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About This Yorkshire Itinerary

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As the UK's largest county, Yorkshire presents vacationers with a very large range of choices. Coastal vacations, outdoor adventures in three different national parks, tours through great country estates and mansions can all be part of a tour of Yorkshire.
This tour, emphasizing Yorkshire's cities, takes travelers on a journey through time and history, visiting:

  • A Viking settlement that become England's most important medieval city
  • The northern capital of the rag trade, now a great shopping city
  • An industrial capital in transition, once the most important steel making center in the world
  • A port city with atmospheric and historic docks and an impressive aquarium
  • A highly rated restaurant in a country pub
  • Two amazing Gothic Cathedrals

How Long Will it Take?

The British have an expression - How long is a piece of string? - that about says it all. Distances are short, with the longest journey taking a little over an hour. But the itinerary is planned for five days over a week long vacation so that you can spend time exploring each stop along the way. Use the time at the beginning and end of the week for travel to your departure airport or home in the UK or Europe. You can easily add a few more days by staying longer in any of the anchor cities that interest you, by choosing one of the extra suggested itineraries or by exploring the countryside en route.

Medieval York - Travel Back in Time To Start Your Tour

York is one of the UK's most popular visitor destinations and it's easy to see why. This small, medieval walled city (one of the most pristine in all of Europe) is packed with things to do and see - excellent markets and shops, half-timbered buildings and one of Europe's largest and most important cathedrals.
About two hours and forty five minutes by train from London or just under two hours from Manchester Airport, York is easy to reach and a good place to start a counter clockwise journey through the City Gems of Yorkshire.

Spend the Night in York Before Your Tour Begins

Plan on traveling to York and spending the night there before starting Day One of this Yorkshire Itinerary.
Recommended York Hotels
  • The Mount Royal Hotel Just outside the city walls, this quirky hotel is old fashioned but friendly and well run, with many patio rooms on a garden that can only be described as amazing.Read a review.
  • Compare Prices on these York Hotels
    • The York Park Inn Part of a chain, this business class hotel is efficiently run and very well located on the city walls, overlooking the River Ouse. River side rooms have attractive views.
    • The Churchill Hotel Near Bootham Bar and the city center
    • The Grange Hotel Free parking for guests close to the city center.

More useful information

Day 1 - A Day in Medieval York and a Night in Leeds

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Founded by the Romans, who called it Eboracum, York was called Eorforwic by the Saxons, and Jorvik by the Vikings before settling down to York, sometime after the Norman invasions in 1066. Today the city wears its more than 2,000 years of history with nonchalance.

York's Earliest Settlers

Walk the city walls and you'll find outcrops of Roman construction amongs the mostly medieval stones.

The actual layout of the city center follows the pattern of the original Roman fortress. Here and there you may find Roman inscriptions on building walls: those are mostly copies, though, with the actual inscribed stones found in The Yorkshire Museum.
Find York's Viking past at The Jorvik Viking Center. More than 40,000 Viking items were discovered in the l970s during construction excavations at Coppergate (which means the street of cup makers). The finds included workshops for jewelry making, metalworking and, yes, the manufacture of wooden cups and bowls.

Medieval York

York's real treasure is its vast collection of pristine medieval buildings - in stone as well as half-timbering (called "black and whites" in the UK), many still in daily use and some, like the Barley Hall, only recently discovered, lost within York's tight lanes and snickelways.
While in York, don't miss:
  • York Minster Northern Europe's largest Gothic Cathedral on a site with nearly 1700 years of religious history.
  • The Shambles A lane mentioned in the Domesday book that is England's most visited street - and at least 900 years old.

Continuing Your Tour

York and Leeds are so close together that you can easily spend the night in York and move on first thing in the morning, or head for Leeds, about 25 miles and 45 minutes away, at the end of your day in York. That's my preference if you need to stay on schedule because York is such a lovely city that if you spend a second night, you'll just be tempted to stay there.

Travel Tips

Parking in the ancient city of York can be difficult and expensive. If you are planning to rent a car, save money on gasoline and parking, as well as your sanity, by picking it up when you leave Leeds, at the end of Day 2 of this itinerary. York and Leeds are less than half an hour apart by train, with a service that runs from city center to city center, every 20 minutes or so until quite late at night. There is actually an hourly service all night long.
More Travel Ideas for York

Day 2 - Shopping and Museum Hopping in Leeds

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Leeds has built on a tradition of wool, textile and clothing manufacture to become a major fashion hub. Glamorous shops are housed in some of the most splendid Victorian arcades in Europe. Famous Harvey Nichols established its first store outside of London here.

Kirkgate Market and the Corn Exchange

As many as 100,000 people pass through, Kirkgate Market on a typical weekend.

With 800 stalls, it is one of the largest covered markets in Europe. More than 100 years ago, a certain Mr. Marks set out a market stall there that became the iconic British retailer, Marks and Spencer.
Have a look at the Corn Exchange, as well. Restoration in 2008 and 2009 was meant to create a mega food emporium. Though by the summer of 2009 nothing much on that score had actually materialized, the building itself is a knockout. Considered, by many, one of the best Victorian buildings in Britain, its arcaded galleries, huge windows and amazing Victorian and Edwardian skylights make it a must for a wander, and perhaps a coffee and cake at The Piazza by Anthony.

The Royal Armouries Leeds

While the Victoria Quarter will keep committed shophounds busy for hours, everyone else should head for The Royal Armouries Leeds, in the newly developed Clarence Docks area, beside the River Aire. Besides the usual assortment of swords, daggers, shields and other weaponry from all over the world, the Armouries have an outdoor "tiltyard", with regular displays of fencing, falconry, archery and jousting (the museum has its own war horses). Crafts people on site demonstrate the armorers' arts as well. Don't be surprised if a few suits of armour, in one of the galleries, suddenly come to life and start fencing (as happened the day I visited). And Don't Miss the Indian War Elephant, dressed in the world's only complete suit of elephant armor.

More Useful Information About Leeds

Leeds to Sheffield Travel Tips

Leeds is about 35 miles from Sheffield on the A61 and takes about an hour and ten minutes. You can cut the trip down to about 50 minutes using the M621 and M1 motorways, but it is a far less interesting drive and you are bound to have to jostle with traffic and trucks.
This itinerary includes an extra day between Sheffield and Leeds to explore some of the interesting destinations and attractions in this part of York, but if you need to shave a day off your trip, skip the next page and head straight for Sheffield.

Day 3- Mini Itinerary: Leeds to Sheffield With a Peak District Detour

About This South Yorkshire and Derbyshire Mini Itinerary

Spend a day wending your way through South Yorkshire and Northwest Derbyshire, stopping at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, a little-known free attraction, before driving through a Pennine landscape,the High Peaks area of the Peak District National Park.
In all there's roughly 80 miles of driving, in three 26-27 mile chunks. Plan on at least 40 minutes to an hour for each leg of the journey, allowing more time to enjoy the pleasures of the scenic Snake Pass.

Except in rare snowy weather, the route is safe, well paved and easy. Time your journey right and you should be in Sheffield in time for dinner.

Click here for a detailed, zoomable map of this route

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is an outdoor catalog of 20th and 21st century British sculpture. Covering 500 acres of rolling countryside on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, the park presents works of art displayed in a way that only the wealthiest patrons, with vast estates might expect to see them, tucked into leafy glades or perched on the crests of hills. Among the dozens of artists whose works are permanently displayed outdoors are:There are also commissioned, site-specific outdoor works by Andy Goldsworthy and James Turrell; indoor gallery spaces and landscaped gardens.
The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is dog-friendly (except for the indoor galleries and garden) and, best of all, but for a small parking fee, this truly wonderful place is completely free.

Travel Tips

Before leaving Leeds, stop off at Kirkgate Market to pack a picnic for later. The market opens at 9a.m.
The park, which opens at 10a.m. is one mile from exit 38 of the M1, off the Huddersfield Road. It should take 40 to 60 minutes get there. Plan on finishing here by 1p.m.

Through the High Peaks

Return to the M1, leaving exit 37 for the A628 toward Penistone. Among the UK's highest market towns, it's a good place to stop for lunch or supplies. Stay on the A628, heading west toward Manchester, and enjoying the high, open moorlands and gentle valleys, glittering with lakes and reservoirs. Watch for the Woodhead Reservoir south of the road. Just beyond it, take the B6105 which forks off to the left and is marked Glossop. After a rest break at Glossop, look for the A57 (a left) back into the park, toward Sheffield.

Snake Pass

The most scenic part of this journey, marked by several dramatic granite outcrops and shelves, stretches between Glossop and the Ladybower Reservoir on the A57. Known as Snake Pass, the route follows the Ashop River Valley. Part of the National Trust High Peaks Estate, it's dotted with parking spots and easy, well marked paths.
Once you've had your fill, simply follow the A57 all the way into Sheffield.

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Sheffield, the city that can claim to be the birthplace of steel, is a green oasis with more trees per capita than any European city. It's a place where young metalworking artists thrive, learning skills that have developed here for hundreds of years. And despite changes in the steel industry, Sheffield produces more steel - particularly cutlery and technical steels - than ever in its history.

Sheffield Steel

The modern skyscraper could never have arisen without steel.

