Nine Reasons to Visit the North of England Now!

Nine Reasons to Visit the North of England Now!

So many people I meet have been to England, and not left London.  When I tell them I’m English their eyes light up and they eagerly tell me they visited the London for a few days, but nowhere else, or occasionally some went to Brighton or Cambridge or another town close by.  Of course, London is a great destination, but there is plenty more to explore outside our vibrant capital.  If you have the time to venture outside the city and see more of England, I highly recommend travelling to the north of the country to get a taste of the ‘real’ England!  Here are 9 reasons you should visit the North of England right now!

Reasons to Visit the North of England: Price

Your pounds go further up north! photo credit: finance.yahoo.com
Your pounds go further up north! photo credit: finance.yahoo.com

Britain as a whole is now cheaper for most people to visit, following the devaluation of the pound after the infamous Brexit vote.  London is, like most capital cities, much more expensive than the rest of the country, and there is still a clear North / South divide when it comes to cost.  Northern England is much cheaper than the south, in terms of accommodation, food, drinks and general living costs so your pound goes that much further in the north of the country!  Although sometimes portrayed as skinflints and penny-pinchers, Northerners love a good deal – and will spend their hard earned cash if it means having a good time or getting good value.

Reasons to Visit the North of England: The People

Full Monty - Reasons to Visit the North of England
the northern charm of the cast of ‘The Full Monty’

It may be ‘grim up North’ for some, and although us Northerners do love a good grumble, we generally are a friendly bunch.  In London you’re unlikely to be acknowledged by locals on the busy streets, but a nod, chat or ‘alright?’ as you pass by a Northerner is much more common.  A dry sense of humour and a gruff but friendly manner often characterizes our personalities.  We like to eat, drink and be merry with a good dose of swearing, banter, broad accents and, perhaps most disconcerting, affectionately ending each sentence with ‘love’, ‘pet’ or ‘duck’ as a term of endearment – for men too!  You only have to watch ‘The Full Monty’ or ‘Billy Elliott’ for a glimpse of the Northern way – even in the face of adversity we still come through.  I love Northerners, if you haven’t guessed, I am one, born and bred.  We are proud of our heritage, and proud of anything northern.  Now our cities are melting pots of cultures from all over the world which we have merged into our northern-ness.  And our Northern exports continue to do us proud, many famous faces are from the north, including some that you might not expect, for example Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Judi Dench and plenty more besides.

Reasons to Visit the North of England: The Cities

Cliffords Tower in York Reasons to Visit the north of England
Explore cities like historical York

Northern England’s cities are traditionally hard working, blue collar cities, built around industrial centres like ports, factories and mining communities.  Now they have bloomed into centres of culture, art, architecture, and are well worth exploring in their own right.  Liverpool was the European Capital of Culture in 2008, the only city in England to have held this prestigious title (due to be awarded to Hull in 2017), boasting spectacular free museums, impressive architecture, fantastic shopping, and much more.  Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Sheffield & Bradford aren’t far behind, and smaller, historical cities like York, Chester and Durham, are picturesque and have plenty to entice visitors.

Reasons to Visit the North of England: The Music

Fab Four The Beatles Statue in Liverpool Reasons to Visit the North of England
The Beatles statue in Liverpool proudly shows off the city’s musical heritage

Hardship, they say, often inspires success.  And music in the North of England is a perfect example of this.  Working class areas all across the North spawned generations of legendary musicians, from the Beatles to The Smiths to Dire Straits, Def Leppard, Joy Division, Pulp, Kaiser Chiefs and the Arctic Monkeys to name but a few.  In Liverpool, Beatles fans can visit several museums dedicated to them, visit the famous Cavern Club, John Lennon’s childhood home and even take a ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ around key sites relating to the Fab Four.  In Manchester, which saw the rise in the 80s of rave culture, ‘Madchester’ and the 90s Indie swagger of the Stone Roses and Oasis, here too music is ingrained in everyday life.  Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle and smaller towns all have their fair share of music legends, and with huge arenas now in Sheffield, Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds the North as a whole is a key venue for international superstars as well.

