Looking for things to do in Skipton? Check out our guide to the attractions, events and places of interest in this pretty North Yorkshire market town.
Skipton in North Yorkshire is in a truly idyllic location. Known as the “Gateway to the Dales”, it is surrounded by some of the UK’s most beautiful countryside and many of the county’s most popular attractions, including Malham Cove and Gordale Scar are just a stone’s throw away. Thousands of tourists flock to Skipton each year and it isn’t just because it’s a convenient base for exploring the Yorkshire Dales. Skipton itself has much to offer visitors and should certainly be added to your list of places to visit if you haven’t had the pleasure of exploring the town already.
To help you plan your itinerary for your next trip to Skipton, we’ve put together a guide on things to do in Skipton…
37 of the best things to do in Skipton…
Skipton High Street
Over the years, Skipton’s high street has transformed beyond recognition, whilst retaining its beautiful architecture and having many intricate details for visitors and locals to enjoy all year round. The people of Skipton are famous for being amongst the friendliest in the country, too! If you visit on a market day, you’ll find a buzzing offering of stalls at the UK’s best small outdoor market! Be sure to check out the side streets too as Skipton’s independent shops are scattered around and many you won’t want to miss!
Craven Court Shopping Centre
Craven Court is a beautiful small Victorian shopping arcade set over two floors. In here, you’ll find a wonderful selection of quirky independent shops alongside a few bigger names. There’s also great tea rooms on the upper floor with lots of dining space on the balcony where you can tuck into homemade dishes whilst watching the shoppers below. A great little place for finding unique gifts and if you’re a Harry Potter fan, then The Geek Side will be right up your street with their entire floor dedicated to HP merchandise.
A short distance from the canal towpath is Aireville Park, which consists of 20 acres of parkland. Many years ago it was owned by the Dewhurst family, and was part of Aireville Estate. It is now managed by Craven District Council. As well as a multi-use games area for sports of all types, there is an 18 hole pitch and putt golf course, a swimming pool and fitness centre and an excellent children’s playground. The new wooden playground was added to the park just a couple of years ago and is full of exciting play equipment for children of all ages. There’s even a small zip line!
Dating back over 900 years, Skipton Castle is a perfectly preserved piece of British history. Visitors can explore the medieval castle at their leisure which withstood a three-year siege during the Civil War. It’s open daily from 10am (Sunday from 11am) with the last admission at 5pm (October – March 4pm) and costs £8.30 for adults, £5.20 for children (5-17) and it’s free for under 5s. If you’re visiting as a family a ticket for two adults and up to three children costs £26.60. Free tour sheets are available in a choice of ten languages.
Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway
An absolute essential stop for anyone visiting Skipton is Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway. There you can enjoy a ride in a vintage steam train, which locomotive enthusiasts and history lovers will adore. The evocative smell and the sound of the beautifully restored Victorian and Edwardian carriages will give visitors a truly unique view of Yorkshires famous countryside. To make it an extra special occasion, the first-class saloons offer Cream Tea, Afternoon tea, Ploughman’s Lunch or a Cooked Breakfast, served whilst you steam through the Yorkshire Dales. In summer and autumn, evening meals are available serving everything from Fish and Chips to Curry!
Free things to do in Skipton
The Leeds-Liverpool Canal
The UK’s longest canal, (the Leeds and Liverpool Canal) runs through the heart of Skipton. It offers a fantastic opportunity for walkers who often enjoy an afternoon stroll. It takes you through some of the best countryside found anywhere on England’s canal network. Gargrave to Skipton is an extremely popular walk, it’s a lock-free stretch of the canal, meaning it offers a uniquely peaceful experience for walkers and boat enthusiasts alike.
Skipton Castle Woods
One of the most photographed areas of Skipton, set alongside Skipton Castle, Skipton Castle Woods is a stunning area of woodland, which has an intriguing history and offers a wide variety of amazing wildlife, including bats, deer and kingfishers. The Woodland Trust does a fantastic job of managing the woodland and put a lot of effort to make sure that the natural beauty of the wood is maintained. They also offer a range of events, including the ever-popular lantern walks which allow people to experience the woods in a unique way.
