There’s something for everyone in these Yorkshire cities, as Naomi MacKay discovers

The Henry Moore Institute in the heart of Leeds is a world-recognised centre for the study of sculpture

The Henry Moore Institute in the heart of Leeds is a world-recognised centre for the study of sculpture

These two vibrant Yorkshire cities have a tempting mix of culture, shopping, sightseeing, art and fantastic food that makes a trip to the area more than worthwhile. Their location also allows for trips out into the surrounding countryside, which ensures that a day trip can cater to everyone’s interests.

Here we have gathered together a few suggested itineraries for day trips.

Art and retail therapy

Combine a spot of culture with some good old fashioned retail therapy with this suggested itinerary.

Start off with a guided tour of The Henry Moor Institute. This offers the chance to discover sculpture right in the heart of Leeds. The Institute has three gallery spaces that host an ever-changing variety of exhibitions. The guided tours are led by practising artists and academics and can be aimed at any level of interest, from first-time gallery visitors to art students and academics. Entry to the gallery itself is free, and tours and large groups must book. Call 0113 246 7467 or apply online at www.henry-moore.org/hmi. The venue is closed on Mondays.

Take a mid-morning break in the Tiled Hall Café at Leeds Art Gallery, which offers a range of refreshments with a Yorkshire theme. Then explore the gallery itself (www.leeds.gov.uk/museumsandgalleries/Pages/Leeds-Art-Gallery.aspx) – a must for art lovers. Its superb collection of works by British artists includes 750 paintings by J.S. Cotman (1782-1842), along with artworks from Constable and Gainsborough, and Italian and French masters. There is a chance to enjoy more of Moore’s work in the Henry Moore Sculpture Galleries, which also feature works by his contemporaries Jacob Epstein and Barbara Hepworth.

Group leaders can enjoy a free ‘pre-visit’ to get acquainted with the building and discuss requirements. In addition, visits can be tailored to suit visitors’ interest and study requirements.

Stop for lunch at Trinity Leeds before an afternoon of shopping or at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park if your group has an appetite for more culture. The park, set in 500 acres of rolling countryside, is home to the largest display of open-air bronzes by Henry Moore in Europe. Entrance is free, with plenty of parking from the middle of January 2016.

Tours and tailored group packages can be arranged, and food can be pre-booked and served in the panoramic restaurant, which has views of the Henry Moore sculptures in the Country Park. Groups also get a free introductory talk, free refreshments for the coach driver and free coach parking. You can also pre-book mobility scooters. Call 01924 832508 or email groups@ysp.co.uk

For those who prefer retail therapy to art therapy, the city centre is very walkable and, having been named the best shopping destination in the UK by the Rough Guide to Britain, why would you not want to explore the 1,000 shops, whether you’re after quirky boutiques, high-end luxury or high street brands? The newest retail destination is Trinity Leeds, which is a good spot for lunch (Try Trinity Kitchen with its ever-changing street food vans) and shopping. Under its glass roof there are more than 120 shops, bars, restaurants and cafés. It’s open until 8pm six days a week, and the bars and restaurants are open late into the night.

Outside, you’ll find big names such as ZARA, Debenhams and House of Fraser.

This elephant armour recently entered the Guinness Book of Records as the largest animal armour in the world

This elephant armour recently entered the Guinness Book of Records as the largest animal armour in the world

Anyone in search of vintage or one-off fashion pieces should head to the Grade 1-listed Corn Exchange. One of Leeds’ oldest shopping arcades is the Grand Arcade, which is home to plenty of independent shops. Also don’t miss Queens Arcade, with its clothes boutiques and jewellers, and Thorntons Arcade, for tasty treats and gift shops. If you’re shopping for a dress or hat for a special occasion, stop off in the Central Arcade.

For Victorian splendour and designer outlets the Grade II*listed Victoria Quarter is the ideal destination – you’ll also find the first Harvey Nichols to open outside of London, here.

