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Hull - Least romantic town in Britain, or city on the up?

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Poor old Hull. It always seems to get the rough end of the deal, written off as a bland city in the north which nothing much to offer. Just recently, it's suffered another blow, being dubbed the least romantic town in the UK in a survey conducted by Hotels.com. It's a bit of a bum deal, if you ask me, but the rest of the list is also a bit odd. London? Really? You won't include Milton Keynes, but you'll throw London in the pile?

I was in Hull and East Yorkshire last year for the Irish Independent, and while I can't vouch for any romantic endeavours, I was very pleasantly surprised by what I found. Rickety little pubs with a multitude of real ales, a great selection of (free) museums and a really interesting history. So lists be dammed! Here's what I made of this friendly little city.


It was a city once blighted by a reputation as one of the worst in England. But with the news that Hull has been announced the UK City of Culture 2017, the area is on the up, with a quaint old town and rickety pubs serving up local ales. Surrounded by picturesque Yorkshire villages, the city is a buzzing combination of old world charm and exciting new ventures.

What to see
The old town, and indeed the city as a whole, is small and easy to discover on foot. Take a ramble on the cobbled streets and you’ll happen upon many little oddities – England’s smallest window, a giant mosaic toad, or one of the city’s white telephone boxes (it has its own independent telephone network). You can lose yourself in the museum district, particularly in the Streetlife Museum of Transport, with a replica high street from the 1940s, old trams, trains and vintage game machines.

You can’t miss the dazzling aquarium, jutting out over the River Humber like a glass ship. The space is an utter to joy to kids, who run giddily through the levels. Based on a unique design, visitors slowly curve around an inner tank of water some 10 meters deep. The aquarium houses a wide variety of ocean dwellers, as well as the popular new additions, a group of Gentoo penguins.

Where to go
It’s worth getting out of the city to explore some of the pretty villages nearby. Beverley is often touted as one of the best places to live in the UK, and is filled with little independent boutiques, cafés and a thriving weekend market. Beverley Minster is a strikingly majestic church, best experienced with the aid of a guide, who can take you up into the rafters on a dizzying roof tour for £5 (€6). Be sure to pop into the White Horse Inn for a pint to settle the nerves afterwards.
Looking down on the organ from the roof of Beverly Minster 
Where to eat
The hotspot in Hull is the Manhattan style 1884 Dock Street Kitchen, which serves up stylish (and pricey) dishes in a buzzing room, with an excellent wine list. For a more traditional option, pop into a pub like Lion and Key and fill up on hearty fish and chips, with the obligatory mushy peas.

Where to drink
This is where the city excels. If you’re a fan of real ales, there are any number of crooked, ramshackle pubs that have probably changed little in centuries. Wm Hawkes Bar is named after William Hawkes, who used to make bespoke guns and rifles in the building back in 1810. Today the pub is filled with local boys propping up the bar, and others whispering secrets in the snug booths at the back.

Where to stay
The city is, unfortunately, filled mostly with rather uninspiring chain hotels. Out of the lot, the Holiday Inn Hull Marina (hihullmarinahotel.co.uk) is a good bet, with a convenient location overlooking the harbour, friendly staff and a great breakfast. Weekend nightly rates start from around £70 (€86). Another option is the older Mercure Hull Royal Hotel (hotels-hull.co.uk), with a grand façade and handy location right next to the train station. Rooms start from £49 (€60) per night.

Gripe
The city could really benefit from some independent, boutique hotels. The choice of chains at the moment is rather limiting, and a quirky place to stay in one of the great old buildings would make a huge difference.

Getting There
Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) fly daily from Dublin and Cork to Manchester from €19.99 one way. From there it’s just under two hours to Hull, or you can get the train from the airport via Manchester city.

For more on the area see visithullandeastyorkshire.com or visitengland.com.

This article originally appeared in the Irish Independent.

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