What's Up: Saltaire

Today's What's Up is a little different to the rest of the series, as it isn't a place I have visited often and know well, but from my single visit I can say it is a place that captured my imagination. It's a perfect example of what the North has to offer.

Saltaire is steeped in history, as it was built as a workers' village around the imposing Salts Mill. On the one hand, it was kind and generous of Titus, the owner, to ensure his workers had adequate housing, but on the other hand, it did mean they had no real break from work or their employer. It must have been hard back then, when the whole village was built for industry, but in modern day, I wouldn't mind living there at all!

community allotments filled with plants and colour, with salts mill in the background

Salts Mill is still very much the central focus. The building is beautiful but built to epic proportions. Part of it is used to house shops, with the ground floor displaying art and selling supplies, and the upper floors offer books, independently made crafts, jewellery, antiques, and designer homeware, alongside rooms with information on the mill's history. It's well worth a look around, and it's a brilliant way of breathing life into the space, but it was all a little too pretentious for me.

A bright red canal boat sails under a bridge. There is a sandwich board with a clock showing its next sailing times.
a wooden canal boat features panels made from a dryer door, old piano keys, wooden drawers, and riot shields
a black and white kitten with green eyes is stroked by a man's hand

I'd urge you to wander through, enjoy the architecture from the outside, but save time to see what else Saltaire can offer. As the textile industry relied heavily on water, the mill was built beside the Leeds Liverpool canal, which is now home to a tour boat, the Are Jay Bargie diner boat, and a barge made from recycled matters- including washing machine doors and pieces of piano! A very friendly kitten jumped out from it as we passed, which is all the justification I need for a return trip.

a church with pillars and a metal domed roof sits in a park surrounded by autumn trees
Lyd is sat on the bandstand in the park wearing grey jeans and a burgundy jacket
a dark green metal octopus sculpture sits on the wall by the canal

On the other side of the canal is a park, playground, and cricket club. The park is beautifully kept, with a flat path for cyclists and runners, an ornate bandstand and seating areas, a little folly serving snacks, and even an alpaca statue! It's a really nice place for kids to let off steam after visiting the mill, and they'll love looking for animals on the sculpture trail.

a row of terraced stone cottaged. one house has a full length mosaic of a lady next to the front door

On the other side of Salts Mill, the houses and shops stand in neat little rows. In the workers' time they would have looked drab and uniform, and I was really interested to see how the current owners have made each one unique. Bunting, a sea themed garden, a mosaic, and a rainbow of front doors did not disappoint. While modern touches have been brought to the village, it still maintains the perfect balance of old and new, and buildings like the hospital and Victoria Hall, where events are held, are still in perfect condition.

a stone lion statue stands in front of victora hall, a large stone building
shop windows show a fair garden with a tiny red dress on a washing line above some moss, and a bakery selling cakes topped with ghost decorations

There aren't many shops, but among them is an interesting vintage shop, craft shops, and several eateries, including a pay as you please deli that uses food surplus from supermarkets, thus reducing food waste. I will definitely eat there next time, as I really admire their ethos, and the food looked delicious. We visited on a Saturday and there was a little farmers' market being held, which was another example of independent businesses thriving, continuing a theme I had noticed throughout our stay. 

Despite being a small village, our visit still lasted 4 hours, so it's definitely worthwhile travelling to. Otley is nearby, and we drove further on to Ilkley, a small town absolutely crammed full of beautiful old buildings and stylish shop fronts, where you could easily spend another couple of hours to make a full day out and enjoy the best of the Yorkshire history and countryside, along with a spot of retail therapy. 

Have you been to Saltaire?



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