We had read that historic York is loaded with world class sights and we decided it would be worth a stop on our way from Cambridge to Edinburgh. It was a fairly quick train journey, with one change in Peterborough. The train was good, although a bit more luggage space would probably be appreciated by many riders. The York Railway Station opened on 25 June 1877. It had 13 platforms and was at that time the largest in the world.
We treated ourselves for our two nights in York and stayed at the Principal York Hotel. The Principal York is a registered historic building, located mere steps from the York railway station. It is a five-storey building of yellow Scarborough brick, with Victorian architecture and was completed in 1878, a year after the present station opened. The hotel was lovely, we had a beautiful spacious room and the breakfast provided was excellent.
York started its history as Eboracum – a Roman provincial capital in A.D.71. In the fifth century as the Roman empire deteriorated, York (now called Eoforwic) became the capital of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbira. The Vikings ruled the area in the 9th through 11th centuries, calling the city Jorvik, and the Normans also invaded and conquered. Medieval York had 9000 inhabitants and was England’s second city. In the Industrial Age, York was the railway hub of northern England.
York is a walkable tourist city – most of the sights are located within the 13th-century walls. We walked the 3 miles of the walls, enjoying the sights along the way.
The star of York is the York Minster. The largest Gothic church north of the Alps, the church is the home to the Archbishop of York and is therefore, a cathedral. In the Anglican Church, the Archbishop of York is second only to the Archbishop of Canterbury. It seats 2000 comfortably, although on Christmas and Easter, at least 4000 worshippers are in attendance.
Standing in the Nave, you are surrounded by beautiful stained class – above the doors you see the Heart of Yorkshire window.
An ornate choir screen separates the Nave from the Choir. It is apparently lined with all of the English Kings from William I to Henry VI. Unfortunately, it is covered at this time to protect it as the organ above it has been taken out for refurbishment (a two year project).
The Gothic Quire (or Choir) is the heart of the Minster where services are held daily.
There are a number of excellent museums in York. We chose to visit two of them. The first was the National Railway Museum. This museum displays 200 years of British railway history – and was very interesting and entertaining.
Harv of course was totally engrossed in the details.
We also enjoyed delicious tea and scones in the museum restaurant.
The second museum we visited was the York Castle Museum. This was a very eclectic museum – somewhat a of time-tunnel experience of England. Located in buildings that were once a Georgian prison, the displays ranged from a recreated indoor Victorian street, to fashions of the years, displays of toys, a trip though the Sixties and a tribute to the history of the first World War. It was certainly an interesting way to spend a couple of hours.
The streets of York are lined with charming buildings, little Snckelways (a made-up York word for tiny alleyways) and interesting streets such as the The Shambles. This colourful old street was once the ‘street of the butchers’, and is now thought of by Harry Potter fans as resembling Diagon Alley.
We enjoyed a walk through the gardens adjacent to the Yorkshire Museum and the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey. This abbey dates back to the 11th century.
There are many other activities in York that would be great to see on a future visit – including the Yorkshire Museum, the Jorvik Viking Centre and one of the numerous nightly ‘ghost walks’.
We had a couple of excellent dinners in York – pizza at The Hop and Italian at Carluccio’s.
We would definitely recommend spending a day or two in York if you ever have the chance.
Bev & Harvey