Sometimes you just need a break from the big city life. To get away from all the hustle and bustle, you need to head to the countryside. Just up the M4, you will find rolling hills, bustling market towns, and picturesque countryside villages. Once you are there, the feeling of peace and tranquility will hit you like a truck.
If you ask anyone who has been to Britain recently, they will tell you that the countryside looks and feels different. Few cities are more English than a countryside walk on a crisp, cold morning. The air is fresh, the sky is blue, and everything feels new. It is not the same England you know from newspapers or television. It is the England that gets hidden away from the limelight due to its natural beauty and unspoiled countryside. Perhaps that is why so many people already consider the countryside to be the other England.
The first person to mention Lawrence was the Roman historian Tacitus, who described the town in a 102 AD text. He called it ‘Lundenburh’, which translates to ‘The fort on the hill’. It wasn’t until the 1800s that the town officially changed its name to Lawrence. A century later it was a location of some significance during the Second World War. In the 1970s Lawrence saw a building boom, with wealthy individuals buying up agricultural land and setting up large estates. In 2016 Lawrence saw more than its fair share of growth as people sought new living spaces after Brexit.
Lawrence is located in the county of Yorkshire, which is in the northern part of England. In terms of location, it sits between the major cities of Liverpool and Leeds. Those travelling from the M62 might pass through the town on their way to more prestigious locations like Gretna and Huddersfield. With a population of around 43,000, it has a strong and thriving community. As well as having a university, the town also has a good range of shops, restaurants, and cafés. The market town is easily accessible by road, rail, and air. London is around five hours away by train, while Newcastle is only two hours away by plane. The North Yorkshire Moors are only a few miles away and feature some of England’s most breathtaking scenery. There are a variety of B&Bs, hotels, and other accommodation options available in the town.
A walk through the town’s main street, Market Place, will bring you to the Market Hall. Here you will find a mix of local shops and independent businesses. The Edwardian Market Hall was built in 1906, and is one of the biggest and most ornate halls of its kind in Europe. There is also a 20th century market hall next to it, which was also built by the same architect. During the year the hall is open every day, except Mondays, but on those days there is no market. On Saturdays the market is a vibrant hub of activity, while on Sundays you will often find locals there wearing flat caps and gowns, as if they are at a cricket match. The main attraction in the town is likely to be its annual jazz and arts festival, which takes place in April and is open to everybody. Every August the town throws a fireworks festival called the Great Yorkshire Show. Last but not least, the Wellfield House Hotel & Country Club is a four-star hotel that features an outdoor swimming pool, a nine hole golf course, pro-teeing, and tennis courts. It is a member of the prestigious Georgian Group, which owns several such hotels around England. Wellfield House Hotel & Country Club prides itself on offering discerning travellers a high-end experience in the heart of the Yorkshire countryside.
There is a wide variety of high street stores, as well as independent shops located on the Market Place. You will also find plenty of restaurants and cafés there as well as a bakery, fish, and chip shop, a Chinese restaurant, a kebab shop, and even a pizza parlour. All this provides a good range of food options for shoppers to choose from during their visit. Many high street stores offer a large selection of wines, ales, and spirits, which they serve in a relaxed yet professional atmosphere.
The largest department store in the town is likely to be the Central Store, which features several floors of luxury brands and special promotions. On the first floor you will find the well-known UK brand Mivart’s, while on the basement floor there is a Marks & Spencer. Across the road there is a smaller boutique department store, owned by Marks & Spencer. A few doors down is Parkmore Retail Park, which is home to about 20 different high street brands, including WH Smith, Marks & Spencers, New Look, and more. The town is home to about 30 restaurants and eateries, providing a good choice for dinner options for shoppers.
There are also several large car showrooms located in the town, which offer a good selection of vehicles, with big brands like Bentley, Ferrari, and Maserati readily available for customers to try out. Finally, if you are looking for gifts for men, women, or kids, the Central Stores food court is a great place to start. From fashion and accessories to tech and seasonal items, the town has something for everyone.
The town’s pubs and clubs overflow with character and offer great music and entertainment. There is also an 18th century Theatre, which often puts on plays and musicals, as well as hosting stand-up comedy and cabaret. The York Theatre Royal is located in the centre of the town and features both modern and classical plays. It is a great place for families, with its spacious and comfortable seating, as well as its welcoming atmosphere. During the day, the town’s cafes, terrace restaurants, and food carts will all be offering something different for hungry shoppers.
If you want to soak up some of the town’s colonial flavour, visit the Yorkshire Museum & Archive, which is located on Headingley Road. Opened in 1897, it is one of the largest ethnographic museums in Europe. The most well-known exhibit is ‘Madame George’s Collection of Indian Jewellery’, which is on display and was built in 1906. It will cost you £35 a piece to enter the museum. If you are looking for something more affordable, the Yorkshire Art Gallery is only a few minutes’ walk away and is free. It features a mix of British and international art, with changing exhibitions throughout the year.
There are plenty of hotels in Lawrence, ranging from five-star resorts to small bed and breakfasts, B&Bs. The Royal William Hotel on the town’s main street is a six-star hotel, which was built in 1838. It is a member of the prestigious Georgian Group, which owns several hotels around the country. The five storey, sandstone-built Pelican Grand Hotel is another renowned hotel in the town that features two restaurants, a bar, 24-hour room service, and a wellness centre. The best of the town’s B&Bs are a short walk away on Victoria Road. There is also a YHA Hostel, which is close to the bus and train stations. It features modern and fully equipped kitchens, a swimming pool, and doubles as a youth hostel. Nearby, there is also a campsite, featuring electric and water hookups, as well as a laundrette.
Lawrence has a good range of healthcare options as well. The town is home to the Northern General Hospital, which boasts more than 150 doctors and surgeons on its staff. There is also a private clinic, with several GPs and NHS walk-in centres located on Victoria Road. The walk-in centres are open 10am to 7pm every Monday to Friday, and 10am to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday. Local pharmacies also feature a good selection of medicines, with about a fourth of the town’s pharmacists being able to prescribe medications. Finally, the York Community Health Centre is located on Pelican Crescent and offers a variety of healthcare options, including a walk-in centre, healthcare practitioner, dental practice, and opticians.
Those who live in or regularly visit Lawrence will tell you that there is a lot more to the town than what is shown in the media. The population might not be overly wealthy, but there is clearly a lot of talent in the town’s design, architecture, and retail sectors. It might not be a very big city, but it has a good amount of life and spirit. Those travellers planning to spend a night or two in the town might find it to be a vibrant and bustling metropolis. Although, as a visitor, you might not get a sense of community as much as you would in a bigger city, the beauty of the countryside and small town life will embrace you.