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If you’ve never visited Hebden Bridge, you may wonder why a small town in West Yorkshire has been named ‘the greatest town in Europe’. The town has been thriving since the 1970s when a large influx of creative people migrated there to live, work and create thanks to the abundance of cheap housing at the time.
It’s now known for its welcoming atmosphere, quirkiness and creativity, named by British Airway’s High Life magazine as ‘one of the world’s funkiest towns’. Here are 12 reasons why Hebden Bridge really is ‘the greatest town in Europe’.
Hebden Bridge’s high street is completely devoid of chain stores. Instead, you’ll find a welcome array of independent shops touting everything from wool to records. Buying local is a way of life here, and it’s a refreshing change from your usual high street littered with the same old shops.
The countryside is on your doorstep with endless possibilities for walking and exploring. Hardcastle Crags is one of the most picturesque destinations to head to for surrounding yourself with nature, but you’ll find beautiful countryside whichever direction you set off in.
The Hebden Bridge Picture House is a welcome change from your usual multiplex. The original 1920s Art Deco building has been restored to its former glory, providing a cosy spot for watching the latest releases or a beloved old favourite film. Keep your eyes peeled for special screenings and events.
You wouldn’t expect one of the best music venues in England to be tucked away in a small market town in West Yorkshire, but the Trades has become an essential stop on the circuit of many touring bands. Everyone from Patti Smith to The Fall has played here, with tickets selling out in the blink of an eye.
Hebden Bridge seems to be perfectly positioned in the middle of Leeds and Manchester, making it the ideal commuter town for both cities. It takes just over half an hour to reach Manchester by train and under an hour into Leeds, providing residents with plenty of opportunities to escape the countryside for a taste of city life.
Known as the lesbian capital of the UK, Hebden Bridge is said to have more lesbians per square foot than anywhere else in the country. One of the most inclusive towns in the whole country, this is a welcoming place where people are encouraged to be themselves.
The picturesque Rochdale Canal runs through the heart of Hebden Bridge, providing a beautiful walkway on sunny days. Walk towards Todmorden along the canal to admire the colourful barges, and have a pint outside the Stubbing Wharf pub and simply enjoy the scenery.
Hebden Bridge is surrounded by other small towns that are just as captivating, welcoming and creative. Todmorden is known for its Incredible Edible community garden project and the raucous Golden Lion pub. In the opposite direction, towards Halifax, Mytholmroyd and Sowerby Bridge are known for their excellent pubs and picturesque surroundings.
If you like the arts, this is the place to be. Hebden Bridge hosts everything from the annual piano festival to burlesque, folk, steampunk and dance festivities throughout the year. The town also hosts its own Happy Valley Pride celebrations every August and a nine-day festival catering towards all of the arts.
Poet Laureate Ted Hughes was born in Mytholmroyd and lived in Heptonstall, and his wife Sylvia Plath is buried in the churchyard in Heptonstall. Many visitors flock to the town on a pilgrimage to visit the couple’s former house and Sylvia Plath’s grave, to commemorate the important work that the duo produced.
One of the most beautiful of all the local nature spots, this National Trust site is beloved of locals and visitors alike. Take a walk through the wooded valley, admiring the bluebells in spring, before stumbling upon Gibson Mill, where you can take a break and enjoy the café inside. There are plenty of small waterfalls, tumbling streams and unique wildlife along the way.
There’s an amazing community spirit in this small town, especially evident after the Boxing Day floods that devastated the area in 2015. The locals all came together to help each other and to restore beloved buildings after the flood waters had cleared, reminding everyone how friendly this town really is.