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Wakefield

West Yorkshire

Sculptures, castles, rhubarb and liquorice: Wakefield’s eclectic mix of culture, heritage and festivals is worth getting excited about.

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The city of Wakefield is tucked away in West Yorkshire. At its heart is Wakefield Cathedral, first built in the 11th century and a steadfast landmark across the centuries, as the town played its part in the Wars of the Roses and prospered during the peak of the wool trade. Today, Wakefield and its surrounds complement a battery of historic venues with a raft of fantastic cultural and foodie festivals.

Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle

As the home of The Hepworth art gallery, Wakefield is one point of the brilliant Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle. The Hepworth in Wakefield celebrates the works of Barbara Hepworth – one of the few women artists to achieve international significance – in the city she was born. This light-filled gallery (the largest purpose-built exhibition space outside London) displays over 40 working models in plaster and alabaster from the Hepworth Estate, and a strong collection of works by 20th century British artists including Henry Moore.

The other corners of the triangle are each about a 30-minute drive from Wakefield: the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in West Bretton, and the Henry Moore Institute and the Leeds Art Gallery, both in Leeds.

Pontefract Castle

About 10 miles (16 km) east of Wakefield are the atmospheric ruins of Pontefract Castle. In the Middle Ages, it was one of the most important castles in the north of England; King Edward I called it ‘the Key of the North, and Richard II died under mysterious circumstances here. Nowadays, you can take a guided tour of the underground military stores. It’s also a great spot for a picnic, especially if you coincide it with The Proms that take place in the inner bailey every year. This evening of rousing, patriotic classical music ends with a spectacular fireworks finale.

Food and drink festivals

Pontefract is also the place to go for liquorice. The town’s long liquorice growing and production heritage is celebrated every year in the Pontefract Liquorice Festival when craft stalls, street performers, music and, of course, liquorice take over the town centre.

Wakefield, meanwhile, is famous for its forced rhubarb. As well as the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle, Wakefield is part of the Rhubarb Triangle. Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb has been awarded European Protected Designation of Origin Status, and the tangy vegetable is celebrated as part of the annual Wakefield Festival of Food, Drink and Rhubarb. There’s a farmers’ market, cookery demonstrations, heritage walks and rhubarb farm tours. In fact, Wakefield loves forced rhubarb so much, there’s even a rhubarb sculpture! You can find out more about Wakefield’s rhubarb history in the Wakefield Museum.

Long Division Music Festival

Every July, Wakefield hosts the Long Division Music Festival. Music and spoken word performances take place in the city’s pubs, churches, cafes and historic halls. The other star of the event is ale from local breweries – don’t miss a chance to sample these fine brews!

For more local tourist information:

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FFireworks at Pontefract Castle. © Experience Wakefield
UUnity Works. © Experience Wakefield
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