Yorkshire; God’s Own Country

When out on my travels and meeting new people, I often get asked where I am from to which I normally reply with, “the UK”. The most common response I seem to get to this is, ”Oh! So you’re from London?” OR,”So you live in London?”

WRONG FOLKS!!!

I am from God’s own country- Yorkshire.

Yorkshire is in the north of the UK and is the largest county in England. I am here to tell you that not only is the UK far, FAR more than London but to give you an idea of what the fabulous north has to offer and why you should visit.

Firstly, I am from a fantastic city called Sheffield, AKA Steel City. It is no secret that I love my city, I love its sense of community spirit and its traditional Yorkshire values plus all of the things the city has to offer and that is why it is number 1 on my list of places you should visit.

Sheffield is found in South Yorkshire and is built on 7 hills. It has more than 250 woods, parks and gardens and has an estimated 4.5 million trees. This means Sheffield has more trees per person than any other European city, making it the greenest city on the continent.

Sheffield made its fortune in the steel industry and is famous for its stainless steel cutlery, however, the city now has much more to offer than making steel. We now have galleries, theatres, museums and not to mention a fantastic night life and music scene (I genuinely believe the best music scene in the UK).

Sheffield is the real ale capital of the world; we have breweries dotted about all over the city which specialise in craft beers, literally brewing thousands of different ales each year. If this is what you’re into, do a little research before you come as you could plan to come during one of our many beer festivals.

**Top Tip**

If you arrive into the city by train, you can even start your beer tour straight away on Platform 1B, at the Sheffield Tap before continuing onto Kelham Island where you’ll find many more establishments to quench your thirst.

Now for the foodies out there, you will not be disappointed. People up north sure do know how to cook and we have thousands of eateries around the city from traditional pub lunches to things a little more adventurous. If you like to sample foods from around the world, London Road is the place to be. From Turkey to China to Japan, Thailand and then all the way back to Greece.

One thing that should be on your menu during your stay is a homemade pie which you have to lather in Henderson’s Relish, AKA Hendos- a little like Worcestershire Sauce but far, FAR superior and it’s even vegan!! It is classed as a relish rather than a condiment. I would recommend going to The Broadfield for this- they also have an excellent beer portfolio.

Pie, mushy peas, chips, gravy & Hendos at the Broadfield, sooo gooood.

Here in Sheffield we are also big on food markets and often have a European food market throughout the city centre. As well, we have two permanent street food markets, Cutlery Works, the largest food court in the North, and Kommune, a Scandi inspired food court, both boasting culinary delights from around the area and the world!

Poutine

Entertainment in Sheffield is not to be passed up on either. It’s my favourite city to catch a gig. We, as a city are big on live music so you can always find a gig going on somewhere. I could go on and on and on with a huge list of venues but here are a few of my favourites if you’re in the market to catch a gig or two: The Leadmill, o2 Academy, Corporation, West Street Live, Maida Vale, Yellow Arch, Bear Tree Records, the Shakespeare, Greystones, Cafe#9, the Royal Standard, the Frog and Parrot and not forgetting Sheffield Arena.

The Amazons playing a cheeky lunch time gig at Bear Tree Records
The Goat Roper Rodeo Band live at Cafe #9

Each year thousands of people flock to Sheffield for Tramlines Festival, an urban festival which started in 2009 with just 35,000 fans in attendance populating the 70 venues and 4 main stages. The festival has grown from strength to strength and last year (2019) it sold out of the main stage which holds 30,000 people each day not to mention all the other venues that participate. Previous line ups have seen the likes of Noel Gallagher, The Courteeners, Jake Bugg, Manic Street Preachers, Stereophonics, Happy Mondays and not to mention Sheffield’s own Milburn and Everly Pregnant Brothers.

Stereophonics playing at Tramlines Festival

We also have the Crucible Theatre, home to the Snooker World Championships as well as the Lyceum Theatre so there’s always a show on the go. To see what’s on offer from Sheffield’s theatres, please click here.

There are cinemas old and new scattered throughout the city as well as museums such as the recently opened National Videogame Museum complete with arcade- the country’s only playable museum. The museum is handily situated right next door to Kommune so you can grab a bite to eat whilst you’re there.

One of the old steel works has also been turned into a museum, Magna which is well worth a visit. Magna also opens its doors from time to time for warehouse raves!

90’s rave in Magna

If countryside if your thing, then take a 5 to 10 minute drive out of Sheffield city centre and you’ll find yourselves in the heart of the Peak District which leads me nicely onto the next place you should definitely visit.

