To celebrate Yorkshire Day on 1 August, we’ve rounded up our 50 great things about Yorkshire – God’s Own Country
We’ve taken some of Yorkshire’s best-loved and best-known places and people and delved deeper into their history, providing new insight into some old favourites. Additionally, we’ve picked out some places – and perhaps some people – you may not know or have thought of.
Our list is by no means comprehensive, but is a starting point to provoke your thoughts. By holding up a mirror to Yorkshire, we hope to get you, the reader, to think again about your surroundings. So often we ignore the beauties to be found in our own backyard… and that’s a crying shame.
It’s arguably the county’s most iconic (and most-visited) building, with 610,519 visitors walking through its doors in 2016. This gothic cathedral has the largest single expanse of Medieval glass in the world (spanning more than 2,000 square feet), and its own police force – and we appreciate it for its towering presence, helping people navigate the city.
Fish and chips
Fish and chips is our national dish, and nowhere does it better than Yorkshire. Many places lay the claim to the best, and Whitby’s Magpie Café (raved about by Jay Rayner, the site of AA Gill’s admission of the ‘full English’ of cancer) is right up there. But Magpie’s not the only joint in town: canny locals buy from Mariondale Fisheries on Albion Road. Pick up a pint at the Bay Hotel and tuck in with an incredible view.
Yorkshire’s history of conflict
The Wars of the Roses still live on today in arguments over whether the white rose or the red rules large, and a series of stupendous museums commemorate Yorkshire’s history of conflict. From the earliest days at Jorvik’s evocative exhibitions through to the Royal Armouries, the Green Howards Museum at Richmond and Eden Camp’s recollection of how locals lived through World War II, battles are an inextricable, unforgettable part of our heritage.
York’s food and drink
You could launch a centurion’s pilum in any direction and hit something good to eat in York – Skosh’s superlative small plates, the atmospheric gaslit dining room at the Guy Fawkes on High Petergate, Josh Overington’s French classicism at Le Cochon Aveugle, or Shambles Kitchen’s Yorkshire pudding wraps – and then there are the 365 pubs within the city walls.
Yorkshire will forever be etched into the heart of successive generations as home of The National Children’s Museum, Eureka!. Celebrating 25 years since opening, a visit to this interactive delight is a rite of passage for children across the North. But we have a wealth of kid-friendly places to visit – Diggerland, Flamingoland, Magna Science Museum, How Stean Gorge – that show we’re big kids at heart.
The 1,000 acres of beautiful landscape around this stately home, designed by Sir John Vanbrugh, have made it one of the most fascinating places to visit in the county. The scope of the site (where work began in 1699) was enormous, its towering central dome the first to be built for an English private home.
Yorkshire rapeseed oil
Great swathes of yellow oilseed rape fields stretch for miles around Yorkshire’s countryside, much of it destined to be bottled and shipped around the world. Although many think the yellow flower produces the yellow oil, it actually comes from a small seed pod, formed when the flower dies.
Yorkshire’s literary history
There’s something in Yorkshire’s air that inspires great literature. The Brontë sisters; Simon Armitage; Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and W.H. Auden, Ian McMillan and Alan Ayckbourn – all came from God’s own country. Take a Brontë tour around Yorkshire: start on Market Street in Thornton (birthplace of the Brontës), then tick off Halifax’s High Sunderland Hall (a potential inspiration for Wuthering Heights), before ending up at the Brontë Parsonage Museum.
Yorkshire’s great gardens
Grand halls and gardens are ten a penny across Yorkshire, but the standards are stunning. From Leeds’ Jungle Garden, full of tropical plants, to Scampston’s small but perfectly formed Walled Garden, we have it all. Among the best is Brodsworth Hall’s grounds, the upkeep of which cost £169 18s in 1861 (we wager it’s much more now).
Yorkshire’s waterfalls have provided inspiration for artists throughout history. We’ve had J.M.W Turner’s paintings of Thornton Force, and Kevin Costner ghting off the (apparent) baddies as Aysgarth Falls tumbles behind him. Both of these are worth a visit, as is Gaping Ghyll near Ingleton, into which the Fell Beck flows.
RHS Harlow Carr
This 68-acre beauty has been a woodland and a spa in its long history – but thankfully for us, it’s now a natural haven you can roam around with the family. It’s one of only two visitor attractions in Yorkshire to be awarded a gold accolade by VisitEngland, and rightly so.
