On the north bank of the Humber estuary, not far from the North Sea coast and deep within East Riding of Yorkshire is Kingston-Upon-Hull, or Hull, a port city and UK City of Culture 2017. The title of City of Culture is held by a city for four years and so, in early January 2020, the final year of its tenure, we headed north to visit East Riding’s only city.
Having arrived into Hull’s Paragon station on a Hull Trains service, we were interested to see what the city had to offer and so made our way into the city centre towards Queen Victoria Square and Princes Quay. Deciding first to delve into the city’s seafaring history, we headed into the Hull Maritime Museum to see what it had to offer.
The Maritime Museum is housed in the former offices of the Hull Dock Company and tells the story of Hull’s maritime history. Whilst exhibits stretch back to the Bronze Age and through the Middle Ages, the vast majority of the museum focuses on the city and port’s more recent history from the 19th century onwards.
Our visit to the museum was perfectly timed as it came just a few days before it closed for large scale, £11 million refurbishment, with it set to re-open in 2023. Given that during our visit I was completely enthralled by the history of one of the key cities in the 19th century Whaling and North Sea fishing industry, I definitely want to re-visit the museum when it reopens with a larger exhibition space as the centrepiece of Hull’s “Maritime City Project”.
After spending the morning exploring the Maritime Museum, we headed towards the Minister hoping to have a quick look around before finding some lunch. Unfortunately, the Minister was undergoing some refurbishment work meaning it was only open at limited times, however across the square we discovered the Hull branch of one of my favourite pub chains, Head of Steam, where we decided to stop for lunch and a quick pint.
After lunch we headed to one of the country’s most famous aquariums, and a landmark centre for marine research, The Deep. Situated on the north bank of the Humber at the mouth of the River Hull and beyond the end of the old town, the Deep is located next to one of the most impressive looking flood defences I’ve seen, with the tidal barrier towering over the river, allowing ships to pass under when required.
The Deep has previously been voted the best family place to visit in Hull and it is easy to see why, as with a mix of traditional living exhibits, interactive displays and audio-visual presentations, there is loads for all ages to see and do! The Deep’s largest living exhibit, Endless Ocean, contains 2.5 million litres of water and represents the vast open oceans with inhabitants ranging from Sharks to a pair of rescued Loggerhead Sea Turtles.
One of the things we made sure to do was see the feeding of the penguins, which is just one of a number of talks and feedings that are scheduled throughout the day for visitors. It was fascinating to learn more about the Gentoo Penguins that inhabit The Deep’s Kingdom of Ice and the member of staff was able to tell us about the individual personalities of the different penguins. The Kingdom of Ice is designed so that you can observe the penguins in different areas both above and below the water and some of their behaviour whilst being fed was amazing to see.
Tickets for The Deep are £15 for adults and £11.75 for children over 3 which drops to £13.50 and £10.57 respectively if bought online. There are plenty of options for Food and Drink around The Deep including the Castaway Café on the 3rd floor giving views out over the Humber and mouth of the Hull and the Halfway café partway around the exhibits. The Deep is also home to the Two Rivers Restaurant which provides tank side dining on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. We didn’t get to visit the restaurant and I only learnt of its existence whilst writing this post, however it is certainly on the list if we head back.
On our way back from The Deep, we decided to head along the River Hull up to the Hull College and Queen’s Gardens area where the Wilberforce Monument is located. The Wilberforce Monument commemorates William Wiberforce, a Hull local and the town’s Member of Parliament for over 30 years, who led the movement for the abolition of the slave trade. After dedicating a lot of his political career first to the movement for banning the slave trade and then to the campaign for the complete abolition slavery, Wilberforce died just 3 days after being assured of the passage of the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833.
As we walked from the Wilberforce Monument back towards Hull’s Paragon station, I was impressed by the large number of light shows illuminating both stand alone sculptures and The Maritime Museum. These displays mostly were varying colours of lights illuminating either a sculpture or building, however one of the fountains in Queen Victoria square also had a display of lights chasing the water. After spending way too long on a cold evening trying to get arty photos and videos of the various illuminations (see one on my Instagram), it was time to head back to the station as our time in Hull came to a close.
With us only having had a day in the wonderful city of Hull, it is definitely on the re-visit list and hopefully we’ll be back within a year. Why a year? Because tickets for The Deep are valid for 12 months and given the amazing time we had there on this visit, we definitely want to make the most of this offer. Also, hopefully with some forward planning, our next visit can coincide with a time when the Minster is open, and we can explore what looks like another stunning church.
With our time in the city fairly limited on this visit, we also didn’t have much time just to wander around and explore. There are a multitude of smaller museums around the city telling various parts of Hull’s fascinating history and also some markets I hope to explore, including a street food hall on the square outside the Minster. So hopefully, if the plans come together, you’ll get to see some more of Hull’s highlights on my social media in 2020.
Hopefully this blog will have given you a small insight into the fascinating city that is Kingston-Upon-Hull and some of it’s amazing history. There’s plenty to do for all the family, so if you’re visiting Yorkshire make sure to pay the city a visit, or just head up there for a weekend of exploring and learning!