AD | A Weekend in Hull – The UK’s City of Culture 2017
Disclaimer: We were invited to Hull by Visit Hull who paid for our food, accommodation and the activities we did during the weekend. I was not asked to share a blog post and all thoughts are my own.
Last weekend we were invited to the city of Hull by Visit Hull to experience everything this Yorkshire jewel has to offer.
Hull, or Kingston-upon-Hull as it was originally named in the 13th century by Edward I, sits on the bank of the river Humber and is Yorkshire’s only maritime city which has acted as a gateway to the rest of the world for hundreds and hundreds of years. With a population of around 300,000 including 16,000 students, Hull is a thriving and bustling city with cosmopolitan bars and restaurants, alongside medieval cobbled streets, Edwardian and Georgian architecture and interesting museums and art galleries.
We were really spoilt with the activities Visit Hull put on offer for us which showed us exactly what Hull has to offer both families and couples.
We had an excellent introduction to the city by way of a walking tour from English Heritage tour guide Paul. There is nothing this chap doesn’t know when it comes to his home town of Hull and we explored the whole city on foot, taking in the stunning architecture and special points of interest.
Hull was a once famous fishing city and to celebrate this there is the Hull Fish Trail. Perfect for families, this trail has been put together to help people discover the riverside and Old Town areas of Hull using 41 life sized sculptures of marine creatures installed in the ground.
Whilst on the trail, as well as stopping off in one of Hull’s beautiful pubs, you can also find yourself in Hull’s museum quarter where you can find Wilberforce House, Streetlife Museum and Hull and East Riding Museum. This area of Hull is perfect for young families with open areas to sit and enjoy a picnic (if the weather allows!) and interesting exhibits including old fashioned vehicles in Streetlife Museum which Dexter would have loved!
Paul took us to Zebedee’s Yard which at first glance looks just like an ordinary car park, but is in fact an events space for concerts during the summer. He also showed us the Last Trip memorial which commemorates the estimated 6,000 men who have lost their lives at sea. A truly heartbreaking and poignant memorial remembering lives as young as fourteen.
We also visited Hepworth Arcade, (which we would go on to revisit later for our activity with Hotham’s Gin School) which is a gorgeous Victorian arcade famous for being the only L-shaped arcade in the world, its quirky, independent shops and the fact that Mr Mark and Mr Spencer opened one of their first penny bazaars here. The glass roof is an absolute must see and according to the locals, Hepworth Arcade is perfect for ducking into when the rain is gently coming down outside.
Another interesting fact about Hull is none of their telephone boxes are red and are instead cream in colour. This is because the city chose not to be absorbed by the Post Office Telephony department (which would later become BT) and Hull became the only municipality in the U.K. to have its own communications provider Kingston Communications (now KCOM).
Thanks to Paul we gained a fantastic knowledge of Hull and it’s Old Town by taking in all the sights and smells of this city on foot. He was clearly passionate about his home town, especially of its gorgeous pubs and I can’t recommend one of his tours enough if you want to get to know Hull a little better.
After dropping us at Trinity Market for lunch (more on that later), Paul left us to explore Hull Minster.
At the moment the Minster has the exciting Michelangelo- A Different View exhibition (until 18th November) which has over fifty spectacular representations of the paintings which adorn the Sistine Chapel’s walls. It’s completely free to visit (although you must book) and there’s also parent and toddler sessions which I think is a fantastic thing for young families and I’m so pleased Hull Minster has thought of this.
Hull Minster dates back to around 1300 and is a Grade I listed building. There are many events on throughout the year including real ale festivals, live music and theatre performances. You can even climb its tower, giving you unrivalled views of the Old Town, Marina and docks.
Hotham’s Gin School & Distillery
I was excited that we had been invited to Hotham’s Gin School for one of their gin making classes. Now, I’ve never drank gin before, nor really understood the craze for it, but this class totally changed my mind and I now am a huge gin fan – as long as I can have it with lemonade or ginger ale as opposed to tonic water.
Located in the beautiful Hepworth’s Arcade, Hotham Gin School recently won an East Yorkshire tourism award for Remarkable Food Experience and it’s easy to see why. Owners Simon and Emma have created an interesting and engaging class where you learn all about the history of gin, the botanicals which go in it and the gin making process.
We were paired up ready to make our own gin and fellow blogger Rachel and I set about choosing which botanicals we’d like to use in our very own gin!
Having Rachel and me paired up was possibly a silly idea as we’re both totally indecisive people! Whilst the other bloggers decided on their themes, including English Country Garden and Rhubard and Custard, Rachel and I struggled to even decide what flavours we were going to use, let alone a general theme! Thankfully, we were given free reign of all the botanicals and after at sniffs we settled on sweet orange, lemongrass, lemon, coriander seeds, juniper berries and cardamom. Simon helped us perfect the recipe by recommending Angelica root to go with it and gave us the measurements required to make a yummy gin.
