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West Riding
Kilnsey from Conistone Pie, east.jpg
Kilnsey and Crag over Wharfedale,
from Conistone Pie: Mastiles Lane, left
Grid reference: SD973678
Location: 54°6’23"N, 2°2’30"W
Post town: Skipton
Postcode: BD23
Local Government
Council: Craven
Skipton and Ripon

Kilnsey is a small village in Wharfedale in the West Riding of Yorkshire. It lies on the B6160 road, between the villages of Grassington and Kettlewell, near Arncliffe and just across the River Wharfe from Conistone. The village is 12 miles north of Skipton and three miles south of Kettlewell.[1][2]


The village is mentioned in the Domesday Book as Chilsie when it was described as waste.[3] Soon after the Domesday Book had been completed, the lands in and around Kilnsey were given to Edulf de Culnese.[4] The derivation of the name believs to come from Kyle and Ea, which means the chilly stream.[5]

The most notable feature of Kilnsey is a large limestone cliff called Kilnsey Crag, overlooking the road and the River Wharfe from the west. The crag is around 170 feet high, with an overhang of 40 feet. It was painted by J. M. W. Turner in 1816. West from Kilnsey towards Malham Tarn runs the historic Mastiles Lane, a Roman marching road, later an important route for monks leading sheep from Fountains Abbey to summer pasture on higher ground. This is now a Dales walking track.

The village of Kilnsey is a small collection of stone built Yorkshire Dales cottages, many dating back to the 1600s. The Old Hall in the village is believed to have been a mediæval administrative site for the monks of Fountains Abbey who farmed huge flocks of sheep in the area. Most of the present building dates from 1648.[6]

Kilnsey Park is a visitor attraction and fishing lakes that was established in 1978 by the Roberts family. The park offers attractions including fishing, a nature trail and farm animals. There is also a working fish farm, smokehouse and cafe.[7]

Kilnsey has one pub, the Tennant Arms, named after the Tennant family of Chapel House (on the site of an ancient chapel belonging to Kilnsey Grange, a possession of Fountains Abbey[8]) which owned the Kilnsey Estate from 1572[9] to 1911.

Each autumn the village hosts Kilnsey Show, one of the largest one-day agricultural shows in the country. The show was officially established in 1897 and regularly attracts over 12,000 visitors, though records dating back to the mid-1800s tell of harness racing and the fell race having been run for most of that century. The timing of the show has been linked as possibly tying in with the saint's day for St Mary's Church in nearby Conistone.[10] One of the highlights is the Kilnsey Crag Race, a distance of 1 to 1¼ miles and a climb of 330 ft which dashes up and down the side of the crag.[11][12][13]

On 5 July 2014, the Tour de France Stage 1 from Leeds to Harrogate passed through the village.[14] Regarded as one of the best places to watch the race, an event, VeloFest, was hosted directly alongside the route to allow thousands of spectators to camp and watch the race.

Old Nan

Old Nan was allegedly a witch living under Kilnsey Crag and well known locally.[15] She was known as far as Skipton, where she had a stand in the market.[15]



  1. Berry, Chris (27 August 2005). "Up hill and down dale" (in en). The Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 6 January 2020. 
  2. Langdale, Thomas (1809). A topographical dictionary of Yorkshire; containing the names of all the towns, villages, hamlets, gentlemen's seats, &c. in the county of York. Northallerton: J Langdale. p. 226. OCLC 5813277. 
  3. "Kilnsey | Domesday Book". Retrieved 6 January 2020. 
  4. Speight 1900, p. 365.
  5. Montagu, Frederick (1838). Gleanings in Craven; in a tour from Bolton-Abbey to Ambleside. london: Simpkin & Marshall. p. 80. OCLC 931180624. 
  6. National Heritage List 1316821: Kilnsey Old Hall (Grade II* listing)
  7. Bagshaw, Mike (2019). Yorkshire Dales : local, characterful guides to Britain's special places (2 ed.). Chalfont St Peter: Bradt. p. 99. ISBN 978-1-78477-609-1. 
  8. National Heritage List 1173280: Chapel House
  9. Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry, 15th Edition, ed. Pirie-Gordon, H., London, 1937, pp.2217-8, pedigree of Tennant of Chapel House
  10. Moore, Lindsey (23 July 2016). "New book captures the rich history of Kilnsey Show". Retrieved 6 January 2020. 
  11. "Pictures of the Day: 29 August 2018". The Telegraph. 29 August 2018. Retrieved 6 January 2020. 
  12. Lewis, Quentin (10 September 2010). "Hope takes top spot to clinch race and title". Retrieved 6 January 2020. 
  13. "Up hill and down dale for fell runners at festival". 4 September 2016. Retrieved 6 January 2020. 
  14. "Tour de France Stage 1". Retrieved 15 July 2014. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 Pontefract, E. & Hartley, M. Wharfedale (Reprint 1943) Dent & Sons


  • Speight, Harry (1900). Upper Wharfedale. Being a complete account of the history, antiquities and scenery of the picturesque valley of the Wharfe, from Otley to Langstrothdale. London: E Stock. OCLC 7225949. 

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Kilnsey)