Being the romantic sort, for our first weekend away I took my girlfriend to Hull, the city of white phone boxes and redundant fishermen. Could this be the most under-rated city in the country?
I lived in Hull as a student for three years in the 90s, so knew that – although it’s deeply unfashionable – it had the potential to be one of the best city break destinations in the UK. When I was there, the University of Hull’s tagline was “It’s Never Dull in Hull”, and in the decade since I’d graduated the city had stuffed a few more tricks up its sleeve.
After arriving at our hotel in the student area (a room above a pub really), we went on a stroll of my old stamping ground. I was a little disappointed to find one of my favourite pubs – The Turnpike – is now a Lidl, but pleased to see and experience the local fast food again. Fish ‘n’ chips is excellent in Hull (I heartily recommend Hayworth Fisheries, and its “chip spice”), while there will always be a place in my heart for the burgers from Prima.
While day one was spent around the student area off Beverley Rd and Cottingham Rd, on day two we popped into town to see how much Hull had changed. Since I’d left, the city had acquired a spanking new tourist attraction, “The Deep”, an aquarium that claims its the world’s only submarium. There are over 3,500 fish, sharks and rays in this huge building shaped like a fish off the Humber and Hull rivers.
The Old Town of Hull has got some cracking pubs – it was good to see old favourites Ye Olde White Harte, The Manchester Arms and The Mission still standing. You can also see evidence of Hull’s fishing legacy in this part of town – there are silver fishes embedded into the pavement that direct you to different landmarks in the city.
As it was a bit nippy, we paid a visit to the free Maritime Museum, primarily to get indoors but also to see the whale skeleton and replica fishing boats from Hull’s era as a maritime giant. Sadly that era is long-gone, and the city’s two universities (Hull and Humberside, a.k.a “Dumber”) are the big sources of employment now.
On the way back to the car, I had to have a photo taken in a Hull icon – a white phone box. The city has its own telecommunications company, Kingston Communications (the full name of the city is Kingston-upon-Hull), so you’ll find no red BT boxes here. Unfortunately, we didn’t get chance to see the shiny new KC stadium – home to Hull City and rugby league’s Hull FC (when I say new, I mean 10-years old).
Before we joined the motorway for the journey back home, we pulled into Hessle Foreshore a few miles outside of the city on the A63, and admired the sun setting beneath one of the wonders of the modern world, The Humber Bridge. When I was at uni, this was the largest single span suspension bridge in the world, but it has since lost that mantle to bridges in Denmark, China and Japan and is now in sixth place.
Why don’t you give Hull a try? It really is a world-class romantic destination – proven by the fact that three years after our break, Kat became my wife.
But don’t just take my word for it. Tom Chesshyre, the Times travel journalist, wrote a superb book called To Hull and Back. In it, he spends weekends in Britain’s unsung destinations (including Port Talbot, South Shields, Croydon and even Coventry) and positively raves about Hull.
Want some more reasons to go?
- England’s finest accent. Instead of Bacardi & Coke, it’s Bacardi & Kirk. Phone calls are Fern Curls.
- P&O Ferries depart from Hull to Rotterdam and Zeebrugge for Bruges.
- Friendly and humorous locals. People actually initiate conversations with strangers up here.
- Dirt cheap for hotels, food and drink.
- Easy access to the Trans Pennine Way, a hiking path linking Southport in the west to Hornsea in the east.
- The Marina and Waterfront areas.
- The free Museum Quarter.
- Drinking – lots of pubs, new and old, noisy and quiet. The Bev Rd Run has to be the best pub crawl of all time.