Yorkshire: "The 3rd Best Region in the World" - Lonely Planet
“Dramatic topography, stunning heritage sites, urban regeneration areas and world
renowned walking trails are only some of the things that make Yorkshire one of Britain’s most
appealing destinations today. Don’t be surprised though if it’s the clink of a pint glass in a country
pub and broad accented, straight talking locals that make the biggest impression”
Located in northern England, Yorkshire is the UK’s biggest county. Warmly nicknamed ‘God’s Own Country’ due to its heaven-on-earth feel, Yorkshire is home to stunning countryside, vibrant cities, incredible food, and famously friendly people. With a history dating back to 8000BC, Yorkshire has an amazingly rich heritage just waiting to be explored. From the Celts to the Romans, the Vikings to the War of the Roses, the Brontë sisters to James Herriot, Yorkshire is packed full of historical and cultural attractions.
Due to its huge size – Yorkshire spans nearly 12,000km² – the county of Yorkshire is divided into four regions – North, South, East, and West. Each region has a distinct personality with its own iconic sites but together they combine to create a vast landscape, encompassing everything from beautiful beaches, historic architecture, mountainous moorland, picturesque villages, and bustling urban centres.
The jewel of Yorkshire is, of course, the historic walled city of York in North Yorkshire. The Queen’s father famously commented that “the history of York is the history of England,” and it’s true that York has an intriguing heritage. Officially founded in 71 AD after the Roman Conquest of Britain, York has since been invaded by Vikings and Normans before becoming a major trading and industrial hub. Nowadays, visitors from all over the world flock to see the ancient York Minster, its Roman ruins, cobbled market streets and cosy tearooms.
North Yorkshire also boasts unforgettable scenery. Over 40% of the region is covered by National Parks – the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors. Both play the backdrop to numerous TV shows and films, including All Creatures Great and Small, Calendar Girls, Emmerdale, Heartbeat, and even Harry Potter.
As well as beautiful greenery, North Yorkshire also encompasses the seaside towns of Whitby and Scarborough with their majestic beaches and whaling heritage. Whitby Abbey, a ruined century monastery, was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s gothic novel Dracula.
York Minster – The Minster is one of the world’s most magnificent cathedrals and is the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. The central tower stands at 72m high! Though the present building was begun in about 1225, the history of this religious site dates back to 627.
Castle Howard – This incredible stately home took over 100 years to build and was originally designed for Charles Howard, the 3rd Earl of Carlisle. It has now been home to the Howard family for over 300 years. The grand building is often used for film and television – the TV adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited and, more recently, the hit ITV drama Victoria starring Jenna Coleman as a young Queen Victoria, have both been filmed here.
Harrogate – This elegant spa town is famous for its healing water. At its peak, over 15,000 people would visit the sulphur wells hoping to improve their health; visitors included Charles Dickens and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.
Bolton Abbey – A 33,000-acre (134 km²) estate home to the 12th century Augustinian monastery known as the Bolton Priory. Nowadays, every summer visitors flock to explore the intriguing ruins, paddle in the river, and walk through the enchanted woods.
Wensleydale Creamery – Based in Hawes, this creamery is the only producer of Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese using a time-honoured recipe which first dates back to 1150 when French Cistercian monks settled in the Yorkshire Dales.
West Yorkshire is known for its mix of bustling cities and serene countryside. Leeds is biggest and most modern city in all of Yorkshire – it is also England’s second largest city outside of London by population behind Birmingham. Renowned for its incredible nightlife and packed full of bars, pubs, restaurants, clubs, shopping centres, and even an airport, Leeds is an unmissable stop for any city-lovers.
Besides the hustle and bustle of city life, West Yorkshire is home to rolling hills, dry-stone walls, and plenty of sheep. The most famous expanse of West Yorkshire countryside is, of course, Brontë Country – the wild moorland of the south Pennine Hills was the inspiration behind Emily Brontë’s masterpiece Wuthering Heights. Brontë Country also encompasses the charming village of Haworth where the Brontë sisters lived over 200 years ago. The village still maintains its old-fashioned feel and is home to the Brontë Parsonage Museum – a must-see for all Brontë lovers -, as well as numerous antique shops and vintage tearooms. Thornton, located on the outskirts of Bradford, was the birthplace of the sisters, and the house in which they were born still stands today.