Travel this country of ours and you’ll come across plenty of individual communities with their quirks and traditions, but none as simultaneously coherent and chaotic as Yorkshire. Towns and villages across the county reach back into history to celebrate our past – think Gawthorpe’s World Coal Carrying Championships, Knaresborough’s Bed Race and Egton Bridge’s gooseberry bonanza – with two things in common: reverence and ridiculousness.
Canals once kept this country running, and remain a great way to pootle about. Bingley’s perhaps the best- known part of Yorkshire’s canal system, the steepest flight of locks on Britain’s canals, a five-rise series of locks. But it’s not alone: West Yorkshire’s Standedge Tunnel is both the longest and deepest canal tunnel in Britain.
Yorkshire’s great abbeys and priories
Religion is a rich thread that has run through Yorkshire’s history, and left the county with some of the world’s most enviable architecture. From the grand majesty of Bolton Abbey and the nearby Strid Wood (perhaps most famous for being the birthplace of the Craven heifer, Britain’s largest ever cow, which weighed 312 stone) to the breathtaking Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal water garden, the buildings live on – even if the beliefs sometimes don’t.
Birdwatching at Spurn Point
This spit of land that juts into the Humber is stunning. This nature reserve provides one of the best migration watch points in the country. See the meadown pipits head north in spring, and the dunlin congregate around Spurn in the winter.
The Tan Hill Inn
This 17th century pub near the village of Reeth lays claim to the title of the highest inn in the British Isles, standing proud at 1,732 feet (528m) above sea level.
Hebden Bridge has had a tough old time of it in the past year or two. Ravaged by flooding and torn in two in 2015, the town has come together, demonstrating community spirit and overcoming the loss of Elland Bridge. Officially re-opened in April, the milestone capped a few good months, following it being crowned Best Small Market Town at the Great British High Street Awards.
God’s own country creates God’s own Olympians, and their performance at the Rio Olympics last year was nothing short of extraordinary. Yorkshire-based athletes including the Brownlee brothers, Nicola Adams and Max Whitlock won a fifth of Team GB’s gold and silver medals, and a quarter of the entire country’s bronze medal haul. Were it a country, Yorkshire would’ve finished 17th on the medal table.
The youngest son of an Armley butcher, Alan Bennett has gone on to become a regional – and national – treasure for his sharply observed insights into our society. But his roots indelibly remain in Yorkshire, as does his voice: wry, acerbic, and understated.
Our female food heroes
There’s a lot of chat about why kitchens are still so male-dominated you could cut the testosterone with a fish slice, but with women like Rudding Park’s Steph Moon, Tessa Bramley at The Old Vicarage near Sheffield and, of course, the Yorke Arms’ Frances Atkins, Yorkshire has loads of outstanding role models for young chefs to follow.
Philip Larkin trail
Philip Larkin wasn’t overly kind about Hull, but his time spent here provided the inspiration for a significant part of the English literary canon. Follow the Larkin Trail through his favourite places and pubs including The White Hart on Alfred Gelder Street, with its listed interior.
The Vikings left their stamp on Yorkshire in more ways than one: the word ‘dale’ comes from the Norse term for a valley, and is still used to describe the county’s rich and verdant land. The 680-square mile Yorkshire Dales are visited by around eight million tourists a year because of their stunning tranquility and natural beauty.
If there’s a more enjoyable use of a weekend than pottering around food stalls, nibbling anything that’s got a cocktail stick in it and buying enough bits and pieces to necessitate building yourself an emergency larder extension – or, you know, actually building a larder in the first place because who even has a larder in the 21st century – then we’ve yet to hear about it. York, Wakefield, the Dales Festival, Leeds Indie Food, the World Curry Festival: get to all these and more, ASAP.
Bettys & Taylors
Do you know why Bettys is called Bettys? No? Well nor do we – and neither does anyone else. From being founded by a Swiss baker in Harrogate in 1919, to hosting airmen stationed near the York tea room in the Second World War and eventually opening six of the iconic cafés across Yorkshire, Bettys has a rich history – not one word of which explains its name. The acquisition of Taylors of Harrogate in the 60s means that Yorkshire Tea, Taylors of Harrogate coffee and Bettys café tea rooms and cookery school are all part of the same family – a trio of icons rolled into one neat package, and holding a special place in the nation’s heart.
