3 Beautiful Places in the North of England Tourists Tend to Neglect

The south of England attracts tourism with little effort. The North, on the other hand, hasn’t quite managed to generate the same global appeal.

Jun 14, 2024By Daniel Parker, BA Journalism

north england beautiful places tourists neglect

 

The south of England has never really been forced to work very hard to appeal to tourists. Most guests don’t need to be persuaded to visit Stonehenge, get a photograph in front of Westminster Abbey, or eat delicious southern cuisine such as stargazy pie. (Ok, perhaps the last one is suited to an acquired taste and not actually appealing to the majority.) The perks of the South are no secret. Nevertheless, there’s also a great deal of fun to be had in the north. The three places that make up this list are well worth anybody’s time.

 

3. Alnwick  

Alnwick Castle. Source: Wikimedia

 

Alnwick, the northernmost entry on the list, is a petit market town situated in Northumberland, merely an hour’s drive from the Scottish border. Although compact in size, this town is brimming with locations that have somewhat of a mythical aura. There are sections of Alnwick whereupon it almost feels as though you’re treading the grounds of a fantasy novel. Thus, it’s no coincidence that Alnwick’s castle was selected to represent Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter films. We’re sure fans of the franchise will be excited to hear that visitors are offered daily tours, which include interesting anecdotes regarding the site’s link to the movies.

 

The history of Alnwick Castle does, of course, extend a great deal further than the story of “The Boy Who Lived” and has played a hugely significant role during past conflicts between British nations. It was originally built to protect the border and served its purpose. King of Scotland, William I, initially attacked the castle in 1173 and then tried again the following year. He was unsuccessful on both occasions and captured during his second attempt.

 

The inside of the castle is a mesmerizing display of affluence. In the 1850s, Algernon Percy, the 4th Duke of Northumberland, decided a bit of renovation was in order. He hired English architect Anthony Salvin and Italian architect Luigi Canini to create his dream home. This resulted in an upper guard chamber, lower guard chamber, library, drawing room, dining room, and china gallery, each unique in appearance to the last.

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Source: Alnwick Garden

 

It should be noted, however, that the castle is only open to the public between March and October since Ralph Percy, the 12th Duke of Northumberland, and his family live there through the winter period. So, be sure to time your trip carefully to avoid disappointment.

 

To reinforce the theory that Alnwick contains all the hallmarks of a fictional fantasy world, it is important to note that Britain’s deadliest garden is also located within the town. Poison Garden, which can be found inside Alnwick Garden, houses around 100 toxic, intoxicated, and narcotic plants. It’ll be obvious when you’ve reached the entrance, given that the gate displays a skull and crossbones with the words “These Plants Can Kill.” The garden is open to the public, and we certainly encourage everyone to enter, but it’s probably best to behave sensibly once inside.

 

No magical visit to Alnwick would be complete without having a meal at The Treehouse Restaurant. It’s located in the treetops and built via a combination of English and Scots pine, Scandinavian redwood, and Canadian cedar. It’s quirky and cozy, and the traditional British food on offer is lovely. So, take a seat by a burning log fire, devour some classic local grub, and be sure to look at the cocktail menu since it pays tribute to the Duchess of Northumberland.

 

2. Whitby

Photograph by George Hodan

 

Situated in North Yorkshire along the coastline, Whitby is one of the most picturesque seaside towns in the whole of the UK. It’s steeped in history and easy to navigate, ensuring visitors are always within arm’s reach of an interesting setting. A few popular attractions we’d recommend prioritizing are Whitby Abbey, the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, and taking a stroll along West Cliff Beach (providing the British weather opts to be forgiving during your visit).

 

In addition, the town is fantastically spooky and has been since 1897. Bram Stoker, the brains behind the novel Dracula, selected to reside in Whitby while writing his world-famous book due to its gothic appearance. Since then, the town’s association with the vampire has seemingly strengthened from year to year. To this extent, Whitby now hosts two official Goth Weekends every year. The event is centered around a music festival and serves as a huge tribute to Gothic culture. Should you find yourself in the seaside town amid the celebrations, you’re guaranteed to see a variety of interesting characters roaming the streets.

