Picture Credit: James Greenwood

“The gateway to the Dales”

– anon

Skipton is a small market town located in North Yorkshire. In total, it has a population of 14,623 according to the 2011 Census.

It can be found at the foot of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. This makes it the “gateway” to the area.

The town is known mainly for its castle. However, it’s also noted for its canal and wool-making heritage.

Page Contents

Skipton Castle

Skipton castle was built around 1090 by a Norman called Robert Romille. The castle was reinforced to keep out attacks from the Scots.

After Romille, it passed onto the hands of the Clifford family during the 14th Century. It was at this time Skipton Castle endured a three year siege in the English Civil War.

After this conflict, the castle was preserved by descendant Lady Anne Clifford. She was the one who made it into one of the most complete fortifications in the county.

In 1676, Lady Anne Clifford died. She was the last remaining descendant of that family.

Nowadays, Skipton Castle is a popular tourist attraction. It has plenty of history for visitors to discover.

The roof and layout of the castle are largely intact. Many rooms can be explored including the banqueting hall, drawing room, kitchen, and watch tower amongst others.

Visitors will also find a shop and fun trails for children. There are also conference facilities that are available for hire.

Leeds & Liverpool Canal

The Leeds and Liverpool Canal runs through the centre of the town. It was completed in 1816 and is 127 miles long.

Between Skipton and Bingley there is a stretch of land. This was one of the first parts to be opened in 1773 and helped transport limestone, coal, wool, and cotton by boat.

Nowadays, there has been a decline of heavy industry. It has become popular with narrow-boating and leisure cruises.

Several companies offer canal trips and boat hire. Others however are privately owned.

The Leeds Liverpool Canal runs straight through the centre of Skipton. Picture credit: Ian McKillop (IFY community)
The Leeds Liverpool Canal runs straight through the centre of Skipton. Picture credit: Ian McKillop (IFY community)

Millennium Walk

Starting at the canal side is the Millennium walk. This is a heritage trail that takes visitors past some of the town’s most important landmarks.

These include Skipton Castle, High Corn Mill, and Caroline square. In the square there is a memorial plaque to Thomas Spencer, the co-founder of M&S who was born in Skipton.

Museums and Galleries in Skipton

The Craven museum and gallery has a number of displays. These explore the town’s social history, archaeology, and art.

A more recent addition to this free museum is a rare copy of Shakespeare’s first folio. It’s part of a collection of 36 plays published in 1623 and only one of 230 surviving copies in the world.

Three of these are on display in other museums. These are Stratford upon Avon, London, and Washington DC.

Other galleries include the Roebuck collections. They were given to the museum in 1988 and another gallery displays costume art.

High Corn Mill

In 1310, High Corn Mill was built. Originally, this was part of Skipton Castle’s estate.

For many centuries, it was the sole corn grinding mill in the town. It was also double the size of its existing structure.

Some of the corn mill’s original features still remain such as a mediaeval water wheel. Currently it now houses a combination of small businesses and retailers.

Aireville Park in Skipton

Aireville Park is a 20 acre green space opposite to the canal. It houses a children’s play area, putting green, and football pitches.

The area also holds several outdoor events in the town. These include the bi-annual triathlon and the fake music festival.

Skipton Little Theatre

The Skipton Little Theatre was constructed in 1960 from converted stables. It’s owned and run by the Skipton players and they stage five performances throughout the year.

The theatre itself is very small. It has a capacity of only 72 seats, some of which were purchased from the Leeds Grand Theatre in 2005.

In acting circles, this venue was famous. There was no passage behind the stage for performers to swap sides and re-enter through the opposite wings.

As a result, for many years performers had to go outside and climb over the roof. They would then run through a hayloft to swap sides.

Today, performers still have to go outside. However, it’s only to enter through the stage door at the back.

Festivals in Skipton

Every year, Skipton hosts the Beacons festival which takes place in August on the Funkirk estate. This is an outdoor weekend of music, food, and art.

There are several stages hosting a range of music performers. Each day there is a headline act along with folk and acoustic performers, and DJ’s.

It’s not only music that the Beacons festival focuses on. There are also many art displays, workshops, and an on-site theatre.

Each year, Aireville Park hosts a leg of the Fake festival tour. This is a pop concert made up entirely of tribute acts supported by local talent.

Nightlife in Skipton

Skipton has a multitude of traditional pubs. Each of these serve hearty food with ale that’s supplied by the town’s Copper Dragon brewery amongst others.

The Strata nightclub is located on Keighley Road. It’s perfect for those who wish to party the night away.

Restaurants in Skipton

Coffee and Clay offers a unique experience for its customers. People can have a coffee while they paint their own pottery which is said to be extremely relaxing.

There are also many other restaurants serving food from around the world. Skipton is also one of the few places in the area which has a traditional pie and mash shop.

Travelling In & Out of Skipton

Skipton is located at the foot of the Dales. As a result, there is no motorway which links the town to any other places.

However, there are a series of “A” roads which will take you to surrounding towns. The A65 goes to Ilkley, A629 goes to Keighley, and the A59 goes to Lancashire, but we don’t use that road.

The town’s train station was built in 1847. This was a result of railways coming to Yorkshire.

In 1876, it was moved three quarters of a mile along the line. Since then it has remained there.

Skipton Railway is one of the busiest in the area. At the foot of the Yorkshire Dales, it serves the rural villages that surround Skipton.

