Wakefield Day TripsGet the most out of your shorter visit this summer!
If you’re looking to dip your toes into all the things the Wakefield district has to offer this summer, these Wakefield day trips will help you get the most out of a shorter visit!
Art & Sculpture Day Trip
Art and sculpture are what Wakefield is famous for, so it’s fitting that this day trip is first on our list.
Start the day at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. This 500-acre patchwork of rolling fields, hills, woodland, lakes and formal gardens contains a fantastic range of sculptures and artworks by some of the world’s most renowned creatives. Artists on display include Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Andy Goldsworthy, Ai Weiwei, Joan Miro, Jaume Plensa and many, many more.
The Sculpture Park is huge, and visitors could easily spend a whole day here, but for this day trip, you should allow around an hour and a half. Get something to eat at the cafe for a tasty early lunch, and then head into Wakefield city centre for the next stop.
The city is truly an arts hub, with plenty of venues to tempt you. If you schedule your day trip for 10 September, book yourself onto one of Neon Workshops’ Neon Sessions. This two-hour taster workshop gives an overview on what neon is, what it can be and how to make it. Experience the chance to have a go yourself (under tuition, of course) and take home the results!
If you fancy visiting on a different day, then your first port of call will be The Art House. The “house that art built” is a space where artists and audiences alike can engage with the creative process through a year-round programme of residencies, exhibitions, events and workshops. Current exhibitions include Sam Metz: Making Solid – Unpredictable Bodies (a project of sculpture, drawing, animation and film which translates and shares the experiences of being disabled and neurodivergent) and Conversations with Nature: Helen Thomas, Alison Critchlow and Natalie Dowse (an exhibition of paintings celebrating the artists’ relationship with the natural environment).
Whether you’re at Neon Workshops or The Art House, you’ll be heading to your next destination no later than 3pm. No art and sculpture trip to Wakefield would be complete without a visit to The Hepworth Wakefield, so that’s where we’re ending the day!
This award-winning, David Chipperfield-designed gallery is positively brimming with incredible artworks and sculptures. The gallery, named after famed Wakefield sculptor Barbara Hepworth, presents major exhibitions of the best international modern and contemporary art and has dedicated galleries exploring Hepworth’s art and working process.
Currently on display is Sheila Hicks: Off Grid. Hicks is one of the world’s foremost artists investigating colour, form and texture, and this major exhibition draws together over 70 works from international public and private collections, exploring the many facets of Hicks’ ground-breaking work.
Like the Sculpture Park, the Hepworth is somewhere visitors could lose themselves for hours on end, but like the Sculpture Park, for this trip you should allow yourself around an hour and a half. Don’t forget to pick something up from the gift shop on your way out!
Since you’re in the city, you’re sure to find something delicious for dinner. If you enjoy art, then you might like the vibrant colours and tastes of Corarima, Wakefield’s Abyssinian restaurant (and it’s gluten-free and vegetarian, to boot!).
History & Heritage Day Trip
Wakefield might be more famous for contemporary art and sculpture, but the district has a history stretching back thousands of years.
We’re starting today’s day trip in the charming market town of Pontefract, at historic Pontefract Castle. Dating back almost a thousand years, this fortress was once so mighty that it was nicknamed the “Key to the North” and it held the balance of power in Yorkshire and beyond. These days, the castle presents intriguing ruins to explore, including a recently-excavated sally port, as well as reconstructed bread ovens. If you visit on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday morning, be sure to take a Dungeon Tour. Discover more about the history of the castle, and see where Civil War prisoners scratched their names into the rock beneath the bailey.
From Pontefract, make your way south to National Trust Nostell. Nostell is one of the great houses of the north of England. This Palladian mansion was designed by celebrated Georgian architect Robert Adam, and also boasts stunning landscaped gardens and extensive parkland.
The house itself is a treasure trove of priceless objects. Of particular interest is John Harrison’s longcase clock. The clock, constructed in 1717, is the subject of a must-see exhibition: The Clock Stops, where visitors can get up close to the clock’s intricate workings (made almost entirely of wood).
Also not to be missed is Nostell’s unrivalled collection of Chippendale furniture. Rowland Winn, 5th baronet at Nostell, commissioned over 100 pieces of furniture from Chippendale’s firm, which can still be seen today in the grand interior worlds for which they were designed.
Take some lunch in Nostell’s charming Courtyard Café (supplied by produce from the Kitchen Garden) and then head to the next destination.
The western edge of the Wakefield district is home to the National Coal Mining Museum. Based on the massive 40-acre site of a former working mine, the museum presents the fascinating story of mining history in England through hands-on displays, temporary exhibitions, tours and more. Be sure to check out the current exhibition, Powering a Nation. Delving deep into the 3000-year-old story of Britain’s use of coal, the exhibition follows the rise and fall of this energy source.
This is very much a museum with an emphasis on living history, with interpreters dedicated to bringing the past vividly to life, especially across the summer. From multi-sensory performances exploring the Ups and Downs of Coal, to regular Blacksmith Demonstrations where the resident smiths showcase their skills, and Horsekeeper Talks at the Pony Discovery Centre (home to the museum’s ever-popular pit ponies). The pièce de résistance, however, are the Underground Tours. Travel 140m below the surface to the coal face, discover 180 years of history and hear stories from charismatic former miners about their careers and the mining industry.
