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Skipton

This bustling market town (market days are Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays) lies on the edge of Airedale and is the main gateway into the Craven Dales.

The town still keeps its essentially Norman layout dominated by the magnificent Skipton Castle (website opens in new window), parish church, and traditional high street market place with radiating passageways between what were originally narrow medieval landholdings known as tofts and crofts. Today these are busy pedestrian passageways packed with fascinating shops and boutiques, inns and courtyards.

Surprisingly the town is set well away from the River Aire, its castle taking advantage of a rocky headland above the little river Eller which made it easier to defend, even against the might of Cromwell’s army. It is, however, a key point on the 18th-century Leeds-Liverpool Canal. Once busy with barges filled with the coal, lead, limestone and bales of cotton and wool that led the Industrial Revolution in the former West Riding, the canal side wharves are now packed instead with pleasure crafts of all kinds. The little Springs Branch behind the castle leads past millraces and waterfalls into the beautiful Skipton Woods.

The town also boasts the outstanding Craven Museum (website opens in new window) located in the Town Hall with a variety of exhibits relating to many aspects of Dales life, but most notably the lead mining industry.

There’s a good choice of places to stay in Skipton including high quality hotels, inns and B&Bs. Another advantage of staying here is the network of good bus and trains, including the celebrated Settle-Carlisle line and the equally scenic Leeds-Skipton-Morecambe line which goes through Giggleswick and Clapham. And just a walk or bus ride away from Skipton is the nostalgic Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway (link opens in new window), where on most weekends and during holiday periods you can ride in a 1950s coach behind a sturdy, puffing steam locomotive from beautifully preserved or even rebuilt stations. At the end of the line an easy walk awaits you from Bolton Abbey Station to Bolton Priory which was once used by kings and prime ministers.

Regular bus services link Skipton to Rylstone, Grassington, Hebden, Kettlewell, Starbotton and Buckden (66A, 72/72R, 872); to Embsay (for steam railway) (214, 883, 884); to Bolton Bridge (for Bolton Abbey), Blubberhouses and Harrogate (X59); to Gargrave, Hellifield and Settle (580); to Malham (210, 211, 883, 884, 890); to Ilkley (883, 884, X84); to Clitheroe and Preston (280, X80) and to Burnley (29, 215). There is also a frequent electrified train service along the Airedale Line to Leeds and Bradford.

Bus and train times can be checked on the Dalesbus website (link opens in new window).

Local services: accommodation, cafe, pub, shops, toilets, TIC

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