Yorkshire’s rugged landscape
How Stean Gorge is known as England’s little Switzerland, and is home to some of the most breathtakingly rugged landscape in the country. Don your hard hat and go caving under Nidderdale’s area of outstanding natural beauty.
Yorkshire’s finest country houses
You could visit an historic country house in Yorkshire every weekend for a year and still not run out of places to see. Pick from Burton Constable Hall’s Elizabethan grandeur, the Jacobean splendour of Kiplin Hall, the Arts and Crafts arrangement of Sion Hill (designed by the ‘Lutyens of the North’, Walter H Brierley), but there are plenty of others.
Swap out your Malbec for a bottle of Malton: Yorkshire’s home to the northernmost commercial vineyard in Britain, where the cooler temperatures produce a lighter tipple than most. We have a cottage industry of vintners: Yorkshire Heart in Nun Monkton, Holmfirth Vineyard, Ryedale Vineyard and Leventhorpe Vineyard, all of whom produce wonderful wines.
The European Union’s Protected Designation of Origin Scheme protects Champagne, buffalo mozzarella and Yorkshire forced rhubarb (even though the forcing process was discovered at Chelsea Physic Garden in 1817). It’s a fact that makes our hearts swell with pride – and our stomachs rumble with hunger.
Yorkshire: Hollywood’s go-to film location
Yes, we all know about Aysgarth Falls appearing in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, and Eccup’s pretty popular as Emmerdale’s real-life stand-in, but some lesser-known locations in Yorkshire have acted as a backdrop on celluloid. Harry Potter’s own Hogsmeade train station, for instance, is actually Goathland on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, while Carlton Towers near Selby stood in for Windsor Castle in ITV’s Victoria.
There’s a reason photographers use a very wide lens when taking pictures of Wentworth Woodhouse: its east front stretches 606 feet from one end to another. The Grade I-listed house is the largest private residence in the United Kingdom, with 250,000 sq ft of floorspace.
Andrew Pern’s edible empire
In the beginning was The Star Inn, which begat The Star Inn the City, which begat Mr P’s Curious Tavern, which begat The Star Inn the Harbour in Whitby. And lo, the townspeople of Yorkshire did say unto Pern, ‘Verily, thine potted shrimp toastie with soft-boiled duck egg is absolutely banging.’
Made in Malton
The emergence of Malton as a genuine and growing food tourism centre – a gourmand’s Gran Canaria, if you like – is a testament to the imagination of the Fitzwilliam Estate, the landlords who support the artisan businesses here, as well as the skills of the producers themselves. Go to the Malton Food Lovers’ Festival and gorge yourself on civic pride. And food, obv.
A head of steam
Our scenery’s brilliant, obviously, but let’s be honest, all landscapes are improved by the sight of a majestic steam engine nobly chuffing about. Between heritage lines like the North York Moors Railway, the Keighley and Worth Valley, Elsecar, and the Embsay and Bolton Abbey line, we’ve got some of the most evocative routes in the country. The most famous engine of them all, Flying Scotsman, was built in Doncaster too.
Our star-studded food scene
Between Pipe and Glass in Beverley, The Star at Harome, the Black Swan at Oldstead, Leeds’ Man Behind the Curtain, the Yorke Arms in Nidderdale and the Box Tree in Ilkley, we’ve got more Michelin stars than Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and the whole of the North East put together. Enough said.
This diamond-shaped manmade island shows diversification at its very best. It was created in the 1180s, when water was redirected to supply a local mill, and became a beacon of Sheffield’s industrial movement, housing in its time a waterwheel, iron works and power station. It’s now one of the city’s trendiest suburbs bursting with history, contemporary art and real ale.
Grassington might be known for its historic cobbled market square, but the locals refuse to get left behind. From its summer music and arts festival to the Dickensian Christmas market, this rural location is one of the most dynamic villages in Yorkshire.
You probably know that The Hepworth in Wakefield was designed by David Chipperfield, cost £35 million to build and opened in May 2011. But did you know that it’s constructed from 10 trapezoidal blocks and clad with self-compacted concrete – the first building of its kind in the UK? The inside’s pretty impressive too with works by Henry Moore, LS Lowry and Walter Sickert.
We’ve got scenic cricket grounds
Headingley’s the home of cricket, obviously, but you’ll find the soul of English summertime at smaller club grounds too: try an afternoon in the seaside sun at Scarborough, Sowerby Bridge’s tree-thronged ground, or Settle CC’s pitch on the southern fringe of the Dales. For something quintessentially Yorkshire, go to Spout House, near Bilsdale, where they have to drive sheep off the unmown one-in-seven gradient out eld before every game.
