Diaries at the ready as we look ahead to a year of Yorkshire - By Bethan Hyatt

Guess whodunnit

January weekends are never the most exciting, after all the Christmas and new year merriment, but Embsay & Bolton Steam Railway have something to say about that. On January 13, they’re hosting another of their spectacular murder mystery events. This time, the theme is Death of a Diva. The Divine Diva has died on the opening night and it’s up to you to work in harmony, hit all the right notes and solve the crime. Was it the villainous vibrato, the contrary contralto or terrifying tenor who decided to settle an old score? All tickets include a first class return ticket, three-course meal and three-hour interactive show.

Snowdrop season

One of the biggest natural joys of the often gloomy first months of the year is seeing swathes of snowdrops on your winter walks. Small but mighty, they spring up from January until early March, signalling new life and a fresh start. And where better to see them than in the picturesque grounds of Yorkshire’s National Trust properties, where they carpet woodlands, fields and orchards for several joyful weeks. You can’t beat Fountains Abbey for its miles of snowdrop trails, which were planted in the 19th century by the Earl de Grey when he owned the estate. Wrap up warm, take the dog, and enjoy the view.

Celebrate the Year of the Dragon

Chinese New Year in February heralds the arrival of the Year of the Dragon, and while you might not think that’s got much to do with Yorkshire, you’d be wrong. Legend has it that Filey Brigg, a rocky peninsula just north of the seaside town, was once the home of a fierce dragon with a penchant for sticky cake. Some versions of the story suggest the spiky shape of the Brigg was actually formed by the dragon’s back. Nowadays, dragon hunters can visit the Dragon Ring outdoor classroom at the country park, or the Plesiosaur sculpture in Glen Gardens. Just be sure to pack some Parkin as an offering for any fiery beasts you meet.

Poetic justice

The magnificent Rievaulx Abbey, near Helmsley, is hosting a special event in early February, which should appeal to the creative writers out there. To celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month, historian Kit Heyam will be leading a workshop, where you can learn more about the queer history of the abbey, including the 12th-century monk Aelred of Rievaulx, who wrote about love and friendship between men. You’ll then have a go at creating some blackout poetry (removing words from an original text to create something new). It takes place on Monday February 5th, includes refreshments, and is open to English Heritage members only. Visit english-heritage.org.uk to find out how to join and book.

Pop the question

Ladies of Yorkshire, your time has come again. For 2024 is a leap year, so on February 29, you have permission to buck tradition and propose to your significant other. Outdated claptrap? Maybe… but if you do feel inclined to put a ring on it, where’s the best place to do it? Yorkshire is full of picturesque options, from a romantic windswept walk on the Moors to a charming afternoon tea at Bettys. For the quirkier among you, why not get the penguins at The Deep in Hull to give you a helping hand - or fin - and arrange for them to display a personalised proposal message for your loved one? Visit thedeep.co.uk to find out more.

Recreate the Olympics

It’s set to be a summer of sport (when isn’t it?) as the Olympics make their way to Paris in July. So why not get into the spirit of things by trying out one of the newer Olympic disciplines a little closer to home? Everything from climbing to canoeing is on the roster now, and Yorkshire is the perfect place to try your hand at something adventurous, with stunning views to boot. Try River and Dale Adventures for everything from rock climbing to paddle boarding and canoeing expeditions. Or, for those more comfortable on dry land, head to Parthian Climbing in Harrogate. River-and-dale-adventures.co.uk parthianclimbing.com

Enjoy all the fun of the farm

God’s own county does an agricultural show like no other, and we’re already looking forward to the return of all our favourites. From Bingley and Bishop Wilton in July, right through to Masham and Pateley in September, there’s no day out quite like it - whatever the weather has in store for us. Where else can you show off your fell running prowess, build a dry stone wall, scream on a fairground ride, cheer on a sheep trial and scoff a scone with homemade jam and cream all in one day? Plus, we’ll be back at the Great Yorkshire Show, so come along and say hi.

Discover a hidden beach

Our Yorkshire beaches are brilliant all year round, come rain or shine. You might be looking forward to a trip to Robin Hood’s Bay on a sunny day. Maybe you prefer a windy walk along the Whitby coastline. But whatever your preference, make 2024 the year you explore some of Yorkshire’s lesser known beaches. Try Cayton Bay, near Scarborough - it’s a bit of a climb, but the views make up for that, and it’s a big hit with local surfers. Head to Kettleness, Whitby, to see its stunning beach waterfall. Or head out of Bridlington to Fraisthorpe, one of the locals’ best kept secrets.

Take That and party

It’s been a long five years since Take That went on tour, so we couldn’t be more excited that they’re back in 2024. Even better, they’re starting the tour in Yorkshire, with two dates at Sheffield’s Utilita Arena in April, followed by four nights in Leeds. Gary, Mark and Howard are pop veterans now, and they know how to put on a great show, with amazing staging, set design, costumes and vocals. They’re being supported by the always charming Olly Murs. Other musical highlights to look forward to this year include Nile Rogers at the Piece Hall in Halifax, Classic Ibiza at Chatsworth in July, and the return of Leeds Festival and Tramlines.

