How to make the most of living in Doncaster
There are four mansion houses in the UK – and one of them is in Doncaster. You can take a look around the impressive Mansion House, which is right in the heart of the town centre, by heading to one of the free open days throughout the year. Afternoon teas and tea dances are also hosted there so you can experience the building’s 250-year history for yourself.
Continue up High Street until it becomes Hall Gate – a right-hand turn will eventually take you to Cast theatre, which opened in 2013. Located in the Civic and Cultural Quarter, it hosts a monthly comedy club, as well as dance shows, musicals, and plenty of events to keep children entertained. There’s also the Cast Café Bar where you can grab a drink or a bite to eat.
For some of the most impressive historical architecture in the area, you’ll need to hop in your car. A 6-mile drive outside Doncaster town centre will take you to Brodsworth Hall and Gardens, an English Heritage property that dates back to Victorian times. The house has been restored, but the real highlight is the gardens – head down beyond the fountain in early spring and look back at the Hall to see the flowers in full bloom.
Also owned by English Heritage is Conisbrough Castle, around 6 miles from the centre, considered to be one of South Yorkshire’s best surviving examples of military architecture. Built in the 12th century, the castle stands proud over Conisbrough – you can even scale the tower for great views of the surrounding area. Be sure to explore the defences and learn more about the people who have lived there throughout the centuries, and there’s also a packed-out events schedule that help bring the castle’s history to life.
Getting around Doncaster
Rail heritage is important to Doncaster. The Flying Scotsman steam locomotive was built in the town, so it’s appropriate that one of the area’s most important transport links is its train station - a major interchange for the east coast mainline. The journey to London King’s Cross can take as little as an hour and a half, while other destinations on the route include Leeds, Manchester and Southampton.
Road links in and around Doncaster are among the best in the country, with the A1(M) and M18 running past the town. The nearest city, Sheffield, is around a 40-minute drive, while you can reach Leeds via the M62 in about 45 minutes.
The town has its own international airport – Doncaster Sheffield Airport – in Finningley, 7 miles south-east of the town centre. Doncaster is also in the enviable position of being close to many others across the country. Leeds Bradford, Manchester, East Midlands and Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport are all within a two-hour drive, making it easy to travel abroad for business or pleasure.
Shopping in Doncaster
Doncaster market has been at the centre of the town for hundreds of years and continues to be a firm favourite with locals. A full market is held on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, where you’ll find more than 400 stalls throughout the square and inside the 19th century Corn Exchange. The fish market draws shoppers from far and wide and is famous for its fresh seafood and shellfish.
Lakeside Village is a little over 2 miles outside the town centre, where you’ll find more than 45 outlet stores including Next, GAP and M&S. There are often special events including free crazy golf and a Santa’s Grotto at Christmas. It’s also right next to Doncaster Lakeside, perfect for a stroll once you’ve finished shopping.
For some of the best local produce, head 8.4 miles out of town to McCallums Farm Shop in Finningley. Their products showcase the best that Doncaster and the rest of South Yorkshire has to offer, using 75 suppliers within a 20-mile radius of the farm. During the summer months, you can pick your own fruit, including strawberries, blackberries and gooseberries.
Eating and drinking in Doncaster
Doncaster has a selection of great cafés, pubs and restaurants, both in and out of the town centre.
Doncaster Brewery and Tap should be top of your list if you’re a lover of real ales. Grab a pint (the Doncaster Brewery ales are made ‘out the back’) and have a chat with your fellow punters – there’s not a TV screen or slot machine in sight. This friendly, unassuming bar on Young Street in the town centre has a packed schedule of events, including a book club, live music performances and a craft group.
For a dining experience with a difference, there’s no substitute for The Gourmet Dining Room’s supper club. Top chef Michael Price serves the finest local produce in his home across a multi-course tasting menu. You’ll need to be patient (and lucky) to get a table – they’re typically booked up at least six months in advance.
Here are a few of our top out-of-town picks in Doncaster.
Locally-sourced food doesn’t come much better than at The King William in Scaftworth, close to the suburb of Bawtry. You’ll need to travel 10 miles outside the town centre, but once you’re there, you can enjoy a drink in the snug and cosy up by the fire in the main dining room. The food is handpicked from local producers and the latest suppliers are displayed on a blackboard by the bar so you know exactly where your food has come from.
Bawtry has its fair share of great places to eat and drink. China Rose has been serving Cantonese food for more than 25 years, while Caviars Restaurant and Wine Bar offers everything from Sunday lunch to afternoon tea. For a more unusual experience, The Blind Librarian is worth a look. This speakeasy bar is hidden down St Nicholas Terrace and has a real prohibition era feel.
Doncaster’s East Yorkshire suburbs are also where you’ll find your pick of the best cafés. Jimmy Piggs, 3.8 miles north-east of the town in Edenthorpe, serves homemade cakes and fresh coffee. The Village Tea Pot in Arksey is home to one of the best all-day breakfasts around
Beyond Doncaster city centre
The annual St Leger Festival is held every September at Doncaster Racecourse. It’s the oldest classic race in the world and draws in crowds from miles around. Thursday is traditionally Ladies’ Day, when women compete for the Best Dressed crown – but don’t let the name fool you, men are welcome too!
Doncaster is also where you’ll find the South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum. Hidden behind Doncaster Leisure Park and accessed via Dakota Way, it’s on the site of the town’s former RAF base and open to the public seven days a week. The museum hosts regular events including cockpit days, where you can get behind the controls and feel what it’s like to be a pilot. Activities are available to keep your children entertained during school holidays.
Strata’s new builds in Doncaster are just a stone’s throw from a wealth of attractions. Yorkshire Wildlife Park is one of Doncaster’s star attractions, with more than 300 animals and 60 different species. It’s 4.6 miles from the town centre in Branton, and popular residents include polar bears and meerkats. Annual passes can work out great value if you’re likely to return to the park time and time again.