It’s Yorkshire Day, so here’s a definitive ranking of the best towns and cities in God’s Own Country

Tour d'Yorkshire, 2014. Image: Getty.

It’s Yorkshire Day, a.k.a. the best day of the year, which warrants an excessive consumption of pints and a dose of Indie music taken from the 2003-07.

God’s Own Country is an idiosyncratic mess, a white rose that should be watered into full bloom by the people who know it best. Anyone from Yorkshire bleeds Yorkshire, and the pride of its people is out in force on this, the holiest of days.

So the celebrate, here’s an official ranking of the socioeconomically vulnerable yet beautiful cities that make up this county, produced by a Yorkshire native.

14) Ripon

Ripon, I hear you cry. Does Ripon even count? Does Ripon even know it’s born?

Ripon, which is basically Harrogate, betrays Yorkshire by being a painfully Tory stronghold. Go visit the cathedral for a day trip, but pay no attention to the plummy accents that taint an aesthetically pleasing city. You have entered the Bermuda triangle of Yorkshire. I fear it might be ruining our reputation.

13) Grimsby

Rivals. Cod heads. Bastards. If I push it, I suppose I could say thanks for not burning down your side of the Humber Bridge.

The Humber Bridge. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

(Editor’s note: Grimsby was historically in Lincolnshire but is now in the Yorkshire & Humber region so still qualifies for this ranking. By the same token, Middlesbrough has been excluded. Sorry, but I don’t make the rules.)

12) Harrogate

Same as Ripon, but with worse tea-shops.

The Harrogate Cenotaph. Image: DS Pugh/Wikimedia Commons.

Fucking Betty’s.


11) Rotherham

Rotherham gets a hard rap, and is often framed in right wing sensationalist rags as the epicentre of obesity, teenage pregnancy and depravity. Jamie Oliver used to frequent it to make himself look good.

Rotherham, in all honesty, doesn’t give a shit what you think of it, and I believe will exist in humdrum monotony when the apocalypse has taken the rest of us down.

10) Huddersfield

Hudds is weird, man. I don’t feel like I’ve given Huddersfield the time it deserves, but then I think most people don’t dwell on Huddersfield and it’s generally for good reason.

Huddersfield. Image: Richard Harvey/Wikimedia Commons.

Huddersfield doesn’t have a grand identity like the rest of the cities on the list. It’s the kid that got the fourth places badge in the egg and spoon race. Huddersfield, try harder. You have it in you.

9) Doncaster

Doncaster, aka God’s Waiting Room, is a purgatorial space that people only visit because of the connective powers of its train station. Gains several points for its nickname, Donny, which sounds like a teenager who got sacked from their weekend job for trying to sniff boot polish in the store room.

8) Sheffield

Sheffield likes to pretend it isn’t really a part of Yorkshire proper, like it stands alone somehow, and it sometimes feels like it shits on its less hilly cousins in order to get there. People set comedies in Sheffield when they don’t understand the rest of Yorkshire. It pisses me off.

Sheffield by night. Image: Benedict Hunjan/Wikimedia Commons.

It did spawn Pulp, mind, and in recent times, its local politics have shunted it up the list. Its current lord mayor is the brilliantly-named Magid Magid, a Green party rep who invites his constituents to come see Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again with him. Coincidentally, he is the only man I am willing to marry.

While we’re here, I should remind you that the Tory government took the Northern Powerhouse jobs stationed in Sheffield, plonked them in London and told Sheff’s employees that they could commute. Will you kindly fuck off, London.


7) Halifax

Halifax is all about the Eureka! National Children’s Museum. Go there, watch an electronic Archimedes shout ‘Eureka!’ In the bath, produce some counterfeit money, and leave again. 

6) Wakefield

Wakefield is pure Yorkshire, in the way that the city that spawned The Cribs would have to be. The Hepworth Gallery is an obvious win, but as the city’s main attraction it is a bit of an attention seeker.

Wakefield Westgate, c1900. Image: public domain.

Wakefield, however, does well for its size, and its close connection with the Pennines (a range of hills unfortunately shared with the north west, boo hiss) is somewhat of a plus.


5) Barnsley

Barnsley is home to one of the best accents in Yorkshire. A small, post-industrial town often forgotten thanks to Sheffield’s peacocking, it is a place that has struggled and is often misunderstood.

I have a lot of time for Barnsley’s working-class credentials, and like any other city struggling to be seen in a country in the grip of London-centrism, believe that you should visit it to understand how the other half live.

Broke: screaming “Kes!” at its civilians.

