Calderdale is one of the lesser-known Yorkshire Dales but that doesn’t make it any less appealing. Chris Evans, tourism officer for Visit Calderdale, outlines why you shouldn’t underestimate this beautiful borough and its cluster of cosmopolitan market towns.
Located in West Yorkshire, Calderdale is the southernmost of the Yorkshire Dales and covers part of the South Pennines area of beautiful river valleys, moorland and hill country. Calderdale is not as well-known as its Northern neighbours as it doesn’t fall within the boundaries of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Yet Calderdale has a tremendous amount to offer both visitors and residents alike.
Vibrant and welcoming communities inhabit the cosmopolitan market towns of Halifax, Hebden Bridge, Todmorden, Sowerby Bridge and Brighouse and our hill-top and valley-side villages, such as Mytholmroyd, Heptonstall, Ripponden, Luddenden and Walsden. Each has its own distinct character and a unifying independent spirit.
Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, Calderdale has a rich history written in the language of stone, from the 900-year old hewn pillars of Halifax Minster to the 100-foot magnificence of the Stoodley Pike monument in the Upper Calder Valley. With dramatic landscapes, original packhorse roads, the magnificent engineering feats of the canals and railways, stunningly intact architecture where the ancient meets the modern in 4000+ listed buildings; heritage is all around you in Calderdale. Creative spirit and a commitment to all things local mean we’re also home to the future. We reckon Calderdale is “without nowt”.
As seen on TV
With such a stunning mix of natural landscapes and architecture there’s little wonder that Calderdale has drawn in filmmakers since the era of the silent movie. In more recent years Calderdale has featured in a number of major TV shows including Last Tango in Halifax, Happy Valley, Ackley Bridge and the critically acclaimed HBO/BBC One drama Gentleman Jack, starring Suranne Jones as Anne Lister and filmed at Anne’s historic family home of Shibden Hall, just outside Halifax. You’ll also see Calderdale on your TV in Brassic, Meet the Richardsons and The Bidding Room.
Great for families
Calderdale is a fantastic place for families. Eureka! The National Children’s Museum is located in C and you’ll find theatres, independent cinemas and museums across the borough. ROKT Climbing Gym in Brighouse offers climbing walls, bouldering, a ball pool, NERF arena and Escape Rooms in addition to the towering RoktFace; the highest outdoor climbing wall in the UK! Local Nature Reserves, open spaces and rolling parklands give kids plenty of opportunity to burn off some energy and mountain boarding, archery, paintballing, den building and more can be found at Another World Adventure Centre at Ogden.
Be happily lost
It took thousands of years to make Calderdale’s magnificent scenery. We don’t suggest you take that long exploring…. but then again there’s no rush. Our beautiful countryside of rivers, hills, valleys, woodland and moorland means that opportunities for walking, riding and cycling are right on your doorstep. Calderdale has more miles of footpaths than any other location in the country and excellent on and off-road cycle routes, suitable for all. Watersports, including sailing, canoeing and narrow-boating are also available up and down the Calder Valley. Calderdale is a great place to be active.
Traditionally modern events
Calderdale is home to an amazing array of events, some of which you won’t find anywhere else, such as the Rushbearing Festival. Other weird and wonderful events include Pace Egg Plays at Easter and the World Dock Pudding championships. A 1940s Weekend, Burlesque Festival, Scarecrow Festival, Duck Race, agricultural shows, arts festivals, film festivals, galas, carnivals and more can be enjoyed all year round.
Some of the most exciting and vibrant independent music venues in the country can be found in Calderdale. Halifax is home of Grayston Unity, the UKs smallest music venue and the unique Piece Hall – a spectacular open-air courtyard that can accommodate thousands of people. Built in 1779 for the trading of ‘pieces’ of cloth, the Grade I listed Piece Hall is the oldest remaining cloth hall in Britain, now a treasure trove of boutique and unique shops, independent cafes, bars and restaurants.
The food in Calderdale isn’t all Yorkshire puddings and parkin (although you can find plenty of both). In addition to our traditional Yorkshire fayre you can enjoy a huge range of international cuisines, locally made wines, beers and ales, high quality locally reared meat, cheeses and just about anything else.
Enjoy fine dining in even finer surroundings at the multiple award-winning Holdsworth House and Shibden Mill Inn, or the “headspinningly good“ (The Guardian) Moorcock Inn. We have plenty of pubs with roaring fires and beer gardens, including some that have been voted as Yorkshire’s Favourite Pub, including The Millers Bar at Brighouse.
The Incredible Edible project in Todmorden, founded in 2007 on the principle of kindness, uses public spaces and small plots of land as community gardens to grow and share fruit, herbs and vegetables and works with local schools to help them keep chickens, bees and even run a fishery. Look out for Totally Locally posters, the mark of an independent retailer or producer and a nationwide campaign that began right here in Calderdale.
When it comes to food and drink, you’ll find Calderdale’s commitment to sustainability shines through with our emphasis on locally grown, made or sourced meaning it feels as good as it tastes.
Calderdale’s wide range of local businesses reflect our traditions of independence and co-operation. Halifax is home to one of the very few family-owned and run department stores; Harveys of Halifax. The Piece Hall boasts over 30 independent shops, galleries, cafes, bars and restaurants. Our community spirit is immortalised in the co-operative movement which began life in Todmorden and is alive and well with Totally Locally and Incredible Edible movements.
Hebden Bridge has been found to be the number one UK town for independent shops by the New Economics Foundation. Its streets are lined with independent retailers, cafes, bars and restaurants where you can buy food, drink, goods, crafts and art direct from their makers.
Markets are central to our towns, from the stunning Victorian architecture of the award-winning Grade II-listed Halifax Borough Market and Todmorden Market Hall to the ancient Friday market in Elland and the outdoor markets found in five of our towns.
Be here. Be you. Be proud.
If you’re thinking of the best places for LGBT-friendly travel in the UK, then London, Brighton and Manchester are likely to come to mind. And they’re fun, of course, but there are many reasons why Calderdale is the destination of choice for an LGBT-friendly holiday with a difference. Calderdale has long celebrated its LGBTQ+ culture with pride. Hebden Bridge is widely recognised as “the lesbian capital of the UK”. The Happy Valley Pride Festival brings an eclectic programme with something for everyone. And of course, Calderdale is home to the “first modern lesbian” Anne Lister and the “Gentleman Jack effect” has seen a surge in lesbian visitors, both nationally and from overseas.
Calderdale is a place where you can expect an excellent quality of life. We’re excited about our future too, with investment being made in even better transport links, libraries, leisure facilities housing and schools. Calderdale may be a great place to live today, but we hope that tomorrow will be even better! Care to join us?
We look forward to Calderdale’s business being able to fully reopen in line with the government’s proposed road map dates in May and June. When visiting Calderdale please enjoy yourselves considerately and safely, following all COVID-19 guidance.
Further reading: www.visitcalderdale.com