Food & Drink Day Trip
Wakefield is fast becoming known as a foodie hotspot, so there’s plenty to tickle the taste buds in this terrific food and drink day trip.
Start the day up at Farmer Copleys in Pontefract. If you love farm-to-fork freshness and the very best locally sourced produce, then this award-winning farm shop and cafe is well worth a visit. Start bright and early and browse the shop for food from the butchery, bakery, deli, craft beers and gin, homegrown fruit and vegetables, preserves, honey – and even gelato!
After your purchases, make your way to the Moo Cafe for a spot of breakfast, and then head outside into the Sunflower Field. Thousands of flowers, in myriad varieties, beckon. Each ticket allows the visitor to pose for a photoshoot on the farm’s special settings (including a classic Chevy and new giant swing) and take three stems home with you.
You’ll have to be quick, because the last day for the Sunflower Field is 14 August – though don’t forget to come back for their Oktoberfest in late September and the legendary Pumpkin Festival throughout October.
After your photoshoot, travel across the district to Ossett Brewery. The Wakefield district has a thriving real ale scene, and small-but-mighty Ossett Brewery is a great example of that. Their bitters, stouts and ales can be found all over the district and beyond, but nothing quite beats tasting it at its very freshest. Even better, on selected Fridays and Sundays (the next one takes place on 14 August) you can take a Brewery Tour! Head behind the scenes and learn about the brewing process, plus sample your favourite Ossett beers with the brewery’s tutored tasting.
Your Brewery Tour will be finished by around 2pm – just in time for Sunday lunch! Just a short drive away is Bistro 42 in Horbury. Located right in the heart of this quaint village, Bistro 42 has a fresh, vibrant menu mixing new flavours with old favourites. Opt for a traditional Sunday roast or try a trio of Yorkshire pudding sliders – each with their own filling.
Once you’ve let your delectable lunch go down, head into Wakefield city centre, and sample the colourful delights of Westgate. Wakefield’s famous thoroughfare used to be known for the “Westgate run” pub crawl, but these days it’s had something of a renaissance, and is now home to a dynamic range of chic and modern food and drink venues (you can read more about it here). To finish the day, we’re enjoying afternoon cocktails at Lobby 1867 – after all, it is still the weekend!
Nature & Outdoors Day Trip
The Wakefield district is full of wonderful green spaces that make escaping to the great outdoors easy.
The early bird catches the worm, so it’s only natural that our first port of call is RSPB Fairburn Ings, just north of Castleford. Over the past half-century, this luscious nature reserve evolved from coal face to wild place: an ex-industrial site, the reserve was returned to nature and is now an important site for breeding and wintering wildfowl. Land which collapsed because of subsidence is now open water, reedbeds, wet grasslands and wet woodlands. The site also includes grasslands, deciduous woodlands and lagoons – and all of them teeming with life. Look out for bitterns, grey herons, spectacular kingfishers and lots more.
If you are an early riser, then mornings are a good time to visit – look out for Birdsong For Beginners walks: explore the sounds of nature’s greatest ensemble, and get some expert tips on birdwatching and ID.
After your morning stroll through nature, make your way to Pontefract’s Aspire @ the Park and hire a bicycle (there are tons of other sports activities you can try at Aspire @ the Park, but that’s a guide for another time). Cycle through the park, and then down into Featherstone until you arrive at Mill Pond Meadow. It’s not one of the district’s largest parks, but it’s a nice destination to cycle to because it’s the home of the Featherstone War Horse. This memorial sculpture was unveiled in 2018 to commemorate the 353 soldiers from Featherstone killed in WWI. Created by internationally renowned artists Cod Steaks, the sculpture was designed to create a place of peace, remembrance and reflection and is sited in a local nature reserve. After your own moments of tranquillity and contemplation, return your bike to Pontefract and get some lunch while you’re there.
Pontefract’s proliferation of cute cafes make it the perfect place to break for lunch. Try Blondies Brewhouse and Bakes or DJ’s Patisserie to get something tasty and filling in delightful surroundings, before travelling to your next destination.
In the afternoon, we’re going to Pugneys Country Park. One of the district’s largest country parks, Pugneys’ best feature is its enormous central lakes. The silvery waters of the smaller lake, sheltered by shady woodland, are a haven for wildlife, home to numerous bird species all year round.
The larger of the lakes is a haven for people, with wide, flat paths, leafy trees, and sloping fields to tempt both casual and more serious walkers. And if you really want to enjoy the water, rowing boats and pedalos are available to hire across the summer season.
We’re going to walk around the lake and up the hill, all the way to the top, where you will find Sandal Castle.
In a commanding position overlooking the Calder Valley, the romantic sandstone ruins of Sandal Castle provide a rewarding end point to any walk, and on a clear afternoon, there is simply nothing to beat standing amid these ancient stones and looking out across the sweeping vista, with the landscape of West Yorkshire spread out before you like a green blanket.
Once you’ve finished drinking in the view, it’s time for some real drink (and some food!). The Three Houses, just a stone’s throw from the castle, is a lovely spot for dinner (it’s also – so local legend has it – the place where notorious highwayman John Nevison was apprehended. If only he’d stuck to countryside rambles…).