Category Archives: Day Trips

Days out in and around Leeds

Day Trip: Sunny Sheffield

Because no-one criticises my blog (to my face) I imagine what people might say to me, in my head. I’ve been thinking about this Sheffield post since I found out I was going and talking myself out of doing a blog because I’ve only done about 6 posts and I was banging on about Bradford in one of them. It’s supposed to be about Leeds. Then I defended myself – just because you live in Leeds doesn’t mean you have to get all your culture in Leeds, right? In fact, that would be quite narrow minded and restrictive. Anyhow the argument escalated, it got pretty nasty, but I won in the end. So all you haterz out there: It’s my blog and I’ll write about what I want! If you don’t like it…do one.

So glad we cleared up that little imaginary problem there.

Up until Friday evening, I had a terribly bad opinion of Sheffield. I’d been a couple of times, but a long time ago and only at night, and I didn’t see much of it. The parts I did see were completely unrecognisable from the fantastic city centre I spent 6 hours in yesterday.

What I do remember of Sheffield is a lot of grey, bland concrete and littered, crowded streets. What I saw yesterday was innovative contemporary architecture sandwiched between well preserved older buildings, lining pedestrianised streets and beautifully designed public spaces.

I arrived pretty early, and there wasn’t a lot open so I bought a paper and wandered round to find somewhere for a drink. I wanted to find an independent place so when I strolled down Chapel Walk and spotted a little door with a ‘Cafe’ flag outside, I went on in. Instantly I realised it wasn’t what I was looking for, but since the place was practically deserted and a waiter in a shirt and tie had already come over to greet and seat me, I sort of felt like I had to stay! It was called Andrew’s and was a bit on the pricy side, but the carrot cake was divine.


Not really what I wanted to eat at 9am, but it wasn’t the sort of place where you could nurse an orange juice for 45 minutes.

Highly recommended to me by various Twitter folk were the Winter Garden and the Millenium Gallery. The Winter Garden is a huge arched glass structure, housing tropical foliage including trees that must be twenty feet high, along with butterflies, shops and exhibitions. I came across a display by a charity for dignity in old age which I looked at for ages – partly because I love learning about people’s lives and their histories. At first glance, it looked like a display of children’s work – it was handprints done in brightly coloured paint. Beneath each handprint was a sentence from the owner of the hand about why their hands were important. The sentences were short but so inspirational – they covered topics from the 2nd World War, to working as a midwife, to milking cows, to working the ground in the Himalayas. Thinking about what my sentence would be (“I use my hands to tweet”, maybe?) was extremely humbling.


"Albert, 81, "My hands might have saved lives when I was an ambulance man."



Dot, "My hands helped me in the steel industry during the 2nd World War and gained me the Women of Steel award" Also in the Winter Garden was an NCTJ photography exhibition which contained some incredible, shocking, beautiful images. It's there until next weekend and is absolutely worth a look. Finally, on my way out I spotted a couple having their wedding photos done in there. What a beautiful idea!How romantic!

The permanent collection at the Millenium Gallery is the Ruskin Collection. It’s a gorgeous display, with a mixture of items from his collection and interactive pieces to teach you more about the man himself. There’s also an exhibition called ‘Kill Your Darlings’ from Kid Acne, the Sheffield based urban artist. (Overheard: 80+ year old woman walking with a stick saying, “I don’t think it’s because I’m old, it’s just not my cup of tea” whilst looking at a cartoon of 2 naked women tied up, and a third naked woman brandishing a whip.) Finally, it wouldn’t be a day in Sheffield without looking at some steel: there’s an entire gallery full of ornate and sometimes mysterious metalwork.

Apparently this is a soup tureen!

I finished off my day with a self navigated walking tour of contemporary architecture in Sheffield. It’s clear that Sheffield have really taken public spaces seriously and have invested in making the city centre both practically and visually a nice place to be. Opinion is divided on buildings such as the ‘Cheesegrater’ but I think it’s distinctive and a lot more attractive than any other multi storey car park I’ve ever seen.
And by far the nicest space in Sheffield is just outside the train station. With water features and plenty of seating, the area was packed not just with people waiting for a lift but people reading books, eating sandwiches or just people watching.
So I’ll stop banging on about Sheffield now – I’ll just say: it’s less than an hour’s drive away and it’s a delightful, cheap day out. GO!

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Country Pursuits

Okay – this blog is called CultureLEEDS and so far all I’ve written about is libraries. Just like everyone else in the blogosphere, but six months late. Well, you know. Books count as culture, right?

I guess I see this blog/project as a kind of exploration of Leeds, of how to make the most of where we live, and of the little hidden gems that we know about but don’t necessarily enjoy as much as we could.

This week, in a bid to visit somewhere I have heard about but never been to, I took a trip to Lotherton Hall. About 20 minutes’ drive out of Leeds city centre, it’s a stately home with huge, gorgeous grounds, run and cared for by Leeds City Council.

After rocking up, the first thing I did was walk the Boundary trail – a pathway that goes around the edge of the Estate and, according to the website, affords ‘open views of the countryside’. I have to say I didn’t especially find that to be the case, as most of the edge of the grounds seems to be lined with six feet plus hedges and trees. But it was a pleasant, easy stroll, and I got to make friends with several over-excited dogs… It was actually a little bit more exercise than I anticipated doing so early on a Saturday morning, but I was glad I did it! (To clarify, it’s really not strenuous at all. I’m just lazy.)

Next I visited the Bird Garden. Unbelievably, there’s no charge at all to wander round in here, and they have some really eye-catching birds.

My favourites were definitely the flamingoes. It was so surreal on a drizzly Sunday morning to walk through a green garden and suddenly see a dash of pink, then another, then a whole flock!

Next stop was the formal gardens, and a good look at the house itself. The gardens are pristine, and really well looked after. I happily sat reading my book and enjoying my scenery for over half an hour.

Inside the House itself are some fantastic exhibitions. At the moment is a fantastic display of Native American Indian culture, entitled ‘Warriors of the Plains‘ which is slightly incongruous but absolutely worth a visit. It’s on until September 25th. That link will also show you some other upcoming exhibitions which look interesting and I can’t wait to take a look. Generally there’s no extra charge for the exhibitions, just the cost of entry to the House.

Overall, parking and 2 adults entry to the House would cost less than £10. If you only paid the parking, or if you bussed/walked it there (public transport details here) then you could still visit the gardens, the grounds and the bird garden. This is amazing value for money – don’t miss out! You could easily spend 2 or 3 hours here and spend less than you would at the cinema. Plus, think of the fresh air and the exercise! (Yeah, that kind of puts me off too. Forget I said that. Maybe scroll up and look at the flamingoes again, they’re honestly too cool.)

The House itself is open Tuesday to Saturdays, 10am to 5pm, as is the Bird Garden. In November and December, the House closes at 4pm and the Bird Garden at 3.30pm. There’s a nice little cafe selling tea and cakes. Parking costs £3.70. Admission to the House is £3 adult/£2.40 with a Leeds card/£1.50 concessions/£1 child.

The Estate is closed during January and February.

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