Days out in West Yorkshire
With Yorkshire, as a whole, being a highly visited destination for tourists, the area really does have something for everyone – and West Yorkshire has plenty on offer. With two major cities in Leeds and Bradford, plus the Cathedral City of Wakefield alongside the smaller mill and market towns like Halifax, Keighley, Huddersfield, and Dewsbury, the county offers a diverse mix of attractions and days out for everyone.
As the largest city, it’s easy to lose yourself in everything Leeds has to offer. A visit to Leeds City Museum will give everyone a fun and interactive day with six galleries to enjoy while keeping an eye out for the infamous Leeds Tiger. The Royal Armouries Museum is a state-of-the-art building housing a host of armour, swords, and weapons from as far back as medieval times with live-action re-enactments, duels, and jousts in the arena. Alternatively, visit the ghoulish Thackray Museum of Medicine with its interactive displays of gruesome Victorian operations and more.
For a shopping experience like no other, the city’s Kirkgate Market has everything you need inside a beautiful Edwardian building. For something more upmarket, try the Victoria Quarter, home of luxury brands. And as the historic home of cricket, fans can relish in a trip to the Yorkshire County Cricket Club Official Museum in Headingly, before catching a game or tour at the Emerald Headingly Cricket Ground. Soap fans can take a behind the scenes tour at the Emmerdale Studio Experience.
Beyond Leeds, there’s still plenty to see and do. In Bradford, the National Science and Media Museum is filled with galleries, exhibitions, and activities celebrating the science of light, sound, and
vision. Just outside the city near Keighley, literature fans can visit the Brontë Parsonage Museum to learn more about the famous Brontë sisters, their home, and their works.
Being a Cathedral City, a visit to Wakefield Cathedral is a must. Having over 800 years of history, the tallest spire in Yorkshire, and a magnificent collection of stained glass Kempe windows, this is a beautiful place to visit. Likewise, there’s, The Hepworth – a modern, spacious gallery featuring the best in contemporary art.
Over in Halifax, a visit to Eureka! The National Children’s Museum is a great way to keep the kids entertained. Filled with six zones and loads of interactive exhibits, there’s plenty for 0 to 11-year-olds to discover. The towns’ Grade l Listed Piece Hall is a remarkable heritage project which looks amazing and is home to plenty of unique and boutique shops and fab cafés, bars, and restaurants.
Lastly, don’t forget the beautiful scenery of much of West Yorkshire’s landscape. There’s an abundance of walking trails in the region, including Ilkley Moor and the southern Pennines.
Lister Park is a landscaped public park and pleasure grounds. It is located in a primarily residential area of the suburb of Manningham.
The early 18th-century Nostell Priory has about 12 hectares of pleasure grounds and a landscape park of about 120 hectares. The landscape park was worked on by Stephen Switzer with later architectural additions by Robert Adam.
Topography, geology, and climate
With large urban areas and scenic rural landscapes, West Yorkshire features some markedly different land qualities which, in turn, provides a mix of assorted soil types and fertility levels.
With the south Pennines covering almost half the county, the far west of West Yorkshire has predominantly naturally wet blanket peat bog soils in the outlying areas. Alongside areas of wet loam and clay, the soils then turn to a free-draining, mildly acid loam towards Halifax. Through central and western parts of the county, soils largely revert to low fertility, wet loam and clay with pockets of free-draining, lime-rich, more fertile soils.
With a temperate climate, temperatures in West Yorkshire across the summer months typically average around 19ºC (66ºF), while winter temperatures are cool, hovering around 1ºC (33ºF). But thanks to rain across the Pennines, West Yorkshire can also be consistently wet across the year with rainfall averaging over 950mm (37”).
West Yorkshire’s parks and gardens
Though a sizeable county in its own right, the number of traditional gardens to visit across the county is small. But alongside those that are here, there are some excellent public parks to enjoy. Plus, there are also one or two gardens just across the county border that provide additional interest.
- West Yorkshire North
One of West Yorkshire’s jewels, Harewood House, just north Leeds is certainly a must-visit for all garden lovers. Providing over 100-acres of gardens, sitting nicely in the wider Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown-designed landscape, there’s a lot to explore.
Highlights include the magnificent, split-level Italianate terrace featuring fountains, box hedging, and glorious colour from spring through to autumn, the south-facing Archery Border which is over 100m long and features the stunning Mediterranean and tropical plants, and the beautifully naturalistic Himalayan garden filled with rhododendron, orchids, cobra lilies and blue poppies.
Just outside the city centre, Leeds’ Roundhay Park is one of the biggest public green spaces in Europe, with parkland, lakes and woodland covering more than 700-acres. With everything it has to offer, it’s no wonder it attracts over 1m visitors a year. Alongside a huge choice of activities, a land train, walking trails, and a golf course, there’s a rather lovely collection of specialist gardens to enjoy as well. These include the Monet garden, Alhambra Gardens, Canal garden, and the friends of Roundhay Park garden. All have beautiful plant schemes, giving colour and interest across the year.
Another hidden gem on the outskirts of the city is the York Gate Garden in Adel. A beautiful, 1-acre space, this Grade II National Heritage Status garden is divided into a series of 14 garden rooms, each with its own qualities. The carpet path leads you through these amazing spaces, each linked by amazing topiary and stunning planting schemes, with clipped, Yew tree sails visible from wherever you are. But there are also wilder areas to explore, beyond the gardens with wildflowers and woodland walks.
Just over the border into North Yorkshire, RHS Partner Garden, Parcevall Hall Gardens near Skipton sit on a steep hillside on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. With both formal and woodland gardens covering 24-acres, including a rock garden, formal terraces, camelia walk, rose garden, and chapel garden, its position gives you stunning views wherever you look. Expect to see a wide range of plants across the year including Rhododendrons, alpine and woodland plants, unusual perennials, and plenty of specimen trees and shrubs in a stunning location.
- West Yorkshire South
Shibden Hall in Halifax has risen in popularity after the home of the 19th-century diarist, Anne Lister, was featured on BBC drama, Gentleman Jack. But it’s not hard to see why. Alongside the picturesque, half-timbered home, set in 90-acres of extensive park and woodland, the beautifully restored gardens include the ‘Paisley Shawl’ Terrace garden with fantastic beds and borders that are alive with seasonal colour and the fruit gardens.
Just over the eastern border into the deep south of North Yorkshire, Stillingfleet Lodge Garden near Selby is a wonderfully informal English cottage – and RHS Partner – garden. With a reputation for peace and tranquillity, the surroundings certainly don’t disappoint. With a large collection of trees and shrubs including Acers, Magnolias, Buddleia, Hydrangeas and many more, there’s something spectacular to see wherever you look. Another highlight is the contemporary Rill garden complete with sculptures and the wildflower meadow with native flowers and grasses.