Leeds

Play pool; learn to make a cocktail

Ever want more from a bar? We’re not just talking about extra beer mats or a bowl of nuts, something a little different? Slate in Leeds’ up-and-coming Northern Quarter might have an answer. Not only can you shoot some eight ball at one of several seven- and nine-foot pool tables, you can mix it up at a cocktail class. 

If you book for two, you can enjoy three cocktails and a lively masterclass in mixology from Slate’s knowledgeable bar staff. With house specialities such as a Yorkshire Rose – cucumber and fresh basil with gin, wine, apple, honey syrup and egg white – you’re bound to find your new favourite drink here. Three spacious terraces are great for enjoying a good choice of craft beers and a varied wine cellar too, when the sun is out.

Peckish? Simply pimp your package and get a glass of fizz on arrival and a sumptuous meal of artisan pizzas, Italian meats and deli cheeses courtesy of in-house chefs. Great if you’re struggling for a birthday gift or weekend activity on your visit to Leeds.

Bongo's Bingo

It’s bingo, but not as you know it. Imagine the famous blue-rinse favourite re-engineered as part-performance, part-dance, part-quiz and you have something approaching the madcap energy of Bongo’s Bingo. Having originated in Liverpool, it’s spread throughout the North – to Leeds via Manchester. 

There are cash prizes to be won (though you’re more likely to come away with something entirely rubbish and ironic) and it’s all spiced up with rave intervals and dance-offs. 

Master-of-Ceremonies Jonny Bongo (we don’t think it’s his real name) has form. He holds the record for the biggest pub quiz ever held, so he’s no stranger to these unlikely competition-based shenanigans. 

Demand has seen Bongo’s Bingo grow to two shows a week in Liverpool, something founder Joshua Burke puts down to Mr Bongo’s infectious enthusiasm. Picture a pub quiz in a nightclub hosted by The Mighty Boosh and you might have some idea of what to expect. 

There are dates all through March at Canal Mills – a multi-talented venue serving up craft ale, exhibitions, pop-up restaurants, live music events, fashion shows and theatre projects – but be warned: tickets sell like a gold-tipped dabber.

Wapentake

It may be a new-kid-on-the-block café bar, but Wapentake is more New Yorkshire than New York. Promising ‘proper’ Yorkshire food and drink, Wapentake sells beer and cocktails from God’s Own Country, but also offers no-nonsense breakfasts and delicious roast dinners. And while there are new local beers on draught, there aren’t too many places you can find a local artisan gin. 

There’s an artisan bakery too, with vegan-friendly and gluten-free wares, plus full-fat finery such as homemade chocolate, pistachio and blueberry tart and peanut butter and chocolate brownies. 

Part of a revival of the Kirkgate area and housed in a former merchant’s house, Wapentake was funded by a collection of local initiatives that aim to preserve the city’s and county’s heritage. So you won’t simply be scoffing a tasty breakfast, you’ll be helping to support a local culture too. There’s also live sport on TV during the day and night.  

The name? An ancient northern meeting place where weapons would be brandished. But don’t worry, your eating irons are all you’ll need at this brand-new meeting place.

Doncaster 

Doncaster Races

Doncaster’s iconic racecourse is one of the oldest in Britain and is a favourite with racegoers. But it’s also a great place for first-timers to experience the thrill of race day, which is not just about having a flutter. 

The top trainers, jockeys and horses in the country will be on show, along with all the pomp and pageantry that goes with a day at the gee-gees. On Friday there are seven races, then Saturday sees the running of The Grimthorpe Chase, a historic race with a prize of £55,000. This is the final event of the jump season before Doncaster switches to host flat racing during the summer. 

Whether or not there’s racing on, The Old Weighing Room restaurant and bar is open Thursday to Sunday. It’s a great place to come to savour the atmosphere of this old course and enjoy a rather lovely lunch. 

Mansion House

You may not associate Doncaster with grand buildings and it might not even be on your list of potential weekend breaks. But there’s plenty to do, see and eat in a town that offers a warm welcome and is a surprise hit with those who make the trip to South Yorkshire. 

Doncaster’s prize architectural asset is the spectacular Mansion House, centrally located on the town’s High Street. The building was formerly the home of the local mayor until 1922. Now it’s a great spot for afternoon tea, a tea dance or an insightful tour and it shows off the town’s proud history. 

