How to weekend in wonderful Wakefield

Updated on 13 December 2021 | 1 Comment

This vibrant ex-industrial West Yorkshire hub is home to a duo of big hitters on the British art scene: The Hepworth Wakefield and the nearby Yorkshire Sculpture Park. But that's not all...

Since the closure of the district’s coal mines in the 1980s, the city of Wakefield has been through some tough economic times, but since the world-class Hepworth Wakefield art museum opened its doors a decade ago its star is rising.

Today, visitors can also explore smaller galleries, a magnificent cathedral (with a spire even taller than that of York’s) and plenty of places to eat and drink.

Wakefield Cathedral (Image: Andrzej Sowa/Shutterstock)Andrzej Sowa/Shutterstock

Redevelopment of the former Market Hall (close to the cathedral) and Rutland Mills (next to the Hepworth garden) is underway, and out by the sculpture park a new luxury hotel is planned at Georgian-era Bretton Hall. 

Oh, and if you visit in February, you can enjoy the Rhubarb Festival – Wakefield is the capital of Yorkshire’s rhubarb triangle, where perfectly pale, forced rhubarb is still harvested early each spring. 


Check in to: Waterton Park Hotel. A fairy tale stately home on a tiny island accessed only by a narrow footbridge, Waterton Park was once the home of naturalist Charles Waterton (you can learn more about him at Wakefield Museum). There’s a modern annexe which holds the majority of rooms and it’s a popular wedding venue at weekends. If you’d prefer to be in the thick of things, there are chain hotels and Airbnbs in the city centre.

Waterton Park Hotel (Image: Ben Cumming Photography)Ben Cumming Photography

Explore: Wakefield City Centre. Spend the afternoon getting to know the city centre and its cathedral and museum. Check what’s on at the gorgeous 19th century redbrick Theatre Royal.

Have dinner at: Corarima. This outstanding Abyssinian restaurant is family owned and run. The East African menu is all vegetarian (and all gluten free) and dishes are packed with spices – which are available in its online shop too. Order Injera bread with everything and try the traditional flax seed and barley drinks. If you want alcohol, it’s BYO.

Corarima meal (Image: Robin Temple)Robin Temple

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Visit the: National Coal Mining Museum. This place is really rather wonderful, and a lot of that is down to interaction with local people who worked in coal pits and lived in mining communities. It’s a window into another world, when the British coal mining industry employed more than one million people.

Original buildings are much as they were when the colliery closed in 1985 and you can wander between them to take in the exhibits – but the highlight is a tour 459 feet (140m) underground (10.15am–2.30pm Wed–Sun, book ahead).

Have an early lunch at: Blacker Hall Farm. A busy enterprise with a farm shop, butchers and bright, buzzing, high ceiling restaurant (open daily). The menu, and daily specials, makes the most of fresh, local, seasonal produce, and portions are wholesome.

See spectacular sculptures at: Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Seven miles southwest of Wakefield, Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) is the grand dame of British open-air sculpture galleries.

Set into the rolling green landscape of the 500-acre Bretton Estate are more than 80 works by a variety of international artists. There are six indoor galleries too, including at The Weston, a Scandinavian inspired building at the eastern entrance which is free of charge and great for afternoon tea (until May 2023 there are some imposing Damien Hirst works to see outside). You’ll need several hours just to scratch the surface of YSP. 

Yorkshire Sculpture Park (Image: lowefoto/Alamy)lowefoto/Alamy

Dine out at: Têt. A Southeast Asian independent restaurant with a sophisticated menu and a smart-casual vibe. Great service and a seasonal menu with classic Vietnamese and Thai dishes and some local touches like Yorkshire lamb cutlets marinated in spices.

Tet Restaurant (Image: TẾT Restaurant/Facebook)TẾT Restaurant/Facebook

Drink cocktails in: the city centre. Don't miss RBT Video (there’s a secret door behind the shelves), Supper Club (which also does top notch pizza), Golden Pineapple (try the cranberry margarita) and The Establishment (it does a fantastic patron espresso martini).

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Head outdoors to: Nostell. This National Trust house and gardens (house closed in winter) is the best place to blow away any Sunday morning cobwebs. The paths around the vast landscaped grounds trace the meadows, lake and woods or you can pay extra to enter the pretty gardens accessed beyond the courtyard. There’s a café and shop on-site.

Nostell (Image: Alastair Wallace/Shutterstock)Alastair Wallace/Shutterstock

Get your culture fix at: The Art House or Neon Workshops. Drop in at the Neon Workshops to see their latest exhibition – if you have more time in Wakefield then don’t miss a neon making workshop with them – or swing by The Art House for their artist and maker residency exhibitions and events. 

Eat Sunday lunch at: Robatary or Iris. You’re spoiled for choice for Sunday lunch in Wakefield, but book a table at either of these modern British restaurants and you can’t go far wrong. Both have fab wine lists too.

See award-winning art at: The Hepworth Wakefield. Named for modernist sculptor Barbara Hepworth, one of the 20th century’s most prolific artists who was born and brought up in Wakefield, gallery spaces are light, bright and have views of the River Calder.

The Hepworth Wakefield (Image: Jason Ingram)Jason Ingram

Not surprisingly, exhibits are usually connected to the artist and until 27 February 2022, all 10 galleries are dedicated to her art and life. Open Wednesday to Sunday, the car park is across the footbridge.

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Getting here

Wakefield is eight miles (13km) south of Leeds and 180 miles (290km) north of London. There are two train stations, but Wakefield Westgate is the major one. Having your own transport makes getting around a lot quicker and easier, though buses do criss-cross the district. For information about visiting Wakefield, see

Lead image: Darren Galpin/Alamy Stock Photo


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