“We’re Not Sausage People” – Parenting in Ilkley

“Elsa, we’re going to a Burns Night soft play event at Dan’s Den. Burns Night is important to Scottish people.”

“We’re not sausage people”

When you mention you live near Ilkley, one of the standard responses you receive runs along the lines of “oh yeah, the pensioner town”. Whilst it is true that Betty’s Tea Room acts like a fluorescent beacon to the driving glove-bedecked, shopping trolley-wielding hoards, LS29 has plenty to offer for those bringing up young kids too.

I’ve already made a video to show how family friendly Ilkley is…

…but there’s so much more to the area that I couldn’t fit into that four-and-a-half-minute edit. That’s why I’ve decided to add some these places to the list:

Dan’s Den

Dan’s Den is the soft play centre that hosted the Burns Night event for “sausage people”. Actually, it was billed as a Dad’s Den evening, encouraging fathers to bring their kids along for a meal of fake haggis (the real stuff might not have passed muster with a toddler’s delicate palate), a Scottish-themed story time and general soft play riot.

It wasn’t restricted to fathers, but it was a nice idea designed to recognise that dads are parents too, something that doesn’t come as naturally to certain organisations as you would expect it should. It’s that kind of easy-going attitude that makes me like Dan’s Den even more; it’s relaxed, fun place and Elsa loves marauding around the multiple levels of apparatus on offer.

She even insisted that I tried out the huge slide, which I did. About seven times. Just to make sure it was as much fun as she claimed it was. It was.

Ilkley Cinema

For years, the worst thing about living in this corner of West Yorkshire was the lack of a cinema. Leeds and Bradford aren’t that far away, and both offer a range of picture houses, but it always seemed to turn what should be a simple night out into a military mission if we were going to get there in time to eat all of our refreshments before the trailers began (as is the law).

Then Ilkley Cinema landed, offering new movies, art house films and kids’ flicks, all presented in an auditorium in which you can relax in comfortable sofas with drinks from the bar and a choice of exciting (and delightfully middle class) snacks. To give you an idea of how pleasurable the experience is, I even enjoyed our visit to see this:

Singalong a Frozen

And you know my feelings about Frozen

Other Stuff

There’s so much other stuff going on in Ilkley for families too – Ilkley Playhouse and the King’s Hall are great places for getting children involved with theatre, for example. There is a fine selection of cafes and restaurants that welcome all generations and there’s even a choice of two independent children’s shoe shops – TWO – Poppy Red and Shoebedoo. That’s not to mention Ilkley Lido, for the brave souls who don’t mind swimming outside in West Yorkshire. Just make sure you pick one of the two days of summer.

That’s why Ilkley is great for kids, parents and grandparents alike. Yes, some folk can be sniffy about towns like Bournemouth and Ilkley that they associate with the elderly, but they are clearly forgetting that, without pensioners, where else would we find all those hours of free babysitting? Next time you’re out with the family in Ilkley, make sure you pick up a couple of fat rascals for grandma and grandad.

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