Scarborough Open Air Theatre
Bryan Adams, Status Quo and Elton John have all graced the stage of Europe’s biggest open air theatre, which was the home of cult TV show It’s a Knockout. The theatre’s imposing and unique setup (with performers on a stage on an island in the middle of the lake, while the audience sits on the ground opposite) comes from the natural formation of Hodgson’s Slack.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Forty years, 500 acres, 500,000 visitors per year – Yorkshire Sculpture Park isn’t just a local treasure, it’s an important national institution. But did you know that it started with a grant of just £1,000 to fund an exhibition of 31 works? They’ve been championing contemporary sculpture ever since – and best of all, admission is free.
Model villages are always weirdly fascinating – who would build such a thing, and why do their motives always seem slightly questionable, even when they’re apparently good? Saltaire is no exception. Founded by Sir Titus Salt (it doesn’t help that he sounds like a villain from a Roald Dahl book), and named after both him and the Aire river which runs through the village, it’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the central Salt Mill is home to a large permanent collection of David Hockney’s work, alongside other exhibitions and independent shops.
A stately home with a difference. Burton Agnes might be a grand Elizabethan home, but it’s striking out with its events. The Jazz and Blues Festival, organised by the house’s saxophone-playing owner Simon Cunliffe-Lister, is a real highlight. Don’t miss its 10th birthday celebrations this year.
Swaledale and Arkengarthdale
The northernmost point of the Yorkshire Dales, these gorgeous valleys offer hills, moors, mountains, waterfalls and wild floower meadows calling out to be explored. So grab your boots, bikes and backpacks and enjoy the sublime tranquility of Yorkshire.
David Hockney, Ashley Jackson, Damien Hirst (he grew up in Leeds, believe it or not)… There is so much artistic talent running in the veins of Yorkshire folk that we could give Renaissance Italy a run for its money. It’s not just about the big names either – in every pocket of Yorkshire you’ll find independent galleries, studios and creatives pushing the boundaries of contemporary art.
Yorkshire’s best spas
Ever since Harrogate was first famed for the standard of its water, Yorkshire has been a destination for spa-lovers. Harrogate’s Royal Baths were the most advanced hydrotherapy centre in the world when they opened in 1897, and remain popular today – as do modern-day equivalents such as Rudding Park. The newest addition will be Swinton Park’s redevelopment, which opens this summer.
Our independent brewers
Whether it’s plucky-upstarts-turned-national-tastemakers like Magic Rock in Huddersfield or the hundreds of tiny, esoteric, love-fuelled microbreweries like Leeds’ Zapato or tap-slash-event-spaces like Sentinel in Sheffield, we know beer like few other places.
With its stunning views and idyllic bunting-lined high street, Pateley Bridge might seem like your average tourist trap but dig a little deeper and you’ll find this little town has much more to offer – from Michelin-starred restaurants and England’s oldest sweet shop to outdoor pursuits, a community-run theatre and an exciting arts centre.
Yorkshire’s racing pedigree
Think horse racing and you think of Yorkshire’s nine top-tier flat, national hunt and dual courses (more than any other region in the UK) and its stunning stables (the number of prizewinners Malton, Middleham and various other esteemed yards have produced is uncountable, but the number of trainers isn’t: around one in every five across Britain make Yorkshire their home). There are more than 170 meetings held every year, taking racing to the heart of Yorkshire’s society. It’s big business, too, contributing in numerous ways to ‘Yorkshire PLC’. Horseracing is in the blood of Yorkshire folk and its pedigree is top class.
From Whitby Goth Weekend to Theakston Crime Writing, Beverley Folk to Bingley Music Live, Willowman to rhubarb – Yorkshire hosts the biggest, the best and the most diverse festivals (not that we’re biased).
Yorkshire doesn’t just look to the past: it strikes forward, too. Our world is constantly evolving, and the county’s universities and businesses are at the cutting edge. Leeds has 3,500 digital businesses alone within its boundaries; the county is full of coders (many of whom base themselves at ODI Leeds). We have companies building robots in Sheffield, parsing AI in Huddersfield and preparing us for the new economy ahead of us.
Thank you for reading my blog, Joe