walking tours of York

York Travel Blog

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Evans & Constantine

It was standing room only on the train to York.  Upon arrival, I discovered the YHA was off the map, so I ended up at the cheaper and more central York Youth Hotel, where I met two New Zealander girls, Kate and Emma.  Together we explored the thorough and well-presented exhibits of the Castle Museum.  We then checked out the less than spectacular York Minster, which looked much more elaborate from the outside.  To pass the time, we walked the length of the city wall before joining a free guided walking tour covering the city’s mediaeval and Roman history.

 

According to our friendly guide, the Romans first built the city wall, but after the Vikings occupied York during the Dark Ages, the Normans (from France) built another wall on top of the Roman remains.

Evans on the steps to the walkway atop the city wall
  [Timeline of York’s history: Roman 1st-4th centuries, Dark Ages 6th-10th centuries, Norman 11th-12th centuries, and mediaeval 13th century.]  Our tour group visited the cannibalized ruins of Saint Mary’s Abbey (built 1271-1294, destroyed 1539), the King’s Manor with its rich history, and climbed the steps onto the wall again, from where the sweet smell of the Kit Kat factory’s confections captured my empty stomach’s attention.

 

We stood for a moment to admire Monk Bar, the only still functioning city gate, and then progressed down the street.  Pointing out the overhanging upper floors of each house along the street, our guide taught us some architectural history.  In centuries past, taxes were assessed based on the square-footage of the ground floor, so that persuaded property owners to build small at the base and jetties cantilever outward with each successive level to gain more living space.

York Minster behind a city wall gate
  He took us next across King’s Square.  Once the site of a church, only gravestones remain as tiles in a raised plateau along the footpath.  Pointing out The Shambles, he described for us the smell of this medieval market lane where butchers once tossed their scraps into the street and left them to rot.

 

Following the tour, we were more than ready for dinner.  Into one pub whose kitchen was shut, a patron overhearing our inquiry offered directions to Lowther, the only place serving food after dark, where on the recommendation of my Kiwi friends, I tried steak and kidney pie.  Though hesitant to eat kidneys for the first time, I found the dish surprisingly appetizing.

 

Looking for some entertainment to enjoy with our Guinness, we ventured into Golden Lion pub for live music and poetry.  Several weak (and one respectable) performances later, we went to the White Swan (aka, “The Mucky Duck”), in time only to find the bartenders cleaning the taps for the night.  With the town officially shut by half-eleven, we returned to the Youth Hotel, watched a cricket match on TV in the common room, and soon realizing how exhausted we were, hit our respective bunks shortly past midnight.
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Evans & Constantine
Evans & Constantine
Evans on the steps to the walkway …
Evans on the steps to the walkway…
York Minster behind a city wall ga…
York Minster behind a city wall g…
ruins of Saint Marys Abbey (stood…
ruins of Saint Mary's Abbey (stoo…
Monk Bar, the only still functioni…
Monk Bar, the only still function…
York
photo by: HelenP