One of my favourite places to go hiking is the Peak District National Park. Covering an area of 555 square miles in 6 counties (2 of which belong to Yorkshire) it attracts millions of visitors per year. It’s the perfect place for a nice stroll or more strenuous hikes, as well as visiting country pubs, checking out local wildlife, hilly walks, flat walks and all the green you can imagine. You can check out a list of available hikes at www.peakdistrict.gov.uk

Burbage

One of my favourite villages to visit in the Peak District is Castleton situated in Hope Valley. You can approach Castleton through the dramatic Winnats Pass or from the Hope Valley, both boasting spectacular views.

The bottom of Winnats Pass

You can absorb the scenery by taking a walk around the village or by hiking up the surrounding hills. One to definitely walk up is Mam Tor (mother hill), known locally as the shivering mountain- so called because its shale and gritstone layers are prone to landslips. Once at the top, either, take in the spectacular views for miles and miles, or continue hiking the Great Ridge Walk, either way, you will not be disappointed.

Once back in the village, I would highly recommend taking a stroll around the quaint little shops as well as stopping to grab some food. There is anything from traditional pubs, cafes, a wonderful chippy (fish and chip shop) and for dessert, a fantastic home made ice cream shop. Castleton is also the only place on the planet where the rare, semi precious mineral, Blue John, is mined so be sure to stop by one of the local jewellers to see what Blue John one of kind piece they have to tempt you with.

One of the villages shop, so cute.

There are four show caverns in Castleton, two of these are the caverns which contain Blue John. Blue John Cavern lies just below the face of Mam Tor and is approached via Winnats Pass. As well as Blue John you’ll also see some fossils.

Inside Blue John Cavern

Treak Cliff Cavern is situated on Mam Tor Road and although it was previously a lead mine it now solely mined for Blue John. As well as containing Blue John, it also contains a beautiful collection of stalagmites and stalactites.

Speedwell Cavern, which sits at the bottom of Winnats Pass is generally the most popular of the four as you get to explore underground canals by boat.

A very spooky yet enticing entrance to the canals of Speedwell Cavern

Peak Cavern (my favourite) known to locals as Devil’s Arse has a stunning views on the walk up to the cavern and sitting on top is Peveril Castle. Now the reason this is my favourite of the four is because of the fantastic acoustics meaning it is host to gigs and cult cinema nights.

Entrance to Peak Cavern AKA Devil’s Arse

**Top Tip**

Due to the stunning surroundings and the fact you could have a very rare experience of seeing a gig/concert or film in a cavern I would 100% recommend seeing if there is anything on during your visit. I went to see my favourite film, Jurassic Park in the cavern and it was a truly unforgettable experience; the whole village got involved with decorating the whole village. I also had the absolute pleasure of seeing Jarvis Cocker play here. For event listings and a truly unforgettable experience, click here.

One of the many signs around the village
Jarvis Cocker playing live in Devil’s Arse

Now, if you are on a hike, you could include all four caverns on your route, however, if you are not a hiker the caverns also have parking. You can find more info on the caverns and how to book tickets here.

The entrance to Speedwell Cavern with adjacent car park

**Top Tip**

If you are coming from afar, I would recommend you book into a B&B, hotel, caravan park or even campsite for a couple of nights so you can go off and explore and take in all the wonderful charms and beauty of Castleton.

Now, if like me you’re partial to a stunning sunset or sunrise, I have just the spot for you, again just a ten minute drive out of the city. Stanage Edge is also in the Peak District and from parking up, it’s only about a ten minute walk to the top, if that and the views from the top are something else. This makes it perfect for a stunning quick win sunset or sunrise. I like to make a flask of tea and go to the top with my camera to just catch my breath on a hectic life and just watch the sun setting on the day or rising on a new one. Bonus, there’s never really any people there to it’s so so peaceful so shhhhhh, keep this little gem to yourselves.

As Stanage Edge is in the Peak District it can be a ten minute walk to the top or you can extend the hike to hours/days/weeks.

Sunrise at Stanage Edge
Sunset at Stanage Edge

**Top Tip**

You are very exposed to the elements on top of Stanage Edge so I recommend you take a windproof/waterproof jacket, you just never know when you might need it.

Exhibit A

Now, if the seaside is your thing, I have one more of my favourite places in Yorkshire to share with you. This time I am taking you to the North East coast of Yorkshire, (AKA the Dinosaur Coast) all the way to Whitby.

Whitby is not your average seaside town, it is split by the River Esk and either side of the town you have the East Cliff and the West Cliff, make sure you do both.

Whitby has much more to offer than a quick paddle in the sea, a trip to the seafront arcade to play on the 2p machines before heading to the local confectioneries to buy fudge and rock- all of which should still be done but try to fit in some of the below as well.

