As its name suggests, this West Yorkshire town is firmly in Wharfedale, but oddly it was not included in the Yorkshire Dales National Park when it was established back in 1954.
Some would say that’s a good thing, though, as it means the town is much less touristy than some of its neighbours just a few miles to the north.
First and foremost, Burley in Wharfedale provides a great base to explore the lower part of the dales from. It is set amongst delightful countryside and is close to a number of fantastic walking routes.
One of those begins at Station Road before cutting across the hills above Ben Rhydding and following the path of the Ebor Way/Dales Way to the striking Cow and Calf rocks on Ilkley Moor.
The milestone and sandstone rocks are famous locally due to their formation. Also known as the Hangingstone Rocks, they formed on the hillside overlooking Ilkley thousands of years ago and provide a good stopping off place for hikers as well as a great destination for those into climbing and abseiling.
Legend has it that the rocks were split by a giant named Rombald, who stood on them as he was fleeing an enemy. In some tales that enemy was his angry wife. Another local tale suggests that there was once another rock close by that resembled a bull, but it was quarried in order to build homes in Ilkley during the 19th century. There is no historical evidence to substantiate such a claim, though.
A good walking spot in the opposite direction from Burley in Wharfedale can be found at the Otley Chevin Forest Park. It has mixed meadows and woodlands as well as a few rock formations of its own.
At its summit is an area called ‘Surprise View’ that gives visitors fantastic views over the whole of Lower Wharfedale. On clear days you can even see the hills beyond Harrogate to the north-west. Some days there’s even an ice cream van in the car park so you finish an enjoyable ramble with a 99 and a flake.
The Chevin is believed to have been the inspiration behind J.M.W Turner’s famous painting Snow Storm: Hannibal and His Army Crossing the Alps, which currently hangs at the Tate Gallery in London.
Turner had been staying with his friend Walter Fawkes at Farnley Hall near Otley when a large storm descended over the Chevin. Turner, it seems, used what he saw and imagined the landscape being the Alps in 218 BCE.
The town of Burley in Wharfedale itself is based around the lengthy Main Street. Here you will find an array of shops, eateries and public houses. Some of the architecture is from the Georgian era, but the majority is Victoria as that was when the town really grew.
In particular, the opening of the large Greenholme Mills close to the River Wharfe brought a lot of people to the area. The mill still stands today, but is now divided up into units and is no longer the centre of Burley in Wharfedale’s economy.
An interesting building on Main Street is Queen’s Hall. Now used as council offices, it was originally constructed as a lecture hall for those working in the mill. From the outside it looks like a cross between a Victorian school and a church as it has an imposing clock tower and triangle prism roofs.
In front of the hall stands two large stone Celtic crosses. They are dedicated to W.E Forster (1816-1886) and William Fison (1820-1900), who jointly owned Greenholme Mills and both lived in the village.
Opposite Queen’s Hall is Grange Park, which is small but provides a nice place for a leisurely stroll or a picnic when the sun is out.
For a place of its size, Burley in Wharfedale has excellent transport links to the neighbouring towns of Otley and Ilkley as well as Leeds, which is the largest city in Yorkshire and one of the finest places for shopping in the whole of the UK.