Harewood House – This spectacular country house was built between 1759 and 1771 for the wealthy plantation owner Edwin Lascelles, 1st Baron Harewood. The gardens span over 1,000 acres and were designed by Capability Brown, hailed as ‘England’s greatest gardener’. Harewood House has also been the backdrop of the hugely-popular soap, Emmerdale and Victoria.
Saltaire – Built in 1851 by Sir Titus Salt, Saltaire village is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the perfect example of a Victorian model village – a self-contained community, built by landowners and industrialists to house their workers. Nowadays, Salts Mill – the former textile mill – is an art gallery housing many works by Yorkshireman, David Hockney.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park – This open-air gallery is truly one-of-its-kind, showcasing works by Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and many other British and International artists. Situated in the grounds of the 18th-century Bretton Hall, this gallery without walls has a constantly changing exhibition programme.
Kirkstall Abbey – This ruined Cistercian monastery was established in in 1152. The Abbey was disestablished in 1539 during Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. Nowadays, the picturesque ruins attract artists, historians, and families alike.
The cities that make up South Yorkshire are famous for their industrial heritage, the biggest and most well-known being Sheffield. Famous for coal, iron and steel, Sheffield was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution. This city’s industrial contributions have been noted by writers from Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales to Daniel Defoe. Nowadays, Sheffield is celebrated for its culture and creativity – it is home numerous museums, galleries, and music venues, as well as the largest theatre complex outside of London. This vibrant city is also synonymous with musical talent, with bands such as the Artic Monkeys, Pulp, and The Human League being discovered here.
Sheffield Winter Gardens – This multi award-winning Winter Garden is one of the largest temperate glasshouses to be built in the UK during the last hundred years and houses over 2,500 plants from around the world.
Brodsworth Hall – Brodsworth Hall in Doncaster is a stunning example of Victorian architecture and has remained virtually unchanged since it was rebuilt in the 1860s in Italianate style. The immaculate gardens have been lovingly restored to their Victorian opulence.
Penistone – Often the butt of jokes due to its rather unfortunate name, Penistone is actually the highest market town in the country with the highest point standing at 364m above sea level. The town is the perfect gateway for exploring the Yorkshire countryside and Pennines.
East Yorkshire is celebrated for its quaint seaside villages, medieval towns, and stunning landscapes, all adding to its distinctly relaxed and calm feel. The largest city in the region, Hull, was named the UK City of Culture in 2017, creating a year-long celebration of local art, history, and the good folk of Yorkshire.
The Deep – This spectacular aquarium is home to thousands of sea creatures, including green sawfish, turtles, rays, sharks, and Gentoo penguins. The Two Rivers Restaurant is one of the most unusual restaurants in the country – located in the heart of the aquarium, can eat your dinner surrounded by swimming fish.
Beverley Minster – This gothic masterpiece is one of the largest parish churches in the UK – its bigger than 1/3 of all English cathedrals! This historic market town is also home to England’s oldest state school which was formed in 700 AD by Saint John of Beverley.
Bridlington – Bridlington is a charming seaside town famous for its harbour and shellfish. The Old Town is a hidden gem which not many visitors know about – it is bursting with history and charm, with an old-fashioned market, exquisite architecture (including the Priory Church dating from 1113 AD), and independent shops.
In terms of cuisine, Yorkshire is celebrated for its hearty home-cooking and fresh produce. Yorkshire puddings are perhaps Yorkshire’s biggest contribution to the food world; this savoury batter dish is a staple of the traditional Sunday Roast and is enjoyed up and down the country.
Yorkshire is also renowned for its sweet treats, with chocolate companies Rowntree’s and Terry’s setting up their factories in York. Known as ‘The Chocolate City’, if the wind is blowing in the right direction, you can smell the chocolate being made just a few miles away.
It’s not just pub grub though, Yorkshire boasts six Michelin starred restaurants – that’s more stars than any other county outside London – making it an unmissable region for fine-food lovers. North Yorkshire’s The Black Swan was even voted Best Restaurant in the World in 2017.
