The historic city of York, Yorkshire, England, is a mere 38.2 miles from my hometown Kingston-Upon-Hull, yet we had not visited York for more than 20 years. In March 2012 we put that right, with a long weekend break as part of a 60th birthday celebrations.
York was a city so familiar to me as a child, teenager and young woman. School trips to York were frequent due to the relatively short traveling distance and the number of museums, galleries and historic buildings to be found all over the city.
You may wonder how come we had not visited York in such a long time and the answer is not complicated.
Married for more than 40 years now hubby and I have never owned a vehicle; neither of us drives. We walk a lot, cycle although less often these days and use public transport. The privatisation of the railways in the UK played havoc with some regional services.
The last time we had visited York we faced either a long bus journey or a train journey that was not a straightforward one.
All of this meant that for us, with two rescue dogs sharing our home, a day trip to York was not worth the hassle. By the time we arrived it would almost be time to return.
Yet I had a yen to visit York again for some time. So our long weekend break was to be a treat and I wondered what would have changed, if anything in York.
There was no change as far as getting there went
Works on a local train-line meant that we had to take a coach to a small village called Brough, then walk to a train station in order to get a train to York. We then had to change trains at Doncaster. Ultimately the journey was twice as long as it should have been. It was as well that we were staying over.
So did York live up to our expectations?
Yes it did, and some. Once we had located our Bed and Breakfast accommodation we decided we would explore York. It is not a large city but we managed to get lost.
The old part of the city has ancient walls with a couple of historic gates leading out. Mistaking one gate for another we ended up with a mammoth walk.
Once bitten twice shy though and by the second day we had found our "York legs".
The bonus with walking a great deal day to day normally is trekking around a city such as York is no problem.
There is so much to see as you wander around plus ample numbers of pubs and cafes around. A must see for many visitors to York, including us, is the National Railway Museum. As we walked to the NRM we passed so many other sights.
York Minster was so central to our accommodation we used it frequently as a way to get our bearings.
After passing the Minster, the famous Shambles is nearby. We first walked past a statue. The statue of Constantine was drawing a crowd of tourists, all angling to take the best shot of it. We had to snap the accompanying sign though which made us laugh.
Glancing down the Shambles the familiar overhanging buildings had not changed at all. This is now a shopping area and full of tourists, especially at weekends.
A walk past the park, Yorkshire Museum and York Eye eventually led us to the NRM. Although it was March the weather was kind. It was cold and crisp but a beautiful spring day. So we took in these sights before we finally entered the NRM.
The National Railway Museum was one place that had changed since our last visit. It is close to the railway station and that has been radically overhauled too. The Museum is just so large.
Finally for us, and the many children visiting the museum, the icing on the cake was the Hogwarts Express. It was sited outdoors but many of the engines are indoors; perfect for British weather.
We decided on a round trip walk back. This was partially so we could remember where the various attractions are located in York. We passed the Jews or Clifford's Tower which is close to the Castle Museum. Both are well worth a visit. The Castle museum is large and has many displays. The Jews Tower is worthy of a visit more for its historic significance. At the foot of Clifford’s Tower a plaque marks the darkest chapter in the history of York’s Jewish community.
"On March 16th 1190 a wave of anti-Semitic riots culminated in the massacre of an estimated 150 Jews – the entire Jewish community of York – who had taken refuge in the royal castle where Clifford’s Tower now stands."
If you have enjoyed this virtual walk around York and get the chance to visit do so. The attractions detailed here are just some of those waiting for you to discover.
This photo-essay is just a glimpse on many attractions in the historic city of York.
Yorkshire Museum York
In the last couple of years The Yorkshire Museum York has undergone extensive changes. The building is located in a pleasant green area, in the centre of the historic city of York which skirts the River Ouse.
York has so many attractions such as museums, historic buildings, churches, shops and more.
The Yorkshire Museum though has to be ranked as one of the city's best places to visit.
