Fit for a king

Venue: Hull and East Yorkshire
Date: 13 Oct 2011 - 14 Oct 2011

Group Leisure readers were invited to take a fresh look at the area of Hull and East Yorkshire; Carrie Martindale went along with an open mind.

I admit to being a little underwhelmed by the prospect of travelling the 375-mile round trip up to the city of Hull; although my sanguine head told me that it would be interesting to visit the area as I’ve only ever been to York before in the locality. VHEY also won Best Tourist Board or Body in the Group Leisure Awards this year, so I had a reason to be inquisitive.

The royal city of Kingston upon Hull (now that sounds better already) situated in the county of East Riding of Yorkshire, was established as such in the late 13th century, and the city’s long and rich history is reflected in its architectural structures and celebrated in its selection of museums. Visit Hull and East Yorkshire (VHEY) is the official tourist board for the east Yorkshire area covering Hull, Bridlington and Beverley.

Arriving at the hotel on the preceding Wednesday evening made the two-day trip easier, and my room at the Holiday Inn Hull Marina had a lovely view of the yachts and boats. As always with my experience of the chain, the room was spacious and the facilities good; I would certainly recommend it as a base for the city, as everywhere we visited was within walking distance or a short coach trip away.

“The Deep was fabulous - the interactive content, the concept behind it and the wonderful architectural building. I have been to Hull before, but I’ve definitely seen more of the area in general by coming on this organised trip.”

Jacque Garside, Ashton Under Lyne Soroptomists

On Thursday morning, after a brief interlude at Hornsea Freeport shopping village where various exhibitors showcased their attractions, our first port-of-call was the well-known seaside town of Bridlington. We were provided with information on the old town, which experienced members of our party informed me is delightful, but unfortunately we were unable to visit due to time restraints. On the other hand, what I could see of the coastal town looked very pretty and not at all what I had been expecting.

Bridlington Spa is the town’s slightly misleadingly titled theatre, recently transformed by a multi-million pound restoration process. The theatre was rebuilt in 1907, after the original 1896 building was destroyed by fire, and has been restored so that it is more or less as it would have appeared 100 years ago. Not only is the architectural work stunning, the theatre boasts a good line-up of entertainment throughout the year - including big-name comedians and music artists.

We were shown around by the theatre’s general manager, Andrew Aldis - who animated the theatre with his passion for it. He explained that on selected Sundays the Spa offers full venue tours for free, which run for two hours. The tours start in the auditorium and take you onto the promenade, up to the flies, into the dressing rooms, and they also include some technical demonstrations. I think there is always something special about going ‘behind the scenes’, and we were invited into the kitchens to have a chat with the chefs, who were preparing our lunch at that very moment. The lunch proved to be both delicious and plentiful, and was served in a fabulous function room overlooking the sea.

Next stop was nearby Sewerby Hall and Gardens. The hall was unfortunately closed for the winter season, so the GTOs were given a talk, but a couple of horticultural enthusiasts (including myself) took ourselves around the impressive gardens for a whistle-stop tour. Sewerby is situated in a coastal location, and has dramatic cliff-top views of Bridlington Bay. Pre-booked group tours are available of the hall and gardens, and also for Flamborough Lighthouse nearby.

“The walking tour of Hull has been my favourite part of the itinerary. I was absolutely fascinated by it, and we were very fortunate to have had such an excellent guide like Paul. He loved his city and he has a great feel for it, and he got that across, and I think that made my morning!”

Maureen Lloyd, Autumn Travel, Chippenham

The first day appeared to have a thespian theme, as that evening we visited the newly revitalised Hull Truck theatre, back in the city-centre. Its truly modern façade was mirrored by a very contemporary piece of theatre, which I think was a little on the avant-garde for members of the group, but it was certainly enjoyable to see some live theatre on our night out.

We awoke on Friday morning to a gloriously sunny autumn day. The group was met at the hotel by resident tour guide and local expert, Paul Schofield who made the morning in Kingston upon Hull really interesting. I promised Paul that I would refer to the city using its full name; the Hull being of course the river that separates the east and west of the city. It’s a place that has benefitted from prominent restoration in recent times, and boasts a delightful mix of old and new, including a plethora of very modern architecture. In fact, the Arc building (a centre for architecture) is a perfectly movable building on wheels.

There are all sorts of things to spot in the city. The location of the original wall that surrounded Hull has been marked out with red bricks; there is a fun - slightly tongue-in-cheek - fish trail around the city, consisting of 41 pieces of life-size sculpture; there is the Hull Trinity House School; the beautiful Guildhall building; the Land of Green Ginger street; the Holy Trinity church; the Victorian Hepworth’s Arcade - the list goes on. I would recommend researching the area before you go or hiring a guide like Paul. VHEY offers a ‘Shop Ahoy’ package for groups which follows a standard itinerary, with options available for each element of the visit, allowing organisers to tailor the trip to their groups’ requirements. Day trip packages are available from £10 per person, for a minimum of ten people.

“The area is very good, and it is flat - so friendly for any disabled people. What I really like about it is there are such a wide variety of museums, waterways and places of interest all within an hour’s circumference of the area where we’re staying.”

Sylvia Fitzmaurice, Nifty-50s, Birmingham

We had a brief look inside a couple of the museums - of which Hull offers at least eight with free entry. The Streetlife Museum has a walk-through 1940s high street, veteran cars, trams and bicycles, and a fun selection of coin-operated old-style amusements. The Wilberforce House Museum is the birthplace of William Wilberforce and tells the story of the campaign behind abolishing the slave trade.

During the afternoon we lost Paul, but gained a trip to The Deep, said to be one of the world’s deepest aquariums and described as the world’s first ‘submarium’. The Deep, which boasts 3,500 fish and other aquatic creatures, was opened in 2002 and tells the story of the world’s oceans. Architecturally, it is externally impressive, with a shark-like nose that points out to sea of which the tip is an accessible viewing point. Of particular interest to the GTOs I was with, was the ‘dine with the sharks’ evenings held in the Two Rivers Restaurant on Fridays and Saturdays. Diners are surrounded by sharks, rays and turtles whilst they eat, and also get the chance to explore the exhibits on the main floor of the attraction throughout the course of the evening. Group discounts and benefits are available at The Deep.

Finally, we were taken to Beverley, which was also a glorious place to visit; the Minster being the icing on an already scrumptious cake of a town, which has pretty narrow lanes, cobbled streets and squares, museums, and a cosmopolitan selection of shops and eateries. It was just a shame that we didn’t have Paul to accompany us on the afternoon’s tour.

I drove back on Friday evening feeling like I had been told a secret; what a great place for groups to visit, and an area that is full of things to see and do - you just have to know where to look.

Useful contacts:

Guided walks of Hull’s Old Town:
01482-878535 (Paul Schofield)

Visit Hull and East Yorkshire:


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