The City of York England
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River Ouse Smartphone Tour

todoinyork.com City of York England

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

The River Ouse Smartphone Tour is an idyllic as well as historic tour that leads you from Ouse Bridge to the Millennium Bridge, and taking the opposite bank to Skeldergate Bridge, Ouse Bridge, Lendal Bridge and Clifton Bridge. The River Ouse Smartphone Tour begins at Ouse Bridge and the Kings Arms Public House

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Riverside Walks
River Ouse

The River Ouse reflects the history of the City of York, time and water flowing through Roman, Viking, Norman, Georgian, Victorian and contemporary times.

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Riverside Walks
Ouse & Foss

York is the location where two North Yorkshire rivers merge, the River Ouse and the River Foss. These two rivers not only draw in history, they draw in visitors and wildlife too.

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Riverside Walks
Architecture

The River Ouse is adorned with scenery as well as architecture from medieval towers, iron, steel and stone bridges, churches and guildhalls, as well as contemporary dwellings.

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Introduction to the York's Rivers Smartphone Tour

The smartphone tours have been designed to either read or play the audio file as you greet each place of interest. For your convenience, each smartphone tour has been spit into two parts in case you want to take a break part way through. Simply follow each route and learn more about the historic City of York! All content on todoinyork.com is free to read, watch and listen to! 

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Ouse Bridge and Kings Staith

The River Ouse

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

The name River Ouse comes from a Keltic word meaning slow moving watercourse. The River Ouse is pronounced ‘ooze’. York has two rivers that merge near Skeldergate Bridge. The largest river is the River Ouse and York’s smaller river in terms of water volume is the River Foss. The River Ouse is a continuation of the River Ure and its full length stretches to 129 miles, making it UK’s sixth longest river. It is also the longest river that runs through one county (North Yorkshire).

King’s Staith

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

We are starting our tour at the King’s Staith next to Ouse Bridge. You can find the steps down to river level at the foot of the bridge. The King’s Arms Public House should be on your left hand side of direction of walking. 

The King’s Staith is a York street the follows the course of the River Ouse. During winter months with heavy periods of rain, the is one of the first places that floods, including the public houses too. King’s Staith faces Queen’s Staith on the opposite bank. King’s Staith was constructed in 1366 for the purpose of being the predominant quayside in the City of York. It was the front street of the so called “Water Lane”s that transported goods from vessels on the River Ouse. 
You could also do this walk in reverse and finish at one of York’s popular Public Houses, the King’s Arms. Despite it being subject to flooding, it is the only remaining building of the first “Water Lane” in York. The water lane that leads to Clifford Street was originally Kergate and these days it is referred to as King Street. If you are in a wheelchair or have a pram or pushchair, you can use King Street as a route to the riverside. 

This timber framed building derives from the 17th century. The southern and western walls are extremely thick in order to give it protection from the Ouse water. Sadly, it is not just the beer that is flowing in this pub as the River Ouse is renowned for bursting its banks after heavy rains. 

Instead of boats containing goods and supplies, these days the City Cruise open top boats berth here. You will also discover some smaller boats to hire as well as York Rescue Boat (a 999 emergency service) and the Fire Rescue Boat. The City Cruise takes you along the Ouse towards the Bishop’s Palace at Bishopthorpe, and as far as Clifton Bridge the opposite direction. They have a licensed bar and there is even a popular “Gin Cruise” too.

Skeldergate Bridge

Tower Gardens

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

Granted, our smartphone tour fails to provide a licensed bar, but this is by far the healthiest option. It is only a relatively short walk to Skeldergate Bridge. You will notice Tower Gardens on the left as you walk towards the bridge.  You can expect to receive views of Clifford’s Tower from Tower Gardens and makes appealing photography.

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Skeldergate Bridge

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

Skeldergate Bridge is not the oldest bridge in the City of York, in a round about way that falls to Ouse Bridge we discover later.  However, it is the first of the relatively modern bridges that carry a road. Some could say it is the most aesthetic. The bridge was constructed because the Corporation of York realised that more than 800 people a day were using the ferry crossing that once exist here. 

