The latest instalment of our outsider’s guide to some of the best cities and towns around the UK and beyond takes us to the city of Leeds. Not only is this thriving metropolis blessed with a vibrant nightlife, state-of-the-art shopping facilities and a host of cultural attractions, but it’s also ideally nestled in the heart of West Yorkshire. As a result, one need not venture far from the city boundaries in order to discover some of Britain’s best beauty spots, from the Yorkshire Dales to the countless rural villages which make the area such a popular destination with visitors from around the globe.
So what’s all the fuss about, we hear you ask? It just so happens we believe that the best way to find out is to book yourself a car hire and hit the road, armed with our outsider’s guide to Leeds…
Located just a few miles north of Leeds city centre, the 12th century Kirkstall Abbey offers the perfect respite from the hustle and bustle of the city’s shopping and entertainment districts. Located on the banks of the River Aire, surrounded by idyllic parklands, the medieval Cistercian abbey attracts thousands of visitors throughout the year.
As well as marvelling at the abbey’s 12th century architecture, you can also browse the nearby Abbey House Museum, which features fully-fledged Victorian streets complete with shops, drinking houses and homes; all of which enable you to step back in time and experience the sights and sounds of the Victorian era first hand.
The abbey also runs a monthly market between March and November, with the final one of 2014 due to take place on Sunday November 30th. You’ll find a heady mix of handmade crafts and food stalls selling some of Yorkshire’s finest local produce.
The magnificent Harewood House is little more than 20 minutes’ drive north of Kirkstall Abbey, and makes for a perfect day out for the whole family. It’s a great pit stop for those planning on exploring some of Yorkshire’s more rural areas, so pick up your car hire in Leeds for easy access to the surrounding countryside.
Located within the sprawling Harewood Estate, which also happens to be home to the set of the long-running TV soap opera Emmerdale, Harewood House features a wide range of prized art collections, including paintings by masters of the Italian Renaissance. You can tour its impressive state rooms, as well as over 100 acres of award-winning garden landscapes which surround the 18th century home.
Continue your journey north for another 20 minutes and feast your eyes on the charming spa town of Harrogate. The town was labelled ‘The English Spa’ way back in the Georgian times after its waters were found to contain iron, sulphur and salt, which many believed to be ideal for healing the human body. Fancy putting it to the test? Then make sure you stop by the Turkish Baths & Health Spa and take advantage of their range of rejuvenating treatments.
On a nice day there’s nothing better than parking the car and taking a leisurely stroll around the atmospheric town centre, which features range of cosy cafés, restaurants and shops. If you’re in the mood for a spot of lunch or some light refreshments then few places can match Betty’s Café Tea Room for taste and authenticity. For nearly 100 years this much-loved establishment has served up hearty meals throughout the day, along with a heavenly spread of cakes, chocolates and pastries.
No self-respecting outsider’s guide to Leeds would be complete without drawing your attention to the stunning landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales. The area’s vast valleys are sprinkled with quaint villages, rivers and winding roads which combine to create one of Britain’s most scenic drives.
Add an extra layer of comfort and luxury to your journey by treating yourself to a prestige car hire and set your sights on the delightful market town of Skipton.
Often referred to as ‘the gateway to the Dales’, Skipton is simply a must-visit town for anyone venturing into the Yorkshire Dales. It boasts a 900-year-old fully-roofed medieval castle, a thriving High Street lined with shops and a charming canal front where people from all around the globe enjoy Pennine boat trips. The town is immensely popular with both visitors and residents alike, having recently been voted ‘the best place to live in Britain’ by the Sunday Times newspaper.
Stop by the Craven Museum and Gallery to brush up on the area’s history; explore Skipton Castle and its surrounding woods; browse the stalls at Skipton Market; or set off on a lazy boat cruise along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. The choice is yours.
The North Yorkshire Moors National Park is roughly an hour and a half’s drive northeast of Leeds. The area is blessed with beauty spots, from its sweeping valleys and stone house villages to mile upon mile of dramatic coastline.
Follow the A61 north from Leeds and stop off in the cathedral city of Ripon, located just a few miles outside the national park entrance. It’s an ideal pit stop thanks to its historic town centre and large selection of tea rooms. Don’t forget to take a wander through the historic market place, whilst the nearby Spa Gardens make for the perfect afternoon walk.
If you find yourself with a few hours to spare, make the three mile drive west to Fountains Abbey and marvel at the splendour of the incredible World Heritage Site. As well as the ruins of the abbey, you can also lose yourself in the beautiful surroundings of the Georgian water garden and medieval deer park.
In the mood to do a bit of exploring of your own this autumn? Check out some of our other posts and start planning your trip:
• The Outsider’s guide to…Bath
• The Outsider’s guide to…Leicester
• The Outsider’s guide to…London