Treasure trove of heritage that could lead to a financial jackpot

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When most people look at York Minister, they see the imposing Gothic architecture and intricate carvings which make it one of Europe’s most impressive cathedrals. Tourism bosses see all that too, but they also see pound signs.

A report commissioned by the Heritage Lottery Fund has estimated that heritage tourism contributes almost £21bn to the UK economy, more than the manufacturing sector or the country’s growing film industry.

While some visitors may come to the county for the sandy beaches of the East Coast or the rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales, it’s history that really sells.

“Four in 10 overseas visitors cite heritage as the primary motivation for their trip to the IK – more than any other single factor,” said a HLF spokesman. “It’s also a national pastime with seven out of 10 adults in England, 35 million people, visiting at least one heritage site in the last 12 months. It’s also very likely that heritage tourism will become of increasing importance to local and regional economies. Historic visitor attractions are local employers, purchasers of local goods and services and provide customers for local shops, restaurants and hotels.”

The report cited the impact of Castle Howard as evidence of the financial rewards heritage can bring. Not only did it employ almost 900 suppliers, but of its £4m annual expenditure, half the transactions were made within Yorkshire and the estate was seen as playing a vital role in creating and maintaining business opportunities in that particular corner of North Yorkshire.

With the economic importance of historic sites becoming increasingly well-documented, a new guide championing Yorkshire’s treasures has just been published in the hope of raising awareness of the attractions which span the centuries and boost visitor numbers.

The county is blessed with more than 32,000 historical buildings and monuments and the best are being showcased in the new publication which is the brainchild of Welcome to Yorkshire and English Heritage.

Including sections on everything from castles to waterways and steam railways to sites of military importance, it’s hoped the guide will act as a one stop shop for the 40m or so visitors who come to Yorkshire each year.

“We want to encourage more people to discover the county’s rich past,” says Gary Verity, chief executive of the tourism body Welcome to Yorkshire. “Yorkshire is packed with historical sites, including some of the world’s best.

“York Minister is the largest medieval Gothic cathedral north of the Alps, Fountains Abbey is England’s largest monastic ruin and Brodsworth Hall is one of England’s most complete surviving Victorian houses. Our county has an unrivalled amount of spectacular historic buildings and locations – we actually have more listed buildings than there are chateaux in France, so it makes perfect sense to capitalise on that with this campaign.

“We know it’s big business with the potential to grow further. We are delighted to have the support of English Heritage and hope this campaign helps encourage even more people to step back in time and discover the story of a nation written into drawing rooms and battlefield, its museums and mills.”

To view the new guide visit