Popular, picturesque and prized… Holly Phillips explores what makes the award-winning town of Wetherby so unique
Just on the border of North Yorkshire and West Yorkshire, surrounded by Leeds, York and Harrogate, Wetherby is one of the county’s finest treasures. Home to the British Library, plenty of historical architecture and, of course, the renowned Wetherby Racecourse, it is often name-checked as one of the best places to live in the UK.
The vibrant market town is best known for its award-winning floral displays, which thrive in the spring and summer. Supported by volunteers, the charity Wetherby in Bloom maintains the town in hopes to uphold the status of the most inviting floral town in Yorkshire. Its cherished riverside bandstand concerts bring music to your ears whilst exploring the blossoming grounds. The gigs have become very popular over the last few years and are a traditional part of residents’ and visitors’ Sunday entertainment. Every Sunday, by the Wilderness Car park, onlookers will be blessed with two hours of music, starting from 2.30pm.
According to Wetherby Civic Society, the uprising of Wetherby’s markets date back to the 12th and 13th centuries where the Royal Charter of Henry III authorised the Knights Templar to host a market in Wetherby. To this day, the markets are still held on Thursdays, the same day which the charter stated the market should be held back in 1240. Along with its Thursday markets based in the centre of town, offering fresh foods, clothes and household accessories, it also holds artisan markets every Sunday from 10am-3pm. Run by the company, Little Bird Artisan Markets, they offer handmade goods, as well as locally produced flowers, food and arts and crafts, with the aim to celebrate independent producers.
Whilst on the topic of history, why not incorporate your market retail therapy with exploring Wetherby’s historical architecture. For generations, visitors have been delighted by the interesting classical nature of the town – the popularity of the town hasn’t stopped growing since it became a halfway point for travellers amid London and Edinburgh. Amongst its modest stone buildings, it is evident that Wetherby has not lost its ancient animations. It was once home to a castle, built by the Percy family in order to guard the River Wharfe, and which was in fact built without royal consent. Instead, a block of flats stands where the castle once stood, after being subsequently demolished by Henry III in 1155.
During the Civil War, Oliver Cromwell himself rested in one of the inns. After involvement with many wars, it was in the Victorian era when Wetherby became industrialised, adding railway links to Leeds. As you walk through the wonderful town of Wetherby, it is difficult to detach it from its renowned history, as it makes it the town it is today. If you wish to discover more facts about Wetherby’s impressive history, they offer historical trails for visitors to embark on, with leaflets available in Wetherby shops and the library.
TAKE A WALK
As well as being well-known for its markets and impressive history, Wetherby also holds many choices for wonderful walks. The River Wharfe is an obvious one to mention, with plenty of free parking available nearby. With a pebbled area and space to sunbathe in the summer, beside the river is a great place to perch on a picnic bench and enjoy the view. You could end your walk with a trip to Wetherby cinema, showing films in March like Whitney: I Wanna Dance with Somebody, Babylon and the National Theatre’s Live Othello. Also, why not stop off at independent shop C’est Chocolat and enjoy a sweet treat whilst watching your film of choice.
If you are visiting Wetherby with children, Stockeld Park is a favourable place to enjoy a family day out. With many activities, such as the Playhive, ice skating, the enchanted forest, the magical maze and outdoor play areas, it is a perfect environment for family fun. It also hosts cabins and cafes where parents and children can rest and grab a bite to eat to refuel for the rest of the day.
Wetherby is also not far from Bramham Park, which is situated between Wetherby and Leeds and home of many events such as Bramham International Horse Trials and Leeds Festival. As well as hosting great events, Bramham Park is a lovely place to have a day out and take a lovely countryside walk. The country estate, built in 1968, homes extraordinary gardens and allows for great forestry walks around the house. A spectacular location to explore Yorkshire.
After a long day out, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to dinner options. Just on the corner of the High Street is where you will find Tom Foolery, a stunning village pub with an incredible brunch menu and a great all round evening menu. It offers lovely cocktails and the experience is topped off with charming staff and a lovely cosy atmosphere. If you’re looking for something a bit different, Bengal Brasserie offers the finest Indian cuisine in Wetherby. Bar Three is another great choice, offering fab food and a range of magnificent cocktails. It’s home to a lovely, spacious beer garden and hosts sports screenings, adding to its nice and lively environment. It offers a variety of menus catering to every time of the day and also offers bottomless brunch, buffet menus and Sunday roasts. If you’re looking for somewhere fancier, why not try The Courtyard restaurant, located at The Bridge Spa in Wetherby. It offers fine wine and dining, with a particularly exquisite evening menu.
Alternatively, if you’re wanting a cute cafe to break up your day, Pomfrets of Wetherby is the place to be. It offers delicious sweet treats – cakes, scones, croissants and much more. North Street Deli is another great option, offering fabulous full English breakfasts, along with a range of shakes.
WHAT’S ON IN MARCH
- Iconic Rock Tribute (Bruce Sprinsteen and Bryan Adams) at The Engine Shed on Saturday 18 March. Doors open at 6:30pm and tickets are £10.
- Enjoy an afternoon of jump racing at Wetherby Racecourse on 6, 21 or 31 March.
- Watch the record-breaking Wetherby Rock Choir at the Town Hall on the 1, 8, 15 or 22 March.
- Carry out some retail therapy in line with the town’s nature at The Great Antiques & Vintage Fair at Wetherby Racecourse on 25-26 March.
- Laugh your head off at the Thorner Comedy Festival on 24-25 March – line up yet to be announced. Make sure to grab tickets soon, as they sell out quickly!
If you want to know more about Wetherby, head over to yorkshire.com