Whippet good ... at last, Yorkshire gets its just desserts
Picking the winner of the Leading Destination in Europe gong at this year’s World Travel Awards, the judges appear to have mulled pretty much every world-historical European city and glitzy locale before lumping for ... Yorkshire.
For this lifetime fan of the most beautiful English county, the judges’ decision to rate Yorkshire above sophisticated but snooty Paris, overrated Rome and architecturally magnificent but, let’s face it, bloody cold St. Petersburg, is controversial in one sense only.
This part of northern England surely deserves to be considered not only Europe’s leading destination, but possibly the greatest place on Earth.
“Yorkshire people have known for years what the world is now discovering -- that we have the best landscapes, amazing coastline, the best fish and chips, the most beautiful historic pubs and possibly the best beers in the world,” says Andrew Denton from the county’s tourist board.
Whippets and flat ale
In Britain, certain stereotypes adhere to Yorkshire folk, just as bad driving does to Italians and indifference to daily washing does to the French.
Whippets, flat caps and ale are considered three accouterments no Yorkshireman (or Yorkshireperson, nowadays?) would ever be seen without.
And perhaps that third part of the stock image is deserved, because many travelers to Yorkshire leave the county pining for that strange beverage -- real ale -- which elsewhere in Britain is frequently compared, unfavorably, to flat, slightly sweetened dishwater.
If you fancy a sample, the award-garlanded ales from the micro-brewery at Marsden’s Riverhead Brewery Tap (2 Peel St., Marsden, Huddersfield; +44 (0) 1484 841 270) are nigh on unbeatable.
Each ale there, such as the Butterley Bitter, is named after one of the local reservoirs that dot the wild moors surrounding the village.
All the tea in Yorkshire
Then there’s another, milder beverage that Yorkshire virtually calls its own -- tea.
Tea tastes even sweeter in Yorkshire thanks to the soft water rolling off the moors and dales.
India might have its fans, China too, but Yorkshire also has a more than modest claim to making the best cuppa on the planet.
Taylor’s of Harrogate has been blending leaves since 1886, if you want to verify such bold claims.
As Denton says, Yorkshire food ain’t half bad either.
The county has the most Michelin-starred restaurants in the UK outside London.
And, of course, Yorkshire has given us the ultimate Sunday roast accompaniment, Yorkshire pudding.
You’d be hard put to beat the taste of this unglamorous-looking but delicious treat (which could serve as a metaphor for Yorkshire folk themselves) served with a roast at The Crown Inn in Roecliffe, North Yorkshire (+44 (0) 1423 322 300), a 16th-century coaching inn stacked with original fittings.
Thanks to Yorkshire’s amazing ethnic diversity, you can also gorge on Indian, Pakistani and Bengali curries every bit as good as those on the subcontinent.
The Yorkshire city of Bradford provides one of the most full-on Asian eating experiences.
Karachi (15 Neal St.; +44 (0) 1274 732 015), a no-frills joint in the center of town, is renowned for its meat ball curries, while Akbar’s (1276 Leeds Road; +44 (0) 1274 664 005) took top honors at this year’s English Curry Awards.
Wild beaches, brooding moors
Working off culinary excess can be a pleasure in Yorkshire, if you’re walking among its soft green dales, brooding moors and wild east coast beaches.
The ancient limestone landscape around Malham, in particular the hulking mass of Gordale Scar, with waterfalls hurtling down its 100-meter-high cliffs, is a recommended stop on any rural Yorkshire wander.
Extensive cave networks underneath the dales suit more active types. Potholing into the depths of Gaping Gill, on the slopes of Ingleborough Hill, easily matches the adrenaline rush of a bungee jump or hike in the Grand Canyon.
If you prefer to stay above the surface, Yorkshire’s blustery beaches offer world-class surfing.
With its roiling waves whipped up by North Sea winds, Cayton Bay, just south of the quintessential British seaside town of Scarborough, is one of the best places in the county -- no, the world -- to pull on a wetsuit.
Playing for the White Rose
Yorkshire folk aren’t afraid to brag of their sporting heritage, either.
Leeds United might not be the trophy-slaughtering footballing force of the 1970s, but the county’s cricket team continues to serve up Britain’s finest players.
England opener Joe Root cut his teeth playing for the White Rose -- as Yorkshire is traditionally known -- and batsman turned commentator (not to mention possibly the proudest Yorkshireman of all time) Geoffrey Boycott is arguably the greatest player England has produced.
Headingley Cricket Ground, in Leeds, is a venerable venue for catching a match.
If all this isn't enough to convince you that Yorkshire is a county of whippet-thin sporting fanatics, the opening stages of next year’s Tour de France -- the Grand Départ -- will take place in Yorkshire.
Yorkshire’s culture is a cut above, too.
And we’re not just talking about the moors around Hawarth where the Brontë sisters sisters lived, wrote and set some of the greatest fiction of the 19th century.
The Yorkshire Sculpture Park (West Bretton, Wakefield; +44 (0) 1924 832 631), like an outdoor zoo corralling all manner of weird and wonderful manmade objects, is one of the most groundbreaking outdoor art spaces in the world, according to critics.
Nearby, the modern art in the recently opened Hepworth Wakefield (Gallery Walk, Wakefield; +44 (0)1924 247 360) is of a quality usually only seen in far bigger institutions.
This enlightened side of Yorkshire is nothing new. Salt’s Mill, Saltaire, now home to a David Hockney-dedicated gallery, forms the center of a Unesco World Heritage site.
A model town built for the mill’s staff by the magnificently named owner, Titus Salt, Saltaire was a pioneering example of industrial workers gaining access to new houses, decent medical care and educational opportunities.
Salt, and Yorkshire, helped bring workers’ rights to the world!
Yorkshire’s charm lies in its sheer breadth, from its moving dales landscapes to its uncompromising curries and its people’s pluck.
The county’s glory at this year’s World Travel Awards should surely be seen as a step toward even greater domination.
Visit Welcome to Yorkshire for more on what to see, do and eat, and where to stay, in the most amazing place on the planet ... apparently.