Woke: realising that Kes is fifty-years old and the city desperately longs for new working-class representations to depict its idiosyncrasies and socioeconomic struggles.

4) York

Tourist trap. Got a mighty soft spot for it, though. Stunning and feels like Hogsmeade every day of the year. (For those who don’t understand: Harry Potter reference that denotes a city that looks like Christmas all-year round, except for basic bitches.) Roam around the Shambles. Get shouted at by the owner of Mr £wich, who creates the best sarnies in town. Most people leave York knowing that they will never feel that happy again.

The Shambles. Image: Peter K. Burian/Wikimedia Commons.

York loses a few points because awful people go to university there. Despite that, it’s a town for 40-somethings, and now that Willow, it’s Chinese restaurant-cum-karaoke bar has shut down, all nightlife has ceased to exist. Go to Leeds like a normal person.

3) Bradford

Bradford is fantastic. Not only are the curries perfect and the Wetherspoons conveniently located (sorry, I’ve been in London too long, please visit some independent pubs), its aesthetic power lies in the fact that it hasn’t given way to a series of homogenous shop fronts that haunt the city centre with corporate sterility.

Bradford, however, is not an entry-level Yorkshire city. The rag ’n’ bone men, complete with horses, still tour the streets, and people WILL attempt to speak to you. Bradford is authentic Yorkshire, however, and gets extra marks for the way it’s embraced multiculturalism with open arms.

The National Science & Media Museum. Image: Dupont Circle/Wikimedia Commons.

(Note on the author: once got chucked out of the National Science & Media Museum for snogging my boyfriend at the time too passionately in the stairwell.)


2) Leeds

Leeds, the city of the cities, is a hard contender for first place in the list. Leeds absolutely has it all: the architecture, the shopping, the music venues, the art galleries, the cheap eats, the nightlife, maaaaaybe not the transport networks (come on Northern Rail, get your act together) but the people. Top accent, too.

Life starts and ends at the Brudenell Social Club, and The Bridge in Kirkstall is the best pub on earth. I don’t know how a city manages to seamlessly flow between rural landscapes and the packed excitement of the city so well. As you can tell, I dream of living in it again one day. Full marks.  

1) Hull

This cheap, cultural tour de force undoubtedly deserves the number one place on the list. Hull is a phoenix, rising from the ashes of some poor op-eds written by idiots who have never stepped foot out of the M25.

The River Hull Tidal Barrier: Phwoar. Image: Andy Beecroft/Wikimedia Commons.

Despite having recently been known as the shittest town in the UK, the once-thriving maritime hub is now the cultural epicentre of Yorkshire. I mean, don’t just ask me, Hull’s least favourite daughter: ask its Capital of Culture title, which it holds until 2020.

Oh, and it’s cheap. Where else can you pay £60k for a four-bedroom house these days? What other city serves chips in its nightclubs to sober you up after you’ve drunk a £1.25 pint? Hull is home to no-nonsense, friendly, hardworking characters that do not care whether you’re from London or Lyme Regis – as long as you’re not from Grimsby. Every man in town is named Dave, Lee or Paul, and not a single Pret A Manger exists in its confines.

Move Parliament to Hull. Move yourself to Hull. Honestly, it’s great.

Jasmine Andersson is a freelance writer based in London. By coincidence, she is originally from Hull.

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To see how a city embraces remote work, just look to Helsinki

A deeply rooted culture of trust is crucial to the success of remote work. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

When I speak to Anssi Salminen, an account manager who lives an hour outside Helsinki, he’s working from a wooden platform on the edge of a Finnish lake. With a blanket laid out and his laptop set up, the sun low in the sky, Anssi’s remote work arrangement seems blissful. 

“I spend around half of my time working somewhere else other than the office,” he says. “I can work from home, or on the go, and I also travel to the Netherlands once a month and work from there.

“The emphasis in my work has always been that it doesn’t matter when or where I work, as long as I get things done.”

For many people around the world, the shift to remote work was sudden, sparked by the coronavirus pandemic. Finland, however, is finding the transition much less significant. Before Covid-19, the Nordic nation already displayed impressive levels of remote working, with 14.1% of its workforce reporting usually working from home. Only the Netherlands has a comparable percentage of remote workers, while the UK lagged behind at 4.7%, and the US’s remote workforce lingered at around 3.6%

Anssi works for one of many Helsinki-based companies that offers its employees flexible policies around when and where they work. That arrangement is in part due to the Finnish capital’s thriving start-up scene. In spite of being a relatively small city by global standards it is home to over 500 technology start-ups. These companies are leading the way when it comes to keeping employees connected wherever they choose to work.