Sitting high up on the East Cliff and overlooking the North Sea is the gothic ruin, Whitby Abbey which gave Bram Stolker his inspiration to write Dracula which in turn gave Whitby the title of Goth capital of the UK. Twice yearly Whitby is host to goth weekend bringing in tourists from far and wide.

Whitby Abbey

**Top Tips**

If you’re feeling a little parched after your walk around the Abbey and beautiful, gothic graveyard, Whitby Brewery is just outside the grounds.

Take the time to have a look around the unique graveyard of St Marys, not only do some of the graves date back to Saxon times but local folk tales say that the pirates that used to frequent the harbour are buried here; look for the graves engraved with a skull and crossbones.

St Mary’s Grave Yard

After you’ve visited the Abbey on the East Cliff, descend the 199 stairs (you have to count them) and head over to the Dracula Experience museum back down in the bay.

Don’t forget to count the stairs and Google the reason why!

Once down in the bay make sure you look around all the unique little shops whether it’s for a gift for you or somewhere else. Just like in Castleton you can stop by a local jewellers to pick up some Whitby Jet, a gem local to the area. I’m sure you’ve all heard of the term jet black – well this is where the adjective comes from!

You also HAVE TO have fish and chips whilst in the bay, they are the best in the country and you’ll never taste fish so fresh. Rumour has it that the best in town is at the Magpie Cafe and I can vouch that it’s so so good.

**Top Tips**

Most of the chippies offer eat in a takeaway. If you choose takeaway, be aware of the seagulls! They too enjoy the local delicacies!

If you decide to eat in, queues to the restaurants always look long and overwhelming but they do move along pretty quickly so stick with it.

Breathe in!

The West Cliff has the Captain James Cook statue and giant whale bone arch at the top. You’ll also find the old Gun Battery on the West Cliff.

The West Cliff boasts spectacular views over the harbour as well as Whitby Abbey and St. Mary’s church on the East Cliff.

If you want to follow in the footsteps of Captain James Cook, why not set sail on a replica of HMS Endeavour around Whitby Harbour and along the coast to Sandsend.

Sit back and relax on the somewhat looking pirate boat (featured in the photo above) and take in sites of Yorkshire’s Dinosaur Coastline. You’ll also be on the lookout for local wildlife including many different types of sea bird, seals and occasionally porpoise, dolphins and whales.

This amazing excursion will only set you back £3 for an adult ticket and £2 for a child! Bargain Oooo Arrrrrgh!

Something I didn’t know that’s available in Whitby or even the UK is whale watching tours. Each summer whales arrive to feast on the migrating Herring. In the last two years alone, numerous Minke Whales, Sei, Fin and Humpback Whales, White Beaked and Bottlenose Dolphins and Porpoise along with Seals and many species of birds have been spotted of the East Yorkshire Coast.

The best time to spot the whales is late September to early October as they start their migration south. I’ve definitely added this on my list of things to do next time I go back to Whitby, maybe I’ll see you there?

View from the top of the lighthouse, another thing to do! Spot any wildlife?

There is one last thing I would recommend doing whilst in Whitby, another thing which I have yet to do but it’s high up on the list.

Take a ride on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. Hop on a romantic Steam Train through the North York Moors National Park into Whitby or just take a return trip from Whitby itself. For information on packages, routes and timetables click here.

Whether you take the train or drive through the North York Moors, you’ll see beautiful rolling green hills and if you go through in August to early September, you’ll see nothing but purple for miles and miles as all the Heather is in bloom. I only wish I had a photo to show you but you can Google it.

As you can probably tell, I love my city, Yorkshire and The North. The above is a very comprehensive but not exhaustive list of things Yorkshire and The North has to offer. If you have any more questions on the above or need a tour guide just drop me a line.

THE NORTH, the best motorway sign, EVER!

The one thing I do ask, is next time you think of the UK or take a trip here, remember, England is far more than just London!

Hopefully see you all in my neck of the woods.

Cat x

P.S. Keep reading to see a list of things to pack and to view a small gallery of Yorkshire images.

Things to Pack

Waterproof/Windproof Jacket

Waterbottle/Thermas

For the keen hikers, don’t forget your walking boots and stick.

For the photographers, as well as your camera, don’t forget your gadgets…

And of course to carry everything… your trusty rucksack.

Jordan; A Jewel Within A Crown of Thorns

Nestled inbetween counties torn apart by war and political unrest, Jordan truly is a jewel within a crown of thorns with its rich history, culture, dramatic yet beautiful landscapes and some of the friendliest and welcoming people you’ll ever meet.