The Victoria Quarter in Leeds is a pleasant place to shop, with the city named Best Shopping Destination in the UK

The Victoria Quarter in Leeds is a pleasant place to shop, with the city named Best Shopping Destination in the UK

Finally, a trip to the shops in Leeds isn’t complete without a visit to the historic Kirkgate Market – one of the largest covered markets in Europe, boasting more than 400 stalls, along with a further 200 outside. It’s open six days a week, and has the distinction of being the birthplace of Marks & Spencer.

M&S fans can find out more about the company at Marks in Time (www.marksintime.marksandspencer.com), an exhibition at the M&S Company Archive, which celebrates the role that M&S has played in peoples’ lives over the past 128 years. Find out when M&S sold its first bra, how its scientists worked with the government during WW2 to help with rationing strategy or what happened when it introduced ‘avocado pears’ in 1959 and one customer tried to serve them for dessert! Entry is free and groups can enjoy guided tours, expert talks and free hot drinks, or take the M&S Heritage Trail.


Night life

If you’re planning a weekend or overnight trip, your group can enjoy the bars and restaurants in the city centre or you can book a theatre trip to the Grand Theatre (www.leedsgrandtheatre.com).

The Bradford Alhambra Theatre lit up at night

The Bradford Alhambra Theatre lit up at night

The Victorian building offers a vast range of dance, drama, comedy and music productions, and Opera North and Northern Ballet Theatre have their residencies there.

Booking for groups of 10 or more can enjoy discounts and free tickets, pre-order drinks, ice-creams and programmes. Call Andy Kitching on 0113 297 7040 or email groupbookings@leedsgrandtheatre.com


Museums in and out of the city

Your group could spend a whole day visiting the museums in Leeds. Leeds City Museum(www.leeds.gov.uk/museumsandgalleries/Pages/Leeds-City-Museum.aspx ) is home to the famous Leeds tiger, a stuffed exhibit which used to be a rug! It’s also the place to go to discover dinosaur skeletons and even dig for fossils – great for younger visitors as it has four floors of interactive galleries. To book a group visit call 0113 224 3732 ​or email city.museum@leeds.gov.uk. Free ‘pre-visits’ are on offer to group leaders.

More family-friendly history can be found at Abbey House Museum (www.leeds.gov.uk/museumsandgalleries/Pages/abbeyhouse/collections.aspx), which was short-listed for the Guardian ‘Kids in Museum Family Friendly Award’ in 2011. Inside, you can wander through the recreated Victorian streets for a glimpse of life in 19th century Leeds. On special days, Victorian characters can be found there too. See the 19th century toys, games and dolls in the shop on Harewood Square – you can even take your place for class at the local Methodist Sunday school! After a visit to the museum and something to eat in the Gate House Café, the group can enjoy its gardens and head across the road to Kirkstall Abbey. This is one of the most complete examples of a medieval Cistercian abbey in Britain.

The 12th century ruins are set in parkland along the banks of the River Aire. Discover bats, and 18th century graffiti – and on Saturday and Sunday afternoons more than 40 stalls selling local produce and crafts. The markets run one weekend a month between March and November. Group organisers can call 0113 230 5492 or email kirkstall.abbey@leeds.gov.uk

Another alternative for a day of museums in the city could combine The Royal Armouries and the Thackeray Medical Museum.

The Royal Armouries (www.royalarmouries.org/home) is the national museum of arms and armour, with more than 8,500 objects from the past 3,000 years on display in five galleries. See the armour and arms used by the Japanese Shoguns, and Henry VIII. There are plenty of hands-on opportunities at this free museum, and coach parking is available. There are six themed galleries: War, Tournament, Oriental, Self-Defence, Hunting, and Peace. Call 0113 220 1888 or email educate.leeds@armouries.org.uk

From combat to curing people, the Thackray Medical Museum (www.thackraymedicalmuseum.co.uk) next to St. James’s University Hospital tells the story of the development of medicine. Walk the grimy streets of Victorian Leeds, find out how people had operations without anaesthetic, and find out how your body works in the Life Zone gallery.

