Travel & Leisure India & South Asia


WHEN THE GOOD people of Yorkshire call their region “God’s own country,” as they have for centuries, it conveys several meanings. One carries a hint of smugness: these are among the most county-proud citizens in all of England. Another meaning, only slightly contradictory, is gently ironic. The men and women of this sprawling northern county—England’s largest—are known for their self-deprecating humour, and love to stick a pin in any kind of puffery, especially their own.

To a visitor like myself, however, the most obvious meaning is rooted in plain fact. From its deep-green dales to the windswept moors of Brontë country in the South Pennines and the well-ordered Methodist towns of West Yorkshire, this county goes a long way towards justifying its billing.

Bear in mind, this is not Keats’s “beaker full of the warm south.” It is bracing northern beer, and that’s the way the locals like it. “The landscape has a strong character, and so does the local accent,” the TV writer Sally Wainwright told me over e-mail. “ ‘God’s own country’ is kind of a joke, but it’s also a strong identity.”

It was Wainwright who indirectly beckoned me here through my television. On a fine morning last fall just outside Halifax, not far from where she grew up, I found a bunch of other visitors waiting in line to enter Shibden Hall. This 15th -century estate is the setting for a BBC TV series Wainwright created called Gentleman Jack, and it turns out its popularity has set off a small tourist stampede.

is based on a real person named Anne

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