Exploring Yorkshire’s Wakefield from brilliant beer to fascinating museums

To be honest, when I’ve thought about booking a city break to Yorkshire I’ve never put Wakefield on the list.

York, Harrogate and Leeds always caught my eye and were my go-to destinations in God’s Own County. But not cathedral city Wakefield.

Known as Wakey to locals, it unfortunately missed out in its bid to be UK City of Culture 2025 but it certainly has a lot to offer the city breaker.

Wakefield is renowned for its art and culture and there was no better place to start than by heading to the Hepworth Wakefield museum (hepworthwakefield.org £12).

Dedicated to locally-born sculptor Barbara Hepworth, the museum isn’t just a collection of her magnificent sculptures and paintings – it is the story of her life and loves.

I was genuinely blown away by the scale and variety of the works in the museum.

Barbara Hepworth’s life is a fascinating journey, told through the many exhibition rooms, and her works sit alongside contemporaries such as Henry Moore, also from the Wakefield area. Works from the likes of LS Lowry and David Hockney also take pride of place in this striking and unmissable £35million building on the banks of the River Calder.

If sculpture is your thing – and even if it isn’t – a trip to Yorkshire Sculpture Park really is a must.

Set in 500 acres of countryside at Bretton Hall, visitors are presented with a relaxing, enlightening and awe-inspiring walk taking in more than 80 designs in this art gallery “without walls”.

We went on a sunny morning and strolled peacefully around taking in the massive works of art by the likes of Damien Hirst, David Nash, Hepworth and Moore (ysp.org.uk £6).

The base for our stay in Wakefield was the elegant Waterton Park Hotel, the centrepiece of which is Walton Hall, built in 1767 on a small island.

The Georgian mansion certainly has the wow factor as you walk the little bridge to it. It’s no surprise that it is a popular wedding venue.

Many things delighted me about staying at Walton Hall, including the grand staircase, lovely spa and walks around the beautiful grounds.

Our room had a four-poster bed and views looking out to the moat on one side and a nature reserve on the other.

It was magical to open the curtains at sunrise and see the lake basking in pink and orange hues, with wildlife darting around in every direction.

It’s a serene location and a true glimpse of old Yorkshire; it’s also a perfect base for exploring the plentiful attractions in the ­surrounding area.

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No exploring before a good breakfast though – after all, that is the measure of a fine hotel. If you can’t get it right, you may as well call it a day.

Thankfully the one here was sublime, locally sourced ingredients providing me with the heartiest of cooked breakfasts to start my day. There were plenty of choices, a continental buffet, eggs cooked how you want, and fish options.

I was pleased it wasn’t a buffet option for the hot food. I’ve grown weary of these over the years as you lift the lid on those silver dishes only to see that the bloke next to you had the last 12 sausages all to himself.

This was a very civilised affair in an oak-beamed breakfast room with fresh tea and coffee served at the table. My wife was a big fan of the ham and eggs, opting for this on both mornings.

Bellies full, we headed to Wakefield Museum to learn about the history of the area and the former owner of the hotel, naturalist and explorer Charles Waterton (wakefield.gov.uk free).

Much to my wife’s annoyance, I do like real ale and I tend to make a habit of hunting down the local tipples of every area I visit. I didn’t have to look far on this occasion, and we joined a behind-the-scenes tour of the brilliant Yorkshire institution that is Ossett Brewery (ossett-brewery.co.uk £9.95).

Our guide Paul’s passion for hops and the history of the company was infectious as he explained everything from the ingredients to all the pubs and beers owned by the brewery.

The taproom is a great place to visit even without a brewery tour. When we were there we enjoyed in-house street-food burgers, live music, and of course a selection of beers, including a very nice chocolate orange stout.

Wakefield city centre may not be as aesthetically pleasing as the likes of York, but it is certainly a bustling place with good shops, decent pubs and a fine cathedral.

It is the jewel in the city’s crown, an architectural masterpiece dating back to 1300 and with tours running Monday to Friday, it’s definitely not one to be missed if you are in the area (wakefieldcathedral.org.uk).

Dining out in Wakefield was only troublesome in that it was difficult to select one from the vast choice of eateries. After plenty of research, we plumped for Jose’s Tapas Restaurant, and it was a tremendous decision.

I’m 45 years old, and I love food. I’ve eaten in many countries and at many restaurants, and I can safely say that this is in my top five (josestapasrestaurant.com).

From the moment we walked through the door our weekend was complete – the warmth and enthusiasm of the staff and owners was a treat.

They explained the dishes available and the ethos of the owner and his menu.

They recommended food we should try and talked us through the drinks list, and more importantly, everything that arrived at the table was out of this world.

Nothing fancy, but everything tasty. Authentic, lovingly cooked, hearty Spanish food, delivered with a smile – and nothing was too much trouble.

I’m a terrible people-watcher, I can’t help myself. I observed those around us chatting about the food, interacting with staff and smiling as they paid the bill. The sign of a great eatery.

We tried more food than we should, definitely drank more sangria than we should, and enjoyed a truly memorable dining experience.

Is that all Wakefield has to offer? Good grief, no, we simply ran out of time. We’d planned to visit a popular and highly rated farm shop, a secret 80s-themed speakeasy bar, Nostell Priory National Trust attraction, Pontefract Castle, a coal-mining museum and some country parks.

It’s all on the Wakey wishlist for next time…

Book the holiday

Rooms at Waterton Park Hotel in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, start at £165 a night on room-only. Find out more at watertonparkhotel.co.uk.

You can also get more information at experiencewakefield.co.uk.

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