Hull's Old Town: Characterful pubs and a veggie restaurant with a difference ...

I'm embarrassed to admit that it is some years since I really spent time in Hull, despite it being just 30 minutes away from home down the A63. I was therefore thoroughly and pleasantly surprised to spend an afternoon there, rediscovering just how wrong the negative stereotypes about the place are. The marina is smart, with an air of exciting cosmopolitanism - the promise that goes with a city lying on the banks of the River Humber and a stone's throw from the North Sea.

There are arty touches all over - from the fish engraved into paving stones along the 'Fish Trail' (details from Tourist Information in the centre) to statues representing scenes from the city's history, such as a scene of a family en route to America. These are elements of a city that is at one with its heritage, elements of surprise that come as a real treat. There is a buzz about the place, added to by the beauty in the Georgian architecture.

The saddest aspect is the desolation of the high street: shops standing empty or occupied by tat chains. Once in the Old Town, you enter a realm of cobbled streets, characterful pubs and quirky restaurants. We went to The Sailmakers (a spacious pub with aquariums and plush sofas) and Ye Olde White Harte (a tiny space panelled in dark wood that is 'haunted' and has an ambiance created by chatter alone). We dined at Hitchcock's, a vegetarian restaurant with a difference. The cuisine is based on a particular country each evening, determined by the first table to book. When you arrive, you must ring a bell to be let in. You enter a low-lit warren crammed with tables, life-size models of kooky wild animals - think zebras with afros - and a tantalising banquet of home-cooked vegetarian fare.
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