West Yorkshire is one of the four ceremonial counties that are part of Yorkshire. It is centred on Leeds but it also encompasses many smaller towns and cities, such as Bradford, Wakefield, Halifax and Huddersfield. It is overall a very densely populated area, with every town being connected to the nearest ones, forming all together a large metropolis.
A large part of the county lies on an old industrial basin. As such, it may be pretty grim in some parts, but it also has a rich industrial heritage. The South of the county, around Wakefield, was an area dotted with collieries, while Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield and Halifax were dedicated to textile production. The local industry has greatly suffered in recent decades so it has partly vanished. Saltaire, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, but also the National Coal Mining Museum and some of the museums in Leeds are the best places to learn more about Yorkshire’s industrial history.
Despite being overall a urban and industrial county, West Yorkshire nonetheless boasts some stunning natural sites. The moors at Haworth and Ilkey are must-sees in Yorkshire. The county is also quite rich in terms of historic houses, with the grand Harewood House but also some more discreet places such as Bolling Hall and Shibden Hall.
Leeds itself is a big city which should not be missed. It has some interesting museums and a nice Victorian architecture while it is surrounded by many curiosities which are easy to reach from the centre. Temple Newsam and the ruins of Kirkstall Abbey can be found in the suburbs, while Harewood House and Lotherton Hall are just out in the countryside. On the road to York, there is the exquisite estate of Bramham Park and the small towns of Wetherby and Boston Spa.
Around Bradford and Halifax
This is the industrial heartland of West Yorkshire as well as the area where the most scenic natural sites are to be found. There is the world famous village of Haworth, where the Brontë sisters lived, and also Saltaire, a former mill town which was designated a World Heritage site, as well as Ilkley, famed for its beautiful moors. Bradford is a lively city boasting interesting Victorian buildings and nice museums while Halifax is dotted with great architecture – there are the Gothic Minster and the Georgian Piece Hall, but also some great redeveloped mills. Otley is a quiet town renowned for its antique shops, while Hebden Bridge is a quaint small town in the Pennines. The area has some great houses – Tudor Shibden Hall and Bolling Hall, Jacobean East Riddlesden Hall and Victorian Cliffe Castle.
Huddersfield is a large town dotted with lovely Victorian buildings. It is at the foot of the Pennines and the Peak District. Marsden is the best gateway to the national park and Marsden Moor is managed by the National Trust. Nearby Holmfirth is known nationwide for The Last of the Summer Wines. Closer to Leeds, there is Oakwell Hall, a delightful Elizabethan house.
South of Leeds, Wakefield is a city in its own right, and it has an interesting cathedral as well as a top-class contemporary art museum, The Hepworth. Around it are Nostell Priory, the National Coal Mining Museum, Sandal Castle, Pontefract, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the lovely village of Heath.