The museum's official website details, "The Yorkshire Museum reopened on 1 August 2010 following a nine-month £2million refurbishment project. Five new galleries now showcase some of Britain's finest archaeological treasures and many rare animals, birds and fossils, in exciting new displays. Our aim is to make the Yorkshire Museum a must-see destination in a tour around the beautiful city of York. Come and see us this summer and give us your verdict, whether you're a regular user of the museum or a first-time visitor. The refurbishment work has also restored the museum's Georgian building, letting in more natural light and opening up spaces that have been divided up over the years. The museum was opened in 1830 by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society and was one of the first purpose-built museums in the country."
We visited this museum in early March 2012 and were pleasantly surprised.
The recent renovations meant that the museum is in pristine condition.
There was one exhibition still awaiting completion but there was so much more to see that it did not matter.
If you are exploring York you will find that the Yorkshire Museum is close to the York Eye, The Railway Museum, the River boat trips, shops and cafes. Part of the gardens plays host to the York Mystery plays.
On entering the museum the main forecourt included an interactive Roman display. Tap on an image and the Roman soldier or villager came to virtual life on a life-size screen and talked to visitors. Fascinating for young and old children and adults alike.
Also included in the Yorkshire Museum is a large lecture theatre where when we visited museum visitors could watch a brief film showing the time-line for the history of York.
The gardens cover ten acres and reach as far as the York Art Gallery. Historic buildings and remains of ancient walls are surrounded by green areas and flowers. For our Spring visit it was daffodils brightening up our days.
The website carries full pricing and opening time details which include.
Museum - We are open daily from 10am - 5pm, except for 25 and 26 December, and 1 January, and will be closing at 2.30pm on 24 and 31 December.
Gardens - The gardens are open daily from 7.30am, except for 25 December. From late October until late March, they close at 6pm, and during the summer months they open later into the evening.
Entry to the garden areas is free.
Check out the website for current prices and upcoming exhibitions by following this link.
A visit to the historic city of York in Yorkshire, England can leave you overwhelmed with the choice of attractions on offer.
If you have never visited before sifting through what is available can be time consuming. All too soon your visit will have ended and you may have missed some good opportunities.
Already we have detailed shopping in York, especially in the area known as the Shambles, and a visit to the National Railway Museum, NRM, but what about organised walks?
York is a relatively safe and trouble free city. It is not massive. Bear in mind though that some of the cobbled streets are hard on the feet. You should feel safe and comfortable wandering York's old and its modern streets. Organised walks though enable you to get to your destination, gain valuable information and walk about in the added safety of a small group.
Ghost Walks can be fun. There are many such walks tramping around the old town each night. The cost varies as does the route and starting place. Most offer price reduction concessions.
Clifford Tower, or The Jews Tower, is a well-known landmark in the City of York, and the itinerary of some ghost walks include this place.
However there is a Jewish History Trail which includes Clifford's Tower as well as other places associated with the past Jewish community.
Clifford's Tower is actually the Keep of what was York Castle.
On March 16, 1190, 150 Jews were under siege in the Tower. In an act of collective suicide the Jews set fire to the Tower. The full history of this event and the tower can be read at Wikipedia Here.
The York Jewish trail takes in a Norman house, a Jewish cemetery, synagogue, Jubbergate, a medieval synagogue and Clifford's Tower. Clifford's Tower is visited by many tourists each year. Some simply wander past on their way to the nearby Castle Museum. Others wander up the steps and take photos. It is worth a visit though.
Closed during the off-peak season apart from weekends.
Check out the current opening times and prices on offer by following this link.
[York is a busy tourist attraction most tines of the year. Bear this and school holidays in mind when you plan a visit]
The Shambles York
The Historic City of York is in Yorkshire England. If you want history look no further. This relatively small city is packed to the rafters with attractions and history. Not that far from this blogger's home town it was a familiar place for day trips as a child. In recent years the visits have been less frequent. The problem is that for a medium sized city there is just too much to see comfortably in one day.
This was rectified earlier this week with a long weekend stay in York. Arriving by train Saturday lunchtime and departing Tuesday lunchtime there were still plenty of attractions left for us to visit next time. That is all to the good as we are already planning a winter break when we can include a little Christmas shopping.
To write about York as one long blurb would be too much. Therefore the visit will be split into different reports. This one will detail The Shambles and shopping in York.
So what are The Shambles?
The Shambles is a very old street in the City of York. The buildings overhang the street and many are lopsided to say the least. It is quaint, charming and more often than not packed with sightseers. A narrow, cobble street runs through the middle but it is traffic free.
Surprisingly York was damaged in the World War Two German bombing. Luckily however the City still has many of its original buildings and features. Some have been restored and but for signs declaring this you would not know.
The Shambles date back to the fourteenth century. From then until the 1800s butchers shops populated the street. These days they have vanished. These days the shops are more "gentrified" including a hand made chocolate shop, gift shops galore and unusual shops. Close by the market offers a cheaper supply of the usual tourist goods. The Shambles is not a cheap place to shop.
According to wikipedia various UK towns have their own shambles. "Shambles" is an obsolete term for an open-air slaughterhouse and meat market. They also got their names from having been the sites on which butchers killed and dressed animals for consumption. The Shambles in Stroud still has the hinged wooden boards attached to the shops, and hosts a regular local market"
Well it is much more civilised these days. Pubs, cafes and restaurants abound in the area. The Shambles itself is surrounded by a wide shopping area which includes the usual Marks and Spencers, Banks and the like as well as more unusual shops.
As so many of the streets are cobbled they can be hard under foot. Wearing sensible footwear or not is up to you but be warned. If you do not your feet will soon ache.
Along the Shambles there is a house that is a small shrine. It is free to enter.
It is a shrine to Saint Margaret Clitherow. Inside you will find a traditional Shambles room with dark wood paneling and a low ceiling. A small altar and pray area has been arranged here.
In 1586 Margaret was arrested.
She was accused of harbouring Roman Catholic priests. It was a time when the holy Roman catholic faith was not allowed in England. In an attempt to protect her children from being forced to testify and probably tortured Margraet refused to enter a plea to the court. For this she was crushed to death. This was the preferred punishment for those who refused to enter a plea at that time in our English history.
Wikipedia details how Margaret was killed, "She was killed on Good Friday 1586. The two sergeants who should have killed her hired four desperate beggars to kill her. She was stripped and had a handkerchief tied across her face then laid out upon a sharp rock the size of a man's fist, a door was put on top of her and slowly loaded with an immense weight of rocks and stones (the small sharp rock would break her back when the heavy rocks were laid on top of her). Her death occurred within fifteen minutes; she was left for 6 hours before the weight was removed from her corpse. After her death her hand was removed, and this relic is now housed in the chapel of the Bar Convent, York. After Clitherow's execution, Elizabeth I wrote to the citizens of York to say how horrified she was at the treatment of a fellow woman: due to her gender, Clitherow should not have been executed."
If you visit the shrine spare a prayer or thought for Margaret be you religious or not. It is a peaceful place amongst the thronging 21st Century shoppers roaming The Shambles.
It was only in the 20th Century that Margaret became recognised for her courage and sacrifice. She was beatified in 1929 by Pope Pius XI and canonised in 1970 by Pope Paul VI along with other martyrs from England and Wales.
If you visit the Shambles pre Christmas you will be in for a treat. However at any time of year it is a fascinating place to visit.
Visiting the historic City of York
This writer is very lucky to have the historic city of York within easy travelling distance. York has history by the bucket loads, it also has shopping, a wealth of museums, beautiful nearby countryside, the races, Castle Howard a short distance away and so much more.
When you visit York, be it for a day, a weekend or a vacation you will find that there is just so much on offer. Located in the county of Yorkshire, God's Own Country, England, there are the Dales and coastal resorts close by.
Take a boat trip down the River Ouse in the heart of York to the Bishop's Palace; experience a flavour of days gone by at the Jorvik, Viking, museum with smells, sights and sounds of the past; visit the quaint shops in The Shambles or check out the Castle Museum which needs a full days' visit in order to do it justice.
Around 1,000 years ago York was one of England's leading cities. Its power may have gone but this has been replaced with bags of tourist appeal.
Just a few attractions on offer
The Castle Museum
York's Castle Museum is very large. It includes life-size replicas of days gone by and gives the visitor glimpses into bygone years. These are in the form of sitting rooms, prisons and streets, for example. The museum shows a wealth of history over quite a period of time. Its recreated Victorian Street includes an actual shop that was moved to the museum. Displays around the museum include the sixties and Castle prison.