 

You will see the motor house that once opened the first arch for tall ships entering the city. However, in medieval times, a huge chain was stretched across the River Ouse in order to collect taxes. These taxes were known as ‘murage’ and the monies received went towards the upkeep of the city walls.  This was not the only location were a chain was used, but more on that later! Currently, Dyls operate a cafe bar here, so you may want to enjoy their cuisine. 

 

Dyl’s Cafe Bar (pictured prior to opening time).

 

Skeldergate Bridge first began when the first cornerstone was placed in 1878 and the bridge opened three years later in 1881. Thomas Page was the architect who also designed Westminster Bridge in London as well as Lendal Bridge in York.  Sadly however, he died early in the construction of Skeldergate Bridge and his son George Page took charge.  The design of the bridge was crafted in a Gothic style and is made mostly of ironwork. The plans were changed during construction to accommodate the opening first arch. It hasn’t been opened since 1975 and the mechanism has since been removed from what is now Dyls Cafe Bar

 

Beyond Skeldergate Bridge you will notice St George’s Car and Coach Park. St George’s Field is where criminals would be held in stocks, including the famous highwayman Dick Turpin (John Palmer). Going further back, the land was owned (along with land at Copmanthorpe) by the Knights Templar. There was some stunning gardens and a dwelling along with several mills. 

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River Foss & Blue Bridge

Millennium Way

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

By now you will see signs of the Millennium Way. This is a walking and cycling route that takes you along the riverbanks of south York, then makes its way towards Hob Moor, Fulford Ings, Walmgate Stray, Monk Stray, Bootham Stray and Clifton Ings.

Blue Bridge

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

As you walk further you will see a bright blue bridge that opens up. Please beware of cyclists when crossing this bridge. This bridge crosses the River Foss that immediately merges with the Ouse here. The original bridge was constructed in 1738 in the form of a wooden drawbridge. However, the bridge that we see today was much later in 1929-30.  The bridge has been replaced several times between these. 

The Corporation of York constructed a treelined promenade at the cost of the city, and it proved so popular that it was extended. 

The Foss’s Defences

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

The Foss Barrier was constructed just prior to the Blue Bridge to prevent floodwater travelling up the River Foss and flooding properties. Sadly, this was an issue prior to the Foss Barrier’s construction. We see the barrier in its open position, but when the floodwaters arrive in the winter months, you may see this closed. However, this does not damn the Foss as pumps force Foss water to travel around the barrier to empty into the Ouse. 

The Foss in the city centre is largely canalised in modern times, and you can see where the Foss meets the Ouse. The Ouse then continues eastwards merging with other contributories before forming the Humber Estuary that empties out in the North Sea near Kingston Upon Hull.

Promenade

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

Venturing past the Blue Bridge, we are going to enjoy the treelined walk beside the River Ouse with a residential area to the left and the slow moving Ouse on the right.

Idyllic Views

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

As you walk further, it is strongly recommended to look behind you from time to time. Failing to do so would mean you would miss scenery. It is a good idea to keep your eyes open for any wildlife that are common in this area. 

Information Points

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

From time to time you will encounter some viewing platforms along with information pedestals. They concisely educate you while you admire the scenery. 

Millennium Bridge

An Unusual Railway

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

As you walk further, Fishergate is on your right and we enter a suburb of York known as Fulford. Just prior to the Millennium Bridge you may spot the remnants of an old narrow gauge railway.  This dates back to around 1890.

 

The narrow gauge railway served the Royal Army Ordnance Corps and it linked the military hospital with the River Ouse at this time.  What is today Cycle Heaven, the long building was the Ordnance Headquarters. A wharf was constructed on the riverbank.  You can see that the tracks lead up to the River Ouse today. 

