It had been quite a few years since my last visit to Ilkley, a picturesque little town very popular with walkers, situated at the southern end of the Dales Way route from West Yorkshire to the Lake District. I was treated to a day in Ilkley for my birthday, with real ale rather than rambling on the menu on this occasion.
After some delay due to a leaky boiler at home, we eventually got the train from Sheffield just after noon on a sunny Saturday. Usually you would only have to change once, at Leeds, but a landslip on the Wharfedale line meant an extra stop in Shipley. Once we finally arrived, we headed straight across the road from Ilkley station to the Friends of Ham, a delightful little place with a good range of cask and keg beers, plus a huge selection of pork-based bar snacks. Brass Castle’s Death By Toffee (4.8%) was the pick of the bunch.
We had hoped to visit Bar T’At after reading good things about it, but were disappointed to find it closed when we arrived, so we headed down the hill to the Flying Duck, home of Wharfedale Brewery. Here, we sampled the Best (4.0%) and Black (3.7%), and were pleasantly surprised to see Coffee and Hazelnut Baby Stout (3.6%), Abbeydale’s recent collaboration brew with North Riding, making an appearance on the handpumps.
Walking back towards the town centre, we stopped off at the Dalesway Hotel. Having stayed there before, I can vouch for the comfort of the rooms above the pub. It was slightly disappointing that only one handpump was in use at the time of our visit, but the fact it was Timothy Taylor’s Landlord (4.3%) was some consolation. We had more luck across the road at the Crescent Inn, a cosy pub offering six real ales; Kirkstall Brewery’s Dissolution IPA (5.0%) was the highlight for me.
Just down the road we stumbled across Fuggle & Golding, a well-stocked bottle shop with a good selection of KeyKeg ales featuring a couple from Ilkley Brewery. Unfortunately, the brewery doesn’t yet allow access to the public, although there were rumours of a taproom opening in the future. Heading back to the station, we decided to go back into the Friends of Ham for a half having been so impressed earlier, before catching the train back home.