The other main towns are Castleford, Pontefract, Knottingley, and Normanton, plus the southeast corridor of Hemsworth, South Kirkby and South Elmsall. Away from the towns, the district is surprisingly rural, a rolling farm landscape on the edge of the Pennines; the tall Tolkienesque tower gleaming in the distant southwest is Emley Moor TV mast. To the east, beyond the A1, the terrain merges into the flatlands and pig farms of the Aire/Humber plain.
By railThe city’s main station (rebuilt in 2013) is Wakefield Westgate station, on the East Coast main line between Leeds and London Kings Cross. Trains to London run twice an hour and take 2 hours. Frequent trains to Leeds take 20 minutes. Trains run at least hourly to York, Durham, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Manchester, Sheffield and Birmingham. For Bradford, change at Leeds. For Manchester Airport, change at Leeds, Huddersfield or Sheffield.
There is also a metro rail network, serving Wakefield Westgate station and (rebuilt in 2015, but no toilets), the other townships across the district, plus Barnsley, Doncaster and Sheffield.
By roadMajor highways bestride Wakefield district like a rugby goalpost, with M1 on the western edge, A1 on the eastern edge, and M62 as the cross-bar. M1 and M62 are often snarled during rush hours, A1 is usually clear but can catch the tailback from Doncaster. There are services at Woolley Edge (M1) and Ferrybridge (A1/M62), but turn off for supermarket petrol as cheap as you'll find anywhere. Always beware that you may be about to meet a tractor, even on the A1: this is Yorkshire.
By coach, direct National Express services from Wakefield city bus station run to London Victoria (2 or 3 per day, 4-5 hours) and to the Southwest (one per day) via Derby, Birmingham (4 hours) and Bristol. For other destinations, travel via Leeds, which is much better served. When the Wakefield coaches return north, they continue to Bradford and Huddersfield, but will seldom be the best option for getting there.
By planeLeeds Bradford Airport (LBA) is the closest airport, but it’s the far side of Leeds and has no rail or motorway link, so reaching it means negotiating city traffic. Frequent flights to Heathrow (by BA to LHR5), but these only make sense if you’re connecting to another flight there – train is faster for central London. LBA is a good choice for Western Europe eg Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Dusseldorf and Dublin, and for the more distant UK cities eg Southampton, Exeter and Belfast. It’s the base of the low-cost carrier Jet2.
Manchester Airport (MAN) is the best airport for flights beyond Europe. It’s across the Pennines but easy to reach by train, and the competition between airlines means better and cheaper flights than from Leeds Bradford.
Doncaster Airport (DSA) is at Finningley in the countryside east of Doncaster. Wizz Air has cheap flights to Poland and Lithuania – usually late evening when the bus to Doncaster has stopped running.
For the London airports, take the train to Kings Cross (but for Stansted Airport (STN), change at Peterborough). Then for Heathrow Airport (LHR) take the Underground Piccadilly line (1 hour), or for Gatwick Airport (LGW) step across the street into St Pancras for the direct Thameslink service (1 hour) towards Brighton. Even Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) is only two hours away.
By ferryP&O Ferries run (usually overnight) between Hull and Rotterdam/Zeebrugge. For Hull ferry terminal, by car follow M62 then A62 east, about 1 hour. By coach, change at Leeds. By train change at Leeds or Doncaster; there’s a shuttle bus between Hull station and the ferry terminal.
By canalWakefield is traversed by the Calder and Hebble Navigation, and the Aire and Calder Navigation. There are visitor moorings on the former above Fall Ings Lock (72 hr) and also below Wakefield Flood lock (72 hr). There are no water points or sanitary facilities along the cut here, except for rubbish disposal at the residential mooring site. The waterways meet at Castleford.
By carGood connections to the motorway network.
Local bus services are provided by Arriva and (for points south) by Stagecoach. They are designed around the needs of commuters and shoppers so they are frequent Monday to Saturday till 6PM, but sparse thereafter. So for planning a day trip, bus is generally the best option for points within Wakefield district and for Leeds; for further afield take the train. Some of the bus routes are round-about so always check that you’re taking a reasonably direct service.
A free bus runs clockwise around the city centre, Mon-Sat every 10-15 min. Its route is Bus Station → The Springs → Kirkgate Station → Hepworth Gallery → Ings Road Retail Park → Westgate Retail Park → Westgate Station → Westgate → Bus Station.
Timetables and route maps are available on the West Yorkshire Metro website.
phone: +44 1924 247360address: Wakefield WF1 5AWOpened in 2011, this is the city's top sight – though it’s debatable whether, given its concrete brutalist design, it counts as an “attraction”. Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth spent their early years in Wakefield district and their work and story makes up the bulk of the permanent collection. There are also rotating exhibitions of other artists.
Chantry ChapelJust north of the gallery, note the 14th-century Chantry Chapel perched on the river bridge.
phone: +44 1924 373923The Anglican Cathedral (central) has the tallest spire in Yorkshire. Although it is of medieval origin, most of what you see now is Victorian Gothic reconstruction.
Sandal CastleLittle more than a moat and a stump, you come for the views and the history: in 1460 during the War of the Roses, the Battle of Wakefield was fought nearby, and Richard Duke of York was killed.
Nostell Prioryphone: +44 1924 863892address: on A638 Doncaster Road, Nostell, WF4 1QEFine 18th-century mansion in Adams Palladian style, period furnishings and extensive parkland. John Harrison who solved the “Longitude Problem” was born nearby, and one of his original clocks is here.
- There's a small local history museum, free, on Burton Street, M Tu F 09:00-17:00, W Th 09:00-19:00, Sa 09:00-16:00.
