3 trains a day from Leeds run to Gargrave, Settle, Horton and the Ribblehead viaduct, Kirby Stephen, Appleby and Carlisle.
A tourist train runs three times a day until 12 Sept 2020 between Skipton, Settle and Appleby. The train uses diesel-hauled first class coaches and an adult day-trip is £29. This is in addition to the timetabled service by Northern Rail.
1 Skipton railway station is quarter of a mile west of town centre. There is level access to Platforms 1 & 2, and a steep ramp to the island Platforms 3 & 4. There's a small cafe, no waiting room, but a short walk to facilities in town.
Bus X84 runs from Leeds every two hours via Headingley (for the University), Otley and Ilkley to Skipton. From Leeds Bradford Airport, take the airport bus to Otley and change, you don't have to go into city centre. From Bradford take the frequent bus to Keighley then change for Transdev 66 which runs every 30 min to Skipton.
In summer, Dales Bus X59 runs between Harrogate and Skipton; but it's not running in 2020.
Dales Bus 580 runs hourly from Settle via Gargrave to Skipton. There is a connecting bus from Lancaster through Kirkby Lonsdale and Ingleton to Settle.
2 Skipton bus station is right in town centre.
Driving from the south, it's usually best to stay on A1(M) beyond Wetherby then take A59 west. This goes through Harrogate, but is less traffic-snarled than routes via Leeds or Bradford.
The town is best explored on foot, but you need wheels to reach Bolton Abbey. Gargrave is on the bus and railway routes.
- 1 Skipton Castle, The Bailey, Skipton BD23 1AW, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. W-Su 10:00-16:00. One of the best preserved medieval castles of England, dating back to the 12th century. Backed by a precipice, it defied Cromwell for 3 years: later he was content to take the roof off and didn't order wholesale demolition, so it was repaired. Adult £8.70, child £5.50, conc £7.70.
- Craven Museum and Art Gallery is within Town Hall on High St. In 2020 the entire Town Hall is closed for refurbishment.
- 2 The canal basin is on the 127-mile Leeds and Liverpool Canal. The canal took over fifty years to complete (1770-1822), clambering across the Pennines and vaulting over dales and gullies, but being broad it soon surpassed the earlier narrow canals. It's navigable and has a good firm towpath throughout its length from Mersey to the Humber, and with links south via Trent or Cheshire to the rest of the English network. At the basin, a branch canal goes north for half a mile into the gloomy ravine below the castle, where it captures a little river. It's called Springs Branch or Thanet Canal, as it was built by Lord Thanet as a loading wharf for his limestone quarries. Boat trips sail from the basin along the main canal but they don't go as far as Gargrave, see below.
- Holy Trinity Church, 1A Mill Bridge, Skipton BD23 1NJ (at the top of High Street). W-Su. Anglican church dating to 13th C, extended in the 15th. It's still there in spite of assault once by Cromwell and twice by lightning, but what you see now is mostly a 1909 neo-Gothic reconstruction.
- St Stephen's just north of the castle is the RC church, opened in 1842.
- 3 Embsay & Bolton Abbey Railway, Bolton Abbey, BD23 6AF (5 miles east of Skipton), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Four miles of standard gauge railway, the remnant of the Skipton-Ilkley railway closed in 1965. It's steam-hauled by a couple of doughty 0-6-0s and occasional visitor locomotives. Embsay is the western terminus and the connection to the main line at Skipton has been lost. The eastern terminus is Bolton Abbey, the station opened in 1888 near Bolton Hall and used by visiting royalty; it's a mile west of the Priory and riverbank. In summer there are five return trips daily from Embsay. Return adult £11, child £5.50; non-travelling platform ticket £1.
