South Yorkshire is the southern county of Yorkshire in the north of England. Much of it is industrial, but its western reaches in the Pennine hills have lonely moorlands and scenic valleys.
South Yorkshire marks the beginning of "The North" - neighbouring areas just south are in the Midlands. It's nowadays a county in name only, as it's divided into four "unitary" or metropolitan districts, with no county level of government. It's convenient here to consider it in terms of those four, as visitor amenities cluster and transport routes radiate accordingly.
City and towns
The four metropolitan boroughs are Sheffield, Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham.
- 1 Sheffield the "Steel City" is especially renowned for fine steel products including cutlery. There are many visitor attractions and amenities, and two large universities. Sheffield is the birthplace of Arctic Monkeys, Human League and Pulp.
- 2 Barnsley is a former mining town
- 3 Rotherham is an industrial and steel-making town.
- 4 Doncaster is east of the hills in broad farmlands. The town itself is industrial but has a famous racecourse, and there are several museums and manors in the surrounding countryside.
You'd never fly between London and South Yorkshire, it's too close. Flying into the London airports involves travelling into central London then taking the train north. However for Doncaster, with fast trains from London King's Cross, this could work out quicker.
Direct trains run every 30 minutes from London St Pancras to Sheffield (2 hours). They run at least twice an hour from London King's Cross to Doncaster (1 hr 40). For Rotherham or Barnsley, travel via Sheffield or Doncaster.
Walk or use bus within each town. Between towns there are buses but train is much quicker, with a frequent service. Trams link Sheffield and Rotherham.
- Abbeydale industrial hamlet in Sheffield depicts the early mill era, powered by waterwheels. Then they discovered steam power, fired by coal.
- Ill-gotten gains: this area lay above the South Yorkshire coalfield, which was thick and easily mined hence immensely profitable, as was the iron and steel industry those coals supported. The owners converted their lucre into vast mansions, and (with a wave of their patrician canes at auctions) bought up freighter-loads of Italianate and Grecian art. Meanwhile their busy colliers dug beneath so industriously that the mansions subsided and fell down. A well-preserved example is Cannon Hall near Barnsley.
- Castles: the best is Conisbrough near Doncaster, paradoxically preserved by falling into ruin, and which launched the modern TV and movie career of Robin Hood. Many 17th / 18th C mansions had no defensive purpose but are described as castles, such as Wentworth near Barnsley, where m'lord swept away the earlier structure, only to painstakingly recreate its picturesque ruin on his front lawn.
- Street art: every urban area has graffiti, but Sheffield has some two dozens murals and similar that rank as works of art.
- Watch football: pro soccer teams play most winter Saturdays, with home stadiums at Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster.
- Walk, bike or boat along the River Don, which is canalised and navigable. South Yorkshire's canals, built to carry away coal, connect to the sea at Goole, and to the Aire-Calder system across the Pennines.
- Go to the races at Doncaster, where the big event is the St Leger in September.
- Sing mass in ancient Egyptian: the Coptic Orthodox Church of St Anthony is in Rotherham. Liturgy is little changed in thousands of years and long pre-dates Arabic.
- Go down a coal mine: the National Mining Museum is just over the boundary into Wakefield, West Yorkshire, but you'll descend into the same coal seam mined in Barnsley and across South Yorkshire.
- Sheffield has the most cosmopolitan choice, in all price ranges.
- Barnsley Steak is actually lamb. It goes well with green beans and new potatoes, and a big chug of red wine.
- This is beer-drinking country. Lots of pubs, and the national chain JD Wetherspoon has earned grudging northern admiration for its commitment to real ale, good grub and customer service.
Standard advice about road safety and valuables. The county is mostly low-lying with few natural hazards.
- Attractive limestone scenery lies a little way southwest in the Peak District.
- York preserves its medieval walls and has many visitor attractions, as does Lincoln.
- Lively Manchester is little over than an hour away.
- Sherwood Forest, enfolding the village of Edwinstowe, is 30 min drive south. Its best-known inhabitant Robin Hood got his big break at Conisbrough near Doncaster, thanks to Sir Walter Scott's novel "Ivanhoe".