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Travel & Holidays in later life


In the grounds of Home FarmLeeds doesn't spring immediately to mind for a fun week end, though the city's nightlife is thriving. But within eight miles of the city centre is an area known inside-out by the millions of Emmerdale fans.

Only minutes out of Leeds and you're into Yorkshire TV's Emmerdale territory, where narrow lanes wind down one-in-12 slopes. Lush meadows surround farm houses built to last centuries. 

You keep seeing buildings that Emmerdale watchers are quite sure is the Home Farm, dripping with rhododendrons and ringed by gardens and green lawns. The owners don't publicise the real name and locality of the original farm, as they don't welcome unannounced visitors. 

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Harewood House - The aviary section and the terraced gardens are difficult for those with mobility problems, but the House is easier.  

The city's leading 4-star hotels market weekend package deals, and many other hotels follow a similar lower-cost weekend policy. 

Gateway Yorkshire, Tourist Information Centre, The Arcade, City Station, PO Box 244, Leeds LS1 1PL. Tel: 0113 242 5242; 

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But the tiny village of Esholt better known to fans as Beckindale is wide open to the public. You can pose The Woolpack Inn at Esholt for a picture at the Woolpack before going in for a drink, visit St. Paul's church where Emmerdale weddings and funerals take place, or pop in to the village hall. Every step is familiar to followers of the soap.

Only a few miles away is the pleasant market town of Otley, which is Hotton in the land of Emmerdale.

However, all these outdoor locations are now faithfully copied in Yorkshire TV's studio, claimed as the largest in the world. Opened by John Major in 1997, the Emmerdale Production Centre along Burley Road, Leeds, is used for regular filming, but is no longer open to the public. 

Of course there's far more to the Yorkshire countryside than the Emmerdale story. 

Along the road outside Guiseley - close to Otley, alias Hotton - is Harry Ramsden's Fish & Chip Palace, which has been listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's largest fish and chip restaurant. 

The Harry Ramsden business started 1928 in a wooden hut 10 feet by 6, which is preserved like a national monument in the car park.

Another major attraction north of Leeds in the 18th-century Stately Home of Harewood House

During most summer weekends, the grounds are the setting for varied events like Car Rallies, a Championship Dog Show, or outdoor concerts. The gardens are stunning, with 150 bird species housed in four acres of aviaries.

 You can also explore the great house itself, packed with furniture by Thomas Chippendale who was born at Otley.
The entrancHarewood Housee is dominated by a huge alabaster statue of Adam, the controversial work of the ultra-modern sculptor Jacob Epstein. Rated among the major pieces of 20th century sculpture, it still causes fierce reaction.

Modern sculpture is also the theme back in Leeds itself, where the Henry Moore Institute is integrated with the City Art Gallery's sumptuous collection of British 20th century sculpture.

Be sure to stroll along The Wharf, which is part of a superb waterfront development along the River Aire. A former no-go industrial wasteland has been converted into a district of luxury flats, offices, a hotel and several restaurants.

Here, also, is the Royal Armouries Museum. It houses much of the huge collection of weaponry from the Tower of London, which had long since run out of space. Located on a 13-acre waterfront site, the 42m museum represented Britain's most ambitious postwar leisure investment. 

For dedicated shoppers, Leeds has plenty to offer. In the shopping district, Victorian facades along Boar Lane have been completely preserved. But behind the facades, everything is totally modern.

Turning off Boar Lane enter the largest pedestrianised shopping precinct in Britain. It has a continental look with outdoor metal sculptures which people either love or hate.

In this area last century, the Jewish immigrant Simon Marks started his original business which mushroomed into today's Marks and Spencer.

Leeds Kirkgate Market is one of the oldest markets in the country, claimed as the largest indoor market in Europe. The Edwardian construction is famed for its ornamental dragons. Around 800 traders sell everything from exotic food and textiles to every imaginable item from leather goods to electric items and craftware. On the first Sunday every month, it's also open as a Farmers Market. 

Residential development along The Wharf, Leeds Granary Wharf along the Leeds Waterfront features a Festival Market every Saturday, Sunday and on Bank Holidays, with buskers, jugglers and brass bands. 

For evening entertainment, the City Varieties theatre is located close by. Sir Harry Lauder said this theatre was his favourite. "The acoustics are so good that I'd like to take it around with me." Among the other performers from the past were Lily Langtry, Houdini, Bud Flanagan, Marie Lloyd and even Charlie Chaplin before he went to Hollywood.

Every April and October the theatre puts on a season of Old Time Music Hall, with occasional one-night stands during the rest of the year. Many of the audience enter into the spirit of the occasion, arriving in traditional Edwardian togs.

That sets the theatre's period style, which includes a splendid Edwardian bar and a royal box where King Edward VII visited from time to time, mainly in pursuit of a favourite actress. 

The Theatre is currently closed for a major refurbishment and is not expected to re-open until the Spring of 2011.

Where else to visit in the North East

NEWCASTLE - Cultural capital of the North

NEWCASTLE - Down memory lane at Beamish open-air museum

NORTHUMBERLAND - Go furthest north in England, Alnwick to Berwick

TEES VALLEY - Exploring Captain Cook Country

WEARDALE - Explore Weardale and the North Pennines

YORK - follow the Vikings and the ghosts

"Books to read - click on cover pictures" or click on the links below

Itchy Insider's Guide to Leeds - Ideal for a weekender visit, with tips on clubs, pubs,  restaurants, shopping and sightseeing. 

"Aspects of Leeds No 2"  edited by Lynne Stevenson-Tate - Vignettes that describe life in Leeds a century ago.

"Around Leeds" by Matthew Young & Dorothy Payne - A historic and photographic record of the art and architecture of the Leeds region. 

Thirty Years of Emmerdale - A tribute to a much loved British institution, one of the longest-running of the soaps.

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