When you ask anyone in the UK what Hull is famous for most people either won't know where Hull is or tell you to stay well away from there. Obviously people from Hull see that a bit differently and pride themselves in their little city at the Humber. Over the last couple of years I've come to love Hull for its little quirkiness like the white phone booths, the good night life and of course the Deep. However, the one thing every proud Hullonian needs to have done in their lives is the fish trail! Fish trail I hear you ask, what is that? No, it is not a tour of a smelly fish factory nor a fish&chips shop crawl. It is indeed a walking route through old town and the marina area hunting down the shapes of various fish species carved into stone and wood, etched onto glass and even drawn onto walls. Granted, it does not sound terribly exciting at first but the fish trail is a great way to get to know the nicer parts of Hull without aimlessly wandering around boring and uninspiring side streets. If local history and architecture does not take your fancy you can still follow the trail and use the map as a pub crawl with a twist.
The adventure starts at the tourist office (Yes, Hull has a tourist office) in town. Ask there for the Fish Trail map and one well spent pound later you will be the proud owner of a map leading you around the city. There are 46 different fish species located on the trail, all with their rough location and a small description of the art work given. At the time of writing a part of the trail was closed off due to on-going building works, meaning that we missed out of a few points to tick off. But I've got one more year left in Hull so there is still time left to complete it. The map is quite good and points out the important sights along the way including several churches and viewpoints of the marina. You are supposed to tick off every fish you have spotted (and no cheating here please) to earn your own, super amazing Fish Train completion certificate. Frankly, the whole thing is absolutely worth it just for that certificate.
Before the fishy adventure can start some vital preparations are needed; do not take this lightly - any real Hull explorer needs a fair amount of equipment. Pen (s), a camera and a smartphone are a must; especially the smartphone in case you get stuck at one of the stations and need to look up some hints online as to where to find the fish. Station three - the x-ray fish - was for us the trickiest. Although there are subtle hints on the map we searched for half an hour without even the slightest hint of these mysterious creatures. With it being only the third station of the trail we did not want to lie and just tick the box; there was still some willpower and spirit left in us to complete our task. A little online research helped getting us back on trek and the fishies were found quickly. With new found vigour we kept going, ticking fish after fish from our list. And then we hit a wall - quite literally. Construction worked cut off a couple of streets with marked stations, meaning that there was no way to finish the Fish Trail completely. This might sound slightly crazy but after three hours of hunting for random carvings on the pavement we really did want to finish this properly. Now with this option gone we went straight to the next pub for a good old pint.
And that is for me at least one of the nicest things about the Fish Trail. It doubles up as a great pub crawl through old town. Following the map leads you past a huge variety of pubs, bars and some very decent restaurants. Doing the entire trail in one go can take anything up to five hours but splitting it into sections and sampling the local drinking and dining culture at the same tome makes for some very entertaining weekends. We ended up getting new maps from the tourist office, tackling ten stations every Sunday. This way we got to see all the best parts of Hull without spending hours in the freezing cold walking past all those homely pubs along the way. So far we have not finished the entire trail yet but there are less than ten stations left - one more sunny weekend is all I need to be the proud owner of a Fish Trail certificate.
Once completed just hand in the map with the ticked off stations back to the tourist office to get your certificate. It is quite a nice memory of a trip to Hull and of course it is a must have for everyone living in Hull. During summer the Fish Trail is heaps of fun and I have noticed several families enjoying a great day out and seeing a side of Hull that is not very well known. Not many people venture out to the marina area and especially students are far too stuck in Cottingham/Newland Ave area. Altogether it is a cheap day out that can be tailored around anyone's specific preferences - be that local history or pubs. Personally I think that they could have done with less stations. With up to five hours to complete the entire trail it is just too long. Obviously one could rush it and finish in three hours or so but with the point being to see more of Hull you might be missing the best bits that way.
For anyone who wants to see quite a lot of Hull, but doesn't fancy aimless wandering, I heartily recommend the Fish Trail. Listed on a leaflet available from the Tourist Information Centre, there are various representations of fish set around the city. Some are carved stones set in the pavement, some are metal, there are sculptures, railings and even fish burned into the wooden planking of the Victoria Pier. Twenty-six different species are represented, one for each letter of the alphabet, and all have been brought into the port at some point in history. The trail is quite long - I think we took about half a day including lots of stops for photographs, but I seem to remember there are bits you can miss out if you can't face any more fish. However, I really enjoyed the sense of exploration and searching for the fish in the designated area (okay, so I'm a big kid). The carvings and other representations are all in different styles and materials, and very well done. Taking in places such as Trinity church (amazingly juxtaposed with the reflective office block across the street - also check out the underground loos up the road by the pub!), Victoria Pier (again, cool loos - this is another side of Hull I guess :), the tidal barrage and the transport museum, the tour is certainly comprehensive, and a great way to see more of the city than just the shops. I believe the leaflet should cost £1, but we got it for free as they had run out, and only had photocopies left. But it's a pound well spent if you ask me.