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Jump to Skipton! A market town gateway guide to the Yorkshire Dales

The people of Skipton have many reasons to smile. After all, the busy market town, often described as the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales, is routinely recognized in surveys and polls as one of the happiest places to live in Britain.

And it’s easy to see why. There is an imposing 900-year-old castle elegantly guarding the historic cobbled High Street, while the town itself, some 18 miles northwest of Bradford and home to some 14,500 people, is surrounded by glorious countryside and stone hills. limestone.

Not surprisingly, the choice of where to stay tends to divide visitors. Some opt for a classic city center B&B, such as Unicorn, a landmark building in Skipton, which has been trading as a hotel for over 100 years.

The busy market town of Skipton (above) is often described as the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales.

The busy market town of Skipton (above) is often described as the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales.

Skipton is regularly recognized in surveys and polls as one of the happiest places to live in Britain.  In the photo, the cenotaph at the top end of the city's High Street.

Skipton is regularly recognized in surveys and polls as one of the happiest places to live in Britain. In the photo, the cenotaph at the top end of the city’s High Street.

Others choose to settle in the countryside. The Coniston Country Estate and Spa is just 15 minutes’ drive away.

For many, the retail therapy on offer is as much an attraction to Skipton as the remnants of its ancient past.

Independent shops run by people who have lived and worked in the city for decades are the lifeblood of downtown.

They include Drake & Macefield, the Yorkshire district of Craven’s oldest independent family-owned butchers.

Dating back to medieval times and running four days a week, Skipton Market is packed with stalls selling everything from crafts to Yorkshire-made blankets.

Skipton gets its name from the Anglo-Saxon words ‘sceap’ (sheep) and ‘tun’ (town), which is why it was recorded in the Domesday Book as Scepeton. Founded in the 7th century, it was granted to the de Romille family in 1066.

Date with history: enjoy a relaxing canal boat ride through Skipton

Date with history: enjoy a relaxing canal boat ride through Skipton

Independent shops run by people who have lived and worked in the city for decades are the lifeblood of downtown.

Independent shops run by people who have lived and worked in the city for decades are the lifeblood of downtown.

The Norman baron Robert de Romille built the castle’s first keep in 1090 to repel the expansions of Malcolm III of Scotland. And it is to the castle that visitors are inevitably drawn.

Enter through the round towers of the castle gate, where the word Desormais (in French, hereafter) is carved high above. This was the proud motto of the influential Clifford family who lived here from 1310 to 1676, after the de Romilles died out.

One of the most intriguing parts is in the east tower of the gatehouse. Here a ‘shell grotto’, one of only two such grottos in England (the other is at Woburn Abbey) is made of volcanic rock, coral from Jamaica and Guernsey ormer shells, to represent fire, air , water and land.

The castle withstood a three-year siege during the Civil War and was the final stronghold of the royalist cause in the north, only ceding to Cromwell in 1645. (According to legend, sheep’s wool was hung over the walls during the siege.) to cushion the impact of rounds of cannon fire.)

It is certainly a nugget of history that focuses the mind as visitors climb from the depths of the dungeon, where prisoners were once kept while awaiting trial at York Assizes, to the top floor of the watchtower.

The Norman Baron Robert de Romille built the first castle keep at Skipton in 1090 to repel Malcolm III's expansions of Scotland.  And it is to the castle that visitors are inevitably drawn.

The Norman Baron Robert de Romille built the first castle keep at Skipton in 1090 to repel Malcolm III’s expansions of Scotland. And it is to the castle that visitors are inevitably drawn.

The round towers of the castle gate house have the word Desormais, in French, from now on, engraved on top.

The round towers of the castle gate house have the word Desormais, in French, from now on, engraved on top.

Skipton Castle Woods is nestled in a valley and covered walkways make it an easy place to wander.

Skipton Castle Woods is nestled in a valley and covered walkways make it an easy place to wander.

Clean in size, it doesn’t take long to cover the interior, which includes a medieval banquet hall and kitchen, as well as the bedroom (and outhouse!). After which you emerge into the Tudor courtyard, with a yew planted in its center.

Near the castle there are 36 acres of ancient woodland. Known as Skipton Castle Woods and located in a river valley, covered walkways make it an easy place to wander. And they’re a wildlife haven: Between the Springs Canal and the Eller Beck babble, we’re told you’re likely to see resident herons or the blue flash of kingfishers (sadly, we don’t see any).

An expert ear will hear, though the eyes cannot see, woodpeckers. Meanwhile, at least 17 species of trees flourish here, including oaks, chestnuts, rowans and sloes.

Skipton must be a happy place to live, and it also imbues those who visit with a strong sense of happiness.

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