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Tour places Yorkshire in spotlight

When the Tour De France comes to Yorkshire this summer it will showcase the county's much-loved landscapes, villages and city centres to millions of people around the world.

With three million spectators expected to cheer the riders from the roadside and tens of millions more due to watch on TV, many famous Yorkshire locations are preparing for an unprecedented moment in the limelight.

Here are some of the highlights the riders, expected to include Mark Cavendish, Chris Froome and Sir Bradley Wiggins, will pass as they tackle the 390km (242 mile) route of stages one and two:

:: The race begins in the shadow of LEEDS TOWN HALL - the huge statement of Victorian wealth and power opened by Queen Victoria in 1858. It has been the venue for countless civic ceremonies and events, including being the venue for the world-famous Leeds International Piano Competition which takes place every three years. The start line will be on The Headrow - where most of Leeds' best-known buildings are located.

:: HAREWOOD HOUSE, the 18th-century home of the Earl of Harewood, is known for its John Carr architecture, John Adams interiors and Capability Brown gardens as well its collection of Chippendale furniture. The current 8th Earl, David Lascelles, is the Queen's cousin, once removed, and a great-grandson of George V. The house is one of Yorkshire's top tourist attractions.

:: As the riders pass through the spa town of ILKLEY, they will see the famous Ilkley Moor - the inspiration for Yorkshire's unofficial anthem - "On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at". The song is a cautionary tale about the possible dangers of young women not wearing hats on exposed moorland. Yorkshire-born actor Brian Blessed rapped on a new version recorded last year.

:: AYSGARTH FALLS had their 15 minutes of fame 20 years ago when scenes for the Kevin Costner movie Robin Hood - Prince Of Thieves were filmed at the beauty spot. Generations of tourist have had their picture taken by the River Ure as it cascades down a series of steps in the underlying limestone. The tour passes on the main A684 above the falls.

:: The market town of HAWES is one of the main tourist centres in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It is home to Wensleydale Cheese - Wallace and Gromit's favourite dairy product.

:: After tackling the Buttertubs Pass, the riders drop into SWALEDALE - the quintessential Yorkshire dale, with its black-faced sheep and patchwork of stone-walled fields. But despite its tranquillity today, Swaledale has an long industrial past and was a major centre for lead mining in the 19th century. Through it flows the River Swale - England's fastest-flowing river.

:: The race passes through the narrow streets of a series of Swaledale villages starting with the norse-named MUKER - a centre for wool and lead production until tourists provided the mainstay of the local economy.

:: GUNNERSIDE takes its name from a Viking chieftain's summer pasture - Gunnar's Saetr. It is known for its rows of small cottages with long narrow gardens where lead miners supported their families with hill farming in the summer months. The Old Working Smithy & Museum at Gunnerside is another popular local attraction.

:: The market town of REETH is the unofficial capital of Upper Swaledale. It once produced 10% of England's lead but, with its grey, stone cottages arranged around a large green, it is now a picture-postcard tourist centre. The Reeth Show, in August, is a major attraction. Swaledale Museum is on the green.

:: The riders leave Swaledale with a climb over GRINTON MOOR. Stone-walled fields give way to heather moorland as the road gets higher. The moors are littered with remnants of old lead working. Many acres are used for commercial grouse shooting.

:: The town of MIDDLEHAM is dominated by the medieval castle where Edward IV was imprisoned and Richard, Duke of Gloucester, lived as a child before he became Richard III. The 15th-century Middleham Jewel was found near the castle by a metal detector enthusiast in 1985 and was later acquired by the Yorkshire Museum after it raised £2.5 million. Middleham is now a horse racing centre with a number of stables and associated gallops in the surrounding area.

:: For many visitors, the village of MASHAM is synonymous with Yorkshire beer. Pronouned Mass'em, the village is home to two breweries. The oldest is Theakston's - makers of the famous Old Peculier. The Black Sheep Brewery was set up in 1992 by a member of the Theakston family.

:: The Tour skirts the ancient city of RIPON. The city is dominated by its huge 12th-century cathedral. The cathedral's Saxon crypt is thought to date from the 7th century, which could make it the oldest church building in England to have remained in continuous use. The riders may also glimpse Ripon racecourse - known as the garden racecourse.

:: Just south of Ripon is FOUNTAINS ABBEY, one of the best-preserved Cistercian monasteries in England. The ruins are set in 800 acres (323 hectares) of countryside which form a Unesco World Heritage Site.

:: Stage one ends in the centre of HARROGATE - the Georgian spa town was voted Britain's happiest town in a 2013 poll. Regarded as one of the more upmarket places to live in Yorkshire, it is famous for its Royal Pump House, Betty's Tea Room and conference centre. The Stray is a 200-acre (81 hectares) stretch of parkland which dominates the south of the town centre.

:: Stage two starts at York racecourse before the riders enter the centre of the city and its scores of well-known landmarks. Most notable of all these is YORK MINSTER, the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe. The riders will also pass Clifford's Tower and the Mansion House.

:: One of the highlights of stage two will be the town of HAWORTH, near Keighley, best known as the home of the Bronte sisters. The Bronte Parsonage Museum is preserved as a memorial to Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte, who lived in the house in the early 19th century. The town is also on the edge of the wild moors known as Bronte Country, especially with reference to Emily Bronte's famous 1847 novel, Wuthering Heights. Riders will also negotiate Haworth's cobbled Main Street.


From Belfast Telegraph