Seven Yorkshire entries are featured in The Sunday Times Best Places to Live Guide 2021

The West Yorkshire spa town of Ilkley has been named the north's most desirable postcode in The Sunday Times Best Places to Live Guide 2021.

It is the first time Ilkley has even featured in the guide for eight years, but after shedding its image as a quiet retirement community in favour of high-profile environmental campaigning and a network of thriving local businesses it has become far more attractive to residents of all ages.

There are also six other Yorkshire entries in the north's top 10, including four first-time inclusions - Masham, Easingwold, Todmorden and Slaithwaite - which join past winner York and the Leeds suburb of Chapel Allerton.

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The Sunday Times’ expert judges who compile the guide assess a wide range of factors, from schools, air quality, transport and broadband speeds to culture, green spaces and the health of the high street.

Ilkley Moor

They look for improving towns, villages or city centres, for attractive, well designed homes and locations bursting with community spirit - which the pandemic has shown to be the most vital quality of all.

Property editor Helen Davies said: “This guide has never been so important. The pandemic has taught us just how much we rely on our homes, our communities and our surroundings. With working from home now common, it’s no surprise that many of us are reassessing our priorities and thinking hard about where we really want to live.

“Our focus for this year has been community, countryside and convenience. It hasn’t been a year for big cities or small villages. Instead it is small towns that have shone: big enough to have everything you need within walking distance and small enough for everyone to feel connected.

“Ilkley has a beating community heart, a business brain, culture and a good sense of humour.

Ilkley's thriving town centre has a Bettys

“It’s also got excellent schools, great shops in its town centre and is within easy reach of both Leeds and the stunning scenery of the Yorkshire Dales, with its own magical moor as the icing on the cake.”


Judges were impressed by the excellent transport links, magnificent scenery and an energetic, environmentally minded community that showed its strength in the successful campaign against pollution in the River Wharfe. There’s plenty to do - tennis, rugby, cycling with the largest club in the country, and swimming in the lido - and plenty to get involved in. Initiatives cover everything from helping out at the literature festival to working to make Ilkley dementia-friendly. They also admired the thriving high street and the excellent selection of places to eat and drink, from authentic espresso at La Stazione to fine dining at the venerable Box Tree.


Sunrise swimming at Ilkley Lido on the summer solstice

“Civilised shops and a cobbled market square are one reason we think this unpretentious Georgian market town is one of North Yorkshire’s best. The other is the perfect location, close to both the Dales and the lovely Howardian Hills but conveniently located on the A19,” was the judges’ verdict here. They picked out the choice of secondary schools - including Outwood Academy, one The Sunday Times Parent Power Guide’s top state secondary schools in the north - as a big attraction for families. Other features highlighted included brunch at the friendly Olive Branch bistro.

Chapel Allerton

“A well supported independent high street - with fishmonger, bookshop, cheese shop and much more - and an inspiring and imaginative community group, CA Spaces, make this urban village our favourite corner of Leeds.” said the judges. They were particularly impressed with the efforts of CA Spaces - mostly run by young parents juggling work and home schooling - to beautify the area, with street art, tree planting and creating pick-your-own veg beds and a “mud kitchen” for children in a patch of neglected woodland. They also praised Gledhow Valley Woods as an atmospheric location for lockdown exercise. Elsewhere in the city, they highlighted Farsley as an up-and-coming creative neighbourhood and Horsforth as a city suburb with a proper country feel.


Ilkley Lawn Tennis and Squash Club is one of several large sports clubs in the town

The judges described Masham as “a picturesque market town in its own right that offers the best of both worlds. The extraordinary landscape of the Yorkshire Dales is on the doorstep and Ripon, with its top selective school and Curzon cinema, is just a short drive away.” Their favourite things here include the market, Black Sheep Brewery and Johnny Baghdad’s is a funky bright-yellow café on the square.


A new entry this year, the judges praised this canalside mill village as a “great choice for families”. It has easy train links to both Manchester and Leeds and is surrounded by lovely countryside. Most of all, though, they were impressed with its vibrant centre - “full of imaginative and hard-working businesses that could be a lesson to many other towns.” Among the many highlights are a co-operative greengrocer, the not-for-profit Handmade Bakery, family-run Anello, which serves some of the best pizza in the north, and the inventive and welcoming children’s store Acorn and Pip.


A healthy dash of alternative spirit and cheaper houses than Hebden Bridge are the big attractions for the judges here. They were impressed with the scenery too - especially the view from Stoodley Pike. The judges also admired the grow-your-own-food movement, Incredible Edible and the charitable efforts of a local wild swimming group raised £45,000 for Crisis through sponsored dips in frozen tarns and freezing waterfalls and lakes.


Winter walks in Ilkley

“York is one of the very best locations in the country for schools, and its unbeatable rail connections and interesting shops and restaurants give this historic city a thoroughly modern edge,” the judges said. They scored it particularly highly for education: at least 90 per cent of state school pupils attend a school that’s rated good or outstanding by Ofsted, and co-ed Fulford School was judged to be the comprehensive of the decade by The Sunday Times Parent Power guide. They picked out South Bank as a good area for people priced out of the city centre, praising the independent shops on ““Bishy” (Bishopthorpe) Road, and beautiful Rowntree Park.

The full guide can be viewed here.