old frosty November Sunday saw our gruesome threesome land in Ilkley ,without doubt the poshest place in the Bradford Met Area and more familiar to me as having a massive effect on my poor A level grades 30 plus years ago when valuable studying time was happily wasted in the back pool room of the now long gone Listers Arms with a bunch of fellow diligent students all getting happily giddy on woodpecker cider..but I digress…
A former Spa Town on the banks of the River Wharfe , apart from Bettys Famous Tea Rooms the main attraction bringing folk into Ilkley is the famous Ilkley Moor (or to give it its correct name Rombalds Moor) of Yorkshire Anthem“On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘a‘ fame . With borders towards Keighley and Bingley , the miles of footpaths across open moorland can provide routes from a gentle stroll to strenuous serious hill walking not to be attempted with out some serious decent kit.
If the hills prove not be your thing the proximity of the River to the town centre makes for pleasant easy wandering along the banks and the public spaces of the Riverside Gardens , whilst Middleton Woods , a short walk from the centre are another popular spot for walkers especially during the spring when the woods sprout a spectacular expanse of bluebells .
Feeling ridiculously healthy we opted for a walk on the moor and took a linear path from home in Keighley across the moor . One thing to note when you visit the moor with your 4 pawed buddy is that the moor is home to many game birds and as such to avoid disturbing are restrictions on dogs running free . Unfortunately these seem to be ridiculously convoluted , depending on which area , time of year etc you are visiting . With this is mind and the fact that occasionally the odd lost sheep rears its head from out of the heather we’ve always walked Bruce on 10 foot training line just to be on the safe side .
There’s no doubt the moor is definitely full of ‘wow’ moments with breathtaking views for the humans and a myriad of undergrowth to sniff at and moorland streams to wallow in for your canine . The main paths are easy to follow and well maintained but follow any of the lesser used rougher route and I’d advise walking boots for the mud and stones .Mud is to be expected !!!
We took one of these paths to arrive in Ilkley after a walk of maybe 5 or 6 miles at the famous Cow and Calf Rocks as , two formidable rock formations of millstone grit that cling to the hillside . From seeing only a few hardy souls on our travels , the rocks were heaving with families including a lot of free running dogs all enjoying the Autumnal sunshine .
Our first refreshment stop of the day took us to the surprisingly named Cow and Calf Hotel , set on the roadside a couple of hundred yards to the Rocks themselves . Now a branded eatery style pubs of the sort that are normally ridiculously mutt unfriendly I was genuinely surprised by the warm welcome afforded to dogs and their owners .The young lass behind the bar happily explained that dogs were allowed in the bar and beer garden as well as having a specific room for people to dine in if they were with canine . All good stuff !
Being pretty chocka with other dogs and Bruce still on a high from his moorland adventure we opted for the spacious beer garden (with a ridiculous amount of water bowls ) and a welcome first pint of Leeds Pale .
After the 15 minute walk into the town centre we fell into The Yard Bar just off the main street , drawn in by the ‘dogs welcome with well behaved owners ‘ sign . Apparently so I’m informed most of the pubs in Ilkley are dog friendly but from our experience few seem unfortunately to acknowledge the fact anywhere on their frontage ..so consequently missed out on our crawl and custom .
The Yard proved to have a real laid back feel to the place , part bar ,part burger/chicken shack . Again really warm welcome for everyone including Bruce from with treats and water offered by the lady behind the bar , before beer , always a sign of a true dog friendly spot ! A maze of cosy small areas , a balcony and some well designed outside space (some under cover ) meant there was plenty of opportunity to find a quiet corner to settle down in , not that Bruce needed it settling immediately under the table only moving when the table next to us were brought their burgers ! Plenty of bottled craft beer on offer , not really my thing . but a well kept pint Of Ilkley Brewery’s Mary Jane on the only hand pump proved a winner.Without a doubt we’ll be back !
Our final port of call was a perennial favourite of mine ,The Flying Duck , home of the Wharfdale Brewery that is housed in a barn in the pubs beer garden.Flagged floors , open fires and eight real ales on tap plus Bruce receiving a no end of fuss from fellow customers and bar staff alike and an easy hour and half flew by .Yet again as with all the Ilkley pubs great service from behind the bar with the young lass delighting in between serving customers of swopping horror stories of our own dogs misdemeanours one of the days many highlights !
The Duck is without doubt one of those’ get by the fire and settled ‘ could stay all day pubs but it was time to go . As we went for the bus we a passed a former pub now a trendy eating house and memories of 30 years ago came flooding back – a usually teetoal mate , Paul Youngs ‘Every Time you Go Away’ , numerous pints of Carling and Black and a Cream Coloured Bath Mat …but that’s another story for another day …