“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” Samuel Johnson 1777
I am sure some people still agree with this, after all London’s world class attractions are such a huge draw for visitors to Britain, and so they should be, it is our Capital after all. In fact a recent report in The Telegraph stated that Hong Kong is the only city in the world that gets more tourists than London, quite an achievement.
But in reality Britain is so much more than just London, and as a Lancashire lass I am passionate about the North of England.
Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cumbria and Northumbria – our northern counties have glorious views, vibrant cities, fascinating attractions and some of the best hotels and restaurants in the country. So pack your bags, take a deep breath and Go North and explore this glorious part of Britain.
It really is difficult to choose the best attractions across the North, and I am sure everyone has their favourites, but I have put together a list of my current top five favourite places across the North of England.
The developments at Salford Quays have change the area into a vibrant, exciting and lively place to spend time. In a fairly compact area you’ll find a museum, gallery, theatre, outlet mall, a plethora of restaurants and cafes and of course Media City all vying for your attention.
The Daniel Libeskind designed Imperial War Museum North with it’s fascinating, poignant stories of war and its repercussions, brings home the horror of conflict and really makes you think. The striking architecture represents a shattered globe with the building itself designed to disorientate you and to enhance the visitor experience of war. As well as it’s permanent displays IWMN has new exhibitions throughout the year. But don’t miss the amazing Big Picture Show, an immersive and memorable presentation of images and stories of war projected onto the huge walls of the central exhibition space.
The museum is free but there is a small charge for parking.
Connected to the museum by a foot bridge across the canal is The Lowry, a theatre and gallery dedicated to Salford’s most famous son, L.S. Lowry. I love this theatre, it has excellent shows, a great atmosphere and it’s easy to park. There are also lots of cafe’s and restaurants to choose from if you want to eat before the show. A tour of BBC North at their Media City headquarters is fairly new and I have yet to visit, but I plan to go soon so watch this space.
Merseyside Maritime Museum
Liverpool was once the world’s busiest port, the Merseyside Maritime Museum tells the story of the port and it’s impact on the World. From the massive anchor of HMS Conway outside the main entrance you are immersed in Britain’s maritime heritage from the outset. Highlights include the history of migrants to the new world, an exploration of Liverpool’s links with RMS Titanic and the story of the Battle of the Atlantic during World War Two.
The exhibitions are fascinating and effecting. A few years ago I visited with an elderly friend, we had been in the museum for a while and were having a look around the display about immigration to America when I noticed that she had gone really quiet, I looked round and saw tears flowing down her cheeks and when I asked her what was wrong she explained that she had emigrated to America with her mother when she was a young girl and the displays brought it all back to her. If a museum can effect someone in that way it must be doing something right.
Entrance is free to the museum, its exhibitions and events.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park
You have to be prepared to do a bit of walking to see everything at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, but the 500 acres of rolling countryside will reward you with cleverly placed sculptures that illustrate the close relationship between the natural landscape and modern and contemporary sculpture. The sometimes huge sculptures by world class artists such as Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworh or Elizabeth Frink would dominate a smaller space, but in this historic parkland they look somehow comfortable and have a kind of permanence that is surprising.
Every season there is something new to see both in the park and galleries which have changing exhibitions from some of the finest artists and designers from across the globe. With a choice of events including artist talks, sculpture courses and family workshops there is something for all ages. You can bring your dog with you to walk around parts of the park, but there are restrictions and you can’t take them into the galleries, cafe or gift shop
The museum is free, but there is a charge for parking with all monies going to the upkeep of the park.
The Lake District is one of the places that tourists to Britain have on their to do list, with Windermere the first choice for many visitors. However, go a bit further North and you’ll reach the stunningly beautiful Ullswater surrounded by hills and mountains including Helvellyn, England’s highest mountain, the lake is tranquil and sublime.
A great place for walkers whether you are looking for a climb, a hike, a ramble or a stroll there are plenty of places to explore. Personally, after a short walk I just Iove to go on the Ullswater Steamers, this steam powered boat trip takes you around the lake stopping at some of the nearby villages where you can get off and explore at your own pace.
Despite the winter flooding, the Lake District is ‘open for business’ and Ullswater and it’s surrounding villages will welcome you with open arms.
Looking like Lancashire’s own Uluru, Pendle Hill catches the eye wherever you are in this part of the county and the myths and legends associated with the area add to it’s mystique. History shows that in the villages around Pendle, stories of strange events dominated the rumour mill of the early 17th century. It became an area know for witchcraft and sorcery. Today we all know that was nonsense of course, but in 1612 feelings were very different and the Pendle Witches, as they came to be known, were tried for various misdeeds and sentenced to death at Lancaster Castle.
This is the area of the country that I know best. Here Pendle Hill dominates the skyline of Burnley and the surrounding towns and villages. Come and see for yourself, you’ll need to put aside some time if you want to explore the whole area around the hill, but it really is worth it. You can find out all about the history of the Pendle Witches on a guided tour, put your walking boots on and explore the countryside or even walk up Pendle itself. There are great cafes and restaurants, historic houses, ruined abbeys, panopticons, quaint villages and cosy pubs all waiting to be found in this undiscovered part of Northern England.
And There’s So Much More…..
So why not take time to explore a few of the other amazing places all across the North of England; how about Whitby with it’s links to the Dracula legend, Kielder Water one of very few dark sky attractions in the country or historic Hadrian’s Wall. I could go on, but I think there are more blogs to be written, so watch this space.
Photography Credits: Nick Harrison at Harrison Phair Photography, Visit Britain Images, Jacqueline Whitaker