The big and beautiful county

Date Posted: 17/03/2011

Yorkshire is proud of its past and a sense of history is never far away, says Jeannine Williamson.

Reaching into three National Parks - the Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors and Peak District – Yorkshire’s dramatic countryside also includes the majestic moorland immortalised in novels by the Brontë sisters.

Down by the sea, groups can travel along one of Britain’s most spectacular coastlines, much of it protected Heritage Coast, and visit famous resorts such as Scarborough, Whitby and Filey.

Wander the streets of ancient York, take a ride on a steam train, go down a coal mine, visit some of the country’s best-known stately homes or follow in the footsteps of Captain Cook, Count Dracula and Dick Turpin, who all have Yorkshire connections. Welcome to Yorkshire can assist GTOs with all aspects of planning a visit and the website includes new suggestions for themed itineraries.

And when it’s time to take a break who can resist tucking into some roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, tasty York ham, a ginger parkin and refreshing cup of Yorkshire tea, or the Wensleydale cheese so beloved by cartoon characters Wallace and Gromit?

Museum openings

May sees the eagerly awaited opening of the Hepworth Wakefield, said to be the largest purpose-built exhibition space outside London. The striking building will showcase Yorkshire’s artistic legacy and the work of major British artists and centrepiece of the collection will be previously unseen works by Barbara Hepworth. One of the 20th century’s most important sculptors, Barabara was born and raised in Wakefield. For the latest information visit

Yorkshire has a proud cricketing heritage and Headingley is home of Yorkshire cricket. Fans should look out for the new £300,000 Yorkshire Cricket Museum, displaying memorabilia and archive television footage, due to open at the club this month. For news on the opening date visit

Flying Scotsman lands in York

Highlight of the 2011 calendar at York’s National Railway Museum is the public debut of one of the most famous steam locomotives, the Flying Scotsman, which was saved for the nation following a £2 million bid by the museum. Groups with visits already planned can see the train with its grey primer paint coat over the bank holiday weekend, 28th to 30th May, before it is revealed in its distinctive apple green livery at a date to be confirmed in July. For the latest news visit

Later in the summer groups will be able to enjoy the National Railway Museum’s new art gallery. But whenever you choose to visit your group will have an unforgettable time at the museum telling the story of Britain’s railways from the early 19th century to the present day. Entry is free and group benefits include discounts in the shop and the opportunity to combine a visit with a road train trip into York.

Animal magic

Cute prairie dogs are on the move at the Tropical Butterfly House, Wildlife and Falconry Centre near Sheffield. Big in personality rather than size, prairie dogs are similar to meerkats and this year there is a new enclosure called Prairie Dog Camp.  

The new feature will join popular experiences at the centre that is home to a huge range of animals, birds, reptiles and insects. There is discounted entry for groups of 15 or more with the option of guided or self-guided tours, meals and refreshments. 

The Deep, Hull’s award-winning aquarium housed in a dramatic building overlooking the Humber estuary, has unveiled a curious new creature. Cassiopea, or the ‘upside down jellyfish’, spends its life with its head resting on the bottom of the ocean. The attraction is part of aquarium’s research and conservation display, which enables groups to discover the work that goes on behind the scenes. The Deep has more than 3,500 fish, including spectacular rays and sharks, and group benefits include discounted admission and fast track entry.

Yorkshire in bloom

After Yorkshire’s novel rhubarb crumble and custard garden won a silver medal and the People’s Choice Award at the 2010 Chelsea Flower Show, the green-fingered county is now going for gold. The entry in the May show is also going to be used to promote Welcome to Yorkshire’s gardens campaign, highlighting more than 60 gardens open to visitors, from secret gardens to mazes, wild flower meadows and stately home landscapes. 

Groups can find a wealth of historic gardens such as Newby Hall near Ripon, famous for its double herbaceous borders and rose garden, and Sheffield Botanical Gardens with a beautifully restored glass houses to modern gardens including the walled garden at Scampston in Malton, winner of the Small Visitor Attraction of the Year tourism accolade at Yorkshire’s 2010 White Rose Awards. At the same event the RHS garden Harlow Carr outside Harrogate won the Large Visitor Attraction of the Year and Sustainable Tourism Award and here groups can take in tranquil surroundings that include a scented garden.

Cut above the rest

You will not be able to miss the Coldstones Cut, Yorkshire’s biggest and highest public artwork. Opened last autumn the giant £500,000 sculpture is situated above one of the highest villages in the Yorkshire Dales on the B6265 between Skipton and Pateley Bridge.

Overlooking the working Nidderdale quarry from which the giant blocks of limestone came for its construction, the impressive sculpture draws its inspiration from the quarry, local industrial history and the landscape of the surrounding area of outstanding natural beauty. Free to enter, your group members can walk through the sculpture and stand on different levels to view the quarry hole and scenery.

New breakfast and behind the scenes tours

Groups can now see parts of York Minster that were previously off-limits to visitors. The exclusive Hidden Minster tours are available for group bookings only and for parties of up to ten at a time. Europe’s largest gothic cathedral is famous for its magnificent stained glass and fascinating undercroft containing ancient remains found beneath the present day cathedral. For more information about the tours visit

New tours for groups have also been announced at two National Trust properties. York’s Beningbrough Hall and Gardens, which is home to the National Portrait Gallery’s collection of 18th century portraits, has an intriguingly named new bedbug and broomstick talk and there are also hidden house tours taking in parts of Beningbrough not open to the public.

At Yorkshire’s first World Heritage Site, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, earlybird groups can now enjoy a full Yorkshire breakfast or bacon sandwiches and optional guided tours. The 800-acre Ripon estate contains the country’s largest abbey ruins and one of England’s most spectacular water gardens and groups are invited to arrive before public opening hours. 

Five great group attractions

• Magna: I think budding scientists of all ages will love the UK’s first science adventure. Located in Rotherham’s former steelworks, groups can explore the elements of earth, air, fire and water.
• National Coal Mining Museum: In addition to engrossing exhibits this museum shows what it was really like to work underground with the opportunity to travel down one of Britain’s oldest working mines.
• National Media Museum: Bradford’s fantastic free museum is devoted to film, photography, television, radio and the web and includes a giant IMAX screen.
• North Yorkshire Moors Railway: The UK’s largest preserved heritage railway, running through 18 miles of countryside to the seaside resort of Whitby, includes Goathland station featured in television’s Heartbeat and the film Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
• Yorkshire Air Museum: Britain’s largest independent air museum, and location of the Allied Air Forces Memorial, is situated on an atmospheric World War Two bomber command station.

Five historic highlights

Castle Howard: Famous as the location for the 1981 television series and 2008 film of Brideshead Revisited, the 18th century house near York has held its group rates for 2011.
Harewood House: Situated outside Leeds in the heart of Yorkshire the home of the Earl of Harewood boasts magnificent state rooms, Chippendale furniture and works of art set in a 100-acre estate.
Ripley Castle: Home of the Ingilby family for 26 generations, entertaining tours are filled with humorous anecdotes and an insight into how the family has been affected by events in English history.
Saltaire: This self-contained village outside Bradford was built by Victorian industrialist Titus Salt to house his mill workers. Group tours led by costumed characters of the time bring the history alive.
York Castle Museum: Walk down a recreated Victorian street and then go back to the time the building was a prison and meet some infamous inmates including the legendary highwayman Dick Turpin.

Useful contacts:

Visit Leeds:
0113-220 6366

Welcome to Yorkshire:
0113-322 3500

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