An inspiring destination

Date Posted: 29/03/2012

With a sweeping landscape immortalised in novels by the Brontë sisters, Yorkshire is also home to a stunning stretch of coastline and cities such as York, Leeds, Sheffield, Bradford and Hull that have a wealth of historic attractions and shops. Jeannine Williamson sees why it's big on group appeal.

There are six national museums, a spectacular Heritage Coast stretching from Scarborough - Britain’s first seaside resort, and stately homes and castles that have played starring roles in films and television dramas. Tasty regional foods include York ham,Wensleydale cheese and of course, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Look out for new attraction, Chocolate - York’s Sweet Story, celebrating the city’s 150-year-old confectionery industry and opening this spring. The brainchild of visitor attraction group, Continuum, and located at the end of the historic Shambles, this new experience will offer day time and early evening tours and activities for groups. In short, Yorkshire offers more than enough to satisfy any group visit.

York 800

Exciting events and festivals are underway to mark York’s 800th anniversary of being granted a Royal Charter by King John in 1212, allowing the city to become independent and take charge of its own affairs.

GTOs can organise visits to coincide with the anniversary of the charter, with a long weekend of celebrations from 7th to 9th July, including the Festival of the Rivers with a flotilla of hundreds of boats along the river Ouse, and the climax of Ebor Vox - a project that will see choirs and singing groups performing across the city centre. The medieval cycle of York Mystery Plays - sacred history pageants performed by the people of York over the centuries - will be staged throughout August. For the first time since 1988 they will be presented in the Museum Gardens where a 1,400 covered seat theatre will be constructed within the ancient abbey walls.

Throughout the year there will be a host of events and exhibitions celebrating the best of the city past, present and future.These include 1212 - The Making of the City, which opens at Yorkshire Museum this Easter and runs for the rest of the year. Telling the story of the people and events that shaped the city, highlights include the ornate York Helmet unearthed in 1982, and the 15th century Middleham Jewel that was saved for the nation following a public appeal. For the latest information on York 800 visit www.yorkfestivals.com.

Head east

This corner of Yorkshire boasts the dynamic city of Hull, 35 miles of coastline including the golden sandy beaches and historic harbour of Bridlington, market towns such as medieval Beverley with its 13th century minster, and lovely countryside peppered with stately homes and gardens.

Hull has transformed itself over the last five years and there is much to see in this maritime city, including the fascinating Museums Quarter. This historic district brings together attractions including Wilberforce House, birthplace of the slavery abolitionist William Wilberforce; transport museum Streetlife; and the Arctic Corsair, where groups can step aboard a 1960s trawler and find out about life at sea. Outside the city walking groups can now take a rest on six individually crafted benches etched with poetry that have been installed on the Yorkshire Wolds Way, and are reportedly the UK’s first collection of art works on a national trail.

Full steam ahead

Late spring sees the highly anticipated return ofthe Flying Scotsman to York’s National Railway Museum (pictured). Arguably the world’s most famous locomotive, it was purchased in 2004 with the help of grant aid and donations from the public, and the museum has restored it to full mainline running condition. The exact date of its return has yet to be confirmed so check the museum website at www.nrm.org.uk for the latest updates.

From 2nd to 10th June the museum will host Railfest, part of the York 800 and Britain’s biggest rail celebration, bringing together over 30 record-breaking locomotives. At any time of the year groups can enjoy the free museum covering over 200 years of railway history through a collection of more than 100 locomotives, 250 items of rolling stock and thousands of other objects, from posters and tickets to uniforms and silverware. Benefits for pre-booked groups include shop discounts and two for one tickets on the road train from York Minster to the museum.

Look to Leeds

Leeds, the only city outside London to have its own opera and ballet companies, is a vibrant, cultural city and many attractions are free. The city centre is also compact, making it easy to explore.

Combine shopping and sightseeing at Clarence Dock, the city’s newest retail destination. Nearby is the Royal Armouries, Britain’s national museum of arms and armour, where the newly refurbished tournament gallery enables groups to see Henry VIII as both a king and in a lesser-known guise as a sportsman. Another top shopping destination is the stylish Victoria Quarter with its wrought iron architecture, which is home to Harvey Nicols.

