We were so lucky with the weather during February half-term. It was a shame that so many places were still shut. I have had the Yorkshire Sculpture Park on my list of must do’s for far too long and luckily it was open. The weather forecast promised sun and temperatures up to 12oC. It didn’t disappoint and we were soon taking our coats off on our walk around this vast park.
My Mum has lived in Yorkshire and the Midlands for most of her life and didn’t even know this place existed. It’s been around since 1977! The park is halfway between Wakefield and Barnsley in West Yorkshire and just a short drive from the M1. Mum was pleasantly surprised as were myself and my 5 year old. We were a little concerned he’d find it boring but he found it anything but and enthused about our day out there all the way home.
It was incredibly busy when we arrived at around 10:30 am. I guess it had to be! With so few places open and what was to date the warmest day of 2019, everyone had the same ideas as us – to spend some time outdoors!
This was day 9 of our #80dayschallenge to have at least 80 days out in one year.
Essential Information About Yorkshire Sculpture Park
When is the Yorkshire Sculpture Park open and how much does it cost
Yorkshire sculpture park is billed as art without walls and has been around for 42 years now. It is open daily except for Christmas Eve and Christmas day. The grounds and the centre are open from 10 am until 5 pm. It is free to visit the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Please note that if you are visiting by car you will need to pay £11.00 to park all day. There are cheaper options for less time but to be honest, the place is huge so you may as well pay to park all day.
You can pay to park any time during your visit or up to 7 days after. This is because the parking works on number plate recognition. There is a bus that stops at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The 96 bus runs daily between Wakefield and Barnsley, with regular stops at YSP.
Can you take a dog?
Yes, you can take a dog but my goodness did we see people breaking the rules. You are required to have your dog on a short lead at all times. Many times we saw dogs off their lead. There are also a couple of areas where dogs can’t go such as indoor spaces, the upper lake and Menagerie wood. We counted 4 dogs in the upper lake area.
You also aren’t allowed ball games – guess what we saw? You also aren’t allowed to take bikes. We were almost mowed down by two kids on bikes. I don’t know why we are becoming a nation of rule breakers.
How suitable is the terrain for buggies?
The answer, not especially suitable. Most of the paths are rough terrain with bricks, stones and tree branches. A lot of the paths are also muddy and most are very steep. If I were you I’d leave your buggy at home. You can request route advice from members of staff, this also applies to wheelchairs and mobility scooters.
Is there a map?
Yes, you can pick up a paper map when you arrive. They also have a map online that you can print out before you leave home. We referred to our map many times. Not just to work out where we were going but to help us identify where certain sculptures were located that we wanted to see. The site is vast as it covers 500 acres of parkland and the sculptures are spread out wide across this parkland.
Food at Yorkshire Sculpture Park
We ate our lunch down at the YSP learning and cafe centre. Mostly because we didn’t fancy the walk back up the hill. There is less choice here but when we visited the other larger cafe at the end of the day I was glad of our decision. It was so incredibly hot in there, unbearably so. The food was limited with just a few sandwiches, snacks and hot and cold drinks. They don’t even sell diet coke, argh!. The food up at the YSP restaurant is a lot more varied.
You are allowed to take picnics in their picnic area.
Walking the area around the YSP Learning and Cafe
We headed off towards the underground gallery once we had arrived. There weren’t any exhibitions in here during our visit but it looks to be a large space.
We then chose to head on down the hillside towards a Barbara Hepworth sculpture The Family of man. This sculpture actually had security watching it. They are very strict that people must not touch any of the sculptures at the park. Most are behind ropes which honestly is a bit of a shame but I guess that requires more staff such as the man who was keeping an eye on the Barbara Hepworth which you could walk up to. Some of the sculptures do change during time.
There are a few other sculptures near to the Family of man. Look out for this sparkly one pictured below.
Just before the Camellia house we spotted this cheeky hare sculpture. There is another of a hare sitting around the other side.
The Camellia house is worth a visit. Even in February the Camellia’s were in full bloom and smelt stunning. There are quite a few sculptures around this area which aren’t on the map.
Most impressive was my 5 year old spotting that some sculptured heads were from the Chinese zodiac. My Mum nearly passed out with shock at that statement. It is worth wandering around this area as we found many sculptures some of which I will include photos of below, again they aren’t on the map. They have over 80 sculptures out in the open air so they can only include what they consider to be the highlights on their map.
You can’t look around Bretton hall as it is currently being converted into a hotel which sounds like a fabulous idea. I’d love to stay here and be able to spend a couple of days wandering around with a room to go back to.
We then decided to have an early lunch before embarking on the lake walk after. One thing you must take with you is plenty of water. We soon downed our supply as there was so much walking to do.
The Lake Walk
I guess the Lake Walk does look quite a long way on the map but it turned out to be even further than we thought. It took us at least two hours to walk around 3/4 of the lake. We had to give up on the final stretch as I was far too hot and laden down with coats. This was a shame as we missed a few Henry Moore sculptures plus some others that we’d seen in the distance and thought looked interesting.
There are quite a few bridges and dams along this walk and a portion of it dogs aren’t allowed on. It is not suitable for buggies and there’s a lot of hills to walk up and down. Some steeper than others. There are a few follies along the lake walk such as a Greek temple and Obelisk (both smaller than we were expecting). Old boathouse, shell grotto (lacking shells), stepping stones (incredibly busy – nearly got into an argument with someone!) and Lady Eglinton’s well (very picturesque spot on the walk).
You will also find the David Nash seventy-one steps sculpture which was well 71 steps. We didn’t attempt them at this stage with water running low.
On the way back up the hill towards the YSP centre look out for the chapel and the Iron tree. Sadly we missed this and if we return we will certainly be going to have a look. They have a few Henry Moore sculptures in this area.
The rest of the park – Recommendations for your visit
I would be amazed if anyone managed to walk to see all of the sculptures in one day. It was tough going doing what we did but we may be unfit compared to others. We had a lovely day out though despite the effort involved. The park extends back a lot further past the lake with more sculptures be found on other footpaths.
Most of what is at the park is around the north of the lake though. In hindsight, we should have walked around the north lake area to see all the sculptures in this area including the chapel. Plus a stroll over the head bridge by the dam and down to Lady Eglinton’s well and back up again. I’d have happily missed out the rest of the lake walk. There is more than enough to see and explore on the north side of the lake.
When we return, as I am sure we will, we will walk what I have recommended above. That will not only optimise what we get to see but also minimise the walking (yet still fit in plenty of walking). If we do, however, visit during the bluebell season we spied many sprouting forth on the walk to find the Greek temple in the Bridge royd wood. These would be lovely to see as I can imagine they are quite a carpet of flowers.
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