A weekend in Wakefield, Yorkshire

We spend a couple of days roaming, to see what delightful Yorkshire has to offer in and around the Wakefield area

A view from Yorkshire Sculpture Park

by Karen Griffiths |

Located in West Yorkshire, the Wakefield district is home to the cathedral city of Wakefield and the towns of Castleford, Pontefract and Ossett. Its origins date back to Roman times, with the Battle of Wakefield also playing a key role in the Wars of the Roses.

Formerly known for its trade in corn, coal mining and textiles, Wakefield is part of the famed Rhubarb Triangle, and holds an annual Rhubarb Festival every February. In 2010, Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb – rhubarb grown within the Triangle - was given Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status after being recommended by DEFRA. The district is also famous for the cultivation of liquorice, with a festival dedicated to it each year, and is the origin place of the famous Pontefract Cake.

The Wakefield district is also well-known for its artistic heritage, as the birthplace of world-renowned sculptors, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.

We spent a few days visiting some of the sights to see what's on offer for our intrepid readers!

Where to go ....

Yorkshire Sculpture Park


Admission (includes parking): £6 per adult

A view from Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Karen Griffiths own image, YSP ©Karen Griffiths own image, YSP

A drive of under 20 minutes from the Wakefield city centre is one of the best sights you can see in the area, the beautiful Yorkshire Sculpture Park!

Set in an impressive 500 acres of beautiful Yorkshire countryside, to sum up our experience of this park in a word would be 'stunning'. Not only does the park appeal to culture loving, art aficionados, it will appeal to families (the little ones have plenty of space to burn some steam and the older children can go explore) and you can even bring your dog!

There is much to do at YSP, whether it be enjoying the beautiful grounds, studying some of the sculptures (the ones by Joana Vasconcelos, Ai Weiwei and Heather Peak and Ivan Morison were some of our favourites) or visiting some of the on site galleries. It was lovely to absorb all the different colours and textures of the park itself and even roam through a field of sheep!

For the foodie in you, we recommend the YSP restaurant, The Weston, if you want to try something a little different at lunch. The Kitchen café offers more down-to-Earth, tasty lunches.

Pontefact Castle


Admission: free or £3.15 adult, £1.55 child for a Dungeon tour

Visit Wakefield area review
Pontefract Castle review image ©Pontefract Castle review image

Located in the historic market town of Pontefract, from its construction in 1070 to its demise following the Civil War, this once-fearsome fortress dominated Yorkshire and beyond.

Although steeped in historical significance, we found the castle harder to envision then other castles situated in a more rural setting and relied more heavily on the information boards. Whilst the views from the top of the castle are impressive, much of the industrial age of Yorkshire dominates the landscape.

This being said, the small fee for the dungeon is worth it as you finally get a real sense of why the castle ruins are such an important part of our history. Our guide, Tina, was terrific - she was a treasure trove of information and her warm character with adults and children alike made the 40 minute tour fly by!

Tina took us through what happened in the dungeon and how the use of it varied through the ages. She helped us understand how and why the dungeon is literally 'littered' with prisoner writing - never had 'graffiti' been so interesting!

If you feel like a bit of retail therapy, unlike a lot of gift shops, the Pontefract Castle gift shop was reasonably priced and all the staff really friendly - perfect to end the visit on high note!

The Hepworth Wakefield


Admission: £12 per adult, entry for under 16s is free

Visit Wakefield review
The Hepworth Wakefield review ©The Hepworth Wakefield review

An award-winning art gallery in the heart of Yorkshire, set within Wakefield’s historic waterfront overlooking the River Calder. Named after Barbara Hepworth, one of the most important artists of the 20th century who was born and brought up in Wakefield, the gallery presents major exhibitions of the best international modern and contemporary art and has dedicated galleries exploring Hepworth’s art and working process.

Currently running through to February 2022, to mark The Hepworth Wakefield’s 10th anniversary, the gallery has organised the largest exhibition of Barbara Hepworth’s work since her death in 1975, including private works that have not been on display since the 1970s.

