Enjoy sweet treat with visit to York

A view of York from the city walls, with the Cedar Court Grand Hotel and Spa to the foreground on the right.
A view of York from the city walls, with the Cedar Court Grand Hotel and Spa to the foreground on the right.
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Just as Sheffield’s industrial heritage lies in steel manufacturing, only 50 miles away York is known for making something far less heavy-duty.

The city’s chocolate factories are responsible for some of the biggest names on confectioners’ shelves, from Rowntree’s KitKat to the Terry’s Chocolate Orange.

Now an exhibition at York’s Chocolate Story shows how the product was used to boost spirits during wartime, including displays of specially-commissioned tins given to all the city’s servicemen at Christmas in 1914.

The moving display accompanies the centre’s usual tour, which tells the tale of the Quaker families who established York’s chocolate factories.

Visitors are also able to get hands-on by making their own chocolate bars, as well as being let in on some tricks of the trade by skilled chocolatiers.

York itself is something of a Mecca for anyone with a sweet tooth – boasting as it does an extremely popular branch of Bettys Tearooms, which attracts long queues for its genteel afternoon teas.

The magnificent spires of the Minster and the historic, winding streets of the city centre also make an impressive setting for a short break – which, of course, requires a fittingly luxurious place to stay.

The five-star Cedar Court Grand Hotel and Spa is a stone’s throw away from York railway station – which in itself is less than an hour away from Sheffield on frequent CrossCountry services.

Four years ago the hotel, which once housed the headquarters of the North Eastern Railway company, was given a revamp and today boasts 107 bedrooms and well-appointed suites on the upper floors.

Guests also have full use of the spa facilities – which take up the space once occupied by the NER’s vaults where millions of pounds were kept safe.

Our room was spacious and afforded good views of the York skyline.

Guests are also spoilt for choice with several hotel lounges – the main bar offers 70 enticing cocktails, a dedicated whisky room serves dozens of different blends and an outside terrace is set aside for enjoying chilled glasses of champagne.

Diners are catered for with two restaurants – Hudson’s grill room and HQ, a fine dining venue offering a seven-course tasting menu.

However, we sampled the food at Cafe Number 8 Bistro, a small place which punches above its weight with excellent dishes at good prices.

A risotto of summer vegetables was as fresh and light a starter as you could wish for, while the crispy pig cheeks with black pudding and chorizo were much more tender than expected, served with a rich elderflower and rosemary jelly.

Sheffielders are used to having places others would consider prime holiday destinations – such as the Peak District – on their doorsteps.

But it’s always worth remembering that perfect short breaks can be had without even leaving Yorkshire.

48 HOURS IN YORK

TO GET THERE: Direct CrossCountry services run frequently from Sheffield to York. Visit www.crosscountrytrains.co.uk to book.

TO STAY: The Cedar Court Grand Hotel and Spa, on Station Rise, prides itself on being York’s only five-star hotel. Rates start at around £175, packages available. Visit www.cedarcourtgrand.co.uk for more information.

TO EAT: Cafe Number 8 Bistro, on Gillygate, offers a two-course menu for £19, or three courses for £23. The menu is influenced by flavours from around the world. A garden backs onto the city walls. Booking is recommended. Call 01904 653074.

TO DO: A York Pass saves money with entry to a host of attractions including the Jorvik Viking centre, the Minster, York Brewery Museum, the Chocolate Story and even Castle Howard. Prices start at £36 for adults. Visit www.yorkpass.com for details.