Nick Gilmartin's Weblog

And he used to be such a nice, quiet boy

The Yorkshire Tourist Board

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Recently I had one of those strange out-of-county experiences an expatriate sometimes has. Yorkshire is being advertised on T.V. as a holiday destination. Really.

Now there is nothing wrong with Yorkshire if you keep well to the tourist path, it can even be quite enjoyable. You have Leeds for shopping, York for culture, and Scarborough for the coast.

Leeds by night.  Try it, nobody likes a wuss

Leeds by night. Try it, nobody likes a wuss

But should you step off the tourist map, woe betide you! You well end up in the Sink-estate-crack-habit hellholes like Normanton (or home as I call it), Kirby and Hemsworth. Poor mining towns that Thatcher condemned to hell for not being London and cast out into the darkness. The hollow-eyed souls that lurk therein are a throwback to the days of Dickens, without the work option.

After the pits closed small towns such as Hemsworth and Sharlston just died

After the pits closed small towns such as Hemsworth and Sharlston just died

But my home county has it’s posher parts too. Leeds boasts some fine riverside apartments, a five star hotel, and a branch of the designer shop Harvey Nichols. The adjacent Victoria Quarter would satisfy even the most most choosy of Sloane rangers up for the weekend.



Then you have Harrogate, a home to affluence since Roman times and one of the prestigious spa towns of England. Agatha Christie was found here after the famous dissappearence.

Yorkshire should have tourism. Alright, it doesn’t have the weather of the tropics but it does have a certain windswept grandeur about it. The North of Yorkshire can epitomise bleakness. If you looked up bleak in the dictionary, there would be a picture of Leytonstone in the summer. But people do go there to walk, cycle or ride their quad bikes. Hell, it is fun place if you have wheels.


Scarborough, on the coast was hugely popular in Victorian days. Most of it’s attractions survive in one form or another. Some comedy acts still play there in the theatres. It managed to escape the stag party scene of recent years, and has not suffered for it. It’s grand hotels still hold their regal air. Like they are expecting Princess Anne to arrive any minute.


Whitby should be a must for any Dracula fan, with it’s weather-beaten harbours and coves. From the cliff-top abbey you can just picture the man himself standing there, framed by lightening, and about to turn into a bat and fly at you.


Even if you are not a fan of Bram Stoker’s creation I would recommend Whitby anyway. It looks exactly like a watercolour painting would suggest. You can get a range of excellent beers and the best Fish and Chips in the county.

West Yorkshire, my side, is like scar tissue on the face of England. My neighbouring town of Castleford recently drew the attention of a group of slick young planners from ‘darn south’ to come up and redesign the town centre. Naturally the whole thing ended up with a lot of shouting and a major clash of culture and ego.


London just doesn’t understand Yorkshire. It can’t seem to get it’s head around our way of thinking, because it never faced our challenges, just as we never faced their challenges. The ghosts of Orwell and Engels loom large, as much over our future as they do our past.


Written by Nick Gilmartin

April 18, 2009 at 8:24 pm

One Response

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  1. What about Yorkshire Sculpture Park – a world-class experience of art near Wakefield and the forthcoming David Chipperfield designed Hepworth Wakefield gallery in the city? These further enhance a fascinatingly varied and inspiring county, even though it has its dodgy bits (where doesn’t?).


    April 18, 2009 at 9:22 pm

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