Happy Yorkshire day! The ultimate guide to God’s own county
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Here are some of the best places to go from the cities and towns to the countryside and beaches to make the most of a Yorkshire weekender.
Cities and towns
Your entry point to Yorkshire could be the bustling city and the northern powerhouse of Leeds. If you want to kick off proceedings with a spot of shopping, a swanky meal and some dancing, this is the place to go. Leeds is known as the Knightsbridge of the north for its shopping and is renowned for its nightlife. For some alternative retail therapy, check out the Corn Exchange.
A booming restaurant scene with spots like The Man Behind the Curtain (chef Michael O’Hare’s Michelin-starred and triple AA rosette spot) and Issho (a contemporary Japanese restaurant with a beautiful terrace) will keep even the most refined palates happy.
There are bars and clubs to suit every taste, but the current pandemic has put a temporary halt to this, so you might have to make your party your dinner.
After a blowout in Leeds, take things down a gear and head to the beautiful Georgian spa town of Harrogate. This quaint town has had its fair share of fame — the 1982 Eurovision song contest was even hosted there.
Don’t miss lunch or afternoon tea at the wonderful, olde-worlde, Bettys Tea Room, which dates back to 1919. The Yorkshire rarebit and fat rascals (fruity scones) are both perfect for a snack any time of day.
If you’re a fan of precise and refined gardens, you’ll enjoy both Valley Gardens in the middle of Harrogate town or the Royal Horticultural Society’s Harlow Carr Gardens, where you will also find the second branch of Bettys.
For some history, look no further than the Roman town of York, birthplace of Guy Fawkes, who tried to blow up parliament in 1605. Take in York Minster, the almost 700-year-old cathedral, which took 250 years to build. Clifford’s Tower where adult entry is from £5.90, was once part of York Castle and was the location of a Jewish massacre in 1190.
Don’t miss my favourite childhood museum, the Jorvik Viking Experience, where you can relive the sights and smells — literally — of Viking times in the area. You can even stroll down the oldest shopping street in Europe. The Shambles was mentioned in the Domesday book in 1086.
The National Train Museum is also in York. It is the largest train museum in the world, and it is the only place outside Asia that you can see a Japanese Shinkansen bullet train.
Yorkshire is blessed with not one, but two gorgeous National Parks.
The Yorkshire Dales
No trip to Yorkshire is complete without enjoying the Yorkshire Dales. At over 2,000 square kilometres, this National Park is huge and there is a lot to explore. By sticking to the southern part, you remain closer to the other main Yorkshire hotspots, but more wilderness and beauty lies further north if you are willing to put the miles in.
My favourite Dales itinerary starts early for a walk around the ruins of Bolton Abbey, founded in 1154 and positioned in a beautiful spot on the river. My favourite walk begins a few miles up the road in the village of Linton and follows a loop through the villages of Thorpe and Burnsall, where you meet the River Wharf and follow the Dales Way walking path along the river up to Grassington and back down into Linton, where the Fountaine Inn pub and restaurant awaits for a pint and some fabulous food.
The North York Moors
For an alternative to the Dales, try the North York Moors National Park. It is slightly smaller than the Dales at just over 1,430 square kilometres but there’s still plenty to explore. Aim for the village of Helmsley where after a stroll, you can enjoy some fine Michelin-starred cuisine at the nearby Star Inn at Harome.
Yorkshire boasts some gorgeous beaches, especially along the coast of the North York Moors. To soak up some spooky gothic atmosphere and get some of the best fish and chips the U.K. has to offer, head to Whitby. The town famously inspired Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”.
Two beach favourites of mine are Runswick Sands, a dramatic speck of the coast with a very cute village nestled on the cliffs above, and Robin Hood’s Bay, each a few miles north and south of Whitby, respectively. A testament to its beauty, Runswick Sands was recently announced as the best beach in the U.K.
Where to stay
For easy access to most of these places, and if you really want to splash the cash, check out either Rudding Park or Grantley Hall.
Grantley Hall is a stunning hotel and wellness retreat that opened in the summer of 2019. Located just outside the pretty town of Ripon, this is the place to go for ultimate Yorkshire luxury. Rooms start at £346 per night.
For something cosier and cheaper, rooms at the Fountaine Inn in Linton start at £80 per night and will have you positioned well to begin the Dales walk set out above. There is also a wealth of Airbnbs and cottages in the area to suit every taste.
From world-class food, shopping, nightlife and history in the cities and towns, to the stunning beauty of the countryside and coast, Yorkshire has a huge amount to offer. As my home county, I think I’m a little biased, but anyone I’ve ever taken to my favourite spots has been blown away. You won’t be disappointed by the friendly people, fun vibe and charm. Make Yorkshire Day your excuse to plan your next staycation “up north”.
Featured photo by Alexander W Helin/Getty Images
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