Getting Around Yorkshire
However you get here – get here! When you do, you'll find that getting around Yorkshire is a mixture of urban and rural experiences. Getting around will largely be dictated by where you're staying and what you’re wanting to do.
Life in the Fast Lane
Cities and larger towns have a variety of sophisticated and convenient ways of getting people from A to B. Travelling between, for example, York, Leeds and Sheffield – three of Yorkshire’s major cities – you have a number of options. Regular express trains will speed you on your way along main line routes. Express bus services make good use of the motorway system - as do private and hire (rental) cars. Inter city and inter town centre travel is very easy – although it can be very busy at peak times. Using public transport for getting around in the towns and cities is also very easy, with many and varied regular bus routes. Particularly outstanding amongst Yorkshire cities' mass transport is Sheffield’s forward looking, new generation tramway system. More about that later. Old fashioned tramway systems came and went from Yorkshire urban areas during the first sixty-odd years of the twentieth century.
A Bygone Age
Ooh! Ooh! - stand well back now - I feel a childhood memory coming on...
Sometime in the mid to late nineteen fifties my parents took me with them on a shopping trip into Leeds. Fascination took a grip and held me spellbound as I watched and listened to the trams. I clearly remember the thud, thud of steel wheels over joints in the track. The screaming of steel against steel as the wheels followed the tight curves of the track. The clang, clang of the bell as the conductor gave the signal to get under way. The magical way the electric motor drove the wheels, pushing these, seemingly top-heavy vehicles along without a sound. And all with minimal pollution! Aah! Getting around has never been the same since.
While I was writing the paragraph above, I found myself drifting into a blissful state of nostalgia. It occurred to me that I might be lucky enough to find a few old photographs of the trams in Leeds. Sure enough I discovered a delightful web site created by a Canadian called Dewi. During the early fifties Dewi had spent some time square bashing and route marching in and around the British Army’s garrison at Catterick in North Yorkshire. He must have visited Leeds a few times on days of leave because he has a marvellous collection of black and white photos of trams. His (copyrighted) collection can be viewed on his web site. He has kindly given me permission to show a couple of his pictures here. If you like these, why not drop by Dewi's site where you'll find lots more. Click here to visit Dewi's wonderful web site (a new window will open - I'll wait here for you)
During the last decade of the twentieth century, Sheffield embraced a new generation of Super Trams. Laying new routes and utilising modern, efficient vehicles, this system gives Sheffield’s citizens a clean, economical and popular method of public transport. If you're in Sheffield they would be a fun way of getting around!
Slow Down - You're Going Too Fast!
Out and about in the wilds of the Yorkshire Dales or North York Moors it’s a different story altogether. Getting around here is much less 'rapid transit', much more enjoyable, in my humble opinion, but definitely less rapid. Drastic cuts within British Railways were introduced in the 1960s by the, many would say, infamous Dr Beeching. These led to the savage decimation of a once comprehensive rail network that linked even the most rural of villages with market towns and cities throughout the land. Very few rural communities today enjoy the convenience - or choice - of local rail travel. Exceptions to this are the villages close by the historic Settle Carlisle line and a few villages served by the very popular, volunteer run, preserved lines – such as the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway and North York Moors Railway.
Rural bus services such as the DalesBus and the MoorsBus provide a seasonal service to people who enjoy spending time in the countryside. And watch out for the bright blue buses of the Yorkshire Coastliner bus company as they ply their trade between landlocked industrial towns and the coastal, seaside resorts. You’ll likely catch a glimpse or ride on one of them. These seasonal services compliment the regular, all year round public bus services that run between many of the towns and villages throughout Yorkshire. I think these local bus services offer a friendly and jolly way for visitors to “rub shoulders” with the locals. You might pick up some perfect gems of local knowledge that you’d never find in any tourist guide - perhaps not even this one!
Filling the gap between public and private transport is, of course the taxi. Your friendly taxi driver will be happy to take you just to the next street - or away for a whole day’s scenic drive. A word of warning here, though. We have two different kinds of taxi in Britain. You’ll often see the familiar public taxi or cab – although not usually painted yellow - that you can hail from any street corner – just like most other places in the world. We also have a system we call private hire. These cars cannot, legally, pick up a hailing passenger. They must be prior booked by phone or by actually visiting their office. They tend to be a little bit cheaper because they are not so tightly regulated. Either is good to go and offers good value for money as a way of getting around.
The Open Road
Of course, the most independent way of getting around is to use your own car. But if you’ve flown here that’s not an option. Next best thing is to hire a car from one of the national or international car rental companies. You’ll be able to pick one up at the airport. Another option, especially if you’d like to help the local economy, is to rent from a local company. Because they’re smaller they try harder! How about something totally different? Why not hire a classic sports car? Classic Car Hire North based on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales have a wide range of classic cars to choose from. How about a Jaguar E-Type or an Aston Martin DB7? That would really be getting around in style! Whichever you choose, always remember, in Britain we drive on the left! You would be wise to read up on the driving regulations or at least take a look at one of the guides for driving in Britain (you might try typing “driving in Britain” into Google, or your favourite search engine, to get a list of them).
Elsewhere on the site I’ve written about walking along the canal towpaths. What a relaxing and satisfying way this is to see Yorkshire's countryside and historical heritage. I wonder though, have you thought about spending time aboard one of the picturesque narrow boats? Another way of getting around! They can be hired for short breaks or longer holidays and would seriously slow down the pace of your visit to Yorkshire. Limited to a maximum speed of four miles per hour, the quantity of miles travelled would be far surpassed by the quality of the time spent on board. They are an ideal platform to view the surrounding landscape and put you in close contact with the beauty of nature that is all around. Don’t feel confident to handle one of these boats? No worry, you’ll find a number of small companies that run hotelboat holidays. These let you relax and enjoy the ride while your hosts take care of the navigation and cooking. You’re always free to help out with the work – or not. The choice is yours.
Something A Bit Different
The last three ways of getting around that I want to talk about are cycling, walking and horse riding.
We all know that cycling is a great form of exercise. In Yorkshire many of the powers that be – read local councils – positively encourage it. Many cycle routes have been laid out. Some use old, disused railway routes, others follow canal towpaths. These are not totally dedicated to cycling but share with walkers and, in some cases, horse riders. You might like to build your holiday around a cycle tour. In the Yorkshire Dales and along the Yorkshire coast there are companies specialising in this kind of holiday.
Your passion may be for horses and horse riding. Or maybe you just fancy it as a change – something a little bit different? Whichever, Yorkshire has livery stables and equestrian centres offering holidays or short breaks on horseback. In the Dales or on the Moors, the choice is yours. Whether an hour's gentle treck or a week long holiday.
Finally, and in my humble opinion, the finest way to see and experience either the beautiful countryside or the fine architecture of Yorkshire, is walking – shank’s pony as my mum used to call it. You’ll find many offers of guided walks whether along the recognised long distance walks or through the historic city centres. York in particular hosts many themed walks throughout its atmospheric streets and alleyways. See the sights by day and be scared out of your wits on a ghost walk by night!
All in all you'll find there are many ways of getting around in Yorkshire. No need to use just one way. Pick and choose to fit your needs. I hope you find whichever suits you best and that you enjoy your visit to Yorkshire.
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