- Pontefract is a small market town 10 miles east (bus 148 or 149 runs every 10 mins, 40 mins). The main attractions are the castle, the museum and the racecourse.
National Mining Museum for Englandphone: +44 1924 848806address: New Road, Overton WF4 4RHFew of us nowadays will ever go underground in a working coal mine, so this museum (the former Caphouse Colliery) is an essential experience of this great but departed industry.
Yorkshire Sculpture ParkThe permanent collection is mostly by Moore and Hepworth, plus various temporary installations.
Castleford Forum Museumaddress: Carleton Street Castleford WF10 1BBCovers Castleford from Bronze Age & Roman times, through its industrial heyday to the present. And of course Henry Moore.
- Day trips further out: see the relevant Wikivoyage pages for Leeds (15 km north, bus 110 every ten minutes, takes 40 minutes); Bradford, Saltaire, Haworth, and the Worth Valley Steam Railway; York a national treasure, it simply has to be seen; Harrogate, Knaresborough, and Skipton; and Sheffield. With your own car you can easily day-trip to the Yorkshire Dales, Pennines, east coast resorts such as Scarborough, and Peak District including Chatsworth.
XscapeA big entertainment complex near Castleford, at Junction 32 of M62. Attractions include the Cineworld multi-cinema, indoor wall-climbing, bowling, trampolining, indoor golf and, yes, skiing. Plus a dozen bars and food outlets, J32 retail park adjacent, and a Premier Inn. The X32 bus runs hourly from Wakefield (30 mins) otherwise change buses in Pontefract. From Leeds take bus 410 or 411 towards Pontefract, or X62 coach towards Hull, or train towards Knottingley getting off at Glasshoughton.
address: Willowbridge Ln, Castleford, WF10 5NWYou get to drive real diggers! And play silly games with them, like knocking over skittles.
Wakefield Theatre RoyalA Victorian gem with regular shows.
- Country parks are at Pugney’s (3 miles south of city, water sports); Anglers/Wintersett (6 miles SE, series of small lakes with wildlife reserve and angling areas); and Newmillerdam (6 miles south, stroll wooded vale.) Use OS Landranger map 110 for all these.
The Aire & Calder rivers, once major industrial arteries, are now an important habitat for wildlife, though much remains to be done to rehabilitate the brownfield areas. The best parts (eg the RSPB reserve at Fairburn Ings) lie on the north bank of the Aire, over the boundary into Leeds, so see that page for details.
SportThe chief spectator sport in Wakefield is Rugby League, the main teams being Castleford Tigers, Wakefield Wildcats (formerly Wakefield Trinity) and Featherstone Rovers. This, plus the proximity of Leeds and Manchester, and TV coverage, leaves little room for local soccer support, and Wakefield is the largest district in England to be entirely lacking a league football team. The highest ranked non-league club Wakefield FC (formerly known as Emley Town FC) folded in 2015.
Out of town the biggest retail park is Junction 32 (off M62), adjacent to Xscape, Castleford.
Iris Restaurantphone: +44 1924 367683address: 12 Bull RingAs of 2016 this is the only place in the district to make it into the Good Food Guide. Emphasis on British sourcing and style.
Harewood Armsphone: +44 1924 201321address: 101 KirkgatePub grub.
Qubanaphone: +44 1924 299000address: 1-3 Wood Street WF1 2ELIn 2017 this moved around the corner from Northgate into larger premises (a disused bank) at the head of Wood St. Menus are tapas, Hispanic, Caribbean. Occasional live entertainment.
- Italian choices include Prego Pizzaria (107 Westgate, +44 1924 377977), Bella Roma (63 Northgate, +44 1924 371059) and Capri at the Vine (82 Leeds Rd WF1 2QF, +44 1924 370999)
Wakefield district is the core of the “Rhubarb Triangle”, with an annual rhubarb fair in spring.
Notable city centre pubs include:
The Harewood Armsaddress: 101 Kirkgate, WF1 1JG
The Inns of Courtaddress: 22 King Street, WF1 2SR
Henry Boonsaddress: 130 Westgate, WF2 9SR
The Hopaddress: 19 Bank Street, WF1 1EH
Bar Mexaddress: Albion Court, WF1 1BB
Red Baraddress: 3 George and Crown Yard off Westgate
Priory Baraddress: 1 Back Lane WF1 2TJ
- Worth going the 5 km east of town to
Kings Armsaddress: Heath CommonOutstanding pub.
HB Clarks have a brewery on Westgate.
York House Hotelphone: +44 1924 372069address: 10 Drury Lane, WF1 2TE
Holiday Inn Expressphone: +44 1924 372111address: Queen St, WF1 1JU
Premier Travel Inn Wakefield Centralphone: +44 871 527 9114address: Denby Dale Road, WF2 8DY
Campanilephone: +44 1924 201054address: Monckton Road, WF2 7AL
Cedar Court Hotelphone: +44 1924 276310address: at M1 J39 on Denby Dale Rd, WF4 3QZOften used for conferences and business 'Away Days'.
Ramadaphone: +44 1924 274200address: at M1 J40/A638, Fryers Way, WF5 9TJ
Express by Holiday Innphone: +44 1924 257555address: at M1 J39 on Denby Dale Road, WF4 3BB
Premier Travel Inn Wakefield Southphone: +44 871 527 9118address: off M1 J39 on Denby Dale Rd, WF4 3BB
Premier Travel Inn Wakefield Northphone: +44 871 527 9116address: on Paragon Business Park, Herriot Way, WF1 2UJ
Waterton Park Hotel & Spaphone: +44 1924 257911address: Walton, WF2 6PW
Top northern destinations include Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool, Chester, York, Durham and Newcastle - all day-trippable at a stretch, but deserving at least a weekend each.