“Our company has a completely location-free working policy,” says Kasper Pöyry, the CEO of Helsinki-headquartered software company Gapps. “All meetings are made available for online participants and facilitated accordingly. Some employees have worked extensively from abroad on a working holiday, whilst others prefer the comfort and social aspects of the well-stocked office. Whatever works for our employees is what works for the company.”

Like Gapps, many Helsinki-based firms are deeply preoccupied with providing the necessary technology to attract talent in a vast and sparsely populated country. Finland has only 15 inhabitants per square kilometre, and companies understand that in order to compose teams of specialised expertise, they may have to seek talent outside of the city. Local governments take a similarly proactive stance toward technological access, and Helsinki offers free, unrestricted, high-speed Wi-Fi from city-wide hotspots, while the country as a whole boasts some of the best coverage in Europe. 

But encouraging remote work isn’t just about optimising the potential of Finland’s workforce – companies in Helsinki also recognise that flexibility has clear benefits for both staff and employees. 

“The idea of a good work-life balance is ingrained in Finnish culture,” says Johannes Anttila, a consultant at organisational think tank Demos Helsinki. “It goes back to our rich history of social dialogue between labour unions and employers, but also to an interest in delineating the rules of working life and pushing towards people being able to enjoy their private life. Helsinki has been named the best city in the world for work-life balance, and I think that this underlies a lot of the mentality around remote work.” 

For Peter Seenan, the extent to which Helsinki residents value their free time and prioritise a work-life balance prompted his move to the city ten years ago. He now works for Finnair, and points to Finland’s summer cottages as an example of how important taking time to switch off is for people in the country. These rural residences, where city residents regularly uproot to enjoy the Nordic countryside, are so embedded in Finnish life that the country boasts around 1.8 million of them for its 5.5 million residents

“Flexible and remote work are very important to me because it means that I don’t feel like I’m getting stuck in a routine that I can’t control easily,” he says. “When I’m working outside of the office I’ll go down to my local sauna and go ice swimming during the working day, typically at lunchtime or mid-morning, and I’ll feel rejuvenated afterwards… In winter time especially, flexibility is important because it makes it easier to go outside during daylight hours. It’s certainly beneficial for my physical and mental health, and as a result my productivity improves.”

The relaxed attitude to working location seems to pay off – Finland is regularly named the happiest country in the world, scoring highly on measures such as how often its residents exercise and how much leisure time they enjoy. With large swathes of unspoiled countryside and a national obsession with the outdoors, sustainability is at the forefront of its inhabitants’ minds, leading to high levels of support for measures to limit commuting. In January, Finland passed a new Working Hours Act, the goal of which was to help better coordinate employee’s work and leisure time. Central to this is cementing in law that employees can independently decide how, when, and where they work.

Yet enacting the new ruling is not as simple as just sending employees home with their laptops. For Kirsimarja Blomqvist, a professor of knowledge management at LUT University, perhaps the most fundamental feature that remote work relies upon is a deeply rooted culture of trust, which Helsinki’s residents speak of with pride. The anecdotal evidence is backed up by data which suggests that Finland boasts one of the highest levels of trust and social cohesion in Europe, and equality and transparency have always been key cornerstones of political thought in the country.

“Trust is part of a national culture in Finland – it’s important and people value it highly,” she explains. “There’s good job independence, and people are valued in terms of what they do, not how many hours they work for. Organisations tend to be non-hierarchical, and there is a rich history of cooperation between trade unions, employers, and employees to set up innovative working practices and make workers feel trusted and valued. 

“It’s now important that we ensure that this trust can continue to be built over technology, when workers might have been more used to building it face-to-face.”

As companies begin to look hopefully toward a post-Covid future, the complexities of remote work are apparent. Yet amid issues of privacy, presenteeism, and social isolation, the Helsinki model demonstrates the potential benefits of a distanced working world. The adjustment to remote work, if continued after the crisis, offers a chance to improve companies’ geographical diversity and for employers to demonstrate trust in their workforce. On these issues, Blomqvist believes other cities and employers can learn a lot from Helsinki.

“People are now beginning to return to their workplaces, but even as they do they are starting to consider the crisis as a jumping point to an even more remote future,” she says. “The coronavirus pandemic has been an eye-opener, and people are now interested in learning from Finland’s good practices… We are able to see the opportunity, and the rapid transition to remote work will allow other countries to do the same.”

Katie Bishop is a freelance writer based in Oxford.