Millennium Bridge

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

At the turn of the millennium, bridges were constructed in towns and city’s across the UK, naming them “Millennium Bridge”. York’s Millennium Bridge links pedestrians and cyclists with Clementhorpe and Hospital Fields. We are going to cross the Millennium Bridge and head back towards the City of York on the opposite bank. This forms the Sustrans Cycle Route towards Selby. It also forms part of the York Orbital Cycle Route.

 

The bridge cost a staggering £4.2m pounds, designed by Whitby Bird and Partners after winning the tender. This bridge is a community bridge as local residents use it as a place to meet and converse. There are seating that spans the bridge looking over the cycle path and pedestrian walk way as well as the Ouse itself.

The Millennium Bridge is quite an elegant and stunning bridge, but incredibly useful for residents. However, please take care when crossing owing to the cycle route. 

You will see information points throughout this section of the York River Ouse Smartphone Tour, and the Millennium Bridge has one of its own. It’s encouraged to read through this when you arrive.

 

Floating Ice-Cream boats can be found on the River Ouse such as this one pictured. It can be found where the narrow gauge tracks approach the River Ouse. 

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National Cycle Route

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

Not only is this an idyllic walking route returning to the city, but it is also part of the National Cycle Route (Route 66) from Kingston Upon Hull through to Manchester. York is just one of the many calling points on this route.

 

Following the directions back towards York, we follow the cycle route to approach the gates of Rowntree Park and Terry Avenue. Rowntree Park can be seen on the left.

Rowntree Park

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

Rowntree’s Park relates to the famous York chocolatiers Joseph Rowntree family. They were Quakers and unusual for Victorian times, they treated their employees very well. They provided lots of facilities including this enormous park and even a swimming pool! However, the workers worked very hard to benefit from these. You will soon come to the historic gates of Rowntree Park

The park was gifted to the City of York in 1921 by the Rowntree family as mentioned. The park was in fact a memorial for those cocoa workers who fell during the Great War. These gates however were added as a memorial for those who lost their lives during World War II making the park older than the gates! Rowntree Park has a cafe if you need to pause for refreshments. 

In the summer, the water is sometimes obscured by riverside foliage. Hand in hand, they both contribute to a idyllic riverside experience.

The official street name is Terry Avenue. Yes this section of the river walk is all about chocolate. We’ve already seen Rowntree Park but the former Terry’s site is situated nearby in the South Bank area. Rows of terraced houses still stand that once occupied chocolate factory workers. Again, there is an information point complete with history at a river viewing platform.

You will also encounter marker posts from time to time such as the one pictured. If you have access to a bike (and bikes can be rented in York) you can cycle this route instead of walk if you prefer. 

During the spring and summer in particular, the River Ouse is adorned with passing boats such as the official River Cruises as well as the smaller hire boats. Narrow boats are often found traversing the waters and occasionally berthed at the riverside. 

You will by now receive views of the Blue Bridge once again. At either side of the bridge, canons once exist. These were a memorial for those who lost their lives during the Crimean War. They have since been removed, but images of them are available from Explore York. 

Caravan Park

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

You then pass by the Rowntree Park Caravan and Motorhome site. It is typically very poplular and very close to the city centre. You also pass a hotel on your left hand side too which is currently Roomz

Roomz Hotel

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

Roomz is an Aparthotel and the company was established in Leeds in 2006. They currently exist in ten cities across the UK. The hotel in York is relatively modern and is very popular. 

Bishop Wharf Moorings

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

As you stroll further you will see some riverside residential apartments and some boat moorings. The large boats are actually accommodation for visitors. These luxury house boats would undoubtedly add some extra character to your visit! They can be booked at airbnb.com

Bishop Wharf

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

Bishop Wharf on your left feature some attractive riverside apartments that overlook the River Ouse, River Foss and Skeldergate Bridge. These are generally residential rather than holiday apartments. 

