Unicorn Hotel

, Skipton, United Kingdom
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Unicorn Hotel

, Skipton
3 star

Rooms: 10

Keighley Road - Skipton - England - BD23 2LP - United Kingdom Hotel Website | | 44 01756794146
16 Traveller

Reviews - Unicorn Hotel

An average score
Submitted by: Slug in 18/09/05
  • Age Group: 31 - 40
  • From: United Kingdom
  • Traveller type: Mature Couple
The market town of Skipton is often described as the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales. While that kind of accolade usually means that a crummy town is trying to cash in on its proximity to somewhere worth visiting, Skipton is actually a fairly nice town, and on a market day certainly worth a short linger.

We wanted to stay in Skipton as it was a convenient stop for our weekend attempt on the Airedale Way, a fifty mile walk from the centre of Leeds to the pretty Yorkshire Dales village of Malham. By doing the walk backwards, and knocking off the more urban ten miles into the centre of the city of Leeds, we were hoping that the more attractive part of the Airedale Way could be tacked in a weekend.

We arrived in Skipton at 6:30pm after a detour from the way to take in the more interesting hills around Malham, hopeful but not all together expectant of a room at The Unicorn, an old town hotel right in the centre of town.

I'm not sure why, but the world had decided to descend on Skipton on that non-descript weekend in September. My beloved and I had rung no less than eighteen bed and breakfasts, hotels and pubs before we found the Unicorn with rooms available. Although we had booked the room over a week previously, and had mailed a £20 ($35) deposit, we had not received the promised receipt, and so were half expecting the tale that we had been double booked. We would however only be a £6 ($10) train ride from home, if it all went pear shaped.

The Unicorn Hotel

The Unicorn is a large old-fashioned looking stone town hotel, which dates back to the 1770's. The current building on the site looks like it was built around 1900, and is located right in the centre of Skipton. It is described as a two star hotel. Since its heyday, it has sold its ground floor to house shops, and today is located on the first and second storey of the building (or second and third, as Americans would describe it).

Today, it has an unenviable position opposite the bus station, next to the Bliss Nightclub, with two restaurants and a cheap department store (Sunwin House) in sight of its front door. Despite its meagre surroundings, the hotel has made a real effort with its external appearance being well maintained and its name proudly displayed using stylish art-deco lettering.

Check in and out

The door to the hotel from the street is from the side. Skipton, despite its lively night atmosphere, is still a place where the front door of the hotel can be left open unlocked with little worry. There is another locked door on the first floor. Our check in was painless, and the owners of the hotel were very friendly, chatty and helpful. Thankfully, they didn't remark upon our grassy (rather than muddy) walking books, as we trailed up the new stair carpet to our rooms. In common with many smaller hotels of this age, I didn't notice any facilities for the disabled to access the hotel.

We had to confirm our name and address at the reception desk (a former bar). Next to the reception desk was an open lounge which the owners also used. While sitting watching TV with strangers isn't my idea of fun, it has to be said that the layout of the lounge and the manner of the owners made the place very welcoming, were that your bag.

Check out likewise was friendly and hassle free. Our rooms for a party of four, cost £60 ($105) a night for a standard room, and £70 ($120) for the deluxe room (which were the last two rooms available).

Our Rooms

The owners thoughtfully placed our party together on the third floor (with a standard next to the deluxe room), so we could get ready for dinner together. Our rooms thankfully were ones furthest away from the nightclub on the other side of the building.

Our room was in the eaves of the building, and so was nicely shaped with angular walls. Quite the garret effect! We had a large window that faced onto the small office complex opposite and the Indian restaurant below. Despite the later evening noise, my fresh air fiend lungs were pleased that the windows opened.

Facilities in the bedroom included a kettle and tea and coffee making facilities, and a couple of packets of standard biscuits (our friends in the luxury room, had more exclusive biscuits!), an alarm clock and a small but modern TV with terrestrial TV only. The room was comfortable and perfectly adequate with seating in addition to the bed. The bed was comfortable and cosy, with crisp white sheets and a duvet, and there was plenty of space to store clothing.

The bedroom was really quite large, being about 16 feet square, and with a fawn and beige overall effect with its fawn carpet (with a large water stain), and striped beige wall paper. The room also had an entrance lobby area.

The deluxe room was very similarly sized, but with more modern, bold and plusher furnishings. The occupants were also treated to a small box of Benedict Chocolates, which we all shared as we prepared for dinner.


The bathroom was perhaps the area that let our stay down a little. The room was fairly large with a shower over the bath. The tiles were old with mould in the grouting. These were an 80's style pink stripe on white background, and some of the tiles had been broken and replaced with other mismatched ones.

The bath was plastic, thin and cheap and creaked disturbingly as I stood in it to take a shower. Fortunately, however the water was piping hot, and the actual shower fine. Towels were small but clean.

Unusually for a British hotel, the cold water taps were marked as non-drinking water, and a small bottle of mineral water was provided. As I am someone who drinks a lot of water, I immediately went to the local shop to buy my own supply.

