I love England to bits. There is just so much to see and do. One of my most favourite cities in England is York. In my opinion, it is so packed full of attractions, it’s the best place to visit after London. Like London, York has a very long and rich history. Spanning back nearly two thousand years – founded by the Romans, conquered by the Vikings and in modern times made famous by the steam train era and rise of large confectionary companies.
We start our day just on the outskirts of York, at a designer outlet shopping village. It’s strongly encouraged that you don’t bring your car into the walled city. The Tour de France started from York, just a couple of weeks before we were there – I was blown away by how many bikes were in the city. It seemed to be many people’s main mode of transport. There were literally thousands parked around the place. We opt to “park and ride”, the bus is very convenient and cheap too. In no time we see the city walls and we are in the heart of York.
We stop just near to the tourist information centre – a must stop for visitors. We pick up a York Pass, which is a pre-paid card (RRP £36 for an adult 24hr pass) so you don’t have to pay admission at 30 of York’s top attractions – you end up saving about 30% and it also offers many discounts on tours and eating out.
After collecting an armful of flyers and leaflets we set off to the Jorvik Viking Museum. In the Coppergate area of York they found 40,000 Viking artefacts in the early 1980s. We saw helmets, weapons, pottery and much more in the museum. Little chef loved it and the highlight for him was going on an interactive journey through recreated Viking village where you can smell the fires, cooking and really feel as if you are there. Little Chef thought this was pretty cool, as you sit in a moving “time capsule”.
Just around the corner is the ancient Clifford’s Tower – the keep of York Castle, which is now mostly gone. We walked up the many steps, rewarded with one of the best views in York from the top. Next to the tower, outside the Castle Museum was a vintage fair. Little Chef loved the helter skelter – what a beauty!
And we just couldn’t say no to some locally farm-made “Ryeburn of Hemsley” Ice cream from the vintage Fordson Thames ice cream van – one of just a handful still in operation.
We were hoping to stop at the Yorkshire Institution, Bettys, for morning tea. I love a high tea as much as the next person and I have heard the Betty’s experience is quintessentially English. Unfortunately many other people had the same idea as us and the queue was snaking out the door. We had so much to fit into our day, so we instead grabbed a macaroon and some fondant fancies from the shop counter. It is a beautiful olde worlde shop, where the assistants are dressed up as they would have in Victorian times. I would definitely recommend you make a booking at Betty’s.
We ate our goodies from Betty’s in the grounds of the enormous York Minster, the ancient cathedral. Then had a wander about the rest of the city centre.
One of my favourite streets is the narrow medieval lane “The Shambles”. I found a fab little butchers down there that sold many many types of pork pie, chili, black pudding and wild boar to name a few.
York is a great place for shopping. One of the things I really love about York is it’s abundance of one-of specialty shops and boutiques. Every other town has the same old chain stores, but in York there are so many interesting little places to find a one of a kind gift.
It was time for a bite to eat. With so much still to see we decided to eat on the run. Chef and I do enjoy a hot roast roll at the York Roast Co. York has a long history with the humble hog, dating back centuries to before the War of the Roses, when kings would go hunting for wild boar in the forests. Chef and I enjoyed a couple of rolls, with apple sauce, gravy and a few morsels of pork crackling on the side – scrumptious!
York’s Chocolate Story celebrates the city’s rich confectionary industry. From the history of the coca bean to the process of making chocolate bars. Rowntree, the company that developed Kit Kats, Smarties, Areo and many more, still operate in York. One billion Kit Kats are made in York each year. Terry’s, maker of one of my favourites the “Chocolate Orange”, was taken over by Kraft. York’s Chocolate Story is an interactive and interesting attraction. A must stop for chocoholics!
By this time, though York is fairly compact, our feet were in need of a rest, so we hopped into a tour bus. Little Chef wanted to go on a red double decker bus while we were in the UK, so that box was ticked too.
We hopped off the bus near the National Railway Museum. It is a free attraction to enter, for a small donation Little Chef received a lovely train colouring book. It’s a vast museum which houses many trains including opulent royal carriages once owned by Queen Victoria, iconic locomotives like The Mallard steam train and a Japanese bullet train.
It would have been nice to spend a couple of days in York and experienced even more. We passed the York Dungeons, somewhere Chef and I had a bit of a fright a decade ago. For the older kids and adults the York Dungeons are full of very interesting and often gruesome historical tales. There are many ghost tours at night too, which I bet would be fascinating, since York was home to famous baddies – highwayman Dick Turpin and gunpowder plotter Guy Fawkes. York is one of the most haunted cities in England.
We walked a couple of miles on along the stone city walls, on the way back to our bus stop. We had a brilliant day out in York. I’d plan your day before you go, to make sure you get the most out of your time there.
Many thanks to Rachel and Kay at York Visitor Centre for the use of our York Passes and fantastic expert advise – it really made our trip.
Visit http://www.visityork.org/ for more info on this beautiful city and http://www.visityork.org/food/ for the insiders tips on where is best to eat and drink in York.