Known for its industrial heritage and working-class grit, the Yorkshire town of Barnsley is probably not the first place that comes to mind if you are looking for a cultural getaway, but don’t let this hardworking exterior fool you! Despite what you may think, Barnsley has quite the selection of cultural activities. From monastic ruins to Regency Balls, there is enough here to satisfy even the most discerning of culture enthusiasts.
1. The Cooper Gallery
Although small, the Cooper gallery is home to some giants of the British art world. The quality of the permanent collection is outstanding and includes works by Lear, Turner, and Clough. You will also find visiting collections from international, national and local artists, so there is always something new to see. If the art isn’t enough to keep you satisfied, the building itself has a fascinating and colourful history, from its beginnings as a school, to a stint as a hospital in World War II. Newly refurbished and updated, the gallery is accessible to everyone and admission is free. You will also find free parking behind the building. After viewing the art, pay a visit to the Impressionist’s Coffee Lounge, where you can enjoy a coffee on the sun terrace and admire Barnsley’s first living wall.
The Cooper Gallery
Address: 33 Church St, Barnsley S70 2AH, UK
Website: The Cooper Gallery
2. Cannon Hall
A beautiful Georgian manor house with 70 acres (28 hectares) of spectacular gardens, greenhouses, parks, and lakes to explore, this museum has been open to the public for 60 years. Inside you’ll find a fine collection of antique furniture and ceramics, as well as exhibits of artworks that have been collected over the years. Cannon Hall also holds some very special events throughout the year, including summer activities for children, a Christmas fair, and an annual Regency Ball, where you can experience the splendour of life in a Georgian stately home for yourself! Dates vary from year to year, but with a little bit of planning, your visit to Cannon Hall will stay in your memory for all the right reasons.
Address: Cawthorne, Barnsley S75, UK
Website: Cannon Hall
3. Barnsley Museum and Discovery Centre
Located in the Barnsley Town Hall and dedicated to the history of the people of Barnsley, this is a hands-on and interactive museum, making it perfect if you are visiting with children. Filled with artefacts, original documents, films, photographs and recordings that have been donated and collected over the centuries, the Barnsley Museum is a celebration of the town’s industrial heritage. Free to visit and open 7 days a week, there are often special events and exhibits on, especially during the school holidays, so be sure to check the website before you visit.
Barnsley Museum and Discovery Centre
Address: Church St, Barnsley S70 2TA, UK
Website: Barnsley Museum and Discovery Centre
4. Pot House Hamlet
The Pot House Hamlet is a charming attraction in Silkstone, Barnsley. Once the site of a 17th-century glassworks, this award-winning attraction offers so many sights to capture your attention- from the petting farm, rose nursery, and clothing boutique to the delightful Potting Shed Cafe that adjoins the old mill house. When you have finished pottering around the hamlet, take advantage of the grounds, which make for a perfect picnicking spot, or discover the ancient wagon way beside the Silkstone Beck for a short walk.
Pot House Hamlet
Address: Pot House Hamlet, Silkstone, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S75 4JU
Website: Pot House Hamlet
5. Elsecar Heritage Centre
In the conservation village of Elsecar, Barnsley, you will find a unique attraction - the Elsecar Heritage Centre. With craft workshops, artist studios, an antique centre, a historical railway, and a children’s play area, this is an exciting day out for all ages. Wander around the village at your leisure, or if you are visiting on a Saturday, take the ‘Earl’s Village of Iron and Coal’ guided tour. In addition to its permanent attractions, many special events are hosted throughout the year, so be sure to check what’s on before you visit! The heritage centre is also home to the Newcomen Beam Engine, an impressive piece of machinery that is the only one of its kind still in its original location. This engine is considered so important to the history of the area that it was awarded a full restoration grant. Now restored to working order, you can visit this behemoth of industrial ingenuity on special demonstration days- be sure to plan ahead if you want to see it in action!
Elsecar Heritage Centre
Address: Wath Rd, Elsecar, Barnsley S74 8HJ, UK
Website: Elsecar Heritage Centre
6. The Civic
If you are looking for an evening of entertainment while in Barnsley, chances are you will find it at the Civic. After sitting empty for more than 11 years, the Civic has now been restored to a fantastic space for both performing and visual arts. The programme changes regularly and includes a wide variety of entertainment, from workshops to world-class touring shows, as well as music, theatre, dance, comedy and art exhibitions. With a long list of ever-changing attractions, whatever your taste, you are sure to have a memorable evening out.
Address: The Civic, Hanson Street, Barnsley, S70 2HZ
Website: The Civic
7. Monk Bretton Priory
Are historical ruins your thing? If they are, then a visit to this 12th-century Cluniac monastery is not to be missed. The outlines of the church, kitchens, and cloister are said to be the clearest example of a Cluniac monastery in Europe. You can also see a fantastically well-preserved drainage system here. The walls of the gate house still stand almost complete, giving you an insight into the architectural techniques of the time. Open from 10 am to 3 pm and entry is free, but keep in mind that parking is limited.
Monk Bretton Priory
Address: 17 Abbey Ln, Barnsley S71 5D, UK
Website: Monk Bretton Priory
8. Wigfield Farm
A working farm and teaching facility, Wigfield farm is also a wonderful day out if you have children who are animal lovers. In addition to all the usual animals you would expect to find on a farm, you can also see meerkats, rats, alpacas, rabbits, and tortoises here. Children can feed lambs and watch the keepers take care of the larger animals. Older children can sign up for the Young Keeper Experience and learn what it’s like to be a farmer for a day. During the school holidays, the farm runs arts and crafts days, has storytelling sessions, and organises a special Christmas festival each year. If you are looking for something to entertain your children while you’re in Barnsley, Wigfield farm may be the very thing.
Address: Haverlands Ln, Worsbrough, Barnsley S70 5NQ, UK
Website: Wigfield Farm
Far from being an industrial backwater, Barnsley has some unusual and exciting cultural treasures to explore, and whether you are visiting with children or travelling alone, there is something here for everyone.
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