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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What are Europe’s longest train journeys?

The Orient Express was a pretty long train. Image: Getty.

For reasons that aren’t clear even to me, a question popped into my head and refused to leave: what’s longer? Britain’s longest train joruney, or Germany’s?

On the one hand, Germany is quite a bit larger – its area is 70 per cent more than Great Britain’s. On the other hand, Great Britain is long, skinny island and Germany is much rounder – the distance from John O’ Groats to Lands End is over 1,400 km, but you never have walk over 1,000 km to cross Germany in any direction.

And it turns out these factors balance almost each other out. Britain’s longest train, the CrossCountry from Aberdeen in Scotland to Penzance in Cornwall, runs 785 miles or 1,263 km. Germany’s longest train, the IC 2216 from Offenburg in the Black Forest to Greifswald on the Baltic coast, is exactly 1,300 km. Germany wins by a tiny distance.

Except then I was hooked. What about the longest train in France? Spain? Italy?

So I did what anyone would do. I made a map.

The map above was all drawn with the Deutsche Bahn (Germany Railways) travel planning tool, which rather incredibly has nearly every railway in Europe. The data quality is better for some countries than others (the lines in France aren’t quite that straight in real life), and the measurements may be a bit off – it’s not always easy to find the length of a train service, especially when routes can vary over the year – but it gives us a good idea of what the routes look like.

Let’s start with the UK. The Aberdeen to Penzance route isn’t really for people who want to go all the way across the country. Instead, it’s a way to link together several railway lines and connect some medium-to-large cities that otherwise don’t have many direct services. “Cross-country” trains like these have existed for a century, but because they crossed multiple different company’s lines – and later, multiple British Rail regions – they tended to get ignored.

 

That’s why, when it privatised the railways, the government created a specific CrossCountry franchise so there was a company dedicated to these underused routes. If you want to get from Edinburgh to Leeds or Derby to Bristol, you’ll probably want a CrossCountry train.

The usual route is Edinburgh to Plymouth, but once a day they run an extra long one. Just one way though – there’s no Penzance to Aberdeen train. 

The longest train in Germany is weird – at 1,400 km, it’s substantially longer than the country itself. On the map, the reason is obvious – it takes a huge C shaped route. (It also doubles back on itself at one point in order to reach Stuttgart).

This route takes it down the Rhine, the biggest river in west Germany, and through the most densely populated patch of the country around Cologne and Dusseldorf known as the Ruhr. Germany’s second and third longest trains also have quite similar routes – they start and end in remote corners of the country, but all three have the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan area in the middle.

You’re not meant to take the IC 2216 all the way from north east to south west – there are much more direct options available. Instead, it’s for people who want to travel to these major cities. They could run two separate trains – say, Offenburg-Dusseldorf and Griefswald-Cologne – but making it a single route means passengers benefit from a bit more flexibility and helps DB use its rolling stock more effectively.

France’s longest train exists for a very good reason. Most of France’s high-speed lines radiate out from Paris, and it’s very hard to get around the country without going to the capital. Usually to get from Marseille on the Mediterranean to Nantes near the Atlantic, you’d need to take a TGV to Paris Gare de Lyon station, then get the Métro across the city to Gare Montparnasse.

Once a day though, this TGV avoids this faff by stopping in the suburb of Juvisy and turning around without going into the centre. This lets passengers travel direct between the coasts and reduces the traffic through Paris’s terminals in the rush hour. The exact length of this route isn’t clear, but Wikipedia says it’s about 1,130 km.

Spain’s longest train is very different. This is the Trenhotel sleeper service from Barcelona to Vigo, and it’s pretty fancy. This is a train for tourists and business travellers, with some quite luxurious sleeping cabins. But it is a regularly scheduled train run by the state operator Renfe, not a luxury charter, and it does appear in the timetables.

Being dry, hot and quite mountainous in its middle, most of Spain’s cities are on its coast (Madrid is the one major exception) and as a result the train passes through relatively few urban areas. (Zaragoza, Spain’s 5th largest city, is on the route, but after that the next biggest city is Burgos, its 35th largest,) This is partly why overnight trains work so well on the route – without many stops in the middle, most passengers can just sleep right through the journey, although there are occasional day time trains on that route too if you want to savour the view on that 1,314 km journey.

Finally, there’s Italy. This is another sleeper train, from Milan in the north to Syracuse on the island of Sicily. It goes via Rome and travels along the west coast of... wait, it’s a train to the island of Sicily? How, when there’s no bridge?

Well, this train takes a boat. I don’t really have anything else to add here. It’s just a train that they literally drive onto a ferry, sail across the water, and then drive off again at the other side. That’s pretty cool.

(As I was writing this, someone on Twitter got in touch to tell me the route will get even longer in September when the line to Palermo reopens. That should be exciting.)

So those are the longest trains in each country. But they aren’t the longest in Europe.

For one thing, there are some countries we haven’t looked at yet with very long trains. Sweden has some spectacular routes from its southern tip up into the Arctic north, and although the Donbass War appears to have cut Ukraine’s Uzhorod to Luhansk service short, even Uzhorod to Kharkiv is over 1,400 km. And then there are the international routes.

To encourage the Russian rich to take the train for their holiday, Russian Railways now run a luxury sleeper from Moscow to Nice, passing through France, Monaco, Italy, Austria, Czechia, Poland, Belarus and Russia. This monster line is 3,315 km long and stretches across most of the continent. That’s got to be the longest in Europe, right?

Nope. Incredibly, the longest train in Europe doesn’t actually cross a single border. Unsurprisingly, it’s in Russia, but it’s not the Trans-Siberian – the vast majority of that’s route is in Asia, not Europe. No, if you really want a long European train journey, head to Adler, just south of the Olympic host city Sochi. From there, you can catch a train up to Vorkuta on the edge of the Arctic Circle. The route zigzags a bit over its 89 hour, 4,200 km journey, but it always stays on the European side of the Ural mountains.

Bring a good book.

Stephen Jorgenson-Murray often tweets about this kind of nonsense at @stejormur.


All maps courtesy of Deutsche Bahn.