You can dine in the dappled light streaming through the stained glass windows. And as you do, enjoy the splendour of the building’s fine spaces and high ceilings. The ballroom is something of a focal point thanks largely to a spectacular chandelier. Visitors pass by the portraits of local dignitaries, reminders of the building’s civic past, and can discover hundreds of artefacts charting key moments in local history.

Make sure you check ahead for the dates and times of servings and tours, so you can time your visit to perfection.

Marketplace Alehouse and Deli

The Marketplace has been spreading good cheer and serving great beer since 2013 from a prime spot opposite Doncaster’s award-winning market. 

There’s a vast selection of drinks – including bottled beers, good coffee and draught ales – to quench your thirst and oil the wheels of conversation but many people are drawn here by the excellent food. A globe-trotting grazing board selection includes treats such as tapas and tipples to match. But, since there’s no place like home, the Yorkshire board is a clear favourite. This locally-sourced feast includes mouth-watering pork pie from the nearby market stalls. And there’s always something new on the drinks list to wash it down with.  

Opening hours are seasonal. You’ll be fine at weekends. Daytime and evening opening when the market is on – Tuesdays and Fridays – are also being trialled. Plus, owners Kath Thorpe and Rachel Brakes are launching midweek events such as a beer school, ‘meet the brewer’ and wine and cheese tastings. In truth, you don’t need much of an excuse to visit. “It’s a haven for lovers of great beers, food, conversation and friendly service,” says Kath. And that’s why we love it. 

Blackpool

Stroll on the promenade

Before they built the tower, before they switched on the bright lights, Blackpool’s greatest attraction was already pulling in the crowds. The sights and sounds may have changed over the years but Blackpool’s promenade is a constant. It’s split into three sections and each has its own appeal. 

North Shore is the most traditional section of the seaside walk and it stretches from Bispham to North Pier. But the Central Promenade between the North and South piers is the jewel in the crown after a multi-million-pound revamp. Clean, spacious and boasting stunning views of the sea, this is a great place for a bracing stroll or a romantic walk after dinner.  

This is where you’ll find some of the town’s main attractions – including the iconic tower, Sealife Centre, arcades and Madame Tussauds. Get around on foot or on a fairytale carriage, because that’s the kind of thing you do in Blackpool. 

At night the promenade becomes a neon playground reminiscent of Las Vegas on a smaller scale. It’s certainly a good place for some people-watching and you’re close to a wide range of eateries to suit every pocket. Just bring some change for the slots, if you’re feeling lucky.

A show at the iconic Blackpool Grand

There’s a huge range of shows for all tastes coming up at the Grand this March, from comedy to music, theatre, dance and an old television favourite that’s as popular as ever.  

Laugh Out Loud comedy shows featured John Bishop and Jason Manford before they hit the big time. At the other end of the scale is a show from the legendary Jimmy Cricket. The Beatles – or the next best thing – drop in with the international hit Let It Be, charting the Fab Four’s meteoric rise from Liverpool to worldwide fame. Expect all the favourites. Well, most of them – we’re not sure about Octopus’s Garden.  

John Steinbeck’s seminal story of The Great Depression, Of Mice And Men, is the theatrical pick of the month, while the stage version of Heartbeat, starring members of the TV cast, offers more leisurely fare.  

The Grand is an attraction in itself, of course. Designed by flamboyant Victorian architect Frank Matcham, the theatre is a network of behind-the-scenes staircases and dressing rooms rarely seen by the public. There are tours available in March, however – a great way to enjoy this legendary artefact of music hall’s halcyon days. 

Afternoon tea at The Tower Ballroom

No visit to Blackpool is complete without a trip to the tower, so why not do it in style with afternoon tea in the magical Ballroom – a little trip back in time with a civilised, and very British, tradition? 

Dating back to 1894, a boom time in Blackpool, the Tower Ballroom is known for its stunning architecture and fantastic sprung dance floor, made up of 30,602 blocks of mahogany, oak and walnut. If it looks familiar that may because it regularly hosted Come Dancing and has more recently been the venue for two grand finals of Strictly Come Dancing. 

You’ll be free to follow in the footsteps of some of the world’s famous dancers – and Sir Bruce Forsyth – and take a whirl around the famous stage or simply watch and enjoy the music from the famous Wurlitzer. 

Afternoon tea includes dainty sandwiches and cream scones with clotted cream and jam,  plus a choice of cake from the daily selection with a freshly brewed pot of tea or coffee. For a really special occasion you can plump for The Ballroom Champagne Experience – you might need a drink if you’re about to ascend the tower, or steady your nerves if you’ve just been up. 

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