Friday, February 26, 2016

The enchanting and historic ancient walled city of York, England

Many cities in the United Kingdom have "Ghost Walks" but York, England is the perfect place for a scary stroll  (wikipedia) 
YORK, ENGLAND Situated on the east coast of Great Britain, roughly half way between London and Edinburgh, Scotland, the ancient walled city of York beckons to be explored. As the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales there is arguably no better place in the United Kingdom that, acre for acre, can offer more bang for a traveler’s buck than York, England.

A good way to get oriented is to circumnavigate the perfectly preserved walls surrounding the city. From there, walk into the heart of the village and immerse yourself in its ancient streets.

Located at the confluence of the Ouse and Foss Rivers, York has long been a crossroads as well as a backdrop for major political events throughout its two thousand year history.

The city was founded in 71 AD by the Romans and, at one time or another, during various campaigns, the Emperors Hadrian, Septimius Severus and Constantius I all held court in York.

The Jorvik Viking Centre is filled with history  (wikipedia)
In 866, the region of Northumbria was raided by the Vikings bringing York under their rule. It was during this period that York became a major river port for Viking trade throughout northern Europe. By 954, less than a century later, the last Jorvik (Viking) ruler, Eric Bloodaxe, was driven from the city during King Eadred’s successful efforts to unify England.

Over time, the word Jorkiv underwent numerous iterations before if eventually became known as “York.”

In 1068, two years after the Battle of Hastings and the Norman conquest of England, the citizens of York rebelled against the new leadership. Though successful, the victory was short-lived when William the Conqueror put down the uprising.

Over the next thousand years, York became a thriving center for wool, a hub for the growing railway network in the 19th century and a confectionery manufacturing center. All of which translates to a rich diversity of things for travelers to discover.
York's wall are completely intact which means you can orient yourself by walking the ancient walled path  (wikipedia)
Perhaps it is the surrounding walls that provide the slightly claustrophobic sense of concentration that makes everything in York is easily accessible.
York Minster is famous for its massive stained glass windows  (wikipedia)
Begin with the historic York Minster, the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. Some of the stained glass in the church dates to the 12th century with the Great East Window, completed in 1408, still surviving as one of the largest examples of medieval stained glass in the world. Though the minster dwarfs the sense of proportion of the windows, many are larger than a full sized tennis court.

Next stroll to the ancient street known as the Shambles with its timber-framed buildings. This was the meat market in the 14th and 15th centuries where butchers displayed their wares. Though the butcher shops no longer remain, they were active until as recently as 1872.

The Shambles are a popular site  (wikipedia)
As you amble through the Shambles, stop to visit No. 10, which has become a shrine for the area. Today, the shop sells cufflinks rather than meat.

Though not in the city center, the Jorvik Viking Centre provides an excellent history of the influence of the Vikings on the region of Northumbria and their role in the history of the United Kingdom. Currently the museum is closed due to damage from flooding, but it is scheduled to reopen this year, so be sure to check before making a visit. The local tourist office will have any information you need.

One museum that should not be missed however, is the National Railway Museum outside the city walls of York. If you get nostalgic about the old days when steam engines made their way across steel tracks, this museum is for you.
The National Railway Museum is about transportation of all kinds including those famous double decked buses  (wikipedia)
Though the museum focuses upon the historic connections of the British railway system, it is actually a museum of transportation that features other modes of travel throughout the centuries.
If you miss Betty's Tea Rooms, your visit to York is not complete...Try the mint tea with scones and clotted cream  (wikipedia)

Just when the “thrill of victory” is ready to yield to the “agony of the feet” head for Betty’s Tea Rooms to sample mint tea and scones with clotted cream. Warning, Betty’s is a world famous institution so be prepared to wait…it is well worth it.

And speaking of confectionery delights, thanks to York’s chocolate history, you can even walk the city’s “Chocolate Trail” which is guaranteed to satisfy your sweet tooth cravings regardless of how large.

Clifford's Tower was built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror  (wikipedia)
Finally, no country has more ghosts per capita than the United Kingdom and, arguably, no city has a greater concentration of spooky stories than York. Many cities throughout England and Scotland feature ghost walks, but none are better than the ones in York.

London and Edinburgh may be larger, but York’s compact size combined with the sinister crooked shapes of its silhouetted buildings, add the ideal ambiance to these delightfully haunting and macabre stories.

Enter the medieval archways of York and indulge yourself in a world of history and nostalgic remnants of the past  (wikipedia)
With its narrow streets and medieval setting, York’s pubs are properly inviting and fun when it comes time to enjoy a pint with the locals.

For pure nostalgia and visiting England the way it “used to be” York just may be the place. At the very least it will capture your imagination as it whisks you back in time.