ILKLEY has today been named as the best place to live in the UK by The Sunday Times, topping a list of 70 locations.

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, villages or city centres; attractive, well-designed homes and locations bursting with community spirit - which the pandemic has shown to be the most vital quality of all.

Ilkley Gazette: Bettys on The Grove surrounded by cherry blossomBettys on The Grove surrounded by cherry blossom

Ilkley was praised by judges for its top schools, interesting shops, spectacular scenery and convenient rail links. The judges were also impressed by its sports clubs and the opportunities they offer for young people, and by the energetic community spirit: volunteering is a big part of life, and the town’s lovely cinema and thriving market were all launched by locals.

Ilkley Gazette: Ilkley has spectacular scenery to enjoy - all within walking distance from townIlkley has spectacular scenery to enjoy - all within walking distance from town

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.

"Out of all the winners we have ever had Ilkley is the one that fits everything best with the fewest compromises," he said. "It is very much my favourite."

Ilkley Clean River Group's successful campaign for bathing water status for the River Wharfe certainly put Ilkley on the map nationally, said Tim.

"It was a massively transformative campaign for the whole country," he said. "Ilkley is a place that is really good at getting things done."

He praised Ilkley's growing cafe and bar scene, along with independent businesses such as Ilkley Cinema and Community Cutlery.

"The cinema is fantastic - another example of local people getting things done. It is very tailored to its market with good wine, good food and very unique," he said.

Ilkley Gazette: Ilkley has many independent businesses and a thriving cafe cultureIlkley has many independent businesses and a thriving cafe culture

The Real Food Ilkley Market had gone a long way to improving the town's food culture, Outside the Box "are an amazing lot" and Ilkley Grammar School "creates a connection and a community", added Tim.

"The thing is it is all within walking distance," he said. "You can manage without a car. The best walks and shopping are from your doorstep.

"I get the feeling it is one of the places the high street benefited a bit from the pandemic because people have been shopping locally and staying in the town which is more footfall and people have looked around and appreciated what they have got and are more supportive of the businesses."

He praised Upstagers for "doing everything to the highest level possible" and Ilkley Lido and sporting clubs for providing good programmes for young people, encouraging a healthy, outdoors lifestyle.

It goes without saying spectacular scenery such as Ilkley Moor and Middleton Woods played a major part in securing the town's number one spot.

"Ilkley caters really well to almost everyone," added Tim. "Everyone comes back and that is tribute to how much Ilkley has to offer."

Ilkley Gazette: The Grove is Ilkley's prestigious shopping venueThe Grove is Ilkley's prestigious shopping venue

The accolade is well deserved, say Ilkley residents and business leaders.

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.

"We also have a thriving and proactive community that is both supportive and inclusive. I’m really proud of Ilkley and everything that it has to offer – it’s a great place to live and work.”

Ilkley Gazette: Judges praised volunteers for helping to keep Ilkley looking at its best - especially young volunteersJudges praised volunteers for helping to keep Ilkley looking at its best - especially young volunteers

Ian White, chair of the Ilkley Business Improvement District: “As chair of Ilkley BID, I believe that Ilkley truly deserves this recognition. Our businesses are second to none with a wide variety of exceptional independent retailers and a vibrant service sector. Ilkley also has an amazing social scene with a large and varied mix of venues, pubs, bars and restaurants to cater for all tastes.”

Ilkley Town Mayor Cllr Mark Stidworthy said: “This is a fantastic accolade for our town. We are a vibrant and self-sufficient community with fantastic schools, a rich year-round cultural life, high quality parks and sporting venues and great places to work, eat, drink and shop. The town is energised by a community spirit that aspires for the best for others and our environment. Excellent transport links with Leeds and Bradford and Leeds/Bradford airport only 20 minutes away enable easy exploration of Yorkshire and the Dales."

Ilkley Gazette: Stunning residential areas are key to Ilkley's popularityStunning residential areas are key to Ilkley's popularity

Lucy Allen, founder of Ilkley's Real Food Market which takes place on The Grove on the first Sunday of the month said: "Real Food Ilkley was set up as a Community Interest Company by Ilkley residents in 2016 and since our very first market on Mothers' Day that year we have witnessed the very special community spirit that is at the heart of Ilkley. From the selfless volunteers who help us each month to the amazing and generous feedback we get from residents and retailers encouraging and supporting the market.

"Ilkley people foster and support Ilkley independent businesses - we've seen this from the growth and success of many of our Ilkley stalls - from The Ilkley Kitchen and Ilkley Brewery, to Ilkla, Kindr and Yorkshire Mushroom Emporium.

"By giving away two stalls each month to the huge variety of charities and community initiatives Ilkley people strive to support, we see an amazing snapshot of the town. From local churches and playgroups, our amazing Ilkley Carnival and Ilkley Literature Festival to individuals raising money for local causes.

"We feel very lucky to be on the beautiful Grove, between Moor and Wharfe, at the heart of Ilkley each month."

Ilkley Gazette: The campaign to clean up the River Wharfe put the town on the map nationally, said judgesThe campaign to clean up the River Wharfe put the town on the map nationally, said judges

Helen Davies, The Times and Sunday Times Property 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.”

An average house price for each location featured in the guide has been supplied by Halifax, the sponsor of the guide. Ilkley's average house price is £428,000.

The guide, which includes 70 locations, is released online today and an edited version will be available in the paper on Sunday. Visit: