It’s terrible to admit that I’ve not explored much of north England, opting to travel abroad instead of enjoying the sights on my doorstep. But following several recommendations from friends I decided it was time to discover the joys of my own country and I was starting with York!
Not many people think a good weekend starts with a 5am car journey, but to avoid the traffic and make the most of our day we had set the alarm early. As a large market town, Yorks has a fabulous mix of history, architecture and shopping so we knew to expect a crowd when we got there.
As soon as we arrived I couldn’t wait to drop the bags off and get out to explore. We’d chosen our hotel for its central location and within minutes we’d walked right into the centre of town.
We hadn’t had breakfast, so were on the look out for a coffee shop. On a recommendation by the hotel receptionist we headed to Bettys tearoom. A traditional 1920 building offering an old-fashioned silver-service experience. We’d heard it was a popular choice and weren’t surprised to find a queue snaking around the outside of the building. Not willing to wait, we carried on walking and found ourselves in Brew and Brownie a quirky little cafe with a vintage style. Retro Beatles prints hang on the walls and there are an abundance of cushions to cosy into
The cafe was opposite the park so after our breakfast we wondered over and joined a gathering of people for a Red Coat city tour. The tour was definitely our luckiest find, as within two hours we not only knew a briefed history of York, but also our way around!
Another great way to quickly get to know your way around is to walk the old city walls. There are four points around the city where you can climb the steep steps that lead you to the wall path. These paths are high and act like a viewing platform for the sights of the city.
The focal point of York is the Minster, which towers above the rabbit warren of city streets. If you like architecture, then you’ll really enjoy the splendour of this gothic cathedral. Both the outside and inside are breath taking and you can loose yourself in the amazing detail, design and stained glass for hours
Outside the Minster your just a few steps away from the famous Shambles, which is believed to be the oldest shopping street in Europe. Due to its popularity, it was a squeeze to get down this narrow cobbled street, which was once home to butcher shops. Although the shops are now a mix of souvenir and sweet shops, you can still see the deep windowsills and large hooks where the butcher’s meat was once displayed.
To finish our trip, that night we came back into town again for the ghost walk. Our guide was dressed in costume and full of enthusiasm. His stories were not scary but the theatrical experience was very entertaining and kept us laughing all evening.
York is an archaeological heaven! It has been conquered by the Romans, Saxons and Vikings, who all left behind their mark, creating a rich and unique history. There is so much more we would have liked to do but just ran out of time.
Where we stayed:
Hotel 53: This is a 3 star so you can’t expect luxury, but this no frills hotel is clean and a very convenient 5 min stroll into the town centre.
Where we ate:
Brew & Brownie: A warm welcome and yummy American pancakes made this cosy little cafe a winner for me. It had the best coffee in town in my opinion and was located right in the heart of town and just around the corner from the Minster.
What we saw:
The Minster: You couldn’t really come to York and not visit the Minster – it’s grand architecture, high ceilings and stunning stained glass windows make this a must see. As part of your ticket you can also go into the under croft which gives you a detailed history of the minster.
The Guided City Tour: We stumbled on this free walking tour by accident outside the Kings Manor and it turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. The two-hour tour gives you a brilliant overview of the history of the city and as it was our first day in York so also gave us a good idea of how to get around. Our guide was really knowledgeable and we covered some little streets and sights I’m sure we would have missed otherwise.
York City Walls: Climb the steps at the Micklegate Bar and walk the walls around the city. You’ll be up high so it’s the best way to see a birds eye view of the city and also an ideal way to escape the hustle and bustle of the town. The best stretch runs behind the minster and gives you a peek into the grand gardens of the Dean.
The Shambles: A shopping trip with unique history!
All photos are my own.
Thanks for reading