Craven Museum and Gallery
Located within Skipton Town Hall, Craven Museum and Gallery is run by Craven District Council and plays host to an ever-changing array of exhibitions based on heritage and art from the local area. Entrance to the museum is free and is a popular destination for family s looking for a fun activity to do whilst in Skipton. The museum also houses Shakespeare’s First Folio, one of just four Folio’s on permanent display in the world. The museum is closed in January for maintenance work.
Just a short distance from Skipton Town Centre, Bolton Abbey is one of the most visited landmarks in the area. It is an impressive estate that sits perfectly within the landscape of the Yorkshire Dales, next to the picturesque village of Bolton Abbey. There are ample walking routes and many attractions which appeal to all ages. It has a rich history, which dates back to 1120, and the ruins of the original Priory are still present within the estate.
Fun things to do in Skipton
The Sound Bar
The Sound Bar is Skipton’s pub with a twist! As well as serving an excellent range of local ales, they also stock and display a vast collection of vinyl records and CDs, which are all available to purchase. Avid supporters of the local music scene, The Sound Bar host live performances every Sunday to showcase the area’s best music talent. Open Wednesday 12:00 – 20:00, Thursday 12:00 – 21:00, Friday 12:00 – 21:00pm, Saturday 12:00 – 21:00 and Sunday 12:00 – 20:00.
Skipton Bar Crawl
Skipton is home to a wonderful selection of bars and pubs. We have gin bars and cocktail bars, music bars and sports bars, traditional alehouses and micropubs serving craft beers. Start with a glass of the bubbly stuff at VSQ. and then head across to Cock and Bottle or The Albion for local ales in lovely beer gardens, before making your way up the High Street towards the sassy and sophisticated Alexander’s Bar & Kitchen.
Coffee and Clay
Located at the top of Skipton High Street, Coffee and Clay looks like your average cafe from the outside. However, on the top floor of the building is an area dedicated to pottery painting. Great fun with or without children, Coffee and Clay let you unleash your creativity on an unsuspecting teapot whilst demolishing one of their delicious lunches. Open Monday to Saturday 09:30 – 16:15 and Sundays 10:30 – 16:15.
The Kilnsey Estate dates back to the 1100s. It was owned by the monks from Fountain’s Abbey for 400 years before Henry VIII took their land. Now owned and managed by Jamie and Amy Roberts, this glorious estate offers a variety of rural activities such as fun fishing, pony trekking and wildlife experiences. There is much to see and do on the Kilnsey Park estate and the location is stunning. The onsite cafe, discovery trail and family fishing activities are open to the public 7 days a week until 5 pm.
Things to do in Skipton with kids
Thornton Hall Farm Country Park
You’ll find Thornton Hall Farm Country Park just outside Skipton near Thornton-in-Craven. A working farm offers some wonderful animal encounters in addition to its excellent children’s play areas, Thornton Hall Farm Country park has plenty to keep the kids entertained. Be sure to check their calendar of events because they always have fun themed weeks planned for the little ones with activities and dressing up opportunities. There is also a cafe on-site so you can enjoy a slice of cake and a cuppa whilst they let off some steam. Opens at 10:00 and closes at 16:30.
Matrix Superbowl in Skipton is great for kids of all ages. They have Ten-pin bowling, Snooker and American Pool for the older kids and the adults as well as a fully licensed bar serving hot food. Upstairs, you’ll find a small cafe with an indoor soft play area which is bound to keep your little monkeys happy for a good couple of hours. Open from 10:00 – 22:00.
Billy Bob’s Parlour
Billy Bob’s Parlour is a fantastic American-style diner just outside Skipton with fun interiors, exciting menus and excellent children’s play areas. If you’re a fan of fast food then this is a great little place to eat. Their play barn and outdoor play area will provide plenty of entertainment for the little ones once you’ve finished tucking into burgers, hotdogs, American pancakes and indulgent ice-cream sundaes. Make sure you book your table in advance as this place gets booked up incredibly quickly! It is certainly one of the most popular family restaurants in the area.
The Plaza Cinema
Skipton’s cinema only has one screen so you’re not going to be spoiled for choice when picking a film. However, a cosy little local cinema such as the Plaza is perfect for families with young children who want to avoid the extortionate costs and crowds often associated with larger cinema chains. Check their website to see what films are showing and head down to the Plaza for a cosy, family film night!