Curl up with a good book

Not one but two new books about the Yorkshire Ripper will be released in February. There’s What Doesn’t Kill Us, the seventh novel from Ajay Close, based on the Yorkshire Ripper murders. Ajay said: 'his is the novel I’ve been waiting to write ever since I was a young woman in Sheffield terrified of meeting the Ripper every time I went out after dark.'The List of Suspicious Things is the debut novel from Jennie Godfrey, who was born and raised in Yorkshire. It was partly inspired by her father having worked alongside Peter Sutcliffe, the man eventually charged with the crimes of the Yorkshire Ripper.

Great British Life: See works such as The Water-Lily Pond by Claude Monet up close in York. (c) The National Gallery, LondonSee works such as The Water-Lily Pond by Claude Monet up close in York. (c) The National Gallery, London

See a Monet masterpiece

Claude Monet’s artwork, The Water-Lily Pond (1899), will be on display at York Art Gallery from May 2024, to mark the 200th anniversary of the National Gallery. The London gallery is partnering with venues across the country to loan out 12 of its finest works. Morgan Feely, senior curator, said: 'The Water-Lily Pond is an instantly recognisable masterpiece. Our gallery backs on to the beautiful York Museum Gardens. This loan will provide us with a fantastic opportunity to develop a programme of activity which encompasses both the gallery and the gardens. Just as Monet took enormous pleasure in painting his garden, we’re keen to encourage everyone to enjoy both spaces.'

Great British Life: General View of the National Science & Media MuseumGeneral View of the National Science & Media Museum

Lights, camera, action

Work continues apace on the £6 million Sound and Vision project at Bradford’s Science & Media Museum. The museum closed in 2023 to embark on the huge project, which will see two new galleries built to showcase key objects and stories from its world-class collections of photography, film, television, video games and more. The project will also see improvements to accessibility and an enhanced public space. The museum and its cinema are due to reopen to visitors in the summer of 2024, with the new galleries opening in time for Bradford’s turn as UK City of Culture in 2025. We can’t wait to see what they’ve been working on.

Behind the bestsellers

Yorkshire’s not short of great literary festivals and 2024 promises the return of favourites such as Ilkley, York and Harrogate. In April, the Huddersfield Literature Festival will be headlined by Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, who will give a poetry reading followed by a performance with his band LYR. Comedian and actor Helen Lederer will also be there to entertain with stories from her memoir Not That I’m Bitter. Don’t live near Huddersfield? Don’t panic. It’s a hybrid festival, which means many events will be streamed or available to join remotely, including a talk from Emma Donoghue, whose novel is based on the life of the young Anne Lister (Gentleman Jack).

Stately sculptures

After its winter break, Castle Howard emerges for spring with the return of its house tours in April. Even more excitingly, the stately home will be hosting a sculpture exhibition by Turner Prize winner Tony Cragg. Running from May until September, it will be Castle Howard’s first ever headline contemporary sculpture exhibition. Sculptures will appear in the house and grounds, including inside the Temple of the Four Winds and in the Great Hall. As part of the exhibition, Over the Earth, one of Cragg’s most famous sculptures, will be presented outdoors for the very first time. The artworks are described as surprising, hybrid forms that challenge our thoughts and emotions.

Stay somewhere unique

The start of a new year is the perfect time to think about booking a holiday, but there’s no need to head overseas. We have so much spectacular scenery on our doorstep, and some truly unique architecture. This is the Landmark Trust’s speciality: quirky, historical holiday cottages, ranging from gothic spectacle to farmhouse chic. Why not stay in The Pigsty at Robin Hood’s Bay? Yes, it really was once lived in by the porcine pals of Squire Barry of Fyling Hall, but now boasts a comfortable interior and views across the bay. Or try The Ruin which, in spite of its name, is actually a dramatic folly in Hackfall, Ripon.

Great British Life: Atlantic puffin on a cliff edge, RSPB Bempton. (c) Rosie DuttonAtlantic puffin on a cliff edge, RSPB Bempton. (c) Rosie Dutton

Birds of a feather

The return of the puffins to RSPB Bempton in Bridlington is one of the highlights of the year. Puffins can be seen at Bempton from late April to early August each year, with peak sightings occurring between May to July. Will you be the first to spot them? And if you can’t wait until then, you can take part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, which takes place on the last weekend of January. It’s the UK’s largest garden wildlife survey, which has been running since 1979. So stock up on birdseed, position a comfy chair by the window, and take stock of the birdlife that visits your own garden.

Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb

A new year in Yorkshire heralds the arrival of a very special season for the foodies among us… forced rhubarb. Back in 2010, our very own Rhubarb Triangle in West Yorkshire was awarded Protected Designation of Origin status because, simply put, we do it better than anyone else. Thinner and sweeter than the unforced variety, you can’t go wrong with baking it into a good old fashioned rhubarb crumble served with custard. But if you’re feeling more adventurous, why not try pairing your forced rhubarb with something savoury? The tart flavour works beautifully in sweet and sour soups, with mackerel, or as an alternative to apples in pork dishes.

Great British Life: Kate Winslet and Hugh Grant were on location in Sheffield and at Wentworth Woodhouse in Rotherham last year. See the fruits of their labours in The Regime released this year. (c) HBOKate Winslet and Hugh Grant were on location in Sheffield and at Wentworth Woodhouse in Rotherham last year. See the fruits of their labours in The Regime released this year. (c) HBO

Yorkshire does Hollywood

South Yorkshire was all abuzz in 2023 with sightings of Hollywood heavyweights Kate Winslet and Hugh Grant filming on location in Sheffield and at Wentworth Woodhouse in Rotherham. Now, we’ll finally get to watch the fruits of their labours, as The Regime is released on HBO this year. It tells the story of a modern European regime, with Winslet at the helm, as it begins to unravel. It’s been produced by the people behind Succession, and it looks every bit as twisty and gripping, with Winslet on fine form as a leader who’ll stop at nothing to get what she wants. Pass the popcorn…

To market, to market

It’s been five years since plans were approved for a new food market in the centre of Bradford and, excitingly, Darley Street Market is expected to open in late spring or early summer this year. It’ll be bursting with fresh food stalls, as well as two spaces dedicated to pop-up ventures. On top of that, there will be indoor and outdoor seating and a stage to welcome local entertainers. We’re used to North Yorkshire towns like Malton and Helmsley leading the pack when it comes to foodie towns in Yorkshire, so we’re excited to see what Bradford can bring to the table to give them a run for their money.

Art in the city

A stunning six-metre-high sculpture will be unveiled in Sheffield in January, adding a bit of colour to the winter months. Local artist Coralie Turpin has been working on the piece since September 2023, and it will take pride of place at the new Pennine Five development in the city centre. She said: “I wanted the art to reflect the roaming hills of Sheffield and, of course, Sheffield’s famous cutlery-making heritage. Made from steel – this is for Sheffield after all – and beautiful coloured mosaics, the sculpture will be made to stand the test of time. It will be full of texture and richness, and bring a sense of uplifting positivity to the courtyard.”

Call to Arms

There’s one more reason to visit RHS Harlow Carr this year, as it opens its new Harrogate Arms cafe in a Grade II-listed building on site. Developing the new cafe has been a huge project, which will give visitors the chance to explore newly designed landscapes and to enjoy delicious food grown in the kitchen garden. It’s been a long road since planning permission was granted in 2019. But it’s been an even longer road for the Harrogate Arms building itself, which dates back to 1844. It was built by the then estate owner Henry Wright and its development is an exciting link between the garden’s past and present.

My 2024 - by Milly Johnson, author

Great British Life: Milly Johnson. (c) Perrin ReadMilly Johnson. (c) Perrin Read

“My 60th birthday and the release of my 21st book, The Happiest Ever After, will be within a week of each other in February, so I’m going to be having lots of little parties and quite a lot of cake! I’ve not had a holiday for five years, so I’m going on a big cruise, and I want to try wild swimming in Scotland. I feel very blessed to be releasing another book. Times are hard, and a hardback book from an independent shop is expensive, so I’m so grateful for the women who have put me at the top of the tree.” The Happiest Ever After is released on February 15 by Simon & Schuster.

My 2024 - by Roxy Shahidi, Emmerdale actress

Great British Life: Roxy ShahidiRoxy Shahidi

“I’m looking forward to being on Dancing on Ice, though it’s quite terrifying thinking of skating live in front of 7 million people. I’m especially looking forward to the hair, the costumes, the music - it’s all really good fun, and the perfect show for January. Outside of the show, I can’t wait to spend a bit of time renovating my house. I’ve said it before, but I’m doing Dancing on Ice to get myself a new kitchen! I’d also really like to take a bit of time for myself to do something like a yoga retreat, because life is pretty constant. And I can’t wait to be reunited with my Emmerdale girls!”

My 2024 - by Tommy Banks, chef

Great British Life: Tommy Banks (right). Tommy Banks (right).

"I'm so excited for 2024 because it's going to be all-systems-go on renovating our beer garden at our country pub The Abbey Inn at Byland. We’ll be including a brand-new outdoor food offering, too. Watch this space!" The Abbey Inn, which opened just a few months ago, in May 2023, is “a proper, country pub serving up reimagined classics with our signature Oldstead style." It’s just down the road from Tommy’s stalwart restaurant, the Black Swan. If you’ve not been yet, don’t wait for the summer months; get there now to make the most of the cosy fires on a chilly day. There are three guest bedrooms, too, if you fancy staying over.