If you enjoy a fast paced holiday, want to see ancient ruins whilst learning the history of the land, eat amazing food until you’re fit to burst, then hike wonders of the world and stunning landscapes, then Jordan is the place for you.

Now, before I go on, I want to share my number 1 tip for Jordan… get the Jordan pass before you go. It costs 70JD which is around £77 and gives you access to most of Jordan’s top attractions including entry into Petra which alone is 50JD. The pass also covers your visa fee when entering the country. You can pay a little extra for the pass which gives you a 2 day pass to Petra. Petra is such a huge site so if you have the time I would advise doing this. I’m a keen hiker so can get around pretty quick but 1 day for me wasn’t enough. There are also options to add on entry to Bethany which I would advise doing if you’re planning a trip there. You can find the Jordan pass on the link below.

https://www.jordanpass.jo

What Jordan has to offer

  • Beaches

Aqaba in the south of Jordan is perfect for those of you that want to relax and catch a few sun rays. The beautiful beaches overlook the Red Sea with views of Egypt and Israel. As well as relaxing on the beach, many of the resorts offer water sports including scuba diving around the coral reef. I didn’t have time to dive but managed to take a glass bottom boat tour, where I really enjoyed seeing the coral but it made me feel sad at the amount of litter thrown in there.

**Top Tip** if you want to sunbathe, I would advise doing so in one of the resorts. Although Jordan is pretty westernised, you should still be respectful of the local community if you want to lay around in swimwear.

  • Markets

For the shopaholics out there, you’ll be pleased to know there will be ample opportunities to shop with quirky bustling markets and boutiques dotted around the place. I explored a market in Aqaba and particularly enjoyed the spice stalls where I picked up some lemon salt and Jordanian tea (a must try). There are plenty of places to pick up souvenirs from your trip but animal lovers be warned.., you will see animals waiting to be slaughtered as well as slaughtered animals. I know not everyone wants to read that but I personally found that quite hard to see so thought it only right to share my full experience.

**Top Tip** Try the spices in the market before you buy, they are so delicious! Also go in there prepared to haggle and you’ll grab yourself a bargain.

  • History

For the wannabe historian/archaeologists or for those interested in seeing/learning about ancient history you have the Greek and Roman remains of Pella, Umm Qais and Jerash. Not to mention the Nabataean Kingdom of Petra, one of the wonders of the world and an absolute must see whilst in Jordan.

Whether you are religious or not, it’s very interesting learning about Biblical times and seeing some of the places referred to in the bible as well as seeing views over the Holy Land. You can also visit Bethany which is the claimed baptism site of Jesus.

**Top Tips** take appropriate clothing. Walking boots or at a minimum trainers are required as there will be a lot of walking in gravely and sandy areas. I’d also recommend taking a backpack and layers. I visited in February and had beautiful sunshine, rain and even snow so its good to be prepared.

  • The Desert

Visiting Wadi Rum (Valley of the Moon) for me, was the best part of my tour around Jordan. If you want to follow in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia, enjoy being outdoors and taking a jeep safari through the sand dunes, or simply just be, and watch the beautiful sunset behind the dramatic landscapes or taking a camel trek to watch the sunrise, then Wadi Rum is the place for you.

For the more adventurous or people wanting to connect with the nature around them, you can even stay overnight in a Bedouin Camp at Wadi Rum. Enjoy a traditional evening meal and dancing followed by camp fire stories and gazing at the infinite, beautiful stars. Just unreal 😍

**Top Tip** the desert gets cold at night so take layers. I shared my hand warmers when sat around the camp fire to other members of the group, it really does get cold! See the link at the bottom of this page for my preferred choice.

I would also have your sunglasses to hand regardless of the sun. When the wind picks up it blows the sand around and you want to avoid getting it in your eyes.

  • Relaxing

After a few days of exploring, why not take yourself off to the Dead Sea for a mud treatment and let the tranquility take over you by floating weightlessly on the water. This is a truly unique experience and another must do when in Jordan.

**Top Tip** Take some beach shoes that you can wear in the sea. The sea bed is made of very hard and scratchy salt so if you don’t want to cut your feet up, wear the shoes!

Another way to relax after walking all day is to visit one of the Turkish spas. There is one on the same road as the entrance to Petra so after walking for miles I took myself off here with a couple of gal pals.

**Top Tip** The massages can be pretty handsy so if you don’t like bein nude in front of other people and being massaged pretty much all over then this is probably not for you.

