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5 places to enjoy West Yorkshire’s wonderful world of outdoor art

By Sally Bendall – 28th June 2021
outdoor art henry moore
Outdoor Art seems to be everywhere at the moment, doesn’t it? From colourful cows in Cambridge to yarn-bombed post-boxes in Leeds, art is out in the open and it’s on the rise.
If you’re lucky enough to be in West Yorkshire, you’re spoilt for choice with all the wonderful outdoor art opportunities that are available to you.  I’m here to help you work out where to choose, and how to make the most of your time exploring!


Yorkshire Sculpture Park

The internationally renowned Yorkshire Sculpture Park, set in sprawling countryside, is an amazing showground for art.  The large-scale sculptures and natural landscape work together and inspire visitors of all ages.

It’s a superb outdoor setting for families, there are 500 acres of curated gardens and rambling fields, with over 100 world-class open-air installations.  While you wander around the gardens amongst the amazing sculptures and works of art there is plenty of space for the kids to play on the grass, feed the ducks, go bird spotting, and generally let off steam.

It’s very picnic friendly with plenty of benches or wide-open spaces to enjoy the sunshine and eat your sandwiches, or there are lots of places to grab a bite while you wander around.  When the children were little, they used to love to chase around the pathways, along troll bridges and hide in the trees.  We’ve enjoyed many hours gathering up sticks to make artwork of our own as well.

Now that they are older, my daughter brings her ‘good camera’ and works on her photography projects, while my two boys still love roaming the great outdoors, try to find as many ‘rude’ sculptures as they can and wolf down the locally sourced ice-creams from the café by the lake.

Me? I’m just there for the beautiful art!


Kids will loveThe freedom of wide-open spaces and being able to run around with the local wildlife.

I’m hungryIf you haven’t packed a picnic, The Kitchen in the visitor centre is a good place to stop for lunch, there are three take-away kiosks around the grounds to pick up coffee and a snack.  If you want to go all-out, book a table at The Restaurant at the Weston.

Must seeThe huge Joana Vasconcelos ‘Solitário’ made from alloy wheels and whisky glasses, glorious!

Name dropHenry Moore, although there is a changing programme at YSP, there are several Henry Moore pieces on permanent display.

How longIt’s easy to spend all day here, but you could see the highlights in a couple of hours.

What 3 Wordsspans.happily.mistakingYou’ll need a car to get here, parking is included with the entry ticket.

The Hepworth Wakefield Garden

Less than 7 miles or 13 minutes down the A636, Denby Dale Road, is the Hepworth Wakefield Garden, another gem in the outdoor art crown.

The Hepworth Wakefield Garden is a lovely place to visit, in the grounds of The Hepworth Art Museum.  It’s a beautiful, calming space, with lots of wide pathways that are perfect for children and easy to navigate the pushchair around.  On the banks of the River Calder, it’s on a smaller scale than the Sculpture Park, but there is so much to discover.

As well as the outdoor art, the plants here are designed to make sure there is plenty to see all year round. In the warmer months the gardens buzz with insect activity which is great for children who like to spot mini-beasts!  Adjacent to the gardens there is a council run playground, although this was closed at the time of going to press.


Kids will loveWatching the boats on the River Calder from the bridge.

I’m hungryThe Garden Café is open daily for take-away drinks and snacks.

Must seeContrapuntal Forms and Turning Forms, two of Hepworth’s wonderful works, created for the Festival of Britain, re-united in this garden after 70 years!

Name dropKaty Merrington, the Cultural Gardener, created a living composition in the planting here.  She has a wonderful blog so you can follow the progress of the garden throughout the seasons.

How long do I needSmall and perfectly formed, an hour allows you enough time to wander around the pathways exploring the garden and installations.

What 3 Wordsspring.twig.other – It’s an 8 minute walk from Wakefield Kirkgate or you can use the FreeCityBus Monday to Saturday. Pay and display parking is available on site.


Chevin Forest Geology Sculpture Trail

To the north of Leeds, on the borders with the market town of Otley, is the Chevin Forest. An unexpected place to find outdoor art, or so you might think!  There has been a geology sculpture trail here for about ten years, with pieces reflecting the geology of the natural landscape.  The Friends of Chevin Forest are in the process of refreshing the sculptures, so there is much to see.

