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History Of Craiglands Hotel


"The pure, clear and sparkling liquid that gushes from Ilkley Hills is not less exhilarating and is much more wholesome, than manufactured champagne.." Capt. J.K. Lukis, 'Common Sense of the Water Cure', 1857

Hydropathy was discovered by a Silesian peasant called Priessnitz who believed that by immersing the body in cold water or applying wet compresses to affected parts of the body "morbid matters" were driven out. It was believed that the colder the water the greater the effect.

The Craiglands was built in 1859 and was one of the largest and most finely situated pupose-built hydropathic establishments in the country. The first proprietors were the Dobson Brothers, one of the brothers being Dr Henry Dobson, a physician, who supervised all the treatments offered to patients. These included mustard pads, massage, and all the latest Turkish, Russian and Electro-Chemical baths. The systems, coupled with the "tonic" air from the moors had the effect of enhancing the popularity of this splendid hydro.

The beautiful grounds were laid out with special attention to the requirements of invalids during the summer season and included croquet, lawn tennis and a bowling alley. There was also a large recreational hall for indoor sports, public concerts and theatrical performances.

Towards the end of the century the popularity of the hydros began to wane and after the First World War the emphasis turned more towards Ilkley as a holiday resort. One recent visitor recalled her visit to the hotel as a child during the Second World War and described her delight at being offered a fresh orange. She also noted that at that time the Craiglands still boasted a Turkish Bath.

Today the complete package of guest care continues and everyone can still enjoy the six acres of beautiful grounds, breathtaking views and excellent food and service.


Ilkley rose to fame as a Spa town in the nineteenth-century when thousands visited for fresh air, good food and the lively social scene. Today's visitor can look forward to an equally stimulating experience.

The earliest traces of settlers in Ilkley can be found on the moors above the town. Strange carvings on the stones, called 'cup and ring' markings from their shape, were created by ancient man. As well as a famous carving known as 'The Swastika'. The rocks are easily seen from public footpaths.

Later, the Romans were tempted by Ilkley's riverside charms and established a small fort on the road from York to Manchester, calling it Olicana. There are few remains today but the story is told in the Manor House Museum and on display boards near the Museum and adjacent parish church of All Saints. Inside the church are Saxon crosses, originally in the churchyard but moved indoors for preservation. For all this activity Ilkley remained little more than a hamlet for centuries until a most humble commodity put the town on the map.

The cold bath at White Wells on Ilkley moor has been in existence since the eighteenth-century when the waters were credited with healing powers. As the vogue for hydrotherapy, that is the use of water in the treatment of disease, swept Britain in the mid 1800s canny local businessman decided to promote Ilkley as a spa. Grand Hydro hotels were developed and wealthy visitors arrived by coach to 'take the waters'.

The arrival of the railway in 1865 allowed the middle classes to visit the town and smaller establishments were opened to cater for their needs. Ilkley boomed in the Victorian era and the legacy of the age is the wonderful collection of private and municipal architecture. Wells House, one of the grander hotels survives, now converted to luxury flats but happily the Craiglands Hotel, opened in a florid Scotch-Baronial style, continues to welcome visitors. The magnificent King's Hall and Winter Gardens is still a thriving venue for entertainment.

Craiglands Hotel

Craiglands Hotel