As well as these gastronomic delights, Yorkshire is noted for two drinks: beer and tea. With a brewing history dating back to the 12th century, it’s no surprise that Yorkshire is celebrated for its real ale and craft beers. Tea – the nation’s favourite drink. Us Brits drink around 165 million cups a day and here in Yorkshire it’s a sin to dislike a good cuppa. Prince Charles’ favourite brand is, of course, Yorkshire Tea which was founded in 1886 in Harrogate.
Famous Yorkshire People (folk)
As well as its beautiful countryside, Yorkshire is famous for its friendly folk and is consistently voted one of the happiest places to live in England. Every Yorkshireman is incredibly proud of their roots – we even celebrate ‘Yorkshire Day’, a county-wide festivity that takes place every year on the 1st of August.
Even if you can’t point us out on a map, we are sure you will have heard of some of our Yorkshire greats:
The Brontë Sisters – Born in Thornton in Bradford, Charlotte (1816-1855), Emily (1818-1848) and Anne (1820-1849) are some of Yorkshire’s most well-known novelists and poets. Writing under the male pseudonyms, Currer, Ellis and Acton, their greatest works include Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and The Tenant of Windfell Hall.
James Herriot – James Herriot is the penname of James Alfred “Alf” Wight, a veterinary surgeon and writer who moved to Thirsk, North Yorkshire aged 23 where he remained for the rest of his life. His writing was mainly autobiographical about the life and work of a country vet in the Yorkshire Dales and has been adapted for both film and television – most notably All Creatures Great and Small. Visitors from around the world flock to see Herriot Country and his former surgery has now been converted into The World of James Herriot visitor centre.
David Hockney – Born in Bradford, David Hockney is considered one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century. Some of his most noted works include ‘A Bigger Splash,’ ‘Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy’ and his landscapes of Yorkshire. Many of his works can be seen today in Salts Mill Art Gallery in Saltaire.
Judi Dench – Dame Judi Dench was born in Heworth just outside York. Her father was resident doctor for the York Theatre Royal and her mother was its wardrobe mistress, so Dench became familiar with theatre from an early age. She showed a love of performance as a young girl, playing Mary in the York Mystery Plays. Dench is famous for both stage and film, notably her theatre performances of Shakespeare’s plays and as ‘M’ in the James Bond films. She has won 55 awards so far in her career including 10 BAFTAs, an Oscar and 2 Golden Globe Awards. She has been nominated over 200 times.
Guy Fawkes – Born and educated in York in 1570, Guy Fawkes is synonymous with the Gunpowder Plot. In 1604 Fawkes became involved with a small group of English Catholics who planned to assassinate the Protestant King James by blowing up the House of Lords. The plot was revealed to the authorities and on the 5th of November 1605, Fawkes was discovered guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder. Each year on the 5th of November, the failure of the plot is celebrated with Fawkes’ effigy being burned on a bonfire accompanied by fireworks.
Thomas Chippendale – Chippendale was born in Otley, Leeds in 1718. He moved to London and became a cabinet-maker, creating furniture for many grand houses. He designed furniture in the mid-Georgian, English Rococo, and Neoclassical styles. In 1754, he published ‘The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director,’ a catalogue of 160 designs, which was the first publication on such a large scale and became very influential. A large collection of his work can be found in Harewood House, Leeds.
Captain James Cook – Captain James Cook was a British explorer, cartographer, and captain in the Royal Navy. Born in Marton, Cook moved to the fishing village of Staithes, North Yorkshire when he was 16. James became an apprentice with the Walker brothers, Quaker ship-owners at Whitby, where he learned algebra, geometry, navigation and astronomy – skills he would later use to command his own ship. He joined the Royal Navy in 1755 and became master’s mate on HMS Eagle, patrolling the Western Approaches during the Seven Years War with France. In 1766, Cook became commander of HM Bark Endeavour and lead three voyages to the Pacific Ocean. He found and then charted New Zealand, surveyed the eastern coast of Australia and navigated the Great Barrier Reef. Later, he charted Tonga and Easter Island and discovered New Caledonia, the South Sandwich Islands and South Georgia. He was sadly killed by natives on a beach in Hawaii, in a dispute over a stolen boat.