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11 tips for enjoying the Great Yorkshire Show

Hippy sheep at the Great Yorkshire Show

Christine and I have just come back from this year’s Great Yorkshire Show. It’s over now for 2013, but it’ll be back next year. Whilst it was Christine’s first visit, I’ve been many times over the past few years, so here are my tips for making the most of your visit.

1. Book your Great Yorkshire Show tickets in advance

You can buy tickets on the gate, as you go in, but they’re more expensive – around £3 extra per person. Instead, you can book them online in advance – and, to save postage costs, you can print them out yourself. Furthermore, if you’re planning to travel there by train (more on this later), then there’s an extra £2 off per ticket if you buy your Great Yorkshire Show ticket, at the same time as your tickets to travel to the show. It’ll need to be a station with a staffed ticket office which is operated by Northern Rail; this includes Leeds, Harrogate and both Bradford stations, amongst others. York’s travel centre is operated by East Coast so I’m not sure if they will be able to sell you a show ticket.

2. Plan for all weathers

The Great Yorkshire Show is always in July, but that’s no guarantee of good weather. In fact, heavy rain last year forced the cancellation of the second and third days, for the first time in the show’s history, leaving its organisers £2million in the red. Hopefully improvements to the ground will mean that this won’t happen again, but make sure you are prepared for all weather conditions and check the forecast before you set off.

Today started off overcast, so I was glad to have a jacket, but also glad that I’d brought sunglasses and suncream for the afternoon when the sun finally made an appearance. Because it’s a predominantly outdoor event, pack a waterproof or umbrella if there’s a chance of rain.

3. Wear sensible footwear

Don’t go to the show in sandals. Even with the scorching weather forecast for the afternoon, we both wore thick socks and hiking boots. Thankfully the ground was mostly very dry this time but you will spend quite a bit of time walking on grass which could be muddy. If you visit the animal enclosures then it’s a good idea not to wear your best shoes as the ground underfoot may not be the cleanest. And remember that you will be on your feet a lot, so ensure your footwear is comfortable.

4. Take cash out before you get there

There are cash machines on the site, but they will all charge a fee for withdrawing money. We used the free ATMs at Leeds station before getting the train up there, and ensured that between us we had plenty of cash. The larger trade stalls will accept credit and debit cards though.

Goat being petted at the Great Yorkshire Show

5. It’s easily do-able by public transport

Car parking is ample, but there are often queues to get into the car parks in the mornings. Instead, you could take the bus or train. The Great Yorkshire Show’s organisers lay on a free shuttle bus between Harrogate bus station and the white (northern) entrance to the showground. And the bus station is located next to the railway station, where there are half hourly direct trains from Leeds and hourly services from York, plus the odd service from London and the south. Northern Rail lay on a few extra trains as well to cope with the demand.

If you’re happy with a 10-15 minute walk, then rather than getting off the train at Harrogate (when coming from Leeds), you could instead alight at Hornbeam Park. This station is actually much closer to the Great Yorkshire Show and the route is reasonably well signposted, and quite a nice stroll too. The past two times I’ve visited, I’ve got off the train here, but then taken the shuttle bus back to Harrogate for a train back to Leeds.

Bear in mind that there will almost certainly be ticket inspectors on the platforms at both Harrogate and Hornbeam Park, so you will need to buy your tickets before boarding the train.

6. On the whole, the programme is the same each day…

The Great Yorkshire Show always runs over three days – Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday – and most of the stalls and events are common across all three. But it’s worth checking the Great Yorkshire Show web site to see if there are any events that are particular to one day. The tickets that you buy are valid for any one day, so you don’t have to commit yourself to a particular day when you order them.

7. …but there are advantages to going on the Thursday

We went on the last day – Thursday – this year. Because it’s the last day, some stalls – namely those selling fresh food – may cut their prices to clear their stock. Either because it has a short shelf life and can’t be sold again elsewhere, or to save on the costs of transporting it home. We bought a reasonable wedge of some prize-winning cheese for a £1, and a box of four cupcakes reduced from £5 to £3. There was also an auction of some of the larger blocks of cheese that had been used for the cheese competitions – somebody was able to walk away with around £100 of Cornish Yarg for about £50.

Some stalls will only drop their prices late in the afternoon, so stick around if this interests you, and be aware that you may not get as much choice.

8. There’s a wide range of good food, at a price

After paying over £20 a head to get in, you may be rather peeved to find that, once inside, the catering is also rather pricey. There’s some really good food out there, and there is a really good range, but if paying £5.50 for a hog roast in a bap sounds too much then you can bring your own food. Just be aware that you will have to eat it outside, as the indoor cafés do not permit you to eat your own food at their tables. Which is fine if the weather is okay but not so good when it’s raining.

Bald Eagle at the Great Yorkshire Show

9. There’s enough to do for a full day out

We got there at about 11am, and left at 5pm, with only a few minutes for lunch. That’s six hours of entertainment, essentially, which means that you do get reasonable value for money from your ticket, even if it is quite expensive. As well as all of the trade stalls, there are various demonstrations and displays throughout the day, which can be educational as well as entertaining.

10. Freebies, freebies and more freebies

You will pick up a lot of freebies whilst at the Great Yorkshire Show. The bigger brands that are there will happily give you goody bags of stuff, especially if you have kids with you. Most stalls selling food products will offer free samples – we must have sampled at least 30 different cheeses whilst there. The Sainsbury’s and Asda stands were particularly good for letting you try things.

There are also plenty of competitions to enter, if you don’t mind sacrificing your personal details. Some of the ones we saw included a gallon of whiskey, a food hamper and a crate of beer.

11. See the animals

The primary purpose of the Great Yorkshire Show is that it is an agricultural show, and it’s organised by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society. So over the three days there will be competitions for the best animals in various classes, and all of the animals will be there for you to view in the stables. You can usually pet the animals as well, which should entertain your kids. The horses, cattle, goats, pigs and sheep are there over all three days, but the smaller animals – namely poultry, pigeons and rabbits – are only on select days.

Whilst most of the competitions are simply judging how the animals look, some are more interesting and we made it in time for the pig racing this year. Which, as pigs weren’t really built for racing, is certainly an interesting spectacle.

If you’ve never been to the Great Yorkshire Show, then I’d definitely recommend going. Don’t let the high entry charges put you off as it will fill a whole day, and I’ve always enjoyed going to it each year. And Christine seemed really impressed following her first visit. See you next year?

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