- 4 Bolton Abbey, Bolton Abbey BD23 6EX (B6160 five miles east of Skipton), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 09:00-17:00. Ruins of a 12th C Augustinian Priory. It was founded at Embsay in 1120 then transferred here in 1154: nothing remains at the first site. In 1539 they were building a magnificent west tower when the priory fell victim to the Dissolution. The place became dilapidated, but the west half continued in use (and still does) as the Anglican Priory Church of St Mary and St Cuthbert. It was refurbished in later centuries and the truncated west tower was finally roofed. You can stroll around the abbey free, the charge is for parking, which also gives access to the Strid and rest of the estate. Nice grounds by the riverside, and stepping stones cross the River Wharfe. £10 per vehicle.
- The Strid: the woods on the Bolton estate are an ancient forest of sessile oak. The Strid itself, a short walk from the Abbey car park, is where the River Wharfe suddenly narrows into a deep torrent six feet wide, so you could almost stride across - but not quite. The name is fatally misleading, it's from Old English stryth meaning "don't try to stride across, you'll be killed to death." The whitewater difficulty rating is 5-ish because of underwater ledges where the current traps anyone who falls in. With high water it's 5- and a kayak might scoot through; with lower water it's 5+ and you'd better portage.
- 5 Hesketh Farm Park, Bolton Abbey BD23 6HA (5 miles east of Skipton), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. April-Aug daily 10:00-17:00. Show farm with feeding, play areas, straw maze and cafe. Adult £6, child £6.50, free parking.
- 6 Barden Tower is the shell of a 15th C hunting lodge; it was a ruin by 1800 and is unsafe to enter. The Priesthouse adjacent is an event space often used for weddings.
- 7 Gargrave would be an attractive village if only it had a bypass, but it's thudding with vehicles on the A65. The main attraction is the towpath along the canal, which here rises through five locks westbound. It crosses the River Aire on Priest Holme Aqueduct then has another six locks at Bank Newton. As if drawing breath, it then hews to the contour line for a long stretch across into Lancashire, but isn't quite at the summit: 3 more locks at Greenberfield near Barnoldswick lead into the summit pound. Gargrave is on the Pennine Way, see Do, and has accommodation. The railway station is half a mile south of the village on Church St.
- Yorkshire Dales: the most accessible from Skipton are Wharfedale, ascending through Grassington, and Airedale above Gargrave to Malham.
- Walk: lots of choice. The best walking map is OS Outdoor Leisure Map 10 (Yorkshire Dales South, yellow covers, 1:25,000) - Skipton itself teeters on the southern margin of this, but it covers the nearby dales. For anything south of town such as the approach of the Pennine Way, use OS Landranger Sheet 103 (Blackburn & Burnley, maroon covers, 1:50,000). Skipton is in the northeast corner of this, for Bolton Abbey use Sheet 104 (Leeds & Bradford).
- The Pennine Way is lowland in this district. Northbound from Earby on A56 in Lancashire, cross the fields to Gargrave on A65. The Way then heads northwest, cutting over Eshton Moor and back into the Aire valley at Airton, thence north. At Malham you reach attractive karst scenery, the best being Malham Cove, Gordale Scar and Janet's Foss.
- Narrowboat hire for day-trips and canal holidays can be arranged via Pennine Cruisers or Canal Trips both at the basin.
- Craven Leisure Centre is on Gargrave Rd half a mile northwest of Skipton town centre. It has pool, gym and fitness classes.
- Sandylands Sports Centre on Carleton New Road just south of the station has playing pitches, indoor facilities etc but no drop-in activities.
- Plaza Cinema is on Sackville St just off High Street.
- Skipton Little Theatre is on Clifford St next to the retail park.
- Mart Theatre is by the cattle mart on A629 at the north edge of town. As well as their own programme they run four art festivals in the district. These are all cancelled for 2020, and it's not known whether they can resume in 2021.
- Skipton Charity Gala is on the second Saturday in June. The next event is probably Sa 12 June 2021, tbc.
- Skipton Sheep Day hosts ovine festivities on the first Sunday in July. The next event is Su 4 July 2021.
