The big idea

There’s a lot of change going on in Hull, driven by an unsurpassable energy; in fact, we’d even go as far to say that Hull is the Red Bull of English cities, as it’s a truly invigorating place. Witness the building and regeneration that’s happened over the past few years with plenty of shiny new retail and leisure parks; the rate of growth is dizzying but certainly not misplaced. Hull is moving forward, and creating quite a buzz with it.
But, thankfully, what isn’t changing so much is the surrounding countryside. With rolling countryside, pretty little villages and then dramatic soaring cliffs, there’s a wonderful variety of landscapes to complement the city.


Unsurprisingly for Yorkshire’s only coastal city, water, and the harnessing of it, has been and still is a major feature of the city. Over the years it’s been a major port for an attack on the English from enemies to the east; the pre-eminent fishing city on the east coast from the breathtaking Atlantic Ocean; and, more recently, home to the world’s only ‘Submarium’, the impressive and brooding structure known simply as The Deep, which boasts over 3,500 fish.
And much of Hull’s maritime history is still visible today: the Marina has been transformed with the Spurn Lightship undergoing refurbishment and the Arctic Corsair, a sidewinder trawler that offers a sneaky peek into the lives of the fishermen. There’s also the Maritime Museum if you really want to go to town on all things nautical.

Natural beauty

Of course, many people associate Hull with its docks and maritime past, but many are surprised by the natural beauty that surrounds it on all sides. There’s the stunning Wolds, all rolling countryside and ash woodlands; the picture-postcard market towns such as Driffield and Beverley; the magnificent rugged coastline, with nature reserves, breathtaking cliffs and the glorious, remote beauty of Spurn Point; and the lovely traditional seaside resorts.

And this means a huge amount of variety can be packed into a single break: one day a city break, drinks on the waterfront, smart city hotel; the next a bracing Cliffside walk and friendly guesthouse; the next lunch at a country pub followed by an overnighter in an eco-friendly straw bale cabin in the corner of a wild flower meadow. Now, there aren’t that many cities that can offer that.

Artistic licence

But the really interesting point about all these different landscapes and places is the creative inspiration it can provide.
The countryside has inspired the work of many famous artists, such as David Hockney, and the heritage coastline offers superb opportunities for photographers.
But then look at Hull itself: It’s home to the Hull Truck Theatre Company, the iconic drama theatre of John Godber fame, the city also has a global reputation for poetry. The Australian writer Peter Porter once describing it as ‘the most poetic city in England’ and Philip Larkin, widely considered Britain’s greatest post-war poet wrote most of his work in the city, and the former Poet Laureate, Sir Andrew Motion, was from the here.

The essence

The water, the cliffs, the Wolds, the inspiration, the energy and investment can only mean one thing: invigoration.

How it can make you fell/who’s it for?

Actually, you’ll feel pretty complete: totally invigorated by the buzz of the place while feeling peace and contentment from the Wolds, dramatic sea views and vast, open skies.
Needless to say it’s ideal for artists, budding poets and photographers, but birdwatchers will feel a definite affinity with the place because of migration and the sheer number of birds to watch. Families will appreciate the ‘get away’ nature of the surrounding countryside and, not least, the variety of different breaks you can squeeze into one- seaside, city, country and the like. And there’s a strong student population in the city – evidence of a place that’s moving forward.

Interesting bits in history

Hull’s location at the point where the rivers of Yorkshire and the East Midlands meet the North Sea meant it was almost inevitable that it would end up as a port of some importance. And the earliest recorded settlers who created a port here are said to be the monks of the Meaux Abbey. In 1293, the town became known as Kingston-upon-Hull after King Edward took the city because he needed a port on the North Sea. Under the King’s rule the town grew, thanks to the markets that he allowed to be held here.
In the early 1300s, the city walls were built to keep out the Scottish marauders that had already reached York –a chain was even placed across the River Hull as this is where the town was most vulnerable from attack. The Scots never came, and Hull continued to prosper, becoming Yorkshire’s main port for the wool and cloth trade, and of course the fish trade with Iceland. By the 1400s brick-making also became important to the town.
Over the next few centuries, trade – and shipbuilding – continued to be the town’s lifeblood. In fact it was soon to become the country’s third port behind London and Bristol. And thanks to the town’s brick-making skills, many fine brick houses were built, such as Wilberforce House.
By the 18th century, demand for trade had grown to the extent that a new dock was developed to the north of the town which covered 10 acres and was, for a time, the largest dock in the land. The development involved demolishing much of the north part of the town, but it did see service until 1935, when it was filled in and transformed into the Queen’s Gardens. 
In 1897 Hull was granted city status and it was at about this time that electric trams took over from horse- and steam-powered ones. They were phenomenally popular, carrying four million passengers in the first six months, and continued in service until the late 1930s.  
Despite the trams’ success, trade suffered mainly owing to the demand for new ships dropping like a stone. In the following years however, fishing became the major industry, with large trawlers working off Iceland and bringing in big money. This, too, was to come to an end when Iceland brought an end to the ‘cod wars’ by putting in place a 200-mile exclusion zone. However, Hull’s location on the North Sea – and the building of the M62, which linked Hull with the national motorway network and the cities of Leeds and Manchester – ensured that it remained a major port, and today handles about a fifth of the UK’s exports and is a major ferry hub.
In 1981, the Humber Bridge which was opened and was, at the time, the longest single span bridge in the world. By the late 20th century the city was going through a period of renaissance, with much investment into facilities, and attractions, such as the impressive ‘The Deep’ aquarium and the new £165 million Humber Quays development, which includes apartments, a 200-room four-star hotel, and a restaurant on Hull’s waterfront. And it seems to be paying off – in addition to imports and exports, Hull’s business sector is growing and is attracting new employers and tourists looking for something different in the area. Hull is on the up.

