I’m unsure why it has taken me up until my 29th year to visit York, but a few weeks back, I finally got to check it off my bucket list, when myself and Lyndon treated ourselves to a brief trip. From the get-go, I was a huge fan of its quaint, rural feel, buildings steeped in history and maze of alleyways.
Around every corner was another little slice of the past, and I loved nothing more than to slowly mosey round drinking in every last detail; imagining myself stood in that exact same place, only hundreds of years before. What would it sound like? Smell like? Who would be there? What would they look like?
We spent the night in York, so had almost two days to explore, which we found was plenty of time. The city was surprisingly small and we walked around the majority of it on the first day in the glorious sunshine. Here’s some of the sights I’d recommend to anyone on their first visit:
The City Walls
A trip to York isn’t really complete unless you have walked along its City Walls, which stretch for 3.4km and are the longest medieval town walls in England. I loved the varying views and at some points it felt like we had left the city entirely and wandered into a rural village.
Can you believe these photos were taken just minutes from the city centre?!
York Minster dominates the landscape and can be seen peeping into view from all directions; between the tangle of alleyways and above the old rooftops.
This Gothic-style cathedral church was built over 250 years, between 1220 and 1472, however, the first Christian church on site has actually been dated back to around 627!
The detail is phenomenal.
The interior of the cathedral is just as impressive; I loved the stained glass windows and gold detailing.
The Shambles is essentially just a street in the city centre, but what makes it special is its long and interesting past. It is quite possibly one of the best preserved medieval streets in the world, and it has its very own mention in the Doomsday Book in 1086. Many of the buildings date back to the 1300s and it is fascinating to see their crooked shapes and close proximity to one another.
The Shambles was once a street of butchers’ shops, many of which had their own slaughterhouses at the back of their premises. You can still see some of the original butcher’s meat-hooks attached to the shop fronts.
Notice the angle of the sunlight in the picture below; the fronts of the buildings overhang and were intentionally built close-set. This would have protected the meat from any direct sunshine. Back in those days, sanitation was rather lacking, so the cobbled centre of the street was used as a channel to wash away all the blood and guts. Yuck!
Today, The Shambles is a real tourist attraction and is lined with quaint gift shops and cafes. There’s also a market selling an assortment of goodies, including fresh produce, international street food, clothing, flowers and crafts.
The York Dungeon
I didn’t get a chance to visit the Edinburgh Dungeon during my trip last year, so our final day in York, which just so happened to be gloomy and wet, made for the perfect reason to go. The York Dungeon is an intense 75 minute walkthrough journey of York’s (rather horrible) history and as a group, you’re herded from room to room and faced with horrifying stories, characters and settings.
On numerous occasions I clung onto Lyndon for dear life, had bodily juices (water, I hope) sprayed at me and even had to stand trial for being accused of being a witch! The experience was great fun, albeit terrifying!
For more info, click here.
St. Mary’s Abbey
St. Mary’s Abbey, a Benedictine monastery, was once the richest abbey in the north of England. Today, its remains stand in the beautiful Yorkshire Museum Gardens next to the river. The cherry blossom and spring flowers were out in full force during our visit and it was a lovely place to relax and enjoy the sunshine.
In a city influenced mostly by Roman and Viking foundations, Clifford’s Tower is distinctly Norman. The original mound and site was built by William the Conquerer in 1068. Great tragedy occurred here in 1190, when 150 Jews were massacred (many at their own hands) and the site was burned to the ground. It’s a chilling part of the history of York, but well worth a visit.
Good to know:
Getting there: For me, York was the perfect little escape from Manchester. Direct from Piccadilly in under two hours, it was quick and easy to get there and being so small, everywhere we went was walkable, including our hotel from the train station.
Where we stayed: We stayed at Hedley House Hotel, which was friendly, relaxed and the perfect distance from the station and city centre.
You can read all about where I ate in York in my next blog post, coming soon!