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Doncaster – A Town of Markets and Famous Horse Races
Doncaster is a bustling market town in the county of South Yorkshire with plenty of comfortable hotels to choose from. Those arriving by air will use Doncaster Sheffield Airport, around 20 miles away. Historically, it was an area dominated by wealthy landowners, as shown by the number of large estates in the vicinity such as Brodsworth and Cusworth Halls. Of course, Doncaster is famous for its racecourse and it’s also a great base to explore this part of England with Sheffield, Leeds and Lincoln within easy driving distance. It’s also near the stunning Peak District.
Doncaster Town Centre
In the centre of town, the Mansion House is a famous landmark that features beautiful architecture, grand rooms and a huge banqueting hall. It is one of only three surviving Mansions Houses in the country; traditionally they functioned as the official residence of the Mayor. Built in 1748, it is now used for council meetings and civic events. On occasion, usually one day a month, it is possible to take afternoon tea here. ‘Christmas Lunches’ and ‘Tea Dances’ are other events that are sometimes held here and during ‘Open Days’, visitors can tour the building for free. The Tourist Information Office next door will be able to advise on these dates and offer details of other attractions in Doncaster. Also in this area are pubs, restaurants and hotels as well as a main line railway station. Frenchgate Shopping Centre on St. Sepulchre Gate is the place to go for high street stores and eateries.
Museums and Cultural Attractions
Near the banks of the River Don on Church Street is Doncaster Minster (also known as ‘The Minster Church of St. George’), another of the town’s landmarks. After a fire destroyed the original Norman building in 1853, this magnificent church was built on the site as a replacement. Some nearby hotels even offer rooms with gorgeous views of the Minster. For another dose of culture, Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery is just a few minutes’ walk to the south. Opened in 1964, it offers free admission and displays historic artefacts and pieces by local artists. Exhibitions showcasing temporary collections are regularly held here too. South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum on Airbourne Road is another popular attraction: it features aircraft from Britain’s very first air show, held in the town in 1909. Continuing the aviation theme, the Vulcan Experience near Doncaster Sheffield Airport offers the chance to get close to these exceptional flying machines.
Local Markets with Local Produce
One of the reasons people choose to visit Doncaster is to sample some of the wonderful local produce sold at Doncaster Market. Named ‘Best Food Market’ by the BBC’s Food and Farming Awards, it features over 400 shops and stalls divided between four sections: the Fish Market, the International Food Hall, the Corn Exchange, which sells household items and arts and crafts, and the Wool Market for everything else! The full market is generally open three days a week on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. On Wednesdays, antique traders take over and on the remaining days of the week there is usually a smattering of stalls open. During Christmas, the market takes on a festive appearance with extra opening days. If that’s not enough, head to Mexborough, just a 20-minute drive away. As well as offering budget hotel options, its popular market is open on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays. It features around 90 stalls and has been operating for over 800 years!
The World-Famous Doncaster Races
A trip to Doncaster isn’t complete without a day out at Doncaster Races. Doncaster Racecourse is easily reached by buses which depart from the city centre; alternatively, it’s just a five-minute drive by car. Two of the world’s oldest races are held here, namely the Doncaster Cup and the St. Leger Stakes, which is the oldest of the five ‘Classics’ held in Britain each year. As well as the horseracing, there’s also an on-site restaurant which serves a tasty menu and features an outdoor viewing terrace that offers great views of the horses as they gallop by. Ingeniously, the centre of the racecourse is home to The Town Moor Golf Course, so there’s the opportunity of a round of golf on those days when the horses are taking a break. For accommodation near Doncaster Racecourse, there are a couple of hotels offering budget rooms within a short walk.
Day Trips from Doncaster
To make the most of a trip to Doncaster, it really helps to have a car since there are plenty of attractions within driving distance. Near Doncaster Sheffield Airport is Yorkshire Wildlife Park which features polar bears, tigers and lions in large enclosures. In the north of the town, across the River Don, Cusworth Hall is a Georgian country house set in acres of beautiful gardens, and a 20-minute drive, Brodsworth Hall and Gardens is another lovely spot to spend some time. Excellent shopping opportunities and tourist attractions await in Leeds and Sheffield and Lincoln is a fantastic historic city to visit. The Peak District is also near; it’s great for those looking to do some hiking or mountain biking. There are also boutique hotels in picturesque towns like Bakewell, perfect for an overnight stay before heading back to Doncaster.
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