The River Aire rises in North Yorkshire at Malham Tarn, becoming an underground stream near Malham Cove and rising again at Aire Head. The Aire flows through Skipton, entering West Yorkshire where it passes through Keighley, Bingley, Saltaire, Shipley and Leeds. At Castleford, the Aire and Calder merge, close to where the old Roman road crosses en-route to York. The Aire empties into the River Ouse at Airmyn.
The river valley around Bradford is known as Airedale and historically provided a low-altitude route through the Pennines to the west coast.
The presence of the Aire was extremely important in Titus Salt’s decision to build here. Industrial machinery in the mid-19th century required huge quantities of water to power it. At Saltaire, this could be easily drawn from the river, with the canal and railway offering more direct routes for trade with other towns and cities.