Our freebies were a couple of sachets of Wood and Brown (no, I have never heard of them either) bath and shower gel, which worked and smelt fine.


Breakfast is included in the price, and again was absolutely fine. On check in, you are given a sheet of paper listing the breakfast choice. You are requested to return this list the evening before, after you have indicated your choice; together with a time that you will attend for breakfast. Although I don't particularly like thinking about when I might be ready for breakfast, you can choose any time between 7-9 am. The dining room is quite small, so I guess depending on the choice of others, you may be asked to breakfast at a different time to the one you requested.

My breakfast consisted of the standard cooked English breakfast, but the main ingredients, bacon, egg and sausage were of good quality and well cooked. I was pleased to have skipped the huge wedge of Black Pudding. Included with breakfast was a choice of mini packets of brand cereals, orange juice, and toast and jams and marmalades.

Evening Meal

The Unicorn doesn't serve evening meals, so you will need to wander into town for a meal. Many of the pubs stop serving food at around 7:30 on a weekend, so for the best choice, eat early. Aside from the pubs, there are a number of restaurants, including a couple of Indian, Chinese, and a few more upmarket choices alongside the Leeds-Liverpool canal waterfront which runs through the centre of the town.

We chose to eat at Bizzie Lizzies, a fish and chip shop voted the UK chip shop of the year in 1999/2000. They have both take away and eat in facilities. The restaurant is quite nicely furnished, but very brightly lit. Our fish and chips and fine carafe of dry white wine were excellent, but if you don't fancy fish and chips then you might struggle a little for a suitable alternative choice.

Our meal came to something around £40 ($70) for four, a very reasonable option. Unfortunately, despite its attraction to the elderly, Bizzie Lizzies isn't very disabled friendly. As we entered, a family were gingerly carrying an elderly lady in her wheelchair down the front entrance steps.

Skipton Town

In common with many smaller British towns, the main evening's entertainment for the young is alcohol. The merry folk of Skipton certainly know how to get drunk. Posters for a forthcoming contest to elect Mr and Miss Wet Skipton were splashed across town. It really is that kind of place.

Pubs in the town centre are very lively and young. We holed up in the Woolly Sheep for part of the evening, a nice tidy pub with modern décor, comfy seats (if you can get one), and well kept real ale.

We arrived back at the Unicorn, just in time to see our “local” nightclub Bliss open its doors. Despite looking like a relic of 1980's clubbing, the queue for the door extended past our “quiet” end of the hotel, and the sound of young, excited and slurred voices soon came into our bedrooms.

Although we could have shut the double glazed windows to shut out the noise, I like the fresh air. Our full stomachs, 20 mile hike and hearty pints of ale soon meant we fell asleep despite the noise. I was only briefly awakened by the sound of a leaving partygoer throwing his guts up against the wall of the hotel at 3:00am.

Despite its lively atmosphere, Skipton seems to control its drunken population well, every pub has a bouncer or two, and the streets were generally safe and friendly, although it would be wise to be a little careful.

Skipton itself is a town of two sides; traditionally it was a mill town and old cotton mills and cobbled back to back streets of housing dominate the local landscape. Part of the town has a poor and run down edge, but this is mingled with new mill converted blocks of plush apartments, wine bars and restaurants. Much of the new development is along the pretty canal front. The town is certainly worth a wander.

Around Skipton

Our walk the next morning should have followed the canal, but for variation, we decided to follow the river for a while, before cutting across a couple of the hills between Skipton and Keighley.

Any walk around the outskirts of Skipton is marred by the noise of the exceptionally busy main road the A65, which takes tourist traffic through the Yorkshire Dales and on up to the Lake District. The flood plain around the river had also proved its worth having recently been flooded up to a depth of over 12 feet. It looked, felt and smelt like we were walking though a paddy field.

Despite this inauspicious start, we soon got into the hills, and spent a while watching a hill farmer round up his sheep with the assistance of two sheep dogs; an elderly dog, and a young puppy. It was a delight to watch the older dog at his craft, and we smiled as job done, he hitched a lift on the back of the farmers' quad bike. Even more impressive was the way the dog hung on with grim determination as the bike bounced back down the farm track at speed, as the young dog sprinted alongside the bike trying to nip its tyres.

Other things to see around Skipton include the impressive Bingley five rise locks, a feat of industrial revolution engineering; a series of canal locks taking the canal directly up a steep hill. The canal almost took fifty years to build, starting in 1770. Also well worth a visit is the UNESCO world heritage site of Saltaire; a model village created by a philanthropic mill owner. The mill is now home to a number of fancy shops and the David Hockney art gallery.


Although I personally prefer the smaller Yorkshire Dales villages, if you have your own transport, then Skipton would make for a lively base from which you could discover the area.

The Unicorn is friendly, clean and a reasonable deal. Although there are better and quieter locations in Skipton, it is in the centre of town, exceptionally friendly, clean and just a short stroll from a considerable number of bars and restaurants. Overall, an average score.

Other names for Unicorn Hotel

  • unicorn hotel skipton
  • Address: Keighley Road - Skipton - England - BD23 2LP - United Kingdom
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