The West Yorkshire Spa town has been crowned the Best Place to Live, topping a list of 70 locations which represent the very best of the UK.
The Sunday Times’s expert judges behind the Best Places to Live guide assess a wide range of factors, from schools, transport and broadband to culture, green spaces and the health of the high street.
They look to celebrate improving towns, city centres and villages; attractive, desirable homes and locations bursting with community spirit, which the pandemic has proven to be the most important quality of all.
The judges praised Ilkley for its fantastic schools, independent shops, spectacular scenery and convenient rail links. They were also impressed by its local sports clubs and opportunities for young people, whilst giving special recognition to the community spirit which has seen the launch of numerous successful local businesses.
The boutique Ilkley cinema and the Real Food Market are just two examples of thriving businesses set up by passionate locals which sets Ilkley apart from the rest.
Tim Palmer, leading judge for the Best Places to Live guide said key to Ilkley’s success was its strong community spirit, along with everything being within walking distance. He said “Out of all the winners we have ever had, Ilkley is the one that fits everything best with the fewest compromises. It is very much my favourite”.
Ilkley’s varied and lively food and drink scene were praised with special mentions going to Friends of Ham and Outside the Box cafe. Kitchen and homeware shop, Community Cutlery was mentioned as an example of the interesting independents that are brightening up the high street.
It’s no surprise that Ilkley’s beautiful scenery such as the Cow and Calf rocks and Middleton Woods played a major part in the town’s victory. No matter where you are in the quaint town, you can look up and revel in spectacular views from all around.
Helen Rhodes, manager of the Ilkley Business Improvement District said: “This recognition is a real honour for Ilkley. There really is something for everyone of all ages here with an incredible range of outdoor and indoor clubs and activities which cater for all interests. There’s a tangible energy and vibrancy in the town and of course, the scenery in and around the area is stunning.”
Most prevalent was the overriding recognition for the people of Ilkley and their passion for the town. Judges praised volunteers for all the work they do to keep Ilkley looking and feeling its best, including the town’s successful Clean River Group campaign for bathing water status for the River Wharfe.
Helen Davies, The Times editor said, “Ten years ago, when we launched the inaugural list, London’s gravitational pull was strong, the WFH revolution had not yet reached our doorstep and high streets were stacked with chains. How times have changed – and how welcome that change is.”
“This year we have discovered new best places to live, from resurgent city centres in the North, rejuvenated suburbs across the country, hidden villages in the Southwest, and a commutable Scottish island. We hope there is something to suit everyone”.
The full guide which features 70 locations can be found here.