All sorts roam to Leeds

A city that has played host to everyone from industrial revolutionaries to shopaholics
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The Independent Travel

ANCIENT AND MODERN

ANCIENT AND MODERN

The hamlet of Leodis was founded on the north bank of the River Aire around 1,000 years ago. Its prime location mid-way between Chester and York and on the banks of the Aire, which flows out to the North Sea, and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal helped it become one of the country's most important textile-manufacturing centres from the 16th century and right through the Industrial Revolution. Not much remains of the original town, but the city's oldest road, Briggate, dating back to 1207, is still the principal artery: it's now lined with shops. Leeds also has one of the country's best preserved Cistercian abbeys. Kirkstall Abbey (0113 230 5492; www.kirkstall.org.uk/abbey) was founded in 1152 by Abbot Alexander, and is located on the north-west outskirts of Leeds beside the A65.

Leeds's architecture is testament to its industrial heritage, with numerous Victorian municipal buildings and arcades dotted around the city, such as the Town Hall (0113 243 9594; www.leedscivictrust.org.uk) on Calverley Street. Victoria Quarter, built in 1898, boasts mosaic domes, glass roofs and mahogany shop fronts. Today it is self-styled as "the Knightsbridge of the north" and houses upmarket boutiques and shops including Harvey Nichols. The Town Hall was opened by Queen Victoria in 1858 and still dominates the city centre with its clock tower and colonnaded façade. The Corn Exchange on Call Lane, like Victoria Quarter, exemplifies how the city's industrial architecture has been re-evaluated.

The Leeds of today is a cosmopolitan city, with a vibrant student community and an abundance of shops, bars and restaurants cheek-by-jowl with stately Victorian architecture.

OLD-SCHOOL COMFORT OR URBAN COOL?

The Queen's (0113 243 1323; www.paramount-hotels.co.uk) in City Square is a Grade II listed building and a Leeds landmark, opened in 1937 after the original 1863 building was demolished. Its imposing white Portland stone exterior, designed by the same architect as London's The Dorchester, is echoed inside with grand art deco design illustrating the city's inter-war urban renewal. It was also the first hotel in the country to have en suite bathrooms. Double rooms - still complete with bathroom - start at £90 per night including breakfast.

42 The Calls (0113 244 0099; www.42thecalls.co.uk) is a boutique hotel located in a former 18th-century corn mill on The Calls, by the north banks of the River Aire, and was converted from near dereliction into a hotel in 1991. Each room has been individually designed to a sleek, stylish finish, but retains original features such as low, wooden-beamed ceilings and exterior pulleys from the riverside. Double rooms start at £140 per night, breakfast not included.

PATHWAY TO THE PAST

The tourist office (0113 242 5242; www.leeds.gov.uk/heritagetrails) organises several group walks including a "Criminals and Colourful Characters and Pubs and Yards" walk. However, following the River Aire, you it's easy to direct yourself around the original site of the city, taking in up-and-coming dockside developments of former warehouses and factories that demonstrate the city's industrial heritage. Starting at The Royal Armouries on the south bank of the river, head west along the waterfront. The Armouries also marks the start of the Central Trans Pennine Trail (01226 772574; www.transpenninetrail.org.uk), a walking and cycling route that links the Irish and North Seas. Follow the river past the Armoury museum or linger outside its amphitheatre en route. Cross over the bridge and turn left onto The Calls, following it west. Turn left at Centenary Footbridge, built in 1999, for views up the river to Victoria Quays. Crossing back over the bridge to The Calls, continue west until you reach Number 42, then walk round to the waterfront to see the original exterior pulleys. At the end of the Calls you can turn right into Call Lane and follow it into the city centre where the Market, Town Hall and arcades are found.

MUSEUM PIECES

The Leeds Industrial Museum (0113 263 7861, www.leeds.gov.uk/armleymills) in Armley perfectly sums up the importance of industry to the city. The museum, heading west up the river from the city centre, occupies the site of the 16th-century Armley Mills, once the world's largest wool mill. Today, the brick and iron structure houses a clothing gallery, exhibits of machinery, a tannery and various exhibitions. The museum opens Tuesdays-Saturdays from 10am-5pm and Sundays from 1pm-5pm. Admission is £2 for adults, £1 for concessions and 50p for children. Heading back east is the impressive Royal Armouries Museum (0113 220 1916; www.armouries.org.uk) on Armouries Drive. The purpose-built museum, part of the Clarence Dock redevelopment, has magnificent displays of armoury from medieval times to the present. The museum opens daily from 10am-5pm; admission is free.

LOCAL FLAVOUR

Tripe is the local delicacy and Leeds Kirkgate Market is home to one of the country's few remaining tripe shops ( www.leedsmarket.com/thetripeshop.htm, open daily). Not for the queasy, tripe is the lining of an animal's stomach and is traditionally eaten fried with onions, although it can be consumed fresh with salt and vinegar. It is sold at the shop at 30p per quarter. The sweet scent of malt in the air is a reminder that Leeds is also the home of the Tetley brewery. For a pint of Tetley Dark Mild, head to The Adelphi Pub on Hunslet Road (0113 245 6377) behind the brewery. For something slightly more upmarket, head to Brasserie 44 (0113 234 3232; www.brasserie44.com) next to 42 The Calls. The dining room overlooks the Aire and the menu features local produce as well Mediterranean specialities. A three-course meal for two costs around £50.

FUTURE PERFECT

Perhaps the most impressive transformation in the city is of the Clarence Dock area. The initiative to develop the derelict waterfront area was taken in the Eighties and was re-launched in 2002. Today, much has been achieved but there is still much to do - evident from the numerous building sites dotted around the riverside. Briggate, which has been a pedestrianised road for some time now is also being re-paved and levelled, which will make it the second-largest public space in the city, second to Millennium Square.

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