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Ilkley Literature Festival, Yorkshire, 2019

October 4, 2019 - October 20, 2019

Ilkley Literature Festival

Actors, writers, poets and even a few journos will descend upon the West Yorkshire Victorian spa town of Ilkley in October for the Ilkley Literature Festival.

The county might be noted for its Yorkshire brass bands, but this 17-day bookish fete is the second oldest in the UK, as well as the leading one of its ilk in the North. Expect authors, politicians and philosophers to be drawn to the town, and its wonderful scenery nestled by Ilkley moor immortalised in song.

Highlights of the Ilkley Literature Festival 2019

The 2019 edition will be opened by Poet Laureate – and Yorkshireman – Simon Armitage. Other celebrities appearing over the course of the following two-and-a-bit weeks will include actor David Suchet, who will read from his new autobiography entitled Behind The Lens: My Life, due out in October, and the poet Lemn Sissay (see cover photo) who will present his memoirs My Name is Why.

Poet Laurette, Simon Armitage, photo Peter James Millson
Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, photo Peter James Millson

In conversation will be Prue Leith, presenter of The Great British Bake Off, with Felicity Cloake, food critic for The Guardian.

TV-icon Clare Balding will regale festivalgoers with her pony stories in the Children’s Festival, which will include inspirational writing workshops, imaginative theatre and interactive storytelling for the threes to 12.

Other events

The festival will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing with an Ilkley Moor stargazing walk. Alternatively, you can attend a film night, music or comedy night, participate in the book quiz or quench your thirst at Betty’s, the famed tearoom that is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2019.

Copies of books features at the festival are available to purchase at Grove Bookshop in town.

The Ilkley Festival Fringe will take place on 5 to 6 October.

If you want to make the most of the spectacular surroundings, there are three short walking routes around the town and into the moor to The Poetry Seat. Here some of Armitage’s poems are etched on stone for walkers to read, as part of the Stanza Stone trail of poems that stretches from the town to Marsden, some 47 miles away.

David Suchet
David Suchet, c Robin Sinha

Alternatively, why not visit Whitby and the North York Moors?

Restaurants and Pubs in Ilkley

Ilkley has a number of independent cafés, restaurants and bars, such as the tapas-style Friends of Ham and up-market Box Tree restaurant. The Crescent Inn dominates the centre of town and has a proper pub, as well as Le Bistrot Pierre restaurant.

Festivals in Yorkshire

If you can’t attend the Ilkley Festival but are going to God’s Own Country, you could try the Malton Food Festival (May), the Whitby Folk Festival (August) or the Freedom Festival Hull (August / September).

When is the Ilkley Literature Festival 2019?

4 – 20 October, 2019.

Tickets for the Ilkley Literature Festival

Tickets for the Ilkley Literature Festival go on sale 27 August. For prices and booking details click here.

Ilkley Literature Festival Schedule

A full schedule of what’s on can be found here.

Ilkley Moor Song

If you haven’t heard Yorkshire’s ‘national anthem’ On Ilkley Moor Baht ‘at, then you are in for a treat.

Getting to the Ilkley Literature Festival

Trains run twice an hour from Leeds and Bradford, both 30 minutes away. Most trains will take bikes, or you can always cycle along the back lanes from Otley. If travelling by car, Ilkley is on the A65 from Leeds to Skipton. Or if arriving from overseas, Leeds/Bradford International airport is only a 15-minute drive away.

Hotels in Ilkley 

The Crescent Inn is in the centre of town, and the Innkeepers Lodge has great views of the Cow and Calf Rocks.

If you wish to book accommodation for the festival, perhaps you could use our hotel booking page. It scours the major hotel booking sites so that you don’t have to:

Things to do in Ilkley

For more inspiration on what to do in Ilkley, visit: or

Cover photo: Sissay Lemn, c. Slater Kin



October 4, 2019
October 20, 2019
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