View of Skeldergate Bridge

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

You will shortly receive views of Skeldergate Bridge from our current side of the river. In fact these are the best views owing to the lack of riverside foliage. It links the castle area to Bishop Hill. It was originally a toll bridge, but became toll free in 1914.

 

In this area, a great chain was stretched from one side of the river to the other to prevent ships from leaving without paying their taxes (or murage). Money collected from murage went towards the upkeep and maintenance of York City Walls.  Don’t forget that York had two castles at the time of William the Conqueror. The Ouse ran between them. 

Skedlergate

Baile Hill

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

As you meet Skeldergate you will notice Baile Hill. The tower allows access back to the City Walls. There is also an earth motte where the second castle once stood, largely constructed in wood. Unlike Clifford’s Tower, this castle was never rebuilt in stone.

Skeldergate

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

It may not appear this way today, Skeldergate was once York’s main dockside street. However, you can still see some of the former warehouses that were used such as The Bonding Warehouse for example. Many of these buildings have been converted into apartments. In both the Roman and Viking periods, the area was also used to handle goods and materials. 

Middleton’s Hotel

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

On the left you will pass Middleton’s Hotel. It is No.56 Skeldergate and has 56 rooms available. However, these rooms are throughout 6 historic grade I listed properties, 56 Skeldergate, Cromwell House, Sir Joseph Terry Cottage, Lady Anne House, Chaplin House and The Organ Factory. 56 Skeldergate is thought to have been built in 1779, owned by the Sheriff of York at that time.

 

You will also see a former Alms House. Almshouses were provided for the poor by wealthy landowners. In fact, York contains many almshouses that posses intriguing architecture. You will also notice the coat of arms. Here it reads, ‘These Almshouses were erected by public subscription. In memory of late Sir Joseph Terry’. Of course, Sir Joseph Terry was associated with Terry’s Chocolate Factory in the South Bank area.

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Cock and Bottle

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

Many pubs claim to be haunted in York and the Cock and Bottle is no different. A former landlady was apparently disturbed by an apparition, thought to be that of George Villiers. He was an alchemist at the time of Charles II. Apparently, this apparition is said to be malevolent with thick wavy black hair, and a large nose. However, the staff are more friendlier and you can call in for a drink if you need to rest. 

York Sea Cadets

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

The York Sea Cadets is an institution for young people where they can grown in experience. They can learn how to be a team member with good traits such as respect, loyalty, self-confidence, commitment, self-discipline, and honesty. This won’t get you a career in politics, but it will build you into a well adjusted individual!

In any case, we can take a side street on the right and walk down to the riverside once again.

York City Cruises

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

The river cruises used to be in a white and red livery, but these days we see them in white and navy blue. They now operate as City Cruises and you can board these at Kings Staith as well as Lendal Bridge. There are dining cruises available including a lunch cruise, afternoon tea cruise and even a gin cruise!

Ouse Bridge

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

Although Ouse Bridge is kind of the oldest bridge in York, the current structure is not the original. The Roman’s originally had a bridge at the northern end of what is now Coney Street. The Vikings rebuilt this bridge in wood. This bridge collapsed in 1154 owing to a large crowd congregated to receive Sir William of York who had been away in exile.   

 

The first bridge in the current position was very different as it had shops at either end supported by the bridge. It also had a larger arch in the centre to allow taller ships to pass. The bridge was built in 1367 and even contained England’s first public toilets! Sadly, most of the bridge was swept away in floods in 1564. The large central arch spanning 81ft came about when the bridge was repaired. 

The current bridge we see today was built in 1821 and was designed by Peter Atkinson. Unlike Lendal Bridge and Skeldergate Bridge, it is constructed in stone instead of ironwork. 

 
 

You often find waterfowl here such as ducks and geese. You may even see a swan or two from time to time!

Here, we need to climb the steps beside the bridge and cross the road for North Street. If you are in a wheelchair or have a pram/pushchair with you, you can return to Skeldergate and cross over the road to North Street.

North Street

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

More than likely the first building you will notice is the largest, Park