Visiting Britain - Yorkshire- 5 Fascinating Places to See
Five fascinating places to visit in Yorkshire, the biggest county in the north of Britain. I'd like to try and tempt you away from the capital, London, a wonderful metropolis it's true but not the quite the whole story!
The five places I've chosen are all based in Yorkshire so are close to each other, which could save you time and money. You'll find castles and historical city walks, a link to Dracula, blues music and a museum with one of the world's largest collection of photographs.
You can easily reach the north of England, by train from London in under 3 hours, or fly into the city of Leeds.
England is split into two distinct regions - North and South, the 'border' being roughly placed in the neutral town of Watford. In the minds of northerners all the southerners are soft, posh and tend to speak with either plums or eels in their mouths. To southerners, northerners are uncouth, poverty stricken and talk with either lumps of coal or rhubarb in their mouths.
Neither is true you'll be glad to learn, but there are wide cultural and social differences between counties, and you may, especially if you're a tourist, find it a bit hard to understand some of the dialects. Especially up north with their gutterals and clipped vowels.
If you ever get to visit England and have the chance to go north from the great capital of London, I'd recommend you travel straight up to the city of York and base yourself there.
York is perfectly placed for exploration in the county of Yorkshire and beyond and is a cultural hive of activity itself. Here are medieval churches and streets, Roman walls, beamed pubs, and an infamous dungeon of torture!!
You'll find tiny shops in the Shambles, a view of the city from the York Eye and exquisite stonework on York Minster, a wonder of Europe.
Whilst many towns and cities 'up North' over-modernised in the 1950s and 60s, York retains its authentic historical heart.
Map Showing Details of Yorkshire
1. The City of York
This ancient walled city is lovingly known as the capital of the North and rightly so. It is packed with historical, architectural and cultural gems. The National Railway Museum is here too, a huge building holding some of the most famous locomotives in the world.
The poet WH Auden was born in this atmospheric city as was the actress Judi Dench. Both poetry and acting are very much on the calendar, the Theatre Royal offering a full modern and classical programme.
Some inner areas of York have been untouched by modern developers resulting in a medieval feel to many streets and corners. You can walk through the Shambles for example and be taken back centuries. This original thoroughfare is so narrow at one point you can take three steps and go from one shop across the cobbles and into another!
The York Dungeon
London has the London Dungeon, York the York Dungeon. It's all quite gruesome and ghastly. You get to see how our ancestors had to learn about life the hard way! There are torture chambers, mock executions, murder trials and other lighthearted exhibitions and displays that will absolutely grip you.
Not for those with nervous dispositions. But great fun.
You can find out more here:
2. National Media Museum, Bradford
This excellent resource museum isn't really a museum at all, it's a modern complex dedicated to all things media....radio, photography, television, cinema. It boasts three cinemas, amongst them the Cubby Broccoli and the IMAX, the latter being a huge screen specialising in 3D visuals.
The Pictureville Cinema has been described as 'the best cinema in Britain.'
Movie buffs and other enthusiasts regularly flock to its doors for rare and prestigious screenings but it welcomes all - from school groups to professional researchers and archivists.
Also kept here and open to the public are the first ever photographic negative, the earliest t.v. footage, the world's first moving pictures - Louis Le Prince's 1888 films taken in nearby city Leeds - and over 3 million culturally valued items.
A shop, cafe and seven permanent exhibitions mean this city centre space is a 7 day week attraction.
More information here:
National Media Museum, Bradford
3. King Richard III's Castle, Middleham, Yorkshire
A walk over the fields to Middleham Castle via the beautiful River Ure is a great treat. You can cross elegant stone bridges, becks and country lanes to reach this very well preserved stone castle, once the home of young Richard III.
This most controversial of English kings enjoyed a happy childhood in Middleham village, learning how to ride and look after horses, the art of swordsmanship, and taking on responsibility in his duty as a royal prince.
Richard's complete skeleton, recently found in Leicestershire, confirmed the fact that he had a twisted spine and did indeed walk with a stoop. Yet in all probability this would not have hampered his mobility. Wound marks on certain bones point to his demise in battle, reflection of a brave king who fought with his men to the bitter end.
Shakespeare, with artistic license, portrayed Richard, Duke of Gloucester as a villain -
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasure of these days.
You can read more about Richard here:
4. Whitby, the Coastal Town of Dracula
Whitby lies on the north coast of Yorkshire, huddled between the cliffs some 50 miles from York and has been a fishing port for centuries. Your visit would be worthwhile for this fact alone but Whitby has some major surprises up its sleeve.
For example, the English sailor and explorer Captain James Cooke set off from Whitby in the 18th century on his ship The Endeavour. He was the first to chart the New Zealand coast and also discovered what was to become Australia on one of his many important voyages.
The author Bram Stoker spent many hours in Whitby. He part devised his famous book Dracula whilst holidaying here, devoting chapters 6-8 to the seaside town, Stoker's choice for the arrival of none other than Dracula himself. Check out the extracts from his book down below.
Could this be the reason the young Goths have their annual outing in Whitby? Black clothing, dark make up and pale faces take over the town - but don't worry, they're a fun loving, peaceable lot. Not a vampire amongst them.
There's much more to do in Whitby:
Extracts from Dracula
Chapter VII From a Correspondent Whitby.
One of the greatest and suddenest storms on record has just been experienced here, with results both strange and unique.......The wind suddenly shifted to the north-east, and the remnant of the sea-fog melted in the blast; and then, mirabile dictu, between the piers, leaping from wave to wave as it rushed at headlong speed, swept the strange schooner before the blast,with all sail set, and gained the safety of the harbour. The searchlight followed her, and a shudder ran through all who saw her, for lashed to the helm was a corpse, with drooping head, which swung horribly to and fro at each motion of the ship.
Chapter VIII Mina Murray's Journal
For a moment or two I could see nothing, as the shadow of a cloud obscured St Mary's Church and all around it. Then as the cloud passed I could see the ruins of the abbey coming into view; and as the edge of a narrow band of light as sharp as a sword-cut moved along, the church and the churchyard became gradually visible. The coming of he cloud was too quick for me to see much, for shadow shut down on light almost immediately; but it seemed to me as though something dark stood behind the seat where the white figure shone, and bent over it. What it was, whether man or beast, I could not tell; I did not wait to catch another glance, but flew down the steep steps to the pier and along by the fish-market to the bridge, which was the only way to reach the East Cliff.
5. Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire
Hebden Bridge For Music, Poetry and Eccentrics
Hebden Bridge is a small town with a big eccentric heart. It is full of bohemians, artists and musicians and welcomes all to its annual Blues Festival, a celebration of blues music in all forms.
You'll discover a quiet radicalism as well as an open minded non conformism which goes back centuries, to a time when the industrial revolution was sweeping through the local valleys and dales.
An indication of this love for the minority is reflected in a demonstration given by Hebden Eccentrics in support of the Naked Rambler, a man who was arrested in Hebden Bridge for walking nude through the main street, as part of a 200 mile naked protest walk.
Several inhabitants stripped off on the ancient river bridge and held a banner up in protest.
Just how popular is Hebden Bridge? Well, Patti Smith the veteran rock singer decided to play a gig here, in aid of the recent flood victims. She is said to have been so inspired by the nearby Bronte Sisters home at Haworth that she wanted to give something back.
Walk a short way out of the town (fully clothed is best) and you'll find Heptonstall, a village where the American poet Sylvia Plath is buried.
You can read more here:
All images by chef-de-jour unless otherwise stated.
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© 2013 Andrew Spacey