Reasons to Visit the North of England: The Sport

Headingly Cricket Stadium - Reasons to Visit the North of England
Headingly Cricket Stadium – a great day out to watch the cricket in Leeds

English football (soccer for you Americans out there) is better up North.  Since the English Football League was established in 1888, 90 titles have been won by teams in the North of England, with Manchester United and Liverpool leading the way, and a mere 38 titles held from all other areas of the country put together.  Although I am not a fan of the ‘beautiful game’, a visit to a stadium like the 75,000 seater Old Trafford (Manchester United’s ground, and the largest club stadium in the UK) is an impressive site.  With the Premier League spending a whopping £1.1 billion on player transfers this is a big money business by anyone’s standards.  That said, football isn’t the only sport in the North; you can also see a Rugby League game, perhaps more similar to the American Football, in shape of ball at least!  Greyhound and whippet racing is popular in Yorkshire, and with horse racing including the Grand National at Aintree (near Liverpool) and the York races, among others, a day at the horse track can be a splendid way to spend a weekend!  Motorbike lovers can get their fix at the Isle of Mann TT Race, arguably the most prestigious motorbike race in the world, and an adrenaline filled (sometimes life-threatening) spot on the trackside to watch the riders whizz by is a once in a lifetime experience.  The most classic English sport cricket too has its fair share of venues in the North of England – Old Trafford in Manchester, and Headingly in Leeds are great on a sunny day – take your own food and beers for a boozy day pretending to care about the score.

Reasons to Visit the North of England: The Countryside

Reasons to Visit the North of England
The lake district. photo credit: lakedistrict.gov.uk

The North has its fair share of beautiful landscapes too, and 5 of England’s 10 National Parks are in the North of England.  The stunning Lake District in the north west (home to England’s largest lake, Windermere), the Yorkshire Dales & North York Moors in Yorkshire, the Peak District across the Pennines and Northumberland where you can visit Hadrian’s wall built to keep out the wild Scots.  Keen hikers can attempt the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge, scaling 3 of the Yorkshire Dales peaks in 12 hours to cover 24 miles, or the 192-mile Coast to Coast walk which passes through the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors on route from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay in North Yorkshire.  Even for the most casual walker, the rolling hills, vast lakes and glorious sunshine (if you’re lucky!), and some of the country’s most incredible scenery has got to be worth the train ride from London!

Reasons to Visit the North of England: The Literature

Beatrix Potter Peter Rabbit Reasons the Visit the North of England
Peter Rabbit and friends, Beatrix Potter’s most famous creation

Shakespeare may be the jewel in the Southern crown, but the Bronte sisters, Beatrix Potter and Wordsworth all hailed from up North.  I can’t guarantee you’ll find a talking rabbit during your visit, but a trip here to see the inspiration for your best loved characters is a must.  Gaze across the Yorkshire moors and imagine Wuthering Heights’ Heathcliff mourning the loss of his beloved Catherine, or admire the lakes and hills whose daffodils inspired William Wordsworth. The 2016 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Beatrix Potter, it’s hard to believe Peter Rabbit is over 100 years old!  The World of Beatrix Potter in Bowness on Lake Windermere tells the story of Potter and her fluffy creations, and the importance of her work in conservation.  Ted Hughes, Poet Laureate and husband to Sylvia Plath was born in Mytholmroyd in Yorkshire, and his birthplace is available as a holiday let and writer’s retreat.

Reasons to Visit the North of England: The Food

Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pudding
You can’t beat a good old roast beef & Yorkshire pudding

You can’t leave England without sampling roast beef & Yorkshire pudding.  With lashings of gravy.  And what about Cumberland sausage and mash, or the sausages with Bury black pudding in a full English Breakfast?  Fish & chips in Grimsby or South Shields, or anywhere on the coast for that matter.   Lancashire cheese, Yorkshire parkin, Eccles cakes, meat & potato pies from Wigan, scones and afternoon teas in Harrogate and York, and Yorkshire even has a Rhubarb Triangle so you can gorge yourself on rhubarb crumble and custard.

As well as traditional ‘English’ foods, England is truly international, and our long history of invasions, colonisations, immigration and emigration have led to the UK having pretty much every kind of cuisine you can imagine.   Some of our most famous foods have come from this blend of cultures, for example Manchester’s curry mile, and Leeds & Bradford’s plentiful curry houses offer a huge variety of Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine that in my opinion can’t be beaten.  If you like Chinese food then visit China Town in Manchester which is the second largest in the UK (and third largest in Europe) or try Liverpool’s Chinatown which boasts the largest Chinese arch outside of China, standing at 15m high.

Reasons to Visit the North of England: The Coastline

Blackpool Tower reasons to visit the north of England
Blackpool beach & Tower. photo credit Pawel Libera/Corbis

I admit, the south coast & Wales may have us beat in terms of beaches, but let’s face it, no-one comes to England to go to the beach.  What the North offers instead is a rugged coastline, with good old fashioned seaside resort towns like Blackpool, Morecombe, Southport, Scarborough, interspersed with beaches, cliffs and rocky coves.  Blackpool has long since faded as the gem of the Victorian era, when England’s well-to-do people flooded to the beach or strolled along the promenade, but the views from the famous tower are worth a look, and it’s still great for the kids, with a theme park, fun fair and donkey rides on the sand.  At Crosby near Liverpool Anthony Gormley’s 100 cast iron statues named ‘Another Place’ eerily gaze out to sea, partly covered by the waves.  Whitby, on the opposite shore, is perfect for fans of the macabre as its where Dracula came ashore in Bram Stoker’s tale.  Lindisfarne (also known as Holy Island) is cut off from the mainland at high tide and offers a unique chance to spend the night on this tranquil island amid the sounds of the birds including puffins, and various rare species, visit the ancient monastery founded in AD 635, and watch the seals as they lounge on the rocks.