Special events include talks and films, performances and fright nights. Recently, the theme was Brilliant Brains, and neurosurgeons from St James’s hospital conducted a series of live brain dissections. The museum is also a popular venue for ghost hunts and professional paranormal investigators organise special events for interested members of the public.

Bradford

Bradford has two particular distinctions – it has just been voted Curry Capital of Britain for the fifth year in a row – and is the first UNESCO City of Film.

So here’s an itinerary that combines the two – Movies and Madras…

First, a visit to the National Media Museum (www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk), a free museum devoted to film, photography, TV, radio, gaming and the web. Take a trip through the world of photography, find out about the past, present and future of television, watch favourite TV moments, and explore animation and gaming in the Games Lounge. The museum is also home to the only IMAX cinema in the county, where you can see short films or feature-length blockbusters. Groups can enjoy private screenings, as well as bespoke tours and talks and workshops – plus there are group discounts for IMAX screenings.

The National Media Museum is well worth a visit

The National Media Museum is well worth a visit

For enquiries and bookings, please call 0844 856 3799

If a morning walking around the museum has worked up an appetite, you can book your group in for a late lunch at one of the many Indian restaurants in the city – how about the Aakash at Clekheaton, which sells itself as the largest Indian restaurant in the world – and was one of the winning members of from this year’s Curry Capital team?

For more ideas for eating out, download the Bradford Curry Guide at visitbradford.com.

To continue the Indian theme, head to the city’s Lister Park, to see the Mughal Water Gardens, an eye-catching garden, which was the first of its kind in northern England. It blends Islamic and Indian architectural styles, with terraces and paths, grassed areas and avenues of trees featuring water channels, cascades, pools and fountains.

Lister Park is the perfect location for your group to enjoy a bit of free time, walking off that curry lunch. Seven of its buildings are Grade II listed and it is home to Cartwright Hall, Bradford’s civic art gallery.

The park’s Botanical Gardens, which have been restored to their original 1903 design, offer a geological trail which winds through the various beds. There are also children’s play areas and a boating lake.

If there’s time left, or the weather is not ideal for park wandering, the city is also home to the only Peace Museum (www.peacemuseum.org.uk) in the UK, which focuses on peace history, non-violence and conflict resolution. The museum explores the history and stories of peace, peacemakers, social reform and peace movements. It occupies three small galleries in one of Bradford’s many fine Victorian buildings. It is only open on Thursdays, but group visits and school visits can be arranged at other times. Call 01274 780241 or email info@peacemuseum.org.uk


History in and out of the city

Bradford’s city centre has a wealth of beautiful old buildings, including 500-year-old Bradford Cathedral, which is near Little Germany, named after the 19th century European merchants who came here. Find more Victorian architecture at the Grade I listed Wool Exchange and at the City Hall, with its clock tower boasting 13 bells.

At the Bradford Industrial Museum (www.bradfordmuseums.org/venues/industrialmuseum/), a couple of miles outside the centre, find out what life in a Victorian working mill was like. See the historic textile machinery in operation, and check out the vintage vehicle collection. Then explore the mill owner’s house and back-to-back workers’ cottages.

Bolling Hall (www.bradfordmuseums.org/venues/bolling-hall), only a mile from the city centre, allows visitors to discover the stories of the families who lived there for more than 500 years. See Cromwell’s Death Mask – and maybe spot the White Lady in the Ghost Room! Entry is free.

Haworth(2)Further afield there are two choices for spending an afternoon. You could head to Ikley (www.ilkley.org) a spa town to the northwest, which has the remains of a Roman wall, the Manor House with a museum and art gallery, as well as the Ilkley Toy Museum with toys dating from 350 BC to the present day.

Or you could go to the literary mecca of Haworth, home to the Brontë sisters and birthplace of classics such as Wuthering Heights. This Airedale village has an historic cobbled Main Street, the Brontë Parsonage Museum (www.bronte.org.uk), and some stunning rolling countryside to explore. Guided walks are a great option for groups – to find out more about the tours on offer call or phone Sue Newby on 01535 640185 or 01535 640194. Or email susan.newby@bronte.org.uk