From the vibrant, cosmopolitan cities of Leeds and Sheffield and the rich history of Medieval York, to its quaint, rural villages and atmospheric seaside towns, Yorkshire is a truly wonderful destination. And we're not alone in this thought - in 2014, Lonely Planet placed Yorkshire in its top 3 best regions to visit worldwide and York, Yorkshire's traditional county town, topped The Sunday Times 'Best Places to Live 2018', with the city described as 'a mini metropolis, with cool cafes, destination restaurants and innovative companies.' Then there's Yorkshire's affectionate epithet, 'God's Own County', a self-assured declaration from locals that Yorkshire's culture, charm and unspoilt beauty is so magnanimous, it must surely be God-given.
Yorkshire's captivating natural scenery and rich, enthralling history come together to make up a place so adored that it has its own official day, Yorkshire Day. Falling on August 1st each year, Yorkshire Day is a celebration of all things Yorkshire - its magnificent contribution to art, literature, theatre and sport, its fascinating heritage and of course, the mighty Yorkshire pudding!
To celebrate Yorkshire Day, here are our top five favourite things about God's Own County…
1. Its cities
Firstly, there are Yorkshire's dynamic cities. Combining Yorkshire's undeniable history and unique culture with the sense of a region that is constantly looking forward, its cosmopolitan hubs have much to offer.
Leeds is a perfect example of a city that has been brought to life by redevelopment, with changes made over the past decade transforming the city centre into a thriving hub of culture, cuisine, shopping and nightlife that can rival even the most loved English cities. Sheffield, too, is a city on the rise. Although known for its industrial prowess, the Steel City is surprisingly green, with the highest ratio of trees to people in Europe, and the largest urban glasshouse in Europe, the Winter Garden, which is home to more than 2,000 plants from around the world.
The city of York is a delight to explore, expertly uniting old and new. Alongside its ancient streets with overhanging timber-framed buildings, sit modern restaurants, boutique shops and fantastic museums, including the National Railway Museum, the largest of its kind in the world and the only place you can see a Japanese bullet train outside of Japan.
2. Its scenery
Wild and rugged moorlands, beautiful stretches of coastline, picturesque villages and undulating valleys, Yorkshire is a visual feast for the eyes.
There's Yorkshire's national parks - North York Moors National Park and Yorkshire Dales National Park, peaceful, sprawling areas of stunning natural beauty, home to heather moorland, undulating hills and an undisturbed ambience. Then there's the Yorkshire coastline, one of the most charming around, with quaint fishing villages clinging to rocky cliffs, miles of sandy beaches and delightfully nostalgic seaside resorts. Across the rest of the county, picture-book villages are nestled deep in the rolling hills, tranquil brooks trickle through dense woodlands, and vertiginous rocky outcrops provide an ideal vantage point for views across Yorkshire's remarkable landscapes.
3. Its history
With a myriad of spectacular ancient monuments, abbeys, buildings and heritage railways, Yorkshire has a rich and fascinating history that is evident throughout its surroundings. The walled city of York is filled with history, from its striking 13th-century Gothic cathedral to the 11th-century ruin of Clifford's Tower - the largest remaining part of York Castle, and of course its city walls, the most complete example of medieval walls in England today. Yorkshire also boasts a number of exquisite abbeys and ruins, from Fountains Abbey, one of the best-preserved ruins of a Cistercian monastery in England, to the 7th-century ruins of Whitby Abbey, a brooding Benedictine abbey that sits perched atop a dramatic cliff, overlooking the winding, cobbled streets of the town beneath.
For rail enthusiasts, Yorkshire boasts a number of spectacular heritage train journeys including the unforgettable North Yorkshire Moors Railway. Offering a nostalgic journey through the beautiful North York Moors National Park, the train travels on a route dating back to the 1800s and reportedly runs through one of the oldest railway tunnels in the world.
4. Its exports
The world has much to thank Yorkshire for besides Yorkshire puddings, including its impressive literary heritage. The 19th century Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne, wrote their famous novels, including Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights from their home in Haworth, West Yorkshire, and Bram Stoker was famously inspired to write his famous gothic novel Dracula after visiting Whitby in the 1800s.
Other iconic Yorkshire exports include Captain Cook, Guy Fawkes, Dame Judi Dench, Yorkshire tea, Wensleydale cheese, the world's first ever football club (Sheffield United FC), and Marks & Spencer, which started as a penny bazaar stall at Leeds market.
5. Its food
Yorkshire's gastronomic scene is thriving, with more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other county in England outside of London - six in total, meaning world-class cuisine is never too far away. Then, there's Malton, a thriving market town with a plethora of gastropubs, delightful cafés, independent eateries, and even a food court serving local produce. Known as the "food capital of Yorkshire", its Food Lovers Festival is one of the biggest in the north and saw more than 30,000 people flocking to the picturesque market town for its 2018 event.
Of course, we can't comment on Yorkshire's food, or indeed the county in general, without an honourable nod to the glorious Yorkshire pudding. Dating back to the 1700s, this renowned national dish is Yorkshire's most beloved export and even has its own national day, celebrated on the first Sunday of February each year in Britain!