West to Wakefield

Wakefield is home to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, part of Yorkshire’s Magnificent Attractions and an international centre for modern and contemporary art. Visiting groups can explore open-air displays as well as fascinating exhibitions showcased throughout four galleries. YSP also boats a dynamic line-up of events and activities hosted throughout the year. Art enthusiasts could also consider a visit to Hepworth Wakefield, Yorkshire’s inspiring new gallery celebrating renowned sculptor Barbara Hepworth, who was born in Wakefield.

Also in Wakefield is the National Coal Mining Museum for England, offering an insight into the lives of miners through the ages. With the chance to take a guided tour of one of Britain’s oldest working mines, descending 140-metres underground, groups bookings should be made in advance.

Glorious glass

Groups can be amongst the first to see York Minster Revealed in Stories in Glass & Stone, the culmination of a five-year £10 million conservation project at the landmark cathedral that will also see improved access. Opening this autumn, new interactive galleries will reveal the secrets behind the great east window that is the largest in Europe.

At any time, cathedral tours of the magnificent building that took 250 years to build, are available to pre-booked groups of ten or more.

Costume drama

Barley Hall is a medieval townhouse on the doorstep of York Minster that has been lovingly restored to its original splendor.

New for 2012 is Hamlet to Hollywood - Fashion from Film, which builds on the success of last year’s costume exhibition. To coincide with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, more costumes have been added that have a royal connection. Groups can see costumes worn by Colin Firth and Helena Bonham-Carter inThe King’s Speech; Dame Judi Dench’s costume from Cranford;and Kiera Knightley’s costume from The Duchess, to name just a few. Benefits included discounted admission for groups of 15 or more, as well as joint tickets with attractions including Jorvik and York’s historic gateway Micklegate Bar.

Visit the Vikings

A visit to Jorvik is popular and there are two new exhibitions to see at the Viking-age city. Investigate Coppergate shows what the Vikings ate, looked like, and even the diseases they suffered from; while The End of the Vikings? takes a look at the final battles of York’s Viking period in York and the surviving legacy.

Science showcase

John Goodricke, a teenage astronomer from York, was the first person to measure the brightness of stars and among many local citizens who made ground-breaking scientific strides. York is now a leading international centre for technology and this summer the pioneering spirit will be celebrated with the York Science and Innovation Grand Tour, featuring up to 100 large and colourful images and messages posted at prime locations around the city from May to July.  

See more for less

A new incentive for 2012 is 20 per cent off the cost of a York Pass for groups of ten or more. Each pass comes with a free guide book and includes free entry to more than 25 top attractions and discounts. GTOs can request a free two-day pass to help them plan their visit by emailing Elaine Moss at em@visityork.org.

Five great group attractions

Eureka!: The National Children’s Museum in Halifax celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and is a fun-packed destination for any family groups.Lightwater Valley: Thrill-seekers can include a visit to Lightwater Valley Theme Park, offering more than 40 rides and attractions, including The Ultimate – Europe’s longest roller coaster.

National Media Museum: Located in Bradford, UNESCO City of Film, the museum houses three cinemas as well as the National Photography, National Cinematography, National television, and National New Media collections.

Newby Hall: One of Britain’s finest Adam houses, VIP Packages enable groups to explore the house before opening hours, plus there’s 25-acres of award-winning gardens, a woodland walk, and a miniature railway.

The World of James Herriot : Paying tribute to the world’s most famous vet, Alf Wright - better known as author, James Herriot - the Thirsk attraction will host an exhibition exploring the making of BBC television series Young James Herriot this year.

Five captivating castles

Castle Howard: Set within 1,000 acres of beautiful landscape and one of the country’s most magnificent private homes, this stunning property played a starring role in the film and television versions of Brideshead Revisited.

Conisbrough Castle: The inspiration for Sir Walter Scott’s classic novel Ivanhoe, and topped by a circular white keep with six buttresses, this castle is the oldest surviving example of its type in England.

Middleham Castle: The childhood and favourite home of Richard III, Middleham’s massive keep is one of the largest in England.

Scarborough Castle: Defending a prominent headland and with more than 2,500 years of turbulent history, groups can enjoy dramatic coastal views from the battlement viewing platforms.

Skipton Castle: Situated on a rocky crag and guardian of the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales, this unique fortress is one of England’s most complete and best preserved medieval castles.

Useful contacts:

Visit Hull and East Yorkshire:
01482-486600
www.visithullandeastyorkshire.com/group

Visit York:
09104-550080
www.groupvisityork.com

Welcome to Yorkshire:
0113-322 3500
www.yorkshire.com

Photo credit: Welcome to Yorkshire

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