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Founded by the Romans in 71 AD, straight from the off, York slaps you in the face with the proverbial bucket-load of history and culture. I only had a day to spend in York and without a doubt I’m going to say that, just one day out in York is not enough!
For those of you who either follow this blog or are subscribed to my Facebook page will more than likely know that I’ve spent the last month or two travelling to various destinations around the UK. Some of which I’ve always wanted to visit and some that, well, everyone seems visit and love, so it would be rude not to go and see what it’s all about.
As well as a massive hotspot for international tourism, my friends and family have always raved on about YORK! So, what is so special about York!? What’s it all about?…. 100-mile commute later, here’s what a day out in York looks like.
So, what is York famous for!?
As with a lot of posts about places that I have visited, I like to start with a few interesting facts. Well, it’s what I’d want to know, so I’m assuming you, the prospective tourist would like to know the same. Without anymore babble here they are:
- Home to the world’s largest railway museum.
- Home to the largest gothic cathedral in Northern Europe – York Minster.
- Has the oldest shopping street in Europe – The shambles.
- York has the longest and best-preserved town walls of anywhere in the UK.
- According to the International Ghost Research Foundation, York is the most haunted city in Europe – Not really a believer myself but each to your own eh!?
- York has England’s oldest working convent (founded in 1686) – If one day you feel the overwhelming urge to have a crack at the monastic lifestyle then you can even book bed and breakfast at the bar convent. Again, each to your own!
Delve into some history
The “Monk Bars”
Depending on from which direction you approach the city your first glimpse could be of the 14th century “Monk Bar”, built as one of four self-contained forts. This the most elaborate of the four forts was designed to be separately defendable on each of its four floors.
The Monk Bar now is home to the Richard III Experience at Monk Bar Museum. Although the museum is small, you get to watch an interesting 30-minute documentary on the history of the Monk Bars. There’s also some replica helmets to try on if you want to unleash you’re inner Roman. Let it be known that the stair cases are fairly steep and pretty tight for room, so if you’ve got mobility issues it would be best to give this one a miss.
Tickets cost £5, which for what it is, I’d say is a little steep but as it also gains you access to the Henry VII exhibition, it’s not too bad!
Walk the city walls
Head to any of the “Bars”, climb the steep, narrow stair cases and onto the city walls. The walls were first built around 71 AD and have been repaired and upgraded a few times since. As a result, most of the remaining walls that encircle the city are from the 12th – 14th century.
Many years after the Romans retreated from Britain, York fell into the hands of the Danes. In 867, with the Roman walls in such a bad state of repair, the Danes ripped down all the towers, apart from the Multangular Tower. After ripping down most of the towers, the Danes rebuilt the walls bigger and stronger.
The Multangular Tower is the best surviving part of the original Roman wall, at nearly 1700 years old it is thought to have been built by Constantine the Great between 310 AD and 320 AD.
All in all the old city wall is well worth a walk around. Well, by now you should know I do like a free activity…. After all, I’m tighter than a duck’s arse!
One good thing about it still, somehow being winter here in April is that without the trees being in full bloom, you can get amazing views of the inner city. One reason to visit in winter.
Check out the Shambles market!
Thought to have its first mention in history in the Doomsday book of 1086, there is no doubt that the Shambles market is steeped in history.
Open 7 days a week from 7AM and boasting over 85 stalls, a quick peruse around the Shambles Market is a must for any day out in York. On the Shambles market you’ll find plenty of fresh produce, merchandise and craft stalls. There’s even an outdoor street food area where you can get a bite to eat, find your next destination using the free Wi-Fi and soak up the atmosphere of the famous Shambles market.
As facinating as the Shambles Market maybe, it is heaving!! Get up early and make it one of your first stops… Beat the hordes!
Go see Clifford’s Tower…
Built in 1068 by William the Conqueror, Clifford’s Tower is the remaining one of the two motte-and-bailey castles.
Clifford’s tower has some amazing history of it’s own…
1068 – Both castles built.