While all this was going on, Emma and Simon offered us glasses of their award winning gins, including their cardamom gin which is absolutely delicious. We learnt all about the history of gin, including why they named their distillery after John Hotham. In 1642 the Governor of Hull refused Charles I entry into the city, possibly toasting his decision with a glass of gin. The result? The beginning of the English Civil War!
Once we had picked our botanicals, the distilling process could begin. Rachel and I sat patiently while we distilled 400 millilitres of gin which seemed to take forever as it slowly dripped out of the still and into our glass beaker. As it did so, we regularly tested the flavour and used a refractometer to test the alcohol content.
Once the gin had distilled, we slowly added pure water to it and reduced the alcohol content down drastically until it was around 49%. We then bottled the gin, wrote our own label, naming it Cardamommy and sealed the bottle with some black wax.
I honestly cannot recommend this gin class enough if you’re looking for a fun date to do with your partner or a different sort of birthday or Christmas present for family members. The class costs £150 for two people which includes your own bottle of gin to take home, a four hour lesson on all things gin plus lots more!
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The following day (and without a hangover thanks to a special ingredient in Hotham’s gin) we visited The Deep, a spectacular aquarium next to Hull’s marina.
The Deep is the perfect family friendly attraction and once you’ve purchased tickets, they are then valid for 12 months, making it extremely good value for money.
We discovered warm tropical lagoons, over 5,000 animals, including sharks, jellyfish, turtles, penguins and swordfish and took a ride in their glass lift immersing ourselves in the 10 metre deep Endless Ocean exhibit.
I was really sad not to have Dexter with me for this activity as I know he would have loved the whole place. My favourite parts were watching the penguins playing in the water and visiting the cold seas exhibit where I found magnificent jellyfish which I couldn’t take my eyes off thanks to their majestic movements through the water. I was also pleased to find a soft play area towards the end of the attraction which I know Dexter would have jumped right into!
Hull has a plethora of options when it comes to eating out, from laid back dining in one of the city’s many pubs to yummy and cheap street food at Trinity Market, there is something for everyone as we were to find over the course of our weekend in this foodie orientated city.
Our first stop for food came on our first day in Hull when we stopped at Trinity Market for a bite to eat. Situated on Trinity Square, opposite Hull Minster, the newly refurbished and regenerated indoor market space is jam packed full of street food eateries and unique clothes and music sellers.
With over fourteen food stalls to choose from, we were rather spoilt for choice. The stall with the biggest queue was Greko run by Greek brothers Dimitrios and Alexis and it was easy to see why. Some of the bloggers in the group braved the queue to sample their authentic Greek gyros which came boxed with pitta bread, delicious lamb, tangy yoghurt and Greek salad.
I decided to head to Cheng & Chen which is the newest of the food stalls in Trinity Market, which opened in July of this year. I chose chicken Singapore vermicelli and prawn crackers, while some of the others I was with went for Katsu curry, spring rolls and Thai green curry. The portions were absolutely huge considering the prices. For £3 we expected two or three spring rolls, but were given six! The food was completely prepared from scratch using fresh ingredients which created a really tasty lunch that kept me going for the rest of the afternoon.
It’s so amazing to see and hear how Trinity Market has been transformed from a down-and-out market in decline into a regenerated space that was buzzing with people enjoying food and drink with their families. I would absolutely love to have a space like this in our local area to try out different varieties of food each week, all while supporting local businesses and it’s a business model Hull is truly excelling at here at Trinity Market.
After our gin making class, we headed over to Ambiente Tapas, located in Hull’s Fruit Market district. This area was once abandoned warehouses and cobbled streets, but in recent years has been transformed into a cultural quarter with a range of eateries, gin distilleries, microbreweries, art galleries and independent shops. Walking into the Fruit Market was like stepping into the East village in New York and I adored seeing the modern independent boutiques alongside the old cobbled streets creating a beautiful area of the city alongside Hull Marina.
Ambiente Tapas is a Yorkshire based chain of independent tapas restaurants based in Hull, Leeds and York. We were treated to Lujo Chef’s Selection (available only for parties of eight or more) which included a range of sharing platters including deli boards with bread and dipping oil, luxurious chicken and seafood paella, gambas, rump steak, pork and roast bream. The food was cooked to perfection and tasted incredible, however for me, there simply was not enough between us all.
On a positive note, the waiters were very attentive, checking often if we needed more drinks and checking if everything was okay with our meals, however it was disappointing to only be able to eat one piece of halloumi and once piece of watermelon when the pinchos vegetarianos were served. Tapas is meant to be shared, however it is difficult when you’re sharing with people you hardly know. I had some amazing tapas recently when travelling around Spain, with some very big portions, so I think that’s why I felt a little disappointed this time as I was used to the big Spanish portions as opposed to the smaller Yorkshire ones.