I could go on, but what started out as five quickly became nine reasons, and close to 2000 words on why you should visit the north of England, and each section grew as I thought more about what the North has to offer!  Not everyone will make the journey outside of London, but those that do are in for a treat.  And for you Northerners out there – do you agree with this list?  Have I missed any gem that I should include?

Want to plan for your trip to the north of England?

Find more information on the Visit England website about North West England and North East England.

For booking accommodation, I use booking.com for my hostel and hotel needs.

You might also enjoy reading the book Pies and Prejudice: In search of the North by Stuart Maconie to learn more about the wonders of the North of England!

 

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Nine Reasons to Visit the North of England

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28 thoughts on “Nine Reasons to Visit the North of England Now!

  1. Being from Leeds myself, I couldn’t agree more, it’s great to see someone championing the North of England! I think it portrays the real England rather than the very tourist packed London.

  2. I am here for three months (about to fly back to Manila on the 21st) but I haven’t explored much. I think I only went to London for two days (for family), Birmingham (to watch a friend’s movie), Walsingham (for the pilgrimage) and Coventry (for a date lol). I was planning to go to York and Lake District but so many things needs to be done at home first. I compensated my lack of gallivanting by exploring the local food scene of Rugby. I will be checking your blog more before I fly back in December 😀

  3. You have me sold! I would love to visit the Lake District, see Blackpool and just generally spend more time in the North of England. I did manage to get up to York when I was there, but it was a brief trip, and I really didn’t get to see much of the area. It just means I’ll have to come back!

  4. As a proud Yorkshire lass I could not agree more. Many industrial cities have been rejuvenated and give a new lease of life with incredible architecture. I now live in Sheffield and love this city for its glorious town hall, peace gardens and proximity to the peak district

  5. I would love to live in North England, I had no idea of its musical background of such great musicians like Joy Division and The Beatles! I definitely am interested in all of the food also 🙂

  6. I haven’t made a trip yet to England (someday soon!), but after reading this I feel like I should spend most of my time exploring the Northern parts. And how cool that Peter Rabbit and friends is from this region. I grew up in Japan, and we LOOOOVE Peter Rabbit. I went home to Japan last year and in Yebisu (a famous spot in Tokyo) had a cool Peter Rabbit themed beer garden that was so cute 🙂

    1. Yey!! I hope I’ve inspired to you see more of the country 🙂 Peter Rabbit was one of my favourite children’s books – and mrs Tiggywinkle! If I go to Tokyo again I’ll have to check out that beer garden!

  7. I love the north of England! I’ve got a couple of friends who live in Newcastle and we’ve taken countless trips up the beautiful Northumberland coast. The island of Lindisfarne and Hadrian’s Wall are both incredible 🙂

  8. I lived in Chester when I studied abroad in 2011, but didn’t see nearly enough of England. Then I had my second chance when I went back to study in London, but then I did mostly Europe travel. I’m trying to get back to London for school next fall, so I hope I can get to see more of the UK at that point because I’m severely lacking in that area. Thanks for the inspo.

    1. Chester is a great start, but it’s funny when stay somewhere for a while its easy to get lazy and not travel around the area! I did the same in Barcelona, I haven’t seen nearly as much of Spain as I want to!!

  9. Hands up! I am guilty! I have visited quite a few on England’s cities, currently planning an Xmas trip to Manchester but I am yet to see much of the nature. Bad girl – thanks for pointing out what I am missing!

  10. Yes!!! On my roadtrip to Scotland we stopped in the Lake District and I absolutely loved it, definitely want to go back and spend more time there. On the way back, we stopped in York, which I loved too. As we were leaving I realized I did not have Yorkshire pudding while I was there! Ugh. Just one reason I want to go back.

  11. You are so right! I love the countryside in so much of the North of England, especially the Lake District. And your money really does go so much further. I live right near the South coast of England and I am always so surprised how much less expensive it is in areas and cities further North.

  12. I used to tell my students this all the time in Japan! Everyone just goes to the south!! A great list of reasons why our neck of the woods is the best!! It filled me with pride for my region reading this. The north really is fantastic!

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