What many folk also don’t know about England’s fourth largest ity is its penchant for adventure sports. The city boasts some serious adrenaline fixes, such as Sheffield Ski Village – England’s largest all-season ski resort. It caters for all levels of skiers and snowboarders, making it the perfect place to learn from scratch or hone your skills if you can’t get to the real thing.

Ice Sheffield, a £15.7 million world-class skating venue, has two Olympic-sized ice pads where you can learn to skate or even disco on ice, and the Abyss at Magna is the UK’s only indoor bungee jump. Other attractions include two indoor rock climbing centres, an international sports centre, and a recreational park at which you can try a hand at sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, rowing or cable water skiing.

For the more sedate, there’s the nearby Chatsworth stately home (see breakout) and for those who like to spend money rather than expend energy, there’s plenty to tempt you on the high street. Orchard Square, Fargate and West Street are great for shopping, whether you’re looking for knick-knacks or designer goods, and for something different head to the Devonshire Quarter, home to independent shops and quirky fashion stores.

No, the problem with Sheffield isn’t the lack of things to do, or a matter of aesthetics. Rather, it’s that the tourist services haven’t quite got to grips with all they have to offer. At some points during the trip, I began to wonder if I was being secretly filmed for a comedy show after almost every piece of information I was given on what to see and do in the area proved wrong.

Thanks to the Sheffield Visitor and Accommodation Guide, which clearly says Sheffield Ski Village is closed for half of the year, I didn’t make the journey to the slopes which, I discovered on my way home, were open for business.

Instead, I drove 20 minutes out of town to see Chatsworth on the assurance that the grounds and gardens were open to tourists. In fact, the only glimpse I got of one of Britain’s best-loved historic houses was through its locked gates. “Closed until the middle of March,” a better-informed local told me.

After my countryside trauma, I drove, cursing all the way, back to Sheffield, eventually managing to locate (the co-ordinates on the free Sheffield map were wrong, naturally) the mammoth retail palace that is Meadowhall. With more than 270 stores it’s difficult to avoid setting your savings back a month or two.

I left struggling to carry the results of my retail therapy – just the ticket after getting lost, missing the slopes and craning through padlocked gates. •

What to do
Take in some history
Chatsworth was voted Britain’s best stately home in 2004-05 and has been described as ‘the stateliest of stately homes’. Home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, it’s surrounded by beautiful English countryside, so leave some time for exploring the grounds. Check opening times on their website, www.chatsworth.org.uk.

Get out on the town
As a university town, Sheffield’s many pubs and clubs attract a crowd every night of the week. Try Benjamin Huntsman ƒ-28 Cambridge St), one of the first non-smoking pubs in Britain.

Stay indoors
Weston Park Museum has just reopened after a £17 million refurbishment. Its 2007 exhibition Whatever the Weather (March 30-September 30) is an insight into climates of the past, changes to the weather and how you can affect the climate of the future. Admission is free.