Otley

Information on Otley, Yorkshire

Otley is a market town in Lower Wharfedale, straddling both sides of the river. It’s close to Leeds and Bradford which make it a popular commuter town with many of its 14,000 population working in the large Cities to the South. Otley’s name is derived from Othe, a Saxon personal name and Leah, a woodland clearing in Old English. It was known as Othelia in the Domesday Book of 1086.  In the town’s early years, The Archbishops of York were lords of the manor and had a palace on the site occupied today by the Manor House. In the 13th century the archbishops laid out ‘burgage’ or rental plots on Boroughgate, Walkergate and Kirkgate to attract merchants and the town began to grow. In 1222 when King Henry III granted the town a Royal Charter to hold a market, and Otley still has a street market three times a week plus a monthly Farmers’ Market. The town was always a centre of the woollen trade and production increased at the time of the Industrial revolution when mills were built using water then steam power. By the mid 19th century 500 inhabitants were employed in two worsted-mills, a paper-mill, and other mills. Above the town is the gritstone escarpment of Chevin Forest Park which provides great views over the town and the surrounding countryside. J.M.W. Turner, the painter, visited Otley in 1797, and returned regularly over the years. His famous painting of Hannibal Crossing The Alps is reputed to have been inspired by a storm over Otley’s Chevin. Otley has all the amenities one would expect from a small town with three supermarkets and many high street chain shops. It also has a large number of pubs – and is reputed to have more pubs per head of population than any other town in Britain! The Black Bull in the Market Place was allegedly drunk dry by Oliver Cromwell’s troops on the night before the battle of Marston Moor during the English Civil War. Otley isn’t actually within the Yorkshire Dales National Park but is close to the boundary and is likely to be en-route if travelling from Leeds .The main roads through the town are the A660 to the south east, which connects Otley to Bramhope, Adel and Leeds city centre, and the A65 to the west, which goes to Ilkley and then onto Skipton and the ‘actual’ Dales. The A6038 heads to Guiseley, Shipley and Bradford, connecting with the A65. To Harrogate, the A659 heads east to the A658, which is the main Bradford-Harrogate road.

For info on where to stay in the Dales and hotel, B+B and cottage bookings see my accommodation page.

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