York is a historic and beautiful walled city, believed to date back from Roman times. From it’s Roman beginnings York has seen occupation by both Viking and Norman invaders: the former finally being expelled in the 10th century by the Anglo-Saxons; the latter causing extensive death and destruction in it’s suppression of a local revolt, as well as building defensive fortifications along the river Ouse. By the turn of the 13th century York, as the county’s administrative hub, had become an important centre for trade and the revenue that this brought helped the city flourish.
York has, since Roman times, been defended by walls of one form or another. They are known variously as the York City walls, the Bar walls and the Roman walls. To this day, substantial portions of the walls remain, and York has more miles of intact wall than any other city in England. They extend for 2.5 miles and enclose an area of 263 acres. The walls still retain all four of their impressive gateways into the city, called bars, as well as 34 of their 39 interval towers.
York Minster is one of the finest gothic cathedrals in the world. The Minster that we know today took about 250 years to build and is renowned as an artistic and architectural masterpiece. You can visit the Octagonal Chapter house which was constructed between 1260 to 1286. Its walls contain some of the Minster’s finest carvings, most dating from 1270 to 1280. Underneath the Cathedral you can explore the Undercroft, Treasury and Crypt. Here you will find Roman, Norman and Viking remains and the jewels of the treasury. If you can scale the 275 steps of the Tower you will be rewarded with fantastic views of the city’s ancient streets. On your way up, look out for medieval pinnacles and gargoyles.
Roman Bath Museum – In 1930 renovations to a tavern on St Sampson’s, York, revealed the remains of a caldarium, or steam bath, from the Roman city of Eboracum. The caldarium, and a neighbouring plunge bath, have been excavated, and visitors can now see the place where Roman soldiers and citizens came to find relaxation. The small museum is below ground, accessed through the Roman Bath pub, and shows remains of the baths with Roman artefacts and replica articles of everyday life. There are fascinating – and often humourous – facts and figures about Roman life in York scattered about the museum on placards, and visitors can view armour, weapons, and Roman tiles up close.
The York Museum Gardens are botanic gardens in the centre of York, England, beside the River Ouse. They cover an area of 10 acres of the former grounds of St Mary’s Abbey, and were created in the 1830s by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society. They were designed in a gardenesque style by landscape architect Sir John Murray Naysmith, and contain a variety of species of plants, trees and birds. Admission is free. A variety of events take place in the gardens, such as open-air theatre performances and festival activities.
York has a well preserved set of walls around the old city. Whilst most of the walls are obvious, there are places on the walls which you are unlikely to know about even if you think you know York well. This part of the wall goes back to Roman times, and you can see an excavation of each of the many layers that make up the walls. There is a certain irony in that each successive, successful invader added a bit to the walls to try and keep out future invaders.
There are several historic buildings and sites within the gardens and are worth a visit if you have time. These include: 1. Yorkshire Museum, 2. City Wall, 3 Anglian Tower, 4. Multangular Tower, 5. Roman Wall, 6. St. Leonards Hospital, 7. Museum Street, 8. Lodge, 9. Toilet, 10. River Ouse, 11. Hospitium, 12. Abbey Precinct Wall, 13. Gatehouse, 14. St. Olave’s Church, 15. Marygate, 16. Bowling Green, 17. St. Mary’s Abbey, 18. Observatory.
The length of the River Ouse in the Yorkshire region is a fascinating area to explore. A succession of historic towns and the city of York are connected by this wide waterway, with expansive water-meadow scenery and a wide variety of wildlife. The river runs for approximately 21 km through York stretching from the Parish of Nether Poppleton in the north to Naburn in the south.
Newgate Market – York once had many markets for different products scattered around the city, but since Victorian times a single market has served the city. The main market was held in Pavement, but moved to Parliament Street and St Sampson’s Square in 1837 and stayed there for 127 years before moving to the specially-created Newgate Market – which lies between Shambles and Parliament Street – in 1964. Set against a backdrop of medieval buildings, Newgate Market offers something for almost everyone. Over 100 stalls offer a wide variety of dry goods as well as a fine selection of fruit, vegetables, fish and meat.
If you like to shop, York’s streets are filled with quaint little shops, restaurants, and pubs. We stopped at Ye Olde Starre Inne for lunch. It is York’s oldest Licensed Inn, situated on Stonegate, very close to the Minster. The symbol of the Star is traceable, to what, with all reverence may be called the oldest inn-sign in the whole of Christendom. A grade II Listed building this English pub in the heart of an historic city, serves good food, including a range of homemade favourites & traditional Yorkshire hand pulled beers. The view of the Minster from our beer garden is not to be missed. The pub was once used by Cromwells Roundheads as a hospital & mortuary.
The stonegate devil in the background…
Giant black toy bear in front of the Teddy Bear shop…
Smelling Yankee Candles before making our purchase. There were so many to choose from and they even had a commemorative William and Kate fragrance. These are not originally from York, but they were so pretty that we had to go in and take a walk around the shop. The Yankee Candle Company is the largest U.S. manufacturer of scented candles.
York Castle Museum is one of Britain’s leading museums of everyday life. It shows how people used to live by displaying thousands of household objects and by recreating rooms, shops, streets – and even prison cells. It is best known for its recreated Victorian street, Kirkgate, which combines real shop fittings and stock with modern sound and light effects, to evoke an atmosphere of Victorian Britain.
Set on a tall mound in the heart of Old York, the imposing Clifford’s Tower is almost all that remains of York Castle, which was originally built by William the Conqueror in 1068. There’s plenty to discover here. In its time, the tower has served as a prison and a royal mint, as well as the place where Henry VIII had the bodies of his of his enemies put on public display.
York is named the most haunted city in the world by the Ghost Research Foundation International (GRFI), so a visit to the York Dungeons and the Haunted experience was a worth a visit for us. Haunted is a 700 year old house located at 35 Stonegate and claims to be York’s most haunted house. We didn’t manage to see any ghosts and the audio guide pretty much spoilt the ambience. If you’re tight for time, you might want to give this a miss.
The York Dungeon operates tours which start every 7 minutes and last between 1 and 1.5 hours. In these tours visitors are led around a sequence of shows and exhibitions which are loosely based on historical events and practices. The Great Plague show is set in 1551 with a recreation of medieval York streets and culminates with a performance from an actor playing a plague doctor. There is also a recreation of a York pub the Golden Fleece Inn where visitors are told ghost stories. Other shows include the Judgement of Sinners where visitors are accused of various crimes and the Torture Chamber where visitors are shown demonstrations of torture devices. During the tour actors playing plague doctors, innkeepers, Viking cohorts of Eric Bloodaxe, judges, torturers and Dick Turpin’s executioner tell visitors gruesome stories.