  • Dining

Now for the foodies out there, trust me, you’ll be in heaven in Jordan as the food is just amazing. You can find the usual takeaways, even a KFC here and there but dining out in Jordan is very much a social event and sampling a local Jordanian restaurant is a must. There is food to cater for meat eaters and vegetarians and no matter what you order, you’ll always seem to get a traditional starter of pitta breads, hummus, multiple salads and dips. The fresh fruit drinks are also to die for. I found the food here very reasonably priced considering you always get a Mezze starter (which always filled me up.) The most I paid was 13JD which equates to about £13. For lunch I had falafel wraps with a drink and fruit and that was around 5JD.

Alcohol is also served in Jordan. It isn’t served in every restaurant BUT there are liquor stores wherever you go.

**Top Tip** seriously get stuck into some traditional food, it’s some of the best I’ve ever eaten. With things like Mansaf, Maqluba, fresh fish of the day and a sharing Mezze to name just a few, trust me, there’s bound to be something on the menu that you’ll love.

I’ll be honest, I’m not really one for a package holiday, however, as much as I wanted to explore Jordan, I did have my reservations given its geographical location but how wrong could I be?! I always felt safe here, even when alone or getting taxis. The below is the itinerary I covered, I will cover each thing in more details in future posts.

Day 1: Fly to Aqaba followed by a traditional evening meal.

Day 2: Exploring the coastline of the Red Sea before driving up the Wadi Arabia road to Amman.

Day 3: A day of ruins with a morning visit to Pella, one of the most ancient towns in the world followed by an afternoon visit to Umm Qais, a member of the Decapolis and the centre of Greek culture in the region.

Day 4: A morning visit to Jerash, The Jewel of the North and one of the most preserved sites of Roman architecture in the world outside if Italy. In the afternoon we headed over to Bethany followed by the Dead Sea.

Day 5: A beautiful drive along the 2000 year old Kings Highway took us firstly to Madaba,’The City of Mosaics’ before proceeding to Mount Nebu known as the burial place of the Prophet Moses. We then stopped at Kerak to explore the spectacular Crusader Castle built in the 12th century AD and situated 1000 meters above sea level.

Day 6: The one we were all waiting for, a full day in The Rose Red City of Petra. The ancient Nabatean city is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and an absolute must see whilst in Jordan.

Day 7: Enroute to Wadi Rum we took a stop at Little Petra, which was the entry and exit point for the trade routes followed by a stop at the Seven Pillars of Arabia which is where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed. Last stop was Wadi Rum which is home to several Bedouin tribes and was a perfect last night under the stars in Jordan.

Day 8: A sunrise camel trek in the desert before heading back to Aqaba to take a glass bottom boat tour to see the Coral Reef followed by some last minute shopping in the markets.

I felt very lucky actually as my tour guide for the week, Eddie, had an in depth knowledge about the history of Jordan as well as where to go for food/shopping. He gave us all some very useful tips. Here are just a couple:

  • Don’t talk about religion or politics
  • Do talk about the water shortage, the deficit and Azuz (a small child that is the butt of many jokes.)

I took the below picture of Eddie in Wadi Rum. He loved it so much I traded my lens ball with him for a beer!

Things To Pack

Clothing for every type of weather. It’s better to pack layers so you can add or remove as necessary.

Sensible walking boots as you’ll probably cover every terrain imaginable.

Camera and equipment. I always carry mine on me as you just never know when the perfect picture opportunity will arise.

Hand/foot warmers. TRUST ME, these are a godsend as the desert gets freezing at night. These particular ones are tried and tested by myself and literally last all night.

Beach wear with suitable shoes for the Dead Sea. I would recommend wet shoes with a rubber sole and NOT flip flops.

A sun hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. As well as the cold, it will also get very hot. The sunglasses will also help keep the sand out of your eyes in the desert.

A power bank to charge your phone. If you have a similar itinerary to mine and use your phone to take photos, then you’ll probably need a recharge at some point. I use the one below which gives me about 5 charges.

A sturdy rucksack to put your water bottle/flask in plus all over the above! I use the one below as it comes with a detachable day bag. I always take my stainless steel cutlery set as shown below, you never know when you’ll need them. The set does come with a set of straws but again it cant hurt to take some extra with you in case you can’t wash them. These ones are stainless steel so reusable and more environmentally friendly. When you’re off the beaten track and buy a drink, it’s more hygienic to drink from one of your own straws rather than the can/bottle.

I truly loved this country and the time I spent there. I really hope to go back to explore further but until then, Jordan, keep shining.

Cat x

P.S. Sign up to my blog for more in depth details about all the excursions I went on and please drop me a message for any questions about this amazing place!