River Aire Facts

Located in Yorkshire, England, the River Aire is 148 km (92 miles) long. It begins at Malham Tarn in North Yorkshire, and it flows into the River Ouse at Airmyn (East Riding, Yorkshire).

Facts About the River Aire

  • The River Aire’s drainage basin has an area of just over 1000 square km.
  • The River Aire flows past or through numerous settlements, including Leeds, Malham, Skipton, Silsden, Steeton, Keighley, Bradford, Bingley, Castleford, Beal, Temple Hirst, Hensall, and Airmyn.
  • The Romans forded the River Aire by creating a paved crossing at Castleford on the Doncaster to York road.
  • In the winter of 1683-1684, during the Great Frost, the river remained frozen at Leeds for a whole month. A fair and sports were held on the river’s frozen waters.
  • Three thermal power stations have been located on the River Aire at Castleford, Ferrybridge, and Eggborough.
  • In 2017, a hydroelectric power station was opened at Knottingley on Brotherton Weir.
  • The River Aire used to be heavily polluted (due to flowing through heavily industrial and densely populated areas). In recent times, efforts have been made to improve the quality of the water.
River Aire at Leeds (Early 1900s)
River Aire at Leeds (Early 1900s)
  • The River Aire is home to chub, dace, roach, barbel, grayling, and brown trout. Otters and water voles are also starting to return to the river.
  • The Calder is the River Aire’s major tributary.
  • The River Aire is tidal for the last 26 km upstream of Goole.
  • At Gargrave, a double-decker aqueduct carries the Leeds and Liverpool Canal over the River Aire.
  • Kirkstall Abbey is located close to the River Aire, and monks used its waters to process wool.
Kirstall Abbey from the River Aire
Kirstall Abbey from the River Aire
  • The Leeds Bridge over the River Aire is the location for the filming of one of the world’s first movies. In 1888, Louis Le Prince captured footage of people moving across the bridge.
  • The River Aire has been bridged at dozens of points along its course. Some of the bridges include Inghey Bridge (Skipton), Ireland Bridge (Bingley), Otley Road Bridge (Shipley), Buck Mill Bridge (Thackley), Wellington Bridge (Leeds), Monk Bridge (Leeds), Knight’s Way Bridge (Leeds), Aire Valley Viaduct (Stourton), Castleford Viaduct (Castleford), Carlton New Bridge (Snaith).
  • The Kirkstall Road Viaduct carries the Harrogate railway line over the River Aire (and the A65 road, and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal). It was built in 1849, and it is more than 400 metres long.
  • The origin of the name Aire is not certain. Some have suggested that it could have come from the Celtic word for ‘strong river’, whereas others believe that it has an Old Norse root.
  • The Battle of Ferrybridge took place in 1461. It was one of the initial clashes between the Houses of Lancaster and York, and it took place before the Battle of Towton in the Wars of the Roses. The conflict was focused on the crossing point of the River Aire at Ferrybridge.

Visit our Rivers resources page, or learn more about some of the longest rivers in the UK.