I mentioned in a previous post that I was heading up to York as a guest of Visit York to visit the city and discover its hidden gems. Well, I went on my York adventure and had a fantastic time. It’s such a great city and one I loved exploring, even more so because we were lucky enough to have beautiful weather for our weekend. So what did we get up to during our weekend?
We travelled up to York straight from work on Friday night, which, although tiring is always the best way to fully enjoy a weekend away because it means that you can really make the most of Saturday. We stayed at the Hedley House Hotel which was only a short stroll from the city either by main road or, better, along the river. The trees that lined the river were just on the cusp of turning a beautiful orange when we were there and I bet one week later and they all would have been gorgeously autumnal.
To help us make the most of our weekend, we were provided with York Passes. The York Pass offers free entry into over thirty York attractions and tours (including hop-on-hop-off bus tours and the river cruise) as well as restaurant and shopping offers. You can buy a one, two or three day pass which makes it ideal for a York visit of any length. They’re available either from the York Visitor Information Centre (tel 01904 550099) or online.
We thought that the ideal place to break in our York Passes was York Minster. York Minster is around 800 years old (although the history of the site goes back much further in time) and is the largest medieval Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe and is home to stunning medieval stained glass.
This guy made us laugh as he looked so chilled out (or bored, we couldn’t quite tell)…
Not quite content with just seeing the impressive interior, we decided to take the optional trip up to the top of the tower – 275 windy steps up very narrow staircases. After a long climb we emerged briefly into the light and crossed across a ledge (giving a great view of some of the external structure of the roof) before heading up another set of stairs to the very top.
The stair count on my Fitbit wasn’t the only benefit of the climb, we were afforded a great 360 degrees view of York. Worth the climb, although we did feel it in our legs for the rest of the day!
Practically in the shadow of York Minster lies Treasurer’s House, our next port of call. Tucked away round the back of the Minster it was the first house ever given to the National Trust complete with its collection. It was bought in 1897 by Frank Green (whose family fortune was made by his grandfather’s invention of a fuel economiser for use in factories) and he built up a collection of art and furniture which was eventually given to the National Trust, who were under strict instruction not to move anything!
It’s the perfect place to visit for anyone who loves the Farrow and Ball style aesthetic – every room is decked out in beautiful shades of deep green, teal, petrol blue and other sumptuous shades, all set off by the gilt furniture and plush materials. Although our childish side appreciated the tiny lego men hidden in each room to entertain visiting children. We heard tales of ghosts (but didn’t see any) and marvelled at the quirky pendulum clock and Frank Green’s wonderfully quirky sense of design which seemed to defy all architectural sense. The room guides were really interesting and delighted in pointing out the unusual features of the house or enlightening us with their knowledge.
Apparently it gets all decorated for Christmas, I bet it’s gorgeous!
It also has a lovely garden (which is free to enter even without a ticket to the house). Although we were heading into autumn it was still full of flowers and is tended as naturally as possible (which means no chemicals) and muted colours. It’s a real hidden gem!
Now of course, if you ask people where to go in York, Betty’s Cafe Tea Rooms will almost certainly be mentioned. It has a permanent queue outside, although it’s pretty fast moving. How could we resist? Rather than just dip in for takeaway treats, we decided to have afternoon tea.
We enjoyed the traditional afternoon tea including sandwiches, a scone and a few pretty little pastries. It was a lovely refresher in a busy day of trying to pack in as much as we could.
Fully recharged and refreshed, we decided to stop by the York Art Gallery (another venue we got into for free with the York Pass).
My favourite discovery was in the Upper North Gallery – The Lumber Room: Unimagined Treasures an exhibition curated by Mark Hearld. Influenced by a short story called The Lumber Room, by Saki, which was read to him in an English class when he was 15, Mark curated and created works in textiles, costume, oil paintings, works on paper, furniture, and taxidermy. I like being introduced to new artists and Mark was a new one to me.
The York Art Gallery also houses the Centre of Ceramic Art, a new world-class exhibition space dedicated to their collection of British studio ceramics.
In the middle of the Centre of Ceramic Art is an installation of 10,000 bowls created by internationally renowned artist Clare Twomey. Communities of helpers in York and beyond assisted Twomey in the production of the bowls. Each bowl takes around an hour to make and represents one of the 10,000 hours it is said to take to become a master at something.
After perusing the new exhibition, Flesh, we took ourselves back to the hotel to freshen up before heading out again into the night lights.
After a lovely dinner at Rustique, we headed back to the hotel for an early-ish night, ready for an early morning wake up call so that I could enjoy the city before everyone else woke up. Although I hate getting up and out of bed early, it is so worth it in order to see places when they’re quiet and I get to have them to myself for just a little while, it’s always a little bit magical.
Need help planning your own York adventure? Check out Visit York for ideas, and watch out for my next post!
This post was written in collaboration with Visit York.