How to what's different/get under the skin of

Let’s start with the journey in to the city. If travelling in from the west, you’ll be struck by the Humber Bridge as you near the city: it’s one of the world’s longest single-span suspension bridges (it’s worth a stop here, as there’s a nature reserve that offers cracking views). On the road in, pass all the new development work – a sure sign of a city that’s changing for the better – and park up in the marina. If you fancy a round trip, it’s best to start at Victoria Pier; there’s some great views across the estuary. When you’ve finished drinking it all in, stroll into the new marina, looking out for the Spurn Lightship on the way – it served for over 50 years as a navigation aid on the Humber River and is now moored in the marina itself as a maritime attraction.
Passing the modern Princes Quay Shopping Centre on your left, you’ll come into the main shopping area, in front of you is the Hull Maritime Museum, an impressive building which houses contemporary paintings of ships, a huge collection of whaling artefacts, and the largest collection of scrimshaw on this side of the Atlantic (pop round the corner into the Tourist Information Centre and pick up details of the Larkin Trail; an interactive trail of the sites that inspired the poet). Also in the square are the Feren’s Art Gallery, with its collection of Old European Masters, and a great Children’s Gallery to bring the art to life from them. Beyond these is the attractive Queen’s Gardens; look for the plaque to the north of the gardens commemorating Robinson Crusoe, the fictional character who sailed from Hull and ended up castaway on a desert island for nearly 30 years. In his words, ’Had[LMH1] I the sense to return to Hull, I had been happy.’
Walk next through to the University buildings and gaze up at the 102ft monument in honour of William Wilberforce, the Hull MP who in the 1800s campaigned for the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. Take a left here to visit his recently refurbished birthplace, Wilberforce House; this tells the story brilliantly of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and abolition. Next in the Museum Quarter, the Streetlife Museum transports you back through the history of Hulls’ public transport, hop aboard one of the famous trams or take a carriage ride!
Pass from here to the river and board the 1960s sidewinder trawler, the Arctic Corsair. A veteran of the infamous Cod Wars, you can share the stories of real trawler men – now that’s invigorating...
From here, cut back down the High Street, passing the hands-on History Museum (previously the grammar school where William Wilberforce studies, now home to the story of Hull with a great Victorian exhibition) into the Old Town and marvel at the size of the Holy Trinity Church, England’s largest parish church, dating from the 13th century. Find your way back down to the pedestrian bridge over the River Hull and head for The Deep, home to 40 sharks, 3,500 fish, a 4D shark movie, and the Twilight Zone, the world’s largest exhibition of those really weird animals from the depths of the ocean.
In the evening Hull gets a real buzz going. Why not start with drinks at the marina, with the background sounds of clinking boats (and glasses), then catch a show at the iconic Hull Truck Theatre.
Now, there are two other facets to a stay in Hull. It’s a springboard to the Yorkshire Wolds, the beautiful low chalk hills that stretch across this corner of the country and home to many picture-postcard villages and towns with simply spectacular scenery (it’s why David Hockney’s moved back to Hull: the landscapes are inspiring). But amongst all the woods, the country inns and the bright colours and big skies, it’s remarkably quiet. The little lanes and the sheer feeling of space and timelessness are perfect for those wanting creative inspiration.
Secondly, it’s a stone’s throw east to the North Sea coast; this coastline has a uniquely rugged beauty. To the north are the spectacular views  from Flamborough Head lighthouse and the renowned Bempton Cliffs, recognised by the RSPB as one of the best places to see breeding seabirds in a natural environment (if the sights and sounds of over 200,000 seabirds on 400 foot cliff face doesn’t move you...). Finally, head down to the southern point and experience the National Nature Reserve and dunes that are Spurn point, a three-mile expanse of sand stretching into the North Sea – wild, enchanting and atmospheric – and one of the best places in Britain  to see the visible migration of birds to the south.

When to visit

City pics