It was no surprise to me to learn that Leeds, aka Yorkshire’s unofficial capital, was recently voted one of the best places to visit in the UK. Two of my best friends live in Leeds, and we’re planning a mini-break there soon. It’s a city I’ve spent a lot of time in, in fact; when I was a showbiz reporter I used to go there all the time to interview the Emmerdale cast, and I always look forward to visiting. The people are so friendly, it always feels like a very welcoming city (my top tip if you’re planning a visit there would be to check out the hotels on Hotel Direct if you’re going there soon because they have some fantastic deals on well-located 4star hotels right now, including the rather intriguing ‘mystery’ luxury hotels).
Both my friends have kids and Leeds is a fantastic place for families; not only are there summer adventures to be had at nearby Stockeld Park and Temple Newsam’s Home Farm, which has over 400 pigs, cattle, sheep, goats and poultry. There’s also a City Beach in Millennnium Square, and culture vultures should check out the City Museum and Art Gallery. Plus it’s only a half-an-hour drive to the fabulous Salt’s Mill, where you can see original works by David Hockney (it also has a wonderful cafe, perfect for lunch, and a great bookshop where you can happily lose a few hours.)
I’m not really interested in cycling (sitting on a sharp saddle is not my idea of fun) but magnificent Harewood House, just one of the many stately homes in the surrounding countryside, provided a stunning background for the Official Ceremonial Start of the Tour de France earlier this summer. Harewood House, of course, is where Emmerdale is filmed now and the gardens, designed by Capability Brown, are just stunning, well worth exploring. And of course the Yorkshire countryside is absolutely beautiful.
If you’re a history buff, then the Royal Armouries brings history to life with jousting displays and falconry, or you can be to the grimy streets of Leeds in 1842 exploring the sights, sounds and smells of Victorian life at Thackray Medical Museum.
Leeds is also brilliant for shopping – Leeds women are VERY chic – and the Corn Exchange in particular is s really stylish. What I love about it is that it has so many independent boutiques – such a refreshing change from shopping malls that always have the same predictable high street shops. This summer they have lots of free events going on at the Corn Exchange and music, so it’s a great place to hang out and watch the world go by, to. Do check out vintage shop Alice Found Treasure while you’re there. Plus of course when it comes to eating out you’re spoiled for choice – the city has some amazing restaurants, and lots of bars (do check out the Sky Bar at the Hilton Doubletree hotel), plus of course superb nightlife.
And if you’re a fan of all kinds of music, later this month (22-24 August) the Leeds Festival is taking place, featuring a great line-up of bands including the Arctic Monkeys and comedians like the very very funny Simon Amstell (my friends saw him at Glastonbury and said he’s absolutely brilliant live.) See? Lots of reasons why Leeds is so special this summer.