1069 – Both castles are burn by the Danish invaders. After rebuilding the castles, William goes on a rampage, decimating much of north England.
1190 – The Jewish community of York, chased by an angry mob take refuge in the castle, without escape the opt for mass suicide.
1537 – After the pilgrimage of Grace, standing against Henry VIII. It is thought that the leader of the rebels Robert Aske is hanged from the tower walls.
1644 – The tower plays an imperative role in defending York during the civil war siege.
1684 – A large explosion decimates the interior walls and ends its capability for military use.
1820’s – The tower is used as York prison.
Now this place is something else altogether! Never before have I stood in a building and been this completely overwhelmed by the architecture, art and craftsmanship. York Minster is, apart from Westminster Abby the only Minster in the UK. It is on of only two churches in the whole world to have its own dedicated police force, the only other is St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Although a church has stood on the site for over 2000 years, construction on what we see today started in 1215 and took over 250 years to complete. Again, like I said with Chester Cathedral, how did they keep track of what was being built!?
York Minster houses over 50% of all stained glass in England and running the Minster costs on average £7 per minute! £7 a minute!? What are they doing? Opening the furnace door and throwing 50’s in!?
I’d love to show you millions of photos that I’ve taken of the inside but unfortunately, my uselessness strikes again! Easter Sunday! NO PHOTOGRAPHY ALLOWED!!! Looks like you’ll just have to go and see for yourself 😊
All joking aside, York minster is an absolute must see, completely mind blowing!!!
Get some cake at Thirteen Thirty One.
Not to far from York Minster, situated on Grape Lane in fact, Thirteen Thirty One is a nice little bar/restaurant that does tea/coffee and cake for less than £4… Bargain!! There’s even an attic cinema for if you’ve got longer to stay and fancy a nice evening meal and a movie before heading back to your hotel… Just an idea…
True to form, the British weather is crap!
As you’ll be able to see from my previous posts from the UK, I’ve been extremely lucky weather wise, nothing but blue skies and sunshine! No such luck for my day out in York. Grey, damp and completely miserable!
But it’s the 1st of April!? Well, what can I say? That’s the Great British climate for you, 7 months of pure winter, 4 months of warm rain and the remaining month is used up by scattered sunny days here and there, of which, it seems we’ve already had most of them this year!
Driving from my home city of Preston along the A59, along the border of the Yorkshire Dales, through Nidderdale (an area of outstanding natural beauty) I can’t help but think, “this looks like Chernobyl”. It’s been a very cold spring this year in England, every time the trees start to blossom it freezes again. Now here we are in April and still not a single leaf on any of the deciduous trees.
Luckily for me, having just handed in my notice at work and booked a flight to Bangkok for the end of April, no longer will I have to worry about the crappy British weather! Although it has not escaped me that it will be coming into rainy season in Bangkok, it just can’t be as bad as the UK… Surely??
A few tips for visiting York.
Don’t go on the Easter bank holiday weekend – It will be ram packed everywhere you go and you can’t take any photos inside York Minster.
Get to the Shambles Market early – At 1PM it was like trying to get to the bar in a busy night club when they’ve just announced happy hour!
Parking is a nightmare! – If you’ve hired a car and your coming from London then I would certainly advise you to use the park and ride service. Grimston Bar would probably be the best bet buses run every 15 minutes. The postcode is YO19 5LA.
Here’s where I sum up my day out in York.
In all honesty, York. It’s not really for me. But then can I really say that!?
First off, one day is nowhere near enough time to get a grip of what it’s all about. The constant rain, the complete and utter congestion of the city centre did not help matters at all.
Saying that, York was never really on the top of my to do list, it just so happened that I had a day free and it’s a couple of hour drive up the road. I think one day I’ll be back, maybe for a long weekend. Can’t completely write it off for what I have seen.
Oh, and York Minster…. Need I say more!?
So that was my day out in York. Have you been? What did you like? What should I go and see next time I’m there?