A Weekend in York
My daughters spent the day wearing spiked helmets and burlap sacks, running around the Jorvik Viking Centre, loudly recreating a battle scene with wooden swords. Grandma was looking forward to a leisurely afternoon at Betty’s Tea Rooms and I was dreaming of a pub dinner and late night ghost walk.
That was 1996, and while the Jorvik Viking Center has changed considerably, York has not. It’s still a city with something for everyone…castle walls, museums, Gothic cathedrals, vintage and a railway museum, funky pubs and great restaurants, excellent shopping and atmospheric streets.
The Mister and I wanted a weekend away before the holidays and York fit the bill….direct train from London, good choice of accommodation, excellent range of restaurants and enough activities to keep us all happy (the daughters were joining us).
After an easy 2 hour train trip from London and a cup of tea at our hotel, we climbed the steps at Monk Bar to walk York’s ancient city walls. Walking is the best way to see York and the wall section between Monk Bar to Bootham Bar offers a spectacular view of the Minster and a chance to peer into the back gardens of Dean’s Park (and other places).
If the weather is cooperating (it IS England after all), the Museum Gardens are a perfect place to see evidence of York’s 2000 years of history. The beautiful ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey stand adjacent to Yorkshire Museum and its extensive archeological collections. The Roman Multiangular tower, near the Library, was the original northwest corner of the Roman Legionary Fortress of Eboracum (York).
No matter where you are in York, the imposing Minster is an ever present, always pleasant distraction. Its Gothic towers and resonant bells act as a compass in a city with streets so convoluted, getting from point A to point B in a straight line is an exercise in futility.
Even the most itinerary-driven travelers will embrace the unscheduled delights found by wandering along the cobbled snickelways. These ancient alleys have names like Mad Alice Lane, Mucky Pig Lane, Whip Ma Whomp Ma Gate and The (famous) Shambles.
Truly inquisitive explorers will find quiet corners, hidden courtyards and peaceful places like the magical Holy Trinity Church, unknown to all but the locals.
Wanderers and discerning shoppers will discover independent and locally owned stores and cafés that range from luxurious to creative to quirky.
Everyone will find something to satisfy their taste buds and quench their thirst. Supposedly, York has over 365 pubs, enabling the hearty drinker to sample beer at a different pub every night for a year!
Anyone eager to learn about York’s dark and murderous past can climb the steepsteps of York Castle’s only remaining structure, Clifford’s Tower for a 360 degree view over the city and the York Castle Museum.
My daughters, now too old for Viking helmets and wooden swords, decided to visit York as well and found plenty to do. They lovingly nicknamed it “Tiny London” and diligently went about the city evaluating the pubs, tea shops, cafe’s and ghost walks. I stayed a bit longer and managed a day trip to nearby Riveleaux Abbey and Castle Howard.
We won’t wait 20 years to return to York. As a matter of fact, I think York might become an annual tradition.
Things to Know About Spending A Weekend in York
We stayed at Gray’s Court in York. We expected a lovely “country house in the city” stay and ended up with a great story.
East Coast Trains has regular service from London King’s Cross to York. Some trains are direct, some require change. Booking ahead nets the cheapest fair. My return (round trip) ticket was £46.
York offers a York Pass that bundles their top attractions into 1, 2 and 3 days admission cards at a discounted price. This can be a good value in many circumstances, but you must evaluate how many of the attractions you are likely to see. The Mister and I purchased the 3 day pass at their sale price of £46 pounds. We went to attractions that, without the pass, would cost £59.95. I priced admission to 10 popular attractions for a family of 4 and compared it to the York Pass and determined a savings of £34. Your savings (if any) will depend on how long you are staying in York and which attractions you are likely to see. It was a good value for us. Your mileage may vary. The biggest benefit is not having to waffle at every attraction and weigh if something is “worth” seeing or not. The more you see, the better the value. Passes can be purchased online ahead of time and picked up at the York tourist bureau at 1 Museum Street in York. Details here.
Have you been to York? What were the highlights of your trip?
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