Castle Museum covers a large area and may not suit those with mobility issues. There is a museum cafe and shop.
For further details contact:
York Castle Museum, Eye of York, York, YO1 9RY. Telephone: 01904 687687
Clifford's or The Jews Tower
As children in 1950s England we tended to refer to CliffordsTower as the Jews Tower. This was because in 1190 the Jewish community of York took refuge in the tower. At that time the tower was made of wood.
Some of the persecuted Jewish community taking part in this siege committed suicide.
Eventually the tower was set ablaze and those Jews who did not die in the tower were killed when they emerged. This early anti-semitism was very much a sign of the times.
When you visit Cliffords Tower there is little to actually see inside but it does offer wonderful views of York. It is also quite a poignant place to visit as you read a little of the history of the Jews and the Tower.
Jorvik, Viking Centre
When the Jorvik Viking Centre first opened the queues waiting to enter were huge. Boards were placed along the queues indicating how long the waiting time was to enter. It was often more than a three hour wait to enter this unusual museum.
During the last 25 years over 15 million visitors have visited Jorvik. Thankfully the waiting time is usually much less these days, however, queues are still the norm. Avoid the school holidays for a more relaxed visit.
Jorvik has a full program of events each year. As an example of pricing a standard adult ticket is £10.25 but there are concessions.
National Railway Museum
At one time the National Railway Museum at York was called the Transport Museum. However, its modern name is fitting, as York played such a huge part in the English history of the railways. With over 300 years of history and over 1,000,000 objects the National Railway museum is popular with both young and old. The bonus is that entry is free but you can leave a donation.
The museum is located at Leeman Road, York, YO26 4XJ.
The museum's opening times are:
Daily 10.00am - 18.00
Closed 24, 25, 26 December
The Shambles is not just one street but rather an area of medieval twisting lanes with quaint houses that overhang the road. The upper floors of these houses are close to each other. So much so that people could reach out to each other from the upper floors. There are many unusual shops around the Shambles but just wandering around the old buildings is interesting. The Shambles is always busy with visitors and this means that shopping here can be pricey.
York City Walls
The ancient city walls are open for the public to walk around. You may find however that some areas are restricted. The wall was built by the Romans in the first century AD. The original walls took a series of batterings over the years and much of them was re-constructed in the middle ages. Walking the walls gives great views and a lesson in history but take care.
Whether you have religious belief or not York Minster is a great place to visit. Having suffered a serious fire some years ago it has been lovingly restored. As well as the Minster there are many churches well worth visiting around York.
York Mystery Plays.
When I was a teenager studying at school our class visited the mystery plays at York. Held in the open air, close to the ancient city walls the setting is perfect. Visitors from around the world visit the York mystery plays but England being England remember that it could be cold when you visit. We took outwear but still found that toward the end of the play, as darkness fell, it was very cold. The atmosphere is brilliant though.
York races may not be host to the biggest national racing events but they play their part in the racing calendar. Check out upcoming race meetings.
Castle Howard, film set of the TV series Brideshead Revisited, is near to York. It is a magnificent stately home with indoor and outdoor attractions.
A boat trip on the River Ouse
Boat trips along the River Ouse are popular. You can take an organised boat trip and enjoy lunch on board. The excursions usually pass the Bishop of York's Palace.
York's tourist Guide
If you are considering a visit to York or just want to learn more about this fascinating city check out the link to the tourist guide. Details of local attractions, addresses and prices are available on the site. There is also information regarding suitable accommodation.
York has good train service, bus and coach links and is only a 45 minutes drive from the Leeds/Bradford International airport.
The attractions briefly detailed above are only a sample of some of the best available in York. Check out The Treasurer's House, Yorkshire air museum at Elvington, York Dungeons, York Art Gallery, Mansion House, Barley Hall, The Ghost Walks and so much more.
Where in the world do you want to go today? One Woman uses personal experiences to show you some of the best places to visit in the United Kingdom and beyond. Enjoy!