Whether you are new to Barbara Hepworth or have been an admirer of her work since her humble beginnings in the 1920s, you will leave the exhibition assured of her impact not just on on art but also the political stage through the 20th century

The gallery is spacious and immersive, combining the use of video footage and works by some of her contemporary artists (including Eileen Agar, Jacob Epstein, Patrick Heron, Ben Nicholson, John Piper, Lucie Rie and Graham Sutherland) to pay homage to one of Wakefield's finest.

Visit Wakefield review
The Hepworth Wakefield, sculpture review ©The Hepworth Wakefield sculpture review

To finish off the visit we recommend the Gallery Café, shop and stroll through peaceful gallery garden.

The Art House


Wakefield trip review
The Art House review ©The Art House review

The Art House provides time, space and support for artists, makers and creative businesses to develop their practice. It is a place where artists and audiences of all kinds are welcome to engage with the creative process through a year-round programme of exhibitions and events.

We really respected what The Art House is trying to do - help artists and introduce members of the public to new creative ideas and experiences. Whilst the exhibition we saw has sadly ended its' run (CIRCLESPHERE, an exhibition by neon artist Fred Tschida), there is a Darkroom Discovery on 15th January 2022 to get involved in or why not try one of their workshops in Printmaking, photography, weaving or jewellery making? The Art House also has a lovely gift shop, proudly supporting local arts and crafts, as well as a Coffee Shop to relax in and have a good natter!

More to discover ....

An undiscovered gem, Wakefield always has something to do, from tours of the rhubarb triangle and liquorice festivals to exciting family attractions, there is something new for everyone, every day.

For more information on what the Wakefield area has to offer, visit www.experiencewakefield.co.uk

Where to eat ....

Farmer Copleys


Visit Wakefield review
Farmer Copleys Moo Cafe Review ©Farmer Copleys Moo Cafe Review

A few minutes drive from Pontefract Castle is Farmer Copleys, which the Guild of Fine Food deemed Best Farm Shop of the year in 2019, offers a great day out for all ages.

Depending on the season, enjoy picking your own strawberries, entering one of the largest Corn Maize Mazes in Great Britain or take part in the UK’s largest pumpkin festival.

The farm also boasts 1,000 bees which you can see making honey before your eyes! Enjoy a delicious lunch in its award-winning Moo Café, which serves fresh, homemade and locally sourced seasonal dishes all year round and browse the farm shop.

By far one of the best lunches we have had in a good while (pre Covid days), was at the charming and busy Moo Café.

The staff who served us were all friendly and the menu, ample, catering for vegetarians and gluten free diets. When the food arrived, it was fresh and generously portioned. For just over £30, we enjoyed a yummy lunch, comprising of two hot mains, two G&Ts (we all need a treat!) and a coffee - you get what you pay for and we were not left disappointed.

After lunch, we enjoyed visiting the Farmer Copleys shop, which was one of the largest farm shops we've been in! It stocks an array of local produce as well as international. It's worth visiting if you're shopping for that perfect present, a memento of your visit or just to catch a glimpse of the hive of bees that produce their luscious honey!

For that special occasion evening meal, why not broaden your horizons and visit Tết (www.tetrestaurant.co.uk) which offers Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, using only the finest ingredients. Located in the heart of Wakefield, the dining area provides a sophisticated vibrant atmosphere with pretty décor, and modern finishes.

If pizza is your thing why not try the quaint, reasonably priced Fino restaurant (www.finowakefield.co.uk), the Gluten-Free friendly, Abyssinian restaurant Corarima (www.corarima.co.uk) or lunch at another farm shop, this time at Blacker Hall Farm (www.blackerhallfarmshop.co.uk)

Where to stay ...

The Waterton Park Hotel


Room rates from £115 pre night

The Waterton Park hotel is a 4* hotel set in beautiful grounds, with its' very own lake. If shabby chic is your thing, as is waking up to stillness of a lake with swans and ducks, this is the hotel for you. The staff are friendly and there is an on site gym, spa and a golf course up the road.

Other hotels you may want to try are The Kings Croft Hotel (www.kingscrofthotel.com) and Wentbridge House (www.wentbridgehouse.co.uk)

Final thoughts ....

The Wakefield area of Yorkshire has much to offer those wanting a cultural, historical and culinary escape. It’s a refreshing alternative to the hustle, bustle and expense of a London weekend, with the added bonus of being set in such a beautiful, rural setting! We’ll be back….hopefully with friends and family in tow!

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