"Hals was greatly admired by the 19th-century Impressionists, and was known for creating lively portraits that allowed his subjects' personality to shine through"

Carlisle: Dante Gabriel Rossetti

A grand staircase in the Jacobean Old Tullie House, part of Carlisle's charming Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, leads to a wood-panelled room of Pre-Raphaelite and Arts & Crafts delights. Once there, allow yourself to be dazzled by William de Morgan's brilliant, jewel-coloured tiles and a collection of floral-themed textiles by William Morris (famous for his Strawberry Thief pattern). The star of the show, however, is a rare watercolour by Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti - hailed by some as 'the most important and original artistic force in the second half of the nineteenth century in Great Britain'. Afterwards, relax in the museum garden with its Roman and Jacobean-themed areas.

INFO: tulliehouse.co.uk,  01228 618718


Edinburgh: Frans Hals

There's no doubt about it: artist Frans Hals was a 17th-century celebrity. Yet not many people know that this star portrait painter of the Golden Age of Dutch painting (and famous for The Laughing Cavalier) has several paintings hanging in Edinburgh's National Gallery of Scotland. A Dutch Gentleman is part of a set of two (his wife hangs beside him) and experts reckon they were painted in the 1640s. The vibrancy of the brushwork and the sitters' amazingly lifelike features make it hard to believe that both paintings were created almost 400 years ago. Hals was greatly admired by the 19th-century Impressionists, and was known for creating lively portraits that allowed his subjects' personality to shine through. But the pair of paintings in Edinburgh are so good that they have been described as 'some of Hals's best portraits of the period'.

INFO: nationalgalleries.org, 0131 624 6200

Leeds: Henry Moore

Know little about sculpture? You've come to the right place! At Leeds Art Gallery on The Headrow, you'll find two of Henry Moore's most iconic sculptural pieces - Reclining Figure and Mother and Child - which can't fail to knock you out. Powerful and sensuous, they demand to be stroked. Moore's work sits alongside other leading 20th-century sculptors, including Barbara Hepworth - who, like Moore, studied at Leeds School of Art
- and Antony Gormley, who created The Angel of the North at Gateshead. This gallery contains Britain's finest sculpture collection outside London's Tate Modern and Tate Britain.

INFO: leedsartgallery.co.uk, 0113 247 8248

Hull: Canaletto

Venice and Hull have more in common than a strong maritime heritage. Venetian artist Antonio Canaletto is just one of the world-class artists represented at Hull's Ferens Art Gallery. With an early career painting theatrical scenery, it's no wonder Canaletto could turn out such wonderful landscapes. He liked to paint 'from nature', rather than from sketches and studies, and his work was loved by English collectors. You'll find Ferens Art Gallery in Queen Victoria Square; while you're there, look out for works by the Bloomsbury Group's Roger Fry.

INFO: hullcc.gov.uk, 01482 300300

Kendal: JMW Turner

If you've never seen a Turner painting for real, get yourself to the Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal. Here, you can see the stirring beauty of Turner's The Passage of Mount St Gotthard; a wonderful example of Britain's finest landscape watercolourist of the 19th century. Interestingly, some art historians now believe that Turner may have been colour-blind, which could explain his vibrant use of reds and blues. See what you think at Abbot Hall, a former Georgian house, whose small-scale surroundings allow you to get up close and personal to the paintings. While you're there, check out work by George Romney, a British celebrity 18th-century portraitist.

INFO: abbothall.org.uk,  01539 722464

Bold Buildings

The network's architecture is worth a look, too.

The Sage Gateshead

Is it a monster slug, an armadillo or maybe a giant paw? It's one of Europe's most acoustically perfect concert halls, designed by Sir Norman Foster. Opened in 2004, it's the place to hear symphony orchestras and rock bands.

Go by train: Newcastle

Info: thesagegateshead.org

The Glasgow School of Art

If Scottish designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh were around today, his work would be considered ground-breaking. Yet he was designing buildings over a hundred years ago. The Glasgow School has soaring windows, elegant ironwork and bold nature motifs.

Go by train: Glasgow

Info: gsa.ac.uk

Blackpool Tower

The Tower was Blackpool's response to the new Eiffel Tower in Paris, shown at the 1889 Great Exhibition. Opened in 1894, Blackpool's version is, suitably, full of surprises: 10,000 light bulbs, 2,493 tons of steel, 5 million bricks and a ballroom roof that slides open.

Go by train: Blackpool

Info: theblackpooltower.co.uk

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