Known as the Gateway to the Dales, Skipton is a traditional market town sitting on the Leeds-Liverpool canal. The High Street is award winning and the wonderful Skipton Castle is a short stride from the town centre.

Skipton in West Yorkshire is traditionally known as the Gateway to the Dales.

A typical market town, with a high street voted the best in the UK by the Academy of Urbanism in 2008.

There’s a busy market in the High Street on four days of the week and the town is dominated by the impressive Skipton Castle.

In brief

  • Gateway to the Dales
  • Best High Street in the UK
  • Historic, and still intact, Skipton Castle
  • Typical Dales market town
  • Bustling canal-side
  • Great base for seeing the area

A bit of history

Skipton Castle

Skipton Castle*

Skipton is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1085, so it’s an old town. It was historically part of the West Riding of Yorkshire although is now in North Yorkshire. A castle was first built here in 1090 by a Norman baron, Robert de Romille, to repel marauders from Scotland.

A town grew up around the protection the castle gave, with a busy market trading sheep and woollen goods from the local farmers. The name Skipton, in fact, comes from these activities, sceap (sheep) and tun (town or village) in Old English.

Mills came to the town early. Initially there was a corn mill, High Corn Mill, owned by King Edward II and passed to the locally powerful Clifford family in 1310. The mill produced corn for the whole of Skipton – a nice little earner for the already well-off Cliffords.

During the English Civil War, Royalist soldiers held Skipton Castle, under the command of Sir John Mallory. It was the last remaining Royalist stronghold in North England until its honourable surrender in December 1645 after a three-year siege. There must have been some damage during the siege as Lady Anne Clifford carefully restored Skipton Castle after the war.

During the industrial revolution in the 19th century Skipton was transformed into a small mill town. It’s nine mills were connected to the major cities via the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and its branch Thanet Canal, (also known locally as ‘Springs branch Canal’).

The town also played roles in history during the English Civil War and as the site of a prisoner of war camp during World War I.

* Photo by Andy Hay

Skipton today

Today Skipton is best known as a tourist destination and as the Gateway to the Dales. The town has retained the feel of an unspoiled market town, and attracts large numbers on market days generating a bustling and friendly atmosphere.

This unique combination of market, the castle at one end of the town and a great blend of shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants earned it the accolade of Britain’s best High Street in 2008 from the Academy of Urbanism.

Skipton Castle

At the top of the High Street, the castle is a rare example of a medieval castle that is intact and is still as it would have been in its heyday.

Entry is £6.50 for adults and there are guided tours available.
More information

Copper Dragon Brewery

The brewery opened in 2002 and produces five different cask beers, four of which are also available bottled. It’s located just out of the town on Keighley Road. There are tours around the brewery at 12noon each day and evening tours can be arranged. The Visitor Centre has a pleasant Bistro, a shop and conference rooms.

01756 704560
Copper Dragon website


Craven Museum & Gallery

Craven Museum & Gallery is in the Town Hall and describes itself as “a hidden gem in the market town of Skipton”. It’s a visitor attraction that tells the story of Craven through the ages through permanent collections, changing exhibitions, workshops and family events.
Craven Museum & Gallery website

Leeds-Liverpool Canal

Skipton boat carnival

Skipton boat carnival

Britain’s longest inland waterway (127 miles) was opened in 1816, took 46 years to build and came in at five times the original budget. The canal was busy all through the nineteenth century and carried stone, coal, wool, cotton, limestone, grain, and other goods.

Lord Thanet in Skipton, then the owner of both Skipton Castle and the local limestone quarries, arranged for a quarter mile branch canal to be built to connect the quarries with the new Leeds Liverpool Canal. Approval was given in 1773 and the branch was built quickly after this.

The canal is no longer used to carry cargo but is a well loved leisure facility, used as much by walkers and cyclists as by canal boaters. Skipton remains a hub of this activity and canal boats can be hired for the day or for longer holidays.

Getting there


Skipton is close to the A65, the main road to the Lake District, and the A59 from York to Liverpool. Free parking is limited but there is plenty of spaces in various car parks in the town at reasonable cost.


Skipton is on the lines from both Leeds and Bradford through to Lancaster, Morecambe and Carlisle. The Carlisle route takes you to Settle, start of the beautiful Settle to Carlisle section which incorporates the famous Ribblehead Viaduct. The town is just a short walk from the station.

Where to stay

There’s only a few hotels in Skipton but they all have great accommodation to offer whatever your budget.

In the town

Herriots Hotel
Napiers Restaurant & Accommodation

A little further out

The Rendezvous Hotel
The Tempest Arms, Elslack


Photos in and around Skipton in North Yorkshire, Gateway to the Dales.

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