The news from the World Travel Awards that Yorkshire is this year's Leading European Destination had us feeling a little skeptical. Yorkshire is lovely, and we'll even concede its "God's Own Country" moniker has merit, but is it really more deserving of such a grand title over, say (runners up) Paris, Barcelona, and Florence? Well, maybe. Here are our 10 favorite things about Yorkshire, so you can decide for yourself.
1. The Peak District
Britain's first national park, and still its most visited, the Peak District encompasses areas of Staffordshire, Greater Manchester, and Cheshire, as well as South and West Yorkshire. A number of hiking trails go through the park, including the 251-mile-long Pennine Way, which runs all the way from Edale in Derbyshire up to the Scottish border.
2. The Yorkshire Dales
Put on your hiking boots for the Yorkshire Dales, the second of Yorkshire's three national parks, (dale comes from the Viking word for 'valley'). Rolling hills, moors, woodlands, and more than 20 open valleys cover 680 square miles of dramatic landscape in the heart of the Pennines.
3. The North York Moors
The wild, heather-covered North York Moors national park features a landscape so desolate that it served as the backdrop for the Gothic tragic-romance, Wuthering Heights. The Moors are crossed with footpaths, some centuries old, but if you don't feel like walking, you can cross them on a romantic steam train journey on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.
4. Yorkshire's Literary History
Bram Stoker found the inspiration for Dracula at the seventh century Whitby Abbey and the landscape and culture of Yorkshire also inspired Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, Charles Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby, and the poetry of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.
5. Historic Sites
Yorkshire is home to a number of castles and ruins, including the 12th century (and, legend has it, haunted) Scarborough Castle, which sits on a rocky headland looking out toward the North Sea. Also in the area, you'll find the 12th century World Heritage Fountains Abbey, one of the best preserved Cistercian monasteries in England (pictured).
Yorkshire has six Michelin-starred restaurants, more than any other area in Britain outside of London. The most famous of these is The Burlington Restaurant, which is located on the 30,000 acre Bolton Abbey Estate. Yorkshire has a rich culinary heritage and classic dishes include Yorkshire pudding, a dish usually served with roast meat; the sweet Bakewell pudding, Wensleydale cheese, gingerbread, and rhubarb from the Rhubarb Triangle.
With more than 50 breweries in the region, you won't go thirsty. From hoppy bitters at Black Sheep Brewery, to the micro-brewed pale ales of the family-run Ossett Brewery, and Theakston's cask ales, enjoying a pint in an old pub is probably the most classic moment of a visit to Yorkshire.
8. The UNESCO City of Film
There is only one UNESCO-designated city of film in the world, and it's in Yorkshire – Bradford, to be precise. The city, which is home to the National Media Museum, established its first film studio in 1914, and has been the location of such films as Room at the Top, Billy Liar, The Railway Children, and parts of Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.
You'll find some of Britain's best shopping in Yorkshire. Leeds is home to the first Harvey Nichols (a renowned luxury department store) to open outside of London. Devonshire Quarter in Sheffield is known for its quirky, independent stores, while the city of York is home to the Shambles, Europe's best preserved Medieval street. A former meat market, Shambles is now lined with restaurants and small stores.
10. Festivals and Events
From documentary film festivals to a West Indian Carnival and food fairs, you can count on a fun event almost every day of the year in Yorkshire. A few to look forward to this month include the arts and culture Saltaire Festival, the Black Sheep Brewery Boots and Beer Walking Festival, and the Masham Sheep Fair.