Most of the important inventions in steelmaking were created or developed in Sheffield:
  • 18th century - The crucible technique for steelmaking
  • 19th century - The Bessemer process for mass production
  • 20th century - The invention of stainless steel
Visitors interested in Sheffield's industrial history can visit:
  • Kelham Island Museum A 900 year old island that is Sheffield's oldest industrial site. Exhibits include one of the last three Bessemer converters in the world - in use by British Steel as recently as 1975.
  • Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet The world's only surviving, intact crucible steel furnace as well as tilt hammers, grinding stones and waterwheels at an 18th century industrial works,where agricultural scythes and other "edge tools" were made.

    Sheffield Silver

    Sheffield's metalworking history dates from at least 14th century. Craftsmen worked in sterling silver and, from the mid 18th century, in silver fused to copper, known as Sheffield Plate, invented by Thomas Boulsover, a Sheffield cutler. Boulsover was repairing a pot when he accidentally fused the two metals and discovered the resulting metal sandwich was exceptionally strong.
    Silversmithing and other metalworking skills are still nurtured in Sheffield. At Persistence Works, a modern, purpose built studio center for working artists, sculptors and silversmiths, the Yorkshire ArtSpace Society maintains a Starter Studio program for several young artists a year. If you are planning to commission some important silver, you can visit some of the silversmiths, by appointment. Otherwise, visit Sheffield in November for Galvanize, the city's annual, month long festival of contemporary metal design. Exhibitions take place all over town and many of the artists hold open studios.

    During the rest of the year, the Metalwork Gallery of Sheffield's city center Millennium Gallery is a must. Among the more than 1,000 items, in this internationally important collection, The Millennium Bowl, commissioned by the Sheffield Assay Office, takes pride of place. Every year, one of the city's top silversmiths is commissioned to make a cup for it.

    Travel Tips

    Plan on getting an early start for tomorrow's journey to Hull to allow plenty of time for its star attraction The Deep.

    More Useful Sheffield Information

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    Hull, on the north shore of the Humber estuary, is an important foreign trading port, with connections to Scandinavia and the Baltic States and ferry services to Rotterdam. But, because it's a little hard to get to and is a city with high unemployment, it may not seem to be a natural visitor destination.
    Nevertheless, a generous morning in Hull with repay a visitor's effort and luckily, this circular Yorkshire intinerary makes it a bit easier to do.

    Things to See and Do in Hull

    • The Deep - Called a "submarium", this architecturally stunning building is the deepest aquarium in Europe and a genuine pleasure to visit. Wind your way down around the main, three story, tank and then walk right under it, surrounded by sharks and hundreds of unusual fish.
    • The Museums Quarter - Hull's "Old Town" on the River Hull, has several interesting small museums, all of them free. Don't miss The Streetlife Museum and the Wilberforce House - birthplace of William Wilberforce, abolitionist, Hull MP and father of the anti-slavery movement.
    • The Marina Not far from The Deep, past the modern hotels and apartments a series of locks and small canals lead to the shores of the estuary. If you are lucky, a thick salty mist that Yorkshire folk call "sea fret" may roll in, cut through by the mournful sound of a fog horn or the clanging bell of a buoy. The atmosphere should be particularly evocative for North Americans of Scandinavian or Central European heritage whose ancestors arrived in England here, before crossing the country to depart from Liverpool.

      Travel Tip

      The journey from Sheffield, via the M18 and the M62 to the A63, is about 65 miles and can take from an hour and 15 to an hour and 45 minutes, depending on traffic. After your visit, leave Hull going due North toward Beverly and head for South Dalton, on the edge of the East Yorkshire Wolds.

      A Great Pub Lunch

      Garlanded with awards, The Pipe & Glass Inn, in farm country northwest of Beverley, is a fine place to stop for lunch. Part traditional pub, part elegant restaurant, it's a tiny white country pub that opens out into a series of airy, flower filled rooms. If you can, dine in the conservatory to enjoy views of the surrounding Wolds landscape.
      Read a review of The Pipe & Glass Inn

      Beverley Cathedral

      After lunch, head back to Beverley town center, via the B1248 to visit Beverley Minster, a 1300 year old Gothic Cathedral. Built around the tomb of St John of Beverley, Bishop of York, the Minster is famous for its carvings, including:
      • 68 wooden misericords - more than any other English church. Dating from about 1520, their detail provides a glimse into the everyday life of the period.
      • 70 medieval minstrel carvings, depicting at least 20 ancient instruments and believed to be the largest collection of such carvings in the world.

      From Beverly, the A1079 will bring you back to York, 28 miles away and the end of this itinerary, in about an hour.

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