Ilkley named as best place to live in the UK in The Sunday Times Best Places to Live guide 2022 as Leeds also bags a spot on the list

Ilkley has been named as the best place to live in the UK by The Sunday Times.

By Grace Newton and Rebecca Marano
Friday, 8th April 2022, 12:12 pm

The West Yorkshire spa town topped a list of 70 locations to be named as the Best Place to Live by The Sunday Times Best Places to Live guide 2022.

Slaithwaite, near Huddersfield, was named the best place to live in the North and Northeast of England.

Leeds city centre was also picked as one of the top areas to live in that list.

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Ilkley has been named as the best place to live in the UK by The Sunday Times. Photo: Tony Johnson.

Ilkley was praised for its top schools, interesting shops, spectacular scenery and convenient rail links.

The judges were 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.

Residents in the town were also praised for for their efforts in winning bathing water status for the River Wharfe while campaigning for Yorkshire Water to reduce sewage discharges to allow for safe wild swimming.

Guide editor Tim Palmer said: "It's very villagey this year - partly because since Covid we have been able to travel to more places and look a bit harder at them.

Ilkley was praised for its top schools, interesting shops, spectacular scenery and convenient rail links.

"Ilkley is one of the few places where you can manage better without a car than with one. You can even walk to the supermarket. The town is really behind people like the bathing water campaigners.

"West Yorkshire has been getting better and better since we started the guide 10 years ago, especially compared to North Yorkshire."

Jason Preston, head of sales at Fine & Country’s new Wharfedale and Craven branch, said: “As someone who grew up in Ilkley, it’s no surprise to me that it’s been named the best place to live in the UK.

"It’s always been an aspirational place to settle, and while once it might’ve been seen as a sleepy place to visit near the Yorkshire Dales, it’s evolved into so much more than a beautiful rural location.

"So many great independents and amazing restaurants have moved in, giving it a vibrant, artisan vibe that younger home buyers are looking for.

“It’s that lower age demographic that has really changed things up in Ilkley, and it just seems to be getting better. This title is really well deserved can only mean enhanced values for properties in Ilkley.”

The Sunday Times’s expert judges behind the 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.

Helen Davies, The Times and Sunday Times Property Editor said: “The Sunday Times Best Places to Live list is necessarily subjective. Leave it just to statistics and you will never capture the spirit of a place. For that, you need to visit to take into account that ‘you have to be here’ feeling. Is the pub dog-friendly, for example? Can you live car-free? What are the schools and houses like? Is it multicultural and multigenerational, and can it offer a good way of life to lots of different sorts of people?

“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.”

There are comments from the judges on each of the chosen locations below. More details are available on request. Helen Davies, editor of the guide, and the judges are available for interview, to discuss specific entries or issues raised by the guide.

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

Why Ilkley? By STBPTL Guide editor Tim Palmer

The scenery

How many towns have a natural playground as wild and magical as Ilkley Moor on the doorstep? If that's not enough, there are glorious riverside and woodland walks too - and the glorious landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales are just a short drive or bike ride away.

The schools

Lots of highly rated primaries, and Ilkley Grammar. It's rated outstanding by Ofsted, but the very best thing is that most people go there, which means that so many people in the town know each other.

The sport

The opportunities offered by the rugby, football, cricket, tennis, cycling clubs and others make it a great place to grow up. For those who don't like sport, there's a brilliant drama group in The Upstagers.

Everything is within walking distance

It's a small town with everything you need - shops, supermarkets, cafes and restaurants. For anything else, you can hop on a train to Leeds. It's hard to imagine a place where it would be easier to manage without a car.

The community cares - and knows how to get things done

From the campaign to secure bathing water status for the River Wharfe and the support groups set up during the pandemic, to the volunteers planting flowers in the station plaza or keeping the Riverside Gardens tidy, everyone gets involved to give their town a boost.

The cinema

Has anyone given the town a bigger gift than John Tate, when he turned Il Trovatore nightclub into a much-loved unique boutique cinema, complete with comfy sofas and excellent food and drink.

Real Food Ilkley

Another local project for local people, the vibrant street market set up in 2016 has gone from strength to strength and given the town's food culture a serious boost. Look out particularly for the delicious cakes, sausage rolls and salads from the Ilkley Kitchen.

Outside the Box

A brilliant cafe, serving some of the best coffee in town and an inspiring charity providing training, support and employment for adults with learning difficulties and helping them find work elsewhere.

Community Cutlery

Why doesn't every town have a kinfe-sharpener? Anyone who's ever chopped an onion knows how essential a sharp knife is, and the lovely couple who run this quirky shop are real experts. It's a great example of the interesting independent shops springing up in the town. They also sell cook's knives that will last a lifetime and a selection of cool, useful homewares.

The Literary Festival

The oldest and best in the north - regularly featuring Nobel Prize winners and Poet Laureates - gives the town lots of intellectual credibility - not just in for its autumn run, but throughout the year, thanks to children's and community projects and the presence of the excellent Grove bookshop.