In total, it has four platforms. These include services to Leeds, Bradford, Morecambe, and Carlisle, the latter linking to the famous train journey starting at Settle.

Skipton’s new bus station opened in 2009. It has eight stands which carry passengers to several destinations including Keighley, Leeds, and Burnley.

The town is also a centre for the Dalesbus service. This transports both tourists and residents to places such as Settle, Ingleton, and Malham.

Education in Skipton

Higher education is covered by Craven College. They offer courses in subjects such as countryside management, teacher training, and computer science to name but a few.

The town also has two single sex grammar schools. These are Ermysted’s Grammar for boys, and Skipton Girls High for girls.

There is also one unisex institution in Skipton. This is called Aireville School.

Sport in Skipton

Skipton has a multitude of sports clubs. These range from three cricket clubs, to rugby union, and football.

The Tour de France was also enthusiastically welcomed through its streets. It was the location of the first leg between Leeds and Harrogate.

There is also a multi-purpose sports centre in the town called Sandylands Sports Centre. Craven Leisure is home to a public swimming pool.

The Skipton triathlon is held at Aireville park and is the largest in Yorkshire. It includes a 400m swim, 20km bike ride, and 5km run.

Skipton has a long tradition as a market town. Picture credit: Colin Smith
Skipton has a long tradition as a market town. Picture credit: Colin Smith

Shopping in Skipton

One of Skipton’s most notable achievements happened in 2009. They won the best high street award beating competition such as Portobello Road and Kensington in London.

The cobbled streets of Skipton focus on independent retailers. As a result, this makes it a truly unique shopping experience.

Independent shops include jewellers, boutiques, outdoors shops, and butchers. Each of these thrive alongside better known chain shops.

Skipton market is a long held tradition in the town dating back to 1204. Traditionally, owners of the castle must grant permission for the market to be held in the town.

In total, Skipton market is open four times a week. Its opening days are Monday’s, Wednesday’s, Friday’s, and Saturday’s.

Originally, it was a hub for animal trading from the surrounding Dales. Nowadays, the street stalls offer a vast range of goods from meat, cheese, vegetables, dvd’s, jewellery, and flowers.

Many of the traders set up their own trading areas also called “setts”. This is because there are no fixed stalls.

Skipton is often called the gateway to the dales. Set at the foot of the national park, it’s one of the most pleasant towns in Yorkshire and continues to attract traders and tourists alike.

History of Skipton

Industry grew up around the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. Picture credit: Public domain.
Industry grew up around the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. Picture credit: Public domain.

Skipton’s first settlers were sheep farmers from around the seventh century. The settlement was first mentioned in the Domesday Book.

Its name derives from the Anglo Saxon word for “sheep town”. The lands around Skipton were given to Norman noble Robert de Romille.

He built the town’s large castle around 1090. It’s main purpose was to enforce Norman rule and defend the town principally against the Scottish.

Meanwhile, in 1204, King John granted the establishment of a market and trade fairs. It became known as the principal settlement at the foot of the hills we now call the Yorkshire Dales.

The entire town revolved around its market. People came from miles around to sell their produce and stay in the coaching inns which developed around the high street.

In 1310, the High Corn Mill was constructed. It’s now one of the oldest to be found in the country.

Skipton Castle was passed onto the Clifford family in 1309. They played a major role during the English Civil War.

The castle was at the centre of a three year siege. By 1645, it was also the last Royalist stronghold in the North before its surrender.

The town of Skipton grew in wealth and size. This was due to the opening of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in 1773.

Between Bingley and Skipton there’s a lockless stretch. It was the first section to be opened.

This allowed lime to be transported to neighbouring towns. Lime was also sent to the woollen mills of West Yorkshire which were starting to develop.

Wool has always been present in the “sheep town”. However, with the canal, it could export its wares by boat.

Woollen and spinning mills, such as Belleview, Sackville, and Firth shed, sprouted up alongside this new canal. The town became a thriving industrial centre.

During both World Wars, Skipton had a prisoner of war camp. This held captured German officers and soldiers.

They were held at Raikeswood during the first, and Overdale camp during the second. The latter is now a caravan park.

During the 20th Century, the woollen industry declined and the mills closed down. Skipton turned its attention to tourism.

In 1954, to the north of the town, the Yorkshire Dales was given National Park status. As a result, Skipton became the unofficial “Gateway to the Yorkshire Dales”.

The tourism industry is now the most dominant part of the town’s economy. The Leeds and Liverpool Canal, once the hub of the industry, is now popular with narrow boats and for recreational use.

Skipton castle is also a popular attraction. It’s one of the most complete examples of a mediaeval fortification in the county.

The town has also developed service industries too. One of these is the Skipton Building Society which is one of the town’s major employers and fourth largest bank of its kind in the sector.

Skipton has always benefited from its location. At the foot of the highest ground in Yorkshire, it’s a trading hub for livestock and produce at its market which takes place four days a week.

The town is also located on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. This also helped to create the wealth in which the town enjoys today and in the future.

Skipton Trivia

In 2009, Skipton High Street won the best street award competing against Kensinton and Portobello Road in London.

Thomas Spencer, one of the partners of M&S, was born in the town.

Skipton Castle was the last Royalist stronghold in the North. Despite a three year siege during the Civil War and it being “slighted” by Oliver Cromwell (destroyed so it could not be used as a fortification) it is still one of the best preserved Norman castles in Britain.

The full name of the town is Skipton-in-Craven.