10 June 2010

York (the original)

Continuing my tour of England, I decided to visit the city of York. I had heard that it is a beautiful part of the country and one place I had to see before leaving England. York has a huge history, dating back to 70AD. It has at one time been under the control of the Romans, Angles, Vikings and Normans, each leaving their mark.

I managed to buy a ticket through Megabus.com for £1! The journey was a train from London to East Midlands Parkway, and a bus from there - about four hours in total. The return journey cost £9 - so both ways for a tenner; cheap!

The journey was nothing exceptional. The most interesting part was seeing the massive cooling towers of Ratcliffe on Soar Power Station near the East Midlands Rail Station.

I arrived in York about 1pm to grey clouds and rain. I called in to the hostel to drop off my gear. At first I thought I was in the wrong place - the hostel was so nice - chandelier and nice paintings. It looked like a flash hotel. It was reasonably priced too - so if you are heading to york, check out Ace Hotel.

I donned my rain jacket and headed out. From the small amount of research I did, I found that a good introduction to the city is to walk the 'walls'. York is almost completely surrounded by ancient walls, which were first built by the Romans, and have been added to and extended by almost all inhabitants since. The walk was quite interesting - there were information boards along the way giving plenty of information about the history of York. I ended up walking the complete circuit, which fully circumnavigates the old town.

While wandering I came across the York Museum Gardens - a beautiful green space covered in trees and flowers. It also contains St Mary's Abbey, amazing ruins which date back to the 1200's.

I walked along the edge of the river, and found the York Castle Museum. A little confusing, but there is no castle here - just a museum containing information about a castle which was once on that spot. There were lots of geese with little geese-lings. Just across the road was Clifford's Tower - a tower with a dark past, including the slaughter of Jews in the 1100's, and was part of the city jail in the 1700's.

After a couple of hours walking in the rain I was soaked, so made my way back to the hostel. About 8pm I went out to try to find a pub for a meal and a pint. But one irritating thing about England - they stop serving food so early! My only options were a full sit down meal at a restaurant, or takeaway. I chose the least looking dodgy chicken joint I could find, and kept my fingers crossed that the salmonella was at a lowish level. Later that evening I met a few of the people in my dorm room - we had a couple of beers and played pool in the hostel. A fairly quiet night.

Sunday morning I joined a walking tour of the old town. The tour was completely free, run by volunteers who expected nothing more than for us to tell others if we had a good time. So, I'm doing my bit. The tour was really interesting, with a lot of information about the history of the city - things I otherwise would never have learnt. So one to check out if you find yourself in York. The tour took us around the city walls and explained the history. It lead us through the shambles, past the Minster, and to the Treasurers House - which was the sight of one of the more famous ghost sightings.

After three hours walking in the cold, wind and wet, I was tired and hungry. I joined a few from the tour for a huge Sunday roast at a nice pub on the rivers edge.

That afternoon I took a look around York Minster - a massive cathedral. It is most famous for its stained glass - it actually contains the largest window in the world! Unfortunately it is currently being restored, but the glass in the rest of the church was still very impressive. The building itself is enormous - one of the largest cathedrals I have ever seen. And every surface was amazingly detailed. I took (what I think) is an amazing photo of the roof, and have included it at the bottom of this post - check it out. I also took a video while walking through, as I dont think the photos illustrate just how large it really was.

At 5pm a couple of us from the hostel went to join a 'historic pub tour' - what I assume was a mixed between a pub crawl and the mornings walking tour. Interesting information mixed with beer - sounded good to me. Only problem was that noone showed up at the meeting spot! We walked just down the road to the information centre to see what was going on - closed. So we thought we would have our own historical pub tour. We started at the Roman Bath, which (surprisingly) was built on the site of Roman Baths - you can still go down to the basement and see them. While at the Roman Bath we discovered a page in the York information booklet; there was three pubs which if you visited and bought a drink you received a stamp. After visiting all three - you got a free t-shirt. We had found our mission for the evening.

After two stamps we took a break to go on a ghost tour. It was basically following a dressed up guy telling ghost stories. It was quite fun, but I think they angled more to entertaining children than actually telling ghost stories.

Following that we headed to the White Swan to get our final stamp. When it came to collecting the t-shirts, they were all out. We retraced our steps back to the first two pubs - again, both were out of t-shirts. You would think they might mention that when you were collecting the stamps?

Monday morning was pretty quiet. Some more walking around the walls. While on the walking tour we were told about Wormwood Gate - an entry gate to the city. This is more interesting than the rest as it still has its barbican intact - the original entry point. So we decided to go and check it out.

After a quick lunch I made my way to the bus station. So overall - not an adventure packed weekend, but it was a really nice city, with an interesting history. Overall it was worth the trip.


  1. ty for sharing and for bringing us with you in your journey of york

  2. This place looks absolutely amazing. I especially loved the cathedral. You made me want to drop everything and go there today!

    P.S. Found you on 20sb. :)


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