72 Hours in the Wakefield District
Extend your trip and experience everything the Wakefield district has to offer!
For your next break, why not consider a Wakefield summer staycation?
Ideally situated in the heart of West Yorkshire, at the confluence of the M1, A1 and M62, Wakefield makes an excellent location for a staycation – whether for a short city break or a longer stay to explore the charms of this beautiful part of West Yorkshire. A district of vibrant independent towns and stunning rural scenery, all within easy striking distance of an historic cathedral city, Wakefield has plenty to offer the discerning traveller.
Wakefield possesses a strong commitment to the arts, and is a hub of culture and creativity. Nowhere is that more apparent than when visiting one of the district’s flagship galleries. The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is one such, siting a collection of remarkable artworks by some of the world’s most renowned creatives in a spectacular 500-acre landscape. Look out for this summer’s stand-out exhibition, Erwin Wurm: Trap of the Truth. The Hepworth Wakefield swaps the bucolic air of the country for the frisson of city life. Standing on the waterfront, this impressive David Chipperfield-designed building holds an outstanding selection of modern and culturally important works. Don’t miss Hurvin Anderson: Salon Paintings, from late May. Next door, exciting creative space Tileyard North combines recording studios, event hosting, and food and drink venues including The Distillery Bar, home of Wakefield’s Forged Spirits.
Close by, The Art House is a rare gem: a studio space for artists and visitors to engage with the creative process, with galleries hosting an ever-changing programme of exhibitions workshops and events, including the city’s bi-monthly Artwalk.
From castles and stately homes and gardens to icons of the industrial age, Wakefield is full of fascinating places that have played a major role in Britain’s history. The National Coal Mining Museum presents the story of the nation’s mining heritage through more than a dozen galleries, interactive displays, living history interpretation and unique Underground Tours led by charismatic former miners. National Trust Nostell is a magnificent Palladian mansion designed by Robert Adam, containing an unparalleled collection of Chippendale furniture, amongst other unrivalled treasures. Outside, visitors can immerse themselves in more than 300 acres of gardens, meadows, lakes and woods.
In the heart of the medieval market town of Pontefract, Pontefract Castle presents historically important ruins with splendid views across the surrounding countryside. Once so crucial to maintaining the power balance of the area, it was dubbed “the Key to the North”, and traces of its glories are abundant throughout this engaging site. Its large bailey also makes a wonderful event venue; not to be missed is the annual Proms at the Castle, an evening of magical melodies, courtesy of the West Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra, with a showstopping fireworks finale.
Though proud of its industrial heritage, the Wakefield district today is 70% rural, with an inviting patchwork of rolling fields, landscaped estates, serene lakes and wild woodland.
Anglers Country Park is a fantastic space for wildlife watching, and is located adjacent to rugged Haw Park Wood and tranquil sailing and fishing spot, Wintersett Reservoir. A former opencast mine, Pugneys Country Park is now a walker’s paradise, as visitors loop around the wide, glassy lake and head up the hill to explore the enchanting ruins of Sandal Castle before drinking in the panoramic views across the Calder Valley.
Newmillerdam Country Park offers a beguiling mix of winding lakeside paths with broadleaved and coniferous woodland. Transformed from coalface to wild place, RSPB Fairburn Ings’ diverse habitats – including open water, grasslands, deciduous woodlands and lagoons – provides a haven for all kinds of bird and wildlife species.
Known as the ‘Merrie City’ since the Middle Ages thanks to its good and plentiful food and drink, Wakefield is a foodie hotspot. Sample award-winning farm shops like Blacker Hall Farm and Farmer Copleys, classic Yorkshire pubs like Newmillerdam’s The Dam Inn, Walton’s The New Inn, and Heath’s King’s Arms, quirky cafes like The Flamingo’s Teapot, DJ’s Patisserie, Marmalade on the Square and plant-based Throwback Coffee House, and world-class city centre restaurants like Vietnamese and Thai Têt, Yorkshire-Pacific fusion specialists Robatary, Spanish-Cuban at Qubana, Abyssinian Corarima, and so many more. Unsurprisingly, the “Merrie city” also has a plethora of pubs and bars. Enjoy Victoriana tiki at The Golden Pineapple, copper-wood-and-leather glam at Kra:ft, retro kitsch at video-rental-shop-turned-speakeasy RBT, and industrial chic at The Establishment (a great place to grab a pre-show drink before enjoying a lively evening at Theatre Royal Wakefield). Wakefield is so serious about food, that it holds two food festivals each year, February’s Rhubarb Festival and Pontefract Liquorice Festival, taking place this year on 9 July.
Where to stay? Be charmed by the district’s exceptional accommodation. Play the lord of the manor at historic Waterton Park Hotel and Walton Hall, featuring a stunning Georgian mansion set on an island surrounded by its own lake. Even older, 400-year old Rogerthorpe Manor Hotel is steeped in history and character, as well as the lively appeal of the on-site Jacobean Pub. Pontefract-based Kings Croft Hotel offers the best of both worlds: 8 acres of idyllic countryside conveniently placed just 1 mile from the M62 and A1. Stately Wentbridge House Hotel offers award-winning fine dining and even finer views across the beautiful Went valley.
For visitors who would rather be in the thick of the action, consider one of Wakefield’s many city centre properties. Of particular note are contemporary-yet-comfy Holmfield Arms, a lodge-style hotel situated in the heart of Holmfield Park, and supremely stylish Bootique Luxury Suites and Apartment, a home from home providing a luxurious self-catering experience.