You’ll need weather appropriate clothes and shoes, but Chevin Forest Park is a great place to explore, with the added bonus of new sculptures for 2021, all sculpted in wood from the forest itself!


Kids will loveFinding fossils in the huge rocks and stones along the trail.

I’m hungryCome with a picnic as there are no facilities in the forest should the hunger monster strike!  The Cheerful Chilli and The Royalty are close by if you come without.

Must seeStrictly speaking it’s not art, but you really shouldn’t miss looking out across the valley at Surprise View, on a clear day you can see Ingleborough, the highest peak in the Yorkshire Dales.

Name dropShane Green, creator of the original set of sculptures in 2009.

How long do I needYou can walk the dogs around for half an hour or stay all day with a picnic and watch the sunset. It’s up to you!

What 3 Wordsremember.retraced.lease – It is easiest to travel here by car.

Lister Park, Bradford

Lister Park in Bradford is beautiful.  Alongside the formal Mughal style gardens and fountains, there is a boating lake and an adventure playground that the kids will love.  The scenery is idyllic, and perfect for a picnic on a sunny day.

It plays host to a permanent art collection and showcases pieces on loan from local artists.  Lister Park has been a key part of the art scene in Bradford for more than 70 years.


Kids will loveMessing about on the water – head to the boating lake (open seasonally)

I’m hungryIdeal for picnics, but if you haven’t brought a pack-up, then drinks and snacks are available at the boating pavilion, and the Refreshment Room in Cartwright Hall is open Wednesday to Sunday.

Must seeThe new Peter Pan statue that was secretly installed on Yorkshire Day 2020.

Name dropDavid Hockney, if you go inside Cartwright Hall there is a dedicated Hockney gallery, the hall and gardens were an inspiration to him.

How long do I needYou can enjoy the approx. 1 mile circular route around the park in about an hour, or stay longer to make the most of the play areas and activities.

What 3 Wordslions.flown.museum – It’s about 15 minutes from Bradford centre by bus and there is a free on-site car park.


Leeds Welcome Art Trail

Leeds hosts a surprising amount of outdoor art, sculptures and street art abounds here.  If you are following the Welcome Art Trail you’ll find an elephant in an alleyway, poetry in the pavement and Britain’s biggest stained-glass window among lots of other delights.

The more traditional bronze statues and stonework friezes sit alongside more modern pieces and if you have the time you could combine the Leeds Welcome Art Trail with the Street Art Trail and get double the art as you explore the city.


Kids will loveGetting a phone call from a statue.  Scan the QR code and moments later your phone rings and you can get the low down on what the statue is actually all about and what he thinks of the bloke on the plinth next to him!

I’m hungryYou’re spoiled for choice for places to eat in the city centre, but there are also plenty of places to picnic.  Park Square is a lovely spot to stop and let the world go by.

Must seeNot included in the trail, but not to be missed is the reclining figure by Henry Moore, outside the art gallery and Henry Moore Institute on The Headrow.

Name dropJane Mutiny.  The environmental artist has a painted a pair of blue Spix’s Macaws on a boarded up window, they were last seen in the wild in 2000.

How long do I needYou can enjoy the route in approximately 90 minutes, or take your time and enjoy a few shops or cafés along the way.

What 3 Wordsfrosted.cakes.drives   Parking can be expensive in Leeds but the city centre is well connected by public transport.


Where to stay

If you’re not local to West Yorkshire and you are looking for somewhere to stay, check out The Waterton Park Hotel, Wakefield.  A magnificent, historic hotel, set in it’s own nature reserve and situated just 3.5 miles from The Hepworth and 8.5 miles from Yorkshire Sculpture Park, it’s perfect for exploring West Yorkshires wealth of outdoor art.

The Waterton Park Hotel is just one of 50 hotels hand-selected for the Girl About Hotel Guide, download your copy now, and start planning your next UK holiday!


Other places to stay

Chevin Lodge – close to the Chevin Forest Park

Midland Hotel, Bradford – close to Lister Park

Queens Hotel, Leeds – close to the Leeds Welcome Art Trail




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