Okay, so strictly speaking this isn’t just for kids but they will certainly enjoy a visit! The Cake’ole in Skipton’s Craven Court Shopping Centre is a quirky little cafe serving light bites, milkshakes and some absolutely delicious cakes. Their huge cakes are made daily so you never know what flavours will be on offer until you arrive. Typically, they have a display table with 5 or 6 delicious and beautifully decorated three-tier cakes which are always incredibly difficult to choose between. We recommend getting their cake platter and sharing numerous slices with friends. These guys really know how to make a cake and have made a few for some famous names including Mel B and Gogglebox cast members. For a real treat opt for their Afternoon Tier. They also do a great one specifically for kids which includes lots of fun treats.
The Chocolate Works
A relatively new addition to Skipton is The Chocolate Works. This delightful chocolate-themed cafe sits on Sheep Street and has both indoor and outdoor seating. Their menu is perfect for chocoholics and their delicious bubble waffles are a wonderful calorific treat!
Romantic things to do in Skipton
Dinner for Two
There is no shortage of restaurants in Skipton. They have Mexican, American, Indian, Thai, Chinese and French restaurants and a superb selection of pubs serving home-cooked food. If you’re looking for a romantic dining experience, head to Le Caveau or Le Bistro des Amis. Both of these offer an ambience perfect for those intimate dinner dates and they serve some of the finest food in Skipton.
The Canal Basin
The Leeds-Liverpool canal runs through the heart of Skipton and is one of its main tourist attractions. Boat trips are available at various times throughout the day from Pennine Cruisers and Skipton Boats. During the warmer months, we recommend taking a leisurely stroll along Skipton’s canal banks with your other half. You’ll find some great spots for those obligatory ‘couple selfies’ and you can end your romantic walk with traditional Fish & Chips from Bizzie Lizzies.
If you like Gin then you’ll LOVE Skipton’s V.SQ bar. The brainchild of a local mother and daughter, this great little bar opened in August 2015 and now serves around 170 different gins. They also offer an excellent selection of cocktails created by their talented mixologists. Spend an evening getting to know one another whilst sampling their impressive drinks menu.
The Rendezvous Hotel
Book a night at the Rendezvous Hotel, situated next to the Leeds-Liverpool canal and just a mile from the town centre. They have a leisure club onsite if you want to work up a sweat or go for a dip. The hotel is also home to Skipton Bar & Grill – an excellent canal-side restaurant. We recommend booking ‘The Best Room in the House’. It boasts plush velvet soft furnishings, a comfortable lounge area and a luxurious Jacuzzi so it really lives up to its name!
Afternoon Tea at Herriots
Herriots Hotel is situated right across the road from Skipton rail station so it’s a great first stop once you get off the train. This contemporary hotel has been providing accommodation and dining to tourists for many years and has a great reputation. Their Rhubarb restaurant serves food at lunchtime and in the evening but we recommend booking their Afternoon Tea. Three tiers of dainty sandwiches, filled potato skins and decadent sweet treats are served in a beautifully decorated restaurant. What’s not to like?
Spa Day at The Devonshire Arms
The Devonshire Arms is an exceptional hotel and country retreat set in breathtakingly beautiful surroundings. Just up the road from Skipton on the Bolton Abbey Estate, The Devonshire Arms Hotel and Spa is ideal for a day of relaxation and pampering. Book one of their many spa packages for a relaxed and romantic experience before dining in their award-winning restaurant or enjoying an al fresco lunch in a seriously Instagrammable location!
Things to do in Skipton at Night
Skipton Town Hall Theatre
The local town hall puts on a variety of ticketed events such as family film screenings, heart-warming plays, seasonal craft fairs, gin festivals and fun tea dances. The town hall is located right at the top of the high street so you can pop into one of the local bars for a cheeky drink beforehand!
The Mart Theatre
You’d be hard pushed to find another venue like The Mart Theatre in Skipton. It’s the only theatre in the world that resides in a working cattle auction mart! Their annual programme of events is a diverse mix of theatre, comedy, music, family events and student performances. They’ve played host to some big names such as Michael McIntyre, Sarah Millican, Toploader and Beverley Craven. Check out their website to see what’s on!