Lion and Key
After visiting the Deep on our second day in Hull, we went to the Lion and Key, located in Hull’s Old Town, a six minute walk away from the aquarium.
This pub has had quite the history, with it serving its first ale in 1817 before being turned to offices in the 1950s. The pub was reopened in the 1980s as an Irish pub, before returning to its original name in 2007. The inside is spectacularly decorated with beer mats, old bottles, old tankards, adverts, horse shoes and much more.
The Lion and Key have an extensive menu, but I settled for the salt and pepper prawns which come with chips, rice or half-and-half. The food took a little while to come, but when it did, it was clear it had been freshly prepared and was piping hot. I was really impressed with the portion size and the food itself was absolutely incredible – possibly the best salt and pepper prawns I have ever had with lots of king sized prawns, an authentic salt and pepper taste and just the right amount of spice. The chips were freshly made and weren’t under cooked (which can often be a problem with big, fat chips) Everybody else’s food also looked incredible, including Rachel’s Haddock Breton, Gemma‘s Hull Chippy Special and Natalie‘s Vegetarian Chilli.
The atmosphere in the Lion and Key was perfect for a Sunday afternoon relaxing amongst friends, enjoying incredible food and the service was unrivalled too. It could have been easy to make an error with there being nine of us, but all of our orders were present and correct and the young waitress was on top of keeping us filled up with drinks too. A real hidden gem and a must if you’re visiting Hull!
There’s plenty of hotels to choose from if you fancy a weekend away in Hull and we were offered the DoubleTree by Hilton, located on Ferensway, close to the station and city centre.
The hotel is relatively new and looks spectacular, with a Marco Pierre-White restaurant downstairs, a roof-top bar, a huge car park and 165 modern guestrooms, all with complimentary Wifi. However, things were not totally perfect with our stay in this 4 star hotel.
We all met at the Doubletree at 10am ready for our walking tour with Paul and left our luggage with a member of reception ready to come back later. We were unable to check-in as the rooms were not yet ready, however this was not an issue as we were super early. Thanks to a really busy day, we didn’t get back to check-in until after 10pm. As the last three of us were queuing, ready to get the keys to our rooms, the duty manager informed us there had been a discrepancy and despite three of us needing a room, only two were available.
This was unbelievable considering we had all been there earlier in the day and our luggage had been kept in the baggage room. What’s worse was the duty manager was absolutely speechless, so much so, she didn’t even bother apologising, whilst the other employee pretended to be on the phone while we all decided what to do. Thankfully, Laura, who organised the press trip, came up with a solution where she would share a room with Gemma (who she thankfully knew really well) so the other three bloggers could have their own rooms as planned. As Mums, we were so looking forward to a night away in our own room, so I was really disappointed for Laura and Gemma who ended up having to share. Thanks to this hoo-ha, we also missed out on our check-in cookie which I could have done with after still being hungry after Ambiente Tapas. Poor show.
Of course, I will always be balanced in my reviews, and despite the anger and disappointment of the hotel reselling one of our rooms thanks to us checking in late, I must say the room was absolutely amazing. It was really big and would be perfect for a family, with plenty of space for a travel cot without feeling completely cramped like you do in some hotel rooms. The bed was ginormous, perfect for co-sleeping families and the pillows and duvet were lush. There were dressing gowns available for your comfort and plenty of tea and coffee available instead of the standard two sachets you usually get in hotel rooms. I could not fault the room in the slightest.
Unfortunately, the nightclub on the rooftop meant many of my friends couldn’t sleep until gone 1am, although I was not affected in room 517.
Breakfast was served in the restaurant downstairs and was a buffet set up with a huge range of options to get you started for the day. I helped myself to a full English breakfast alongside a double chocolate chip muffin, some coffee and an orange juice. The perfect start to my day and a better ending to an initially horrific hotel stay. We finally got a proper apology on check-out and I believe the hotel is looking into how they managed to sell on our room so it will be interesting to find out how exactly this happened.
Hull – The Perfect City Getaway?
I must admit, it’s never ever crossed my mind to visit Hull and I had no idea of how stunningly beautiful the architecture would be and how many incredible activities there are – both family friendly and perfect for couples too. It’s hardly surprising, now that I’ve visited this port city, that Hull was the U.K. City of Culture in 2017.
I felt energised after our visit to Hull and I literally cannot wait to return with my family. Although I will avoid the Doubletree (not to worry, there are plenty of other options, including a Premier Inn close to the Deep), I will certainly go back to the Deep, the Lion and Key and find a new restaurant or two to sample in the Fruit Market. I would also love to have a bit more time to explore one or two of the seven museums Hull boasts, or perhaps Humber Street Gallery.
Whether you’re a family or in a couple, Hull has something for everyone. I’d love to hear in the comments what your favourite activity or restaurant is in Hull!