The latest chapter in Skipton's story tells of festivals, events and boosts to tourism
PUBLISHED: 00:00 24 February 2015 | UPDATED: 20:09 31 August 2018
The Gateway to the Dales has so much to offer
For Mary Arber, childhood visits to Skipton were magical experiences. ‘I thought it was like something out of a story book,’ she said. ‘It took two buses to get there from Shipley so it seemed really far away and when you got there it had the castle and the cobbles and it was always so exciting for me.’
And although she now lives and works in the town, Skipton has lost none of its magic. ‘It still has all those attributes that make it seem like a story book town but it’s real. There’s a genuine community, it’s the market town for the area and I really do love the place.’ Mary is now the manager of Skipton’s town partnership which helps to fund events and boost trade and tourism around the town.
The group part funds festivals and events including the Yuletide festival, Sheep Day and the Christmas lights as well as providing planters and sign posts around the town centre.
The town partnership was created after a vote in 2009 to create a Skipton Business Improvement District – an area where businesses pay a levy which is used to benefit the town. The BIDs second five year term began last year and it now also supports the work of Judy Probst – ‘the smiliest and loveliest person in town,’ according to Mary. Judy is the town council ambassador and, along with a team of volunteers, works to welcome people to Skipton.
‘Judy is a really key part of what we are trying to do in Skipton,’ Mary said. ‘She and her team are on hand when people arrive here to point them in the right direction. It helps visitors but it also gives the town something extra special.
‘Last year was a bumper year for visitor numbers in Skipton, largely because of the Tour de France, and we are doing our best to build on that. We’ll be a holding Skipton’s first criterium cycling event on the Thursday night before Sheep Day in July and there are lots of other events and festivals throughout the year.’
But you don’t have to visit when the town is festival mode to enjoy yourself here. Mary added: ‘Quieter days can give you a better sense of the town’s secret corners. It’s a beautiful little town with lots of hidden ginnels, squares and cobbled corners.’
Make sure these are on your itinerary when you visit Skipton
1 Get on your bike. Nowhere is better suited to competitive cycling than Yorkshire – it has the climbs, the sprint sections, the rolling, winding lanes and big, big views to distract you from the burning in your legs. The Tour de Yorkshire might not be passing through Skipton (it’ll rattle past just down the road in Silsden) but last year’s big ride did make the most of the town. You don’t have to be Bradley Wiggins to appreciate what’s on offer though, saddle up and explore the countryside by pedal power. There are scores of routes to follow or you could try to tag along when the Skipton Cycling Club pass by.
2 Appreciate the history. The most obvious sign of Skipton’s history is the 11th century castle but there’s much more to the town’s past. Skipton has long been the major trading centre in the Craven area and the town’s importance to the sheep and wool trades is honoured in its name which translates into Anglo Saxon as ‘Sheep Town’. The Industrial Revolution brought another boom to the town as mills and canals popped up all over the place. At the opening of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal in 1773, the wonderfully named Leeds Intelligencer reported that “the bells were set ringing at Skipton; there were also bonfires, illuminations, and other demonstrations of joy”. The narrow streets and cobbled lanes are evocative of an earlier age and many buildings have retained the olde worlde charm.
3 Feast on festivals. This month sees the annual Skipton Music Festival which is a great chance to see how much talent there is in the town. A fixture on the calendar since the 1920s, the festival has given thousands of young performers the chance to compete in music and drama categories. This year’s event runs from March 16-21. Other festivals in Skipton this year include the Beacons and Fake music festivals in August, the beer festival at Ermysted’s Grammar School in May and the sixth puppet festival in October. Launched in 2005, it’s an eclectic mix of all puppets great and small with events and performances around the town.
Need to know
Where it is: Skipton stands on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales close to the junction of the A59 and A629. If you have a sat nav, BD23 1RT should take you to the town centre. The town’s railway station is a short walk from the centre and has regular services Leeds, Bradford and towns on the west of the Pennines.
Where to park: There are pay and display car parks around the town centre and some on-street parking is available.
Don’t miss: The market. Traders have gathered in Skipton High Street for hundreds of years and people still come from miles around to enjoy the atmosphere and grab a bargain. Head there on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Saturday to sample it for yourself.
Find out more: Skipton Tourist Information Centre in the Town Hall, 01756 79280 or go to welcometoskipton.com.