When it was announced in December 2012 that the English region of Yorkshire had been selected to host the 2014 Tour de France's grand départ (the three-stage opening route stretches from Leeds to Harrogate; York to Sheffield; and Cambridge to London), there was shock. Not that the esteemed French bicycle race was beginning somewhere other than France -- that's actually quite common, occurring usually every other year -- but that Yorkshire had beaten out contenders Barcelona, Berlin, and Florence. Nevertheless Yorkshire has been having a moment lately. Last year it was declared the Leading European Destination by the World Travel Awards. What better reason to visit Yorkshire even after the grand départ has, well, departed?
Yorkshiremen and women proudly refer to their home region as "God's Own Country" for good reason. Yorkshire is home to three national parks of wild, windswept beauty. The Peak District was Britain’s very first national park and covers 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 border with Scotland. The Yorkshire Dales covers 680 square miles of dramatic landscape -- rolling hills, moors, woodlands, and more than 20 open valleys -- in the heart of the Pennines. Finally, the North York Moors is famed for its heather moorland, covering a third of the park. The park's 26-mile coastline is dubbed the "dinosaur coast” for the fossils of ancient marine life, such as ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs, and massive dinosaur footprints preserved there.
Explore the Region's Artistic History
Emily Brontë set Wuthering Heights on the wild North York Moors, and Bram Stoker found the inspiration for Dracula at the seventh century Whitby Abbey. Sylvia Plath is buried in West Yorkshire -- you can visit her grave in Heptonstall -- and Ted Hughes was born there. The region does also have more modern (and less tragic) artist connections, though. The former steel mining town of Sheffield, for example, has given the world the Human League, Pulp, ABC, the Arctic Monkeys, Heaven 17, Joe Cocker, Def Leppard, and Iron Maiden, just to name a few. The city has a number of live music venues hosting both established and up-and-coming acts. Check local listings for details.
Bradford is the first, and so far only, UNESCO-designated City of Film in the world and is home to the National Media Museum (£7.75, or $13, entrance fee).
As an extension of Sheffield Design Week, which ran June 23-29, Sheffield's Millennium Gallery is hosting an exhibition named "Yorkshire in Yellow," celebrating the Tour's iconic Maillot Jaune (or, yellow jersey). "Yorkshire in Yellow" invites contemporary artists, designers, and creatives with a Yorkshire connection to design their own tribute to the Maillot Jaune in the form of a yellow T-shirt. The exhibition runs through September 7.
Eat and Drink
The most famous foods from the region are the unsophisticated Yorkshire pudding (a traditional savory accompaniment to roast meat), the sweet Bakewell pudding, and Wensleydale cheese. So it may come as a surprise to learn that humble Yorkshire has six Michelin-starred restaurants -- more than any other area in Britain outside of London. The most famous of these are The Burlington Restaurant (which is located on the 30,000 acre Bolton Abbey Estate), the Black Swan hotel's Gallery restaurant, and The Box Tree in Ilkley.
With more than 50 breweries in the region, you won’t go thirsty, either. From hoppy bitters at Black Sheep Brewery to the micro-brewed pale ales of the family-run Ossett Brewery to the cask ales of the most famous brand Theakston, you enjoy a different ale with every pint. The region also has plenty of fine drinking establishments, if that's more your speed. See the Yorkshire tourism board's site for a handy map of where to find all the best pubs.