Yorkshire, it has been said, is “a country in a county”. The very name brings countless images to mind – wild moors, headlands and cliffs; rugged dales and enormous beaches; medieval cities, churches and monasteries; formal estates and vast steelworks; coal mines and woollen mills.
This diversity is part of the county’s appeal. Its countryside and coast can compete with anywhere in Britain for beauty, its cities with any in the UK for shopping and dining and nightlife. And the pubs and breweries aren’t half bad, either.
But never let it be said that Yorkshire doesn’t also have an eccentric side. Aside from mainstream and outdoor sports, there are a number of offbeat things to do in the county. To celebrate Yorkshire Day, we share five of our favourites.
1. Try your hand at cable waterskiing
An electric cable instead of a boat tows you around the water at Rother Valley Country Park near Rotherham – this park is one of the few places in the country to offer cable waterskiing.
The “ski-lift” pulls up to eight waterskiers or wakeboarders at intervals around the shallow waters. Speeds vary from 16 miles/hr (beginners) to 36 miles/hr (experts). It’s environmentally friendly, and costs a fraction of what you’d pay for speedboat-towed skiing.
2. Push your boundaries with a Via Ferrata route
Originally invented by the Italians to move troops around the Alps, Via Ferrata – meaning “iron road” – centres have spread across the world. In Yorkshire, the Via Ferrata at How Stean Gorge is the place for adrenalin junkies.
One of just a handful in England, it offers a lengthy scramble along the chasm using fixed beams, cables and ladders. “Iron Way” courses that are put on in the gorge involve expert-accompanied wading through waterfalls, rock traversing, abseiling, scrambling up ladders and along beams, with your very own DVD of the experience recorded on the guide’s head-cam. It’s invigorating (or insane) depending on your point of view.
3. Mush with huskies across the Moors
You don’t need snow for this husky-trekking – you can become a “musher” on grass at Pesky Husky in Staintondale between Scarborough and Whitby. Learn to drive your own team of dogs or, if you’re feeling a little less energetic, opt for a gentle hike through the North York Moors with some canine companions instead.
4. Fuel your adrenaline with a mountain boarding session
This is snowboarding – but not as you know it. This version uses boards with four wheels to whizz up and over the rocks and there’s not a snowflake in sight. Try it at Another World Mountain boarding centre in the hills above Ogden Reservoir north of Halifax.
5. Learn to play pétanque
Near City Square in Leeds is a little area named Bond Court where you’ll find the delightful, if little heralded, Leeds Petanque Court. Here you can indulge in a quintessentially French, and extremely civilized, game of boules. And it’s absolutely free. The wedge of gravel is overlooked by a noticeboard bearing the rules and there are tables and chairs around the court for spectators.
Explore more of Yorkshire with The Rough Guide to Yorkshire. Compare flights, book hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. Header image: James West/Flickr