Doncaster - this sometimes troubled South Yorkshire town deserves a second look
PUBLISHED: 08:33 20 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:34 20 February 2013
It's all too easy to dismiss Doncaster as a troubled South Yorkshire town but there's plenty going on to change that idea<br/><br/>Words and photographs by Bill Hearld
Its all too easy to dismiss Doncaster as a troubled South Yorkshire town but theres plenty going on to change that idea
Words and photographs by Bill Hearld
Tourism chiefs in Britains biggest metropolitan borough are working to put Doncaster on the map for tourists and day-trippers, both nationally and internationally. The long term aim is to ensure the town is recognised everywhere as an historic market town with a wealth of history, heritage and attractions on offer.
A new visitor guide, which was launched earlier this summer, encourages people to take a second look at the town. The elected mayor Peter Davies believes they wont be disappointed. Doncaster is renowned for its horse racing, with arguably the finest racecourse in the world, he said. It also has a rich railway heritage and wealth of Georgian and Regency architecture.
We have one of the best markets in the country; we have Cusworth Hall, a Grade I listed country house; we are the home of the St Leger, the worlds oldest classic horse race; we have one of only three mansion houses in the country; we even have a pride of 13 lions.
And Doncaster is easy to get to. We are right in the middle of the country with excellent road and rail links, as well as the UKs newest international airport and the borough is accessible from the Humber port.
Tourism is already an important part of the economic life of the town bringing in 285: million a year and providing jobs for seven per cent of the local population.
Nigel Berry from Doncaster Market Traders Federation said people arrived in the town from all over the country: In fact there are regular organised bus trips from places like Derby, Lincolnshire and the East Coast, he added. We get a great reaction from visitors who are impressed with the variety of stalls here.
You can easily spend a whole day looking round the market. Combine this with our excellent Frenchgate shopping centre and some very good retail streets and you have a great combination of new and traditional on offer for visitors.
So what else does Donny have to offer apart from good shopping and horse racing? There is plenty of sport including ice skating, swimming and activities at Doncaster Dome, one of Britains largest sports and leisure complexes under one roof, which attracts one million visitors a year.
Theres plenty of history too. Doncaster Minster, the Minster Church of Saint George, stands at the heart of the town. A church has stood on the site for eight centuries but work on the present building was started in 1854 after its predecessor was destroyed by fire. The minster is currently trying to raise 6 million for a major restoration and repair project.
The Romans arrived in Doncaster in AD 47 and built a fort to secure the route north across the River Don. Much of that era, along with the history of the towns development, thanks to the river and the proximity of the Great North Road, is recorded in Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery which this summer is celebrating its own centenary.
Theres entertainment. The lions mentioned earlier are a pride of 13 rescued from appalling conditions in a Romanian zoo and given a new life at the Yorkshire Wildlife Centre in Branton, just outside Doncaster. A 150,000 rescue fund was raised and the lions were flown over and given their own spacious Lion Country, which has 800 metres of safe pathways for visitors to observe the animals. The park has 70 acres packed with a wide range of wild creatures including zebra, antelope, lemurs, ostriches and, of course, meerkats.
Dont forget that Doncaster also has its own airport, Robin Hood Airport, which handles one million passengers a year and offers flights to more than 40 destinations around the globe. In fact, Doncaster Councils Invest in Doncaster team welcomed a Canadian company which launched its European headquarters at Robin Hood Airport Business Park, earlier this year.
The Renaissance International Completions Centre is a unique one-stop-shop for executive jets at the airport where they can be serviced, painted and have their interiors kitted out the only one of its kind in Europe. The company has a worldwide client list and Doncaster has become its international office so they can serve the European and Middle East markets.
Where it is: Doncaster is in South Yorkshire, on the A1M and M18 motorways and within 20 minutes of the M1 and M62. Its railway station is on the main London-Edinburgh line and the town is seven miles from Robin Hood International Airport.
Where to park: There are Plenty of municipal car parks and spaces in shopping centre car parks.
What to do: Doncaster is awash with shopping centres and has one of the best indoor and outdoor markets in Yorkshire. There are museums, stately homes, Doncaster Racecourse, the Yorkshire Wildlife Park and Doncaster Dome