- Market days are M W F Sa 08:00-17:00
- Lots of tourist-trippy stuff along High St, but the retail park with Tesco, Morrisons etc is just west of centre in the angle between canal and railway.
- Marks & Spencer have a "Simply Food" store one block east of High Street, open M-Sa 08:00-20:00, Su 11:00-17:00. That's fitting because Tom Spencer, co-founder of M&S, was born in Skipton in 1858.
- Bizzie Lizzies serve excellent fish & chips from two locations: Swadford Street (by the Belmont Bridge) and High Street car park (which is a sit-in cafe, not just a van). They're both open daily 12:00-20:00.
- Le Caveau, 86 High St, Skipton BD23 1JJ, ☏ . Tu-F 12:00-14:00, 18:00-21:00, Sa 17:00-21:00. It sounds like a wine cellar, but in the 16th C this was Le Nick for local wrongdoers. It's now a bistro earning rave reviews for its French cuisine; vegetarians and vegans have a good choice.
- Napier's Steakhouse, Chapel Hill, Skipton BD23 1NL, ☏ . Meals W-Sa 17:00-21:00. Small hotel, but it's the grill restaurant and wine bar that earn the admiring reviews.
- Narrow Boat, Victoria St, Skipton BD23 1JE, ☏ . Daily 12:00-23:00. Great pub near the canal basin with 8 real ales and commendable food. Dog-friendly.
- Black Horse, High St, Skipton BD23 1JZ, ☏ . Su-F 10:00-23:00, Sa 10:00-00:00. Good reliable pub at head of High St with large outdoor terrace.
- Woolly Sheep, 38 Sheep St, Skipton BD23 1HY, ☏ . M-Sa 10:00-23:00, Su 12:00-23:00. 100 yards east of canal basin, good pub with Timothy Taylor ales, brewed nearby in Keighley. Restaurant is bigger than you'd guess from outside, good food and comfy rooms. B&B double £100.
- Copper Dragon Brewery was established in Skipton in 2002, but in 2015 relocated to Keighley, the home of Timothy Taylor. Neither of them offer brewery tours.
- 1 Niffany Farm Caravan and Camping Site, Broughton Rd, Skipton BD23 3AA (on A6069), ☏ . Clean dog-friendly site open all year, a mile to walk along the canal towpath to town. Tent £10, caravan £17.
- B&Bs near town centre include Highfield House on Keighley Rd, Townhouse off High St, and Boutique 25 on Newmarket St.
- Herriots Hotel, Broughton Rd, Skipton BD23 1RT (facing railway station), ☏ . Clean friendly hotel, they do a good afternoon tea. Dog-friendly. B&B double £90.
- 2 Travelodge, Gargrave Rd, Skipton BD23 1UD (Junction of A59, A65 and A629), ☏ . Reliable budget chain hotel on bypass. B&B double £90.
- Premier Inn [dead link] is at the west edge of Gargrave, five miles west along A65.
- 3 Angel Inn, Hetton BD23 6LT (5 miles north of town), ☏ . Country pub with comfy rooms open Feb-Dec, the food is outstanding. B&B double £130.
- 4 Devonshire Arms, Bolton Abbey BD23 6AJ, ☏ . Upscale hotel and spa on the Abbey estate, great comfort, service and cuisine. B&B double £180.
As of July 2020, Skipton town and the main road through Gargrave have a good mobile and 4G signal from all carriers. Bolton Abbey is okay with EE but weak with the others. The signal up the back lanes and valleys is patchy. 5G has not reached this area.
- Yorkshire Dales: Ribblesdale and Lonsdale can be easily reached by public transport.
- Harrogate is a genteel spa town.
- Leeds for big city attractions.
|Routes through Skipton|
|Burnley ← Colne ←||SW NE||→ merges with at Broughton|
|Preston ← Forest of Bowland / Clitheroe ←||W E||→ Harrogate → York|