Alexander’s is situated at the top of Skipton High Street and is an excellent venue with stunning interiors and a variety of dining options. For a romantic meal for two, dine in their contemporary restaurant and tuck into some truly stunning dishes. Their seafood platter is exceptional and perfect for a special occasion.
On sunny afternoons, their terrace is perfect for sharing pizzas and prosecco with friends and their pretty parlour space is the ideal spot for an indulgent afternoon tea. During the winter months. Alexander’s offer a truly unique dining experience in the form of a pop-up alpine lodge. Heated, cosy and with a tasty menu of warming dishes, it’s a great way to kick off the festive period.
A few of the pubs in Skipton host a weekly quiz night. Some offer prizes in the form of cash whilst others reward the winner with alcohol. The Albion host their quiz night on a Thursday. It starts at 9pm and includes a number of themed rounds. The Cock and Bottle and The Fleece also host regular quiz nights.
Karaoke is a guilty pleasure for many of us. There’s nothing more enjoyable than a good old sing-a-long after one too many beers. The best karaoke night in Skipton takes place on the last Friday of each month at The Albion. The owners are excellent hosts and you’ll get a warm welcome from both the staff and their regular crooners. The Fleece also holds regular karaoke nights hosted by some of Skipton’s most colourful entertainers.
Best events in Skipton
Skipton’s Anglo Saxon name is “Sceap Tun” which translates, simply, to Sheep Town. The residents of Skipton embrace this title with their annual “Sheep Day.” It’s one of the most anticipated events, despite being one of the most unusual days of the year for Skipton! The famous Sheep Show takes place at regular intervals throughout the day, showcasing various breeds of sheep, sheep shearing demonstrations and even sheep dancing. The whole town gets behind the event and there’s plenty on offer, including various animal-focused attractions like a petting zoo and even birds of prey encounters. It’s an unmissable event if you’re looking for a truly unique thing to do when in Skipton
Skipton Artisan Market
Skipton’s Artisan Market takes place on Sundays and provides a unique little shopping experience in one of the prettiest parts of the town. The market sees a host of local crafters and producers take over the Canal basin for a fantastic, community lead event organised by some of Skipton Markets top traders. There’s always something different on offer and there are often local musicians for you to enjoy whilst you peruse the stalls at leisure.
Taking place at the Mart Theatre in September and heading into its fifth year, Yarn Dale is a fantastic exhibition of some of the best knitting, crochet, spinning, dyeing and felting talent in the region. It’s a two-day event that hosts over 180 talented exhibitors who are passionate about sharing all things woolly! The Auction Mart is a truly unique venue which is certainly an essential stop for anyone visiting the area, and Yarn Dale, along with Art in the Pen and Crafts in the Pen, is perhaps the most popular event held here throughout the year.
Skipton and Craven Rotaries annual Santa Fun Run
The Santa Fun Run has fast become one of the most anticipated days of the year. It’s a day when thousands of dedicated Skipton residents join together to run through the streets of Skipton dressed as Santa Claus. Truly a sight to behold, this event is held in the name of charity and is organised by the fantastic individuals at the Skipton and Craven Rotary club.
Skipton Charities Gala
Skipton’s annual gala has been the town’s most loved event for decades. The event kicks off with a colourful procession through the town centre, with community groups, schools and local charities all taking part. The main event is always at Aireville Park and the schedule includes the crowning of the Gala Queen, dog shows and more. They’ve had a number of celebrity guests over the years including the real Calendar Girls and some popular Coronation Street actors and actresses. There’s also a big family funfair which is open from Thursday evening until the end-of-event fireworks on Saturday night.
In August 2021, Skipton hosted its very first music festival and it looks like the event will be returning in 2022. The fun-packed 3-day event took place in Aireville Park and in addition to a plethora of funfair rides, food vendors, bars and activities there were some excellent live acts. Tickets sold fast for attendance on Saturday and Sunday when bands such as Feeder, Toploader, Razorlight and The Artful Dodger took to the stage and families flocked to the park on the Friday for screenings of hit movies The Greatest Showman and Bohemian Rhapsody. An excellent event that will surely get bigger and better each year!