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Review: York

City/Town/Region/Island

North Yorkshire, United Kingdom

York

  • By SilverTraveller JD22

    2 reviews

  • August 2014
  • Your husband, wife or partner

14 people found this review helpful

How could you fail to love York. Small enough not to be daunting, big enough to have two rivers, a huge Minster, a Roman Wall you can walk for hours and enough history to last a lifetime. It wasn’t just those empire building Italians who liked it so much they stayed for decades, the Vikings made it their home also. And all around you can see the influence of both.

Once you’ve managed to battle (yes, just about the right word) your way into the city, from then on it’s a doddle to get about, the rivers and walls are never far away. But York wasn’t built for the motorcar and congestion is an ongoing problem. I’d recommend the Park-and-Ride scheme if you’re a day visitor.

Aside from the issues with traffic, those two rivers have obviously caused major problems for the area over the years. Some of the worst flooding seen in the UK has blighted the region time and again and it was never nice to see the plight of the locals if you visited at such times. Thankfully flood defence measures and more appropriate building methods have reduced the scale of the disasters. There are plaques at various places showing the incredible heights the water has reached at its worst and you almost stare in belief. They do say Yorkshire folk are stoic though and it’s hard to argue with that.

The Minster is a sight to behold. I’ve always found it odd that some of the most majestic cathedrals in this country are invariably found in smaller places, Durham, Ely, here in York. They dominate all the more because of their relative lack of competing structures. The acres of stained glass make the interior every bit as awe inspiring as the outside. Oddly enough, although York had a famed reputation for glass work, a lot of it was imported from Germany. Clearly no expense was spared on creating the magnificent windows and the skill of the artisans is to be applauded.

Another of York’s iconic structures and one of my favourites is Clifford’s Tower. Once again it’s impressive from the outside, every bit as good from within. It’s what every child might imagine as a defensive stronghold, a circular, formidable looking ‘mini castle’ sitting atop a large mound. Which of course makes for one of the most splendid views across York when you climb to the highest level. I’d defy anyone not to take numerous photographs of the tower if they visit in Spring when the mound is resplendent with Daffodils. Beware though, there’s a car park very nearby but there are 55 steps up to the entrance.

With so much history to boast about it’s no surprise that York Castle Museum is a great way to spend a morning. The site dates back to 1068 and none other than William the Conquerer had a say in the construction of the castle. Don’t think though that the museum obsesses only with local events, a recent exhibition showcased the Great War.

No visit to the city is complete without a visit to the Shambles. I’ve seen many fine museums that try to replicate life from a bygone era and on the whole they’ve done an admirable job. But the Shambles are the real thing. At its heart is the lane actually called the Shambles, arguably the best preserved medieval street in the world.  It was mentioned in the Doomsday Book of William the Conqueror in 1086.  Many of the buildings on the street today date back to the late fourteenth and fifteenth century (around 1350-1475). As we all know from history lessons way back in childhood, it’s possible to stretch out your arms and touch buildings on both sides of the street. Despite the cramped and unsanitary conditions, the word Shambles doesn’t derive from shambolic. It’s (thought to be) an ancient word for shelving, most buildings in this area were used by butchers and other tradesmen.

After walking the walls and taking in the marvellous views they afford we decided to rest our legs and take a cruise up the Ouse. A bit of poetry for you there. Excellent value with a very good commentary and helpful, knowledgeable guide. And of course a great opportunity to take light refreshments without wasting valuable time.

An entirely different sort of history can be found at the National Railway Museum. The Flying Scotsman, Churchill’s funeral train, magnificent Royal carriages, Paddington Bear! Surely something for everyone and it’s free admission. Even before I knew the facts behind all of these locomotives, I was enthralled by their grace and power. And they positively gleam, such beautiful and evocative machines.

I’m no lover of the York Dungeon unfortunately. I find it a bit contrived and I’m not big on audience participation. They re-enact Doctors surgeries and courtrooms etc from a long gone era and the actors expect you to join in. I suppose it’s fun if you like that sort of thing but I prefer to take in things at my own pace and with room to move in, not as part of a herd shunted from room to room with the action thrust upon hapless souls. Be warned, it’s in-your-face.

Another group who were most definitely in-your-face were the Vikings. And although the Jorvik Centre has its critics, I’m certainly not one of them. I love the attraction. Those who denounce it liken it to Disney and describe it as “pop up history”, whatever that is supposed to mean. It’s extremely high tech’ and you move around the exhibition in a time capsule taking in the sights, sounds and even smells of the Vikings occupation. The blast of smoke from a Blacksmith’s furnace for instance or the aroma of stew cooking by the fireside. Jorvik doesn’t even call itself a museum, it prefers to be known as ‘an experience’. A bit pretentious maybe but people of all ages seemed to enjoy and learn from the recreations. Definitely one to do if the weather turns inclement.

Eating, drinking and hotels. As you’d imagine plenty of choice and to suit all budgets. We found the price of most things to be way down on London, as you’d expect. You’ll still get through a fair few quid, particularly if you’re a family, but that’s because you’ll be doing something morning, noon and night. I’d possibly throw a bit more cash at it and arrive by train, it’s on the main line and your car isn’t much use once you’re here.

A good mix of activities and you wont be twiddling thumbs if you visit for up to a week. I’d recommend it.

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This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.

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