You can't beat Yorkshire

Date Posted: 10/03/2010

There’s plenty for groups in Yorkshire, says Jeannine Williamson.

From the North York Moors to the Yorkshire Dales and Peak District, Yorkshire is a region with breathtaking scenery combined with a fascinating history, exciting cities and stunning coastline.

If it is your first visit, or you are returning with your group after several years, be prepared for some pleasant surprises. Hull, one of Yorkshire’s key cities, has transformed itself over the last five years and is an ideal base for groups. The makeover includes the Museums’ Quarter, offering a unique insight into Hull’s heritage; The Deep, the city’s £52 million millennium project; and 40-acre St Stephen’s shopping centre, hailed as one of the world’s best regeneration projects.

Similarly, Bradford is another city undergoing big changes, with an enthralling heritage built upon its mill trade and, more recently, film industry. The refurbished Midland Hotel, a city centre landmark, welcomes groups and is well placed for visiting the iconic Alhambra Theatre, a beautiful restored Edwardian playhouse, and National Media Museum. Built by the Midland Railway Company, the hotel once had its own railway platform and guests can still walk up the original railway passageway. Bradford is a former winner of the Curry Capital of Britain title, so if your group members enjoy spicy dishes they will be spoilt for choice.

Seaside resorts such as Scarborough and Whitby are already well known, but there is plenty more to discover along Yorkshire’s east coast, from Edwardian promenades to fossils and dinosaur remains. Relax and take your time on a puffin cruise from Bridlington harbour and see some of the finest seabird habitats in the UK.

At the beginning of next month Welcome to Yorkshire and the six Yorkshire Area Tourism Partnerships will launch Britain’s first regional visitor pass. Available for between one to six days, the passes provide free entry to around 80 attractions, plus discounts on guided walks, theatres and entertainment. Group rates are available, and for more information contact Elaine Moss on 01904-554471 or e-mail info@yorkshirepass.com.

Love Leeds

To be dubbed ‘The best English city to visit outside London’ is quite something, but that is exactly what Conde Nast Traveller said about Leeds. A vibrant place to enjoy all types of leisure pursuits, shopping should be on the check list, with the city now known as one of the best places in the country for a retail experience. If you’re feeling arty, why not suggest seeing something at the city’s own repertory theatre or the opera house; and don’t forget the Leeds Art Gallery. Many of you will be familiar with the Royal Armouries, which houses a fascinating collection of arms and armour, with group talks and workshops available upon prior request.

Jorvik Viking Centre reopens

One of the most popular visitor attractions in the UK outside London, the Jorvik Viking Centre reopened last month following a £1 million refurbishment. 30 years ago the York Archaeological Trust revealed the houses, workshops and backyards of the Viking-age city of Jorvik as it stood 1,000 years ago. The new centre incorporates an underfoot reconstruction of the original excavation, state-of-the art animatronics and the reconstruction of a Viking house and backyard. The centre also features Viking objects on display for the first time.

Groups will be captivated as they experience the sights, sounds and smells of the street market and meet Viking‘residents’ as they carry out traditional crafts and give talks on weaponry and battle tactics. GTOs can upgrade a visit with a trip to the new sister attraction Dig - An Archeological Adventure, a hands-on look at how archeologists recreate the past.

Launch of Beverley town trail

A new east Yorkshire walking trail, featuring 40 linked art installations, will be launched in Beverley in July. The trail delves into the picturesque market town’s past and the sculptures will feature many of Beverley’s guilds and trades, which made Beverley one of the wealthiest towns in medieval England.

£2 million museum project

The fascinating early history of York will be told through ground-breaking research and internationally important collections at the newly refurbished Yorkshire Museum. The might of the Romans, the power of the Vikings and the wealth and romance of the medieval period will be revealed following a £2 million investment at Yorkshire Museum.

The museum reopens in August and the project has transformed the interior of the building. Glittering jewels, beautiful statues and deadly weapons will be among the items on display. The new look museum will also include an audio-visual introduction on the history of York in a 300-seat auditorium, a good first port of call on a group trip to York.

Book a visit to the Brontë Parsonage

Yorkshire is inextricably linked to the lives of the world’s most famous literary family, the Brontës, who lived in Haworth. The former home of sisters Charlotte, Emily and Anne, now the Brontë Parsonage Museum, has undergone the first major refurbishment in more than two decades. It includes new displays of Brontë treasures, with more of the museum’s collection on display than ever before, interactive exhibits and costumes from the new ITV adaptation of Wuthering Heights. To further enhance a visit, introductory talks, slide presentations and walks are also available for groups.

After visiting the museum your group can walk out on the awe-inspiring moors, stroll down the main street with its array of shops and tearooms or climb aboard the steam train at the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway for a journey into the countryside.

Walk on the wild side

Yorkshire Wildlife Park, a new attraction near Doncaster, features African wildlife in the fields of a former farm. It includes a sweeping African plains reserve, with antelope, zebra, endangered African hunting dogs and other animals, and a walk-through reserve called Lemur Woods, home to three species of these endearing Madagascan primates.

Groups can book ahead for morning coffee, with traditional Yorkshire bakes and cakes, lunch or afternoon tea in the cafe. Why not treat your group to a traditional Yorkshire high tea?

Go to jail

Your group can spend a day where others spent a lifetime. York Castle has been a site of justice and incarceration for almost 1,000 years and the infamous cells of the castle museum have been unlocked, revealing moving and sometimes gruesome prisoner tales.

The new experience, York Castle Prison, will transport your group members back to the time when the building was used to house the county’s worst felons and debtors. By winding through the cramped authentic cells they can explore the dark, dank conditions prisoners were kept in and learn about their crimes and their punishment.

Ten great group attractions

1. National Coal Mining Museum: Located at Overton, on the edge of a coalfield where mining has been carried out for centuries, this free museum provides an opportunity to travel down one of Britain’s oldest working mines and a captivating insight into the hard working lives of miners.

2. York Minster (pictured): Europe’s largest Gothic cathedral is a treasure house of 800 years of stained glass. Your group members can explore the history beneath their feet in the undercroft and enjoy magnificent views from the tower top.

3. Castle Howard: The breathtaking location for Brideshead Revisited, this magnificent 18th century house near York is situated in formal gardens and parkland dotted with temples, lakes, statues and fountains.

4. National Media Museum: Bradford’s fabulous free museum is devoted to film, photography, TV, radio and the web. Groups can watch favourite small screen moments in TV Heaven and take in a film on the giant IMAX screen.

5. Museums’ Quarter: Set in the historic heart of Hull’s old town, journey back 235 million years to encounter sea monsters and a life-sized woolly mammoth at the Hull and East Riding Museum of Archaeology. The Streetlife Museum of Transport brings history to life and groups can also visit the birthplace of anti-slave campaigner William Wilberforce.

6. National Railway Museum: Let off steam in York and discover more than 300 years of history. Marvel at the record-breaking Mallard, visit the royal trains and take a seat on the futuristic bullet train.

7. Saltaire: Wealthy Victorian industrialist Titus Salt built this remarkable self-contained village outside Bradford to house his mill workers. Embark on an entertaining and informative group walk with Maria Glot, from Saltswalks, who brings history alive.

8. Harewood House: The Leeds home of the Earl of Harewood has something for everyone with its magnificent state rooms, Adam ceilings, Chippendale furniture and works of art.

9. The Deep: Experience the dramatic story of the world’s oceans at Hull’s award-winning ‘submarium’, home to 40 sharks and 3,500 fish. Highlights include Europe’s deepest viewing tunnel and a glass lift ride through the deep tank.

10. Fountains Abbey: Yorkshire’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site is a huge estate of beauty, contrasts and surprises. The dramatic abbey ruins in Harrogate are the country’s largest monastic ruins and Studley Royal Water Garden is a Georgian masterpiece.

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