As I mentioned in my previous post about my visit to York, I got up early (as I tend to in new cities) to explore with my camera before everyone else wakes up and starts filling the streets.
York is a beautiful city to have all to yourself. It’s surrounded by three and a half kilometres of city walls and 2.5 million people walk along all or part of the walls each year. In the early morning it’s just you. And a view of the Minster, of course.
Dotted around York are points on their Selfie Trail, a selection of iconic York views from which to get the perfect York selfie. The one on the city walls offers a fantastic place from which to get a selfie with the towers of the Minster. I am not a selfie girl (I have a camera roll full of me trying to be cute or nonchalant in selfies like other girls but where I’m actually just gurning, look ridiculous or look miserable as sin) but if you are the kind of person that can be cute that close to a camera then hunt out some of the most picturesque spots and make sure you tag @visityork and use #yorkselfie on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Selfie attempted but definitely not perfected I strolled over the bridge to Museum Gardens, botanical gardens set across ten acres in the middle of the city.
Established in the 1830s by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, the gardens are set in the surroundings of the medieval ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey, which are still standing in part. It’s a lovely place for a stroll and I imagine in summer it’s a fantastic place to enjoy the sunshine.
Anyone who has been to York will tell you that you can’t visit York without paying a visit to the Shambles, York’s most famous shopping street. It’s a narrow pedestrianised street lined with beautiful old buildings which contain a variety of small shops selling food, jewellery, gifts and more. By day the street is full of people browsing and shopping but in the early morning you can have it all to yourself.
Make sure you explore properly, we found the tiny Margaret Clitherow Shrine tucked between the shops, a quiet place of contemplation just metres from the bustling street. York is full of hidden surprises!
Located at the end of the Shambles, make sure to hunt out Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate – the longest street name in York, belonging to the shortest street in York (just 32 metres long).
With the sun climbing in the sky I headed back to our hotel, the Hedley House Hotel and managed to successfully extract my boyfriend from his duvet burrito. We headed back into the city for a day of exploring and, in preparation, fuelled up on breakfast from Bettys. Sadly with decided against one of their tiny owl brownie cupcakes or a colourful pumpkin and instead went for a fat rascal to go with a takeaway cup of tea from Spring Espresso.
Caffeined up we headed to Clifford’s Tower (another attraction we got into for free with our York Passes). Clifford’s Tower was originally built by William the Conqueror to subdue the rebels of the north, it was twice burned to the ground, before being rebuilt by Henry III in the 13th century. The tower takes its name from one grisly incident in its long history, when Roger de Clifford was executed for treason against Edward II and hanged in chains from the tower walls.
Although there isn’t much to particularly experience there, you can climb up to the top of the tower and get a great panoramic view of the city.
From there we had been planning to visit the nearby Merchant Adventurer’s Hall, a medieval guildhall, but unfortunately it was closed for a private event (which was a shame, it looked so pretty).
Instead we decided that we’d visit Barley Hall, a medieval house. Until the 1980s the house was hidden under the relatively modern facade of a derelict office block and it was only discovered when the building was going to be destroyed. Now restored, it has been decorated to replicate what it would have looked like around 1483.
We played medieval games, learnt stuff about Henry VIII that we didn’t in school and saw costumes from The Tudors and Wolf Hall.
To finish off our day before we got the train back home to London we decided to take a little river cruise to see the city from the water of the river Ouse. We hopped on at the Lendal Bridge stop and settled in on the top deck. As we cruised along we got a bit of a history of the city and even got to spot some of the cats on the York Cat Trail.
After a final wander through the city we had run out of time, but not of things to do. We still had a number of things that we would have loved to see if only we’d had another day there. We certainly made the most of our time in York and that was definitely helped by having access to the York Pass which meant that we got free entry into all of the attractions we visited (including the river cruise).
I suppose the best thing about leaving things not done though is that it gives us an excuse to return to York one day – perhaps next year for York Christmas Festival, I bet the city’s even more beautiful at Christmas.
If you’re planning your own York adventure (and you definitely should) then the Visit York website is chock-full of ideas and is a great place to start planning. If you’ve already been, then do let me know what we missed out on and should definitely see next time around!
This post was written in collaboration with Visit York.