 

Photograph taken during Goth Weekend by Bryan Ledgard

 

There are plenty of locations worth visiting, too, if you want to take in a little more of what inspired Dracula. This includes St. Mary’s Church, a beautiful cliffside parish overlooking the harbor. Stroker chose Mr. Swales’ name, a character within the story who predicted terrible things on the horizon, from a tombstone written in the church’s accompanying graveyard. Oddly enough, it’s alleged that Humpty Dumpty’s gravestone can also be found within the same cemetery. He may or may not be real, may or may not be an egg, and may or may not be buried in Whitby. Thus, you may or may not choose to believe he’s under the ground near Mr. Swales. Either way, there’s seemingly no way to verify the rumor. The stone in question is downward-facing, oval-shaped, and has a faded inscription that is no longer readable.

 

While there are alternative methods for reaching St. Mary’s Church and its surrounding area, the most recommended route is via trudging up Whitby’s iconic 199 steps. This route was previously used as a way to test the faith of those who intended to worship. It should also be noted that the steps can become steep in parts, so it’s best to take your time at the more challenging points.

 

Finally, if you’re still yet to be convinced by Whitby, we truly believe the seaside town has some of the best fish and chips restaurants in the world, which can be tried at the Magpie Cafe. However, the eatery’s great food isn’t a secret to locals. So, you may be forced to queue for a little while, but the meal will definitely be worth the wait.

 

1. Leeds

The Corn Exchange in Leeds. Source: Wikimedia

 

Leeds is one of the largest cities in England and has a wide range of attractions that should generate a lot more attention. Yet, this Yorkshire city is typically overlooked by tourists. York, Manchester, and Liverpool are generally the go-to picks for visitors brave enough to venture into the country’s northern half. However, Leeds certainly merits at least a little more consideration from travelers.

 

The vibrant city center, which will likely be your entry point should you arrive via public transport, nicely blends modern trends with historical architecture. We’d particularly encourage visitors to wander around The Corn Exchange, a charming spherical Victorian building that contains outer rings of quirky shops and a pleasantly peaceful dining area at its center.

 

Another favorite among shoppers is the vintage arcades. These are a series of 19th-century beautifully decorated archways with a mixture of luxurious designer shops and cool independent retailers. The medieval-inspired structures within the Country Arcade and Thorton’s Arcade are some of the most aesthetically pleasing. If you time your visit to the latter carefully, you’ll even get to see a life-sized figure of Robin Hood chiming a Roman numeral wall clock high above your head.

 

 

County Arcade in Leeds. Photograph by Michael D Beckwith

 

The Royal Armouries, a short walk from the shopping district, acts as a custodian for Britain’s collection of arms and armor and is deemed one of the largest of its kind in the world. The museum is divided into five sections: War, Tournament, Hunting, Oriental, and Self-Defense, and showcases a fascinating display of historical battle-themed relics that have been used throughout the world. The Royal Armouries boasts a plethora of cannons, swords, and painted portraits, though its most impressive feature is perhaps the glass-encased tournament armor of Henry VIII. The museum also has daily tours, dramatic performances, and combat displays to bring the experience of their guests to life, which is always good fun.

 

Gary Speed Memorial painted by Claire Bentley-Smith. Photographed by Adam Pope

 

Leeds is also a great place to watch a sports match, with the city playing host to a number of traditional British favorites. Headingley Stadium has an adjacent rugby and cricket ground, enabling visitors to potentially watch either the local rugby league team, Leeds Rhinos, rugby union team, Leeds Tykes, or the Yorkshire cricket side. Elland Road, one of Britain’s most iconic football stadiums, is also located in the city. Due to the global recognition of English football, it’s common for visitors to want to attend a game, and watching Leeds United at Elland Road would be a truly authentic and passionate experience.

 

In recent years, Leeds has paid tribute to some of its most popular sporting heroes via a series of mammoth-sized street paintings. Leeds United legends Marcelo Bielsa and Gary Speed, along with Leeds Rhinos legends Kevin Sinfield and Rob Burrows, can be found on walls across the city, as well as many other local favorites.

 

As for food, the options are endless. However, our top pick is The Swine That Dines. It’s traditional homely food done extremely well. The restaurant adopts simple, popular household dishes and creates an adventurous modification rich in flavors and gorgeous in taste. The cuisine on offer also goes well with a lovely glass of red wine. The staff are friendly, kind, and attentive, while the setting is intimate and cozy. Overall, a true ten-out-of-ten experience.

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By Daniel ParkerBA JournalismSince graduating from Leeds University with a degree in journalism, Daniel has divided his time between teaching English and contributing articles for a variety of companies. He’s previously written for History Magazine, The Comics Journal, Storgy Magazine and Michael Terence Publishing among other publications.