A town steeped in mining heritage, traditional brass bands and the juiciest lamb chops you'll ever sink your teeth into.
Situated in the heart of South Yorkshire on the banks of the River Dearne, Barnsley once bulged with the might of industry and coal dust, building grand elegant mansions in some of the finest countryside you'll see in Britain. While many of the industries that prospered in the 18th and 19th centuries are long gone, you can still see their legacy in the old mining villages surrounding the town and in the new wave of crafters and artisans touting their wares in independent boutiques, galleries and farm shops.
A historic town
Get a taster of Barnsley's past in the Experience Barnsley Museum and Discovery Centre, packed with interactive galleries and exhibits exploring the layers of history that have made the town what it is today. If Barnsley's industrial heritage sparks your interest, visit beautiful Elsecar, once a thriving mining village where you can still see remnants of the ironworks and collieries, or take a ride on a genuine steam train at the Heritage Centre.
Follow in the footsteps of missionary James Hudson Taylor, who in the 19th century made it his life's work to spread Christianity throughout China and the rest of the world. The trail dedicated to this local hero weaves in and out of Barnsley churches, cottages and surrounding hamlets and villages where he lived and preached before he going to the Far East.
If it's stunning architecture and majestic gardens you're after as well as fascinating history, Cannon Hall Museum Park will titillate your senses with its Georgian country manor nestled in 70 acres of parkland and landscaped gardens, scattered with fairytale follies, lakes, waterfalls and roaming swans. Garden lovers cannot afford to miss Wentworth Castle Gardens with its National Collection of rhododendrons, magnolias and camellias, and Wortley Hall’s Italianate Palladian-style gardens and 500-year-old oak tree.
But it's not all coal mines and Georgian mansions in Barnsley – there's all that glorious countryside to dive into. Why not sample a small (or big!) stretch of the Trans Pennine Trail, a coast-to-coast route that's largely traffic free. You can tackle it on foot, bike or even horseback, taking in historic villages, castles, abbeys, canals and the brooding, rugged hills the North of England is famous for. And if you're eager to spot some wildlife, stop by RSPB Old Moor Farm in the Dearne Valley where the vast skies, grasslands and open water teem with ducks, geese and butterflies.
A taste of South Yorkshire
All this gorging on heritage and nature is going to work up an appetite, and there’s no better morsel to appease it than a Barnsley Chop – a tender and juicy double-sided cut of lamb from the loin, best eaten as part of a mixed grill with tomatoes, mushrooms and fried onions. And there's plenty of local produce to be tasted in the oak-beamed pubs, farm shops, cafes and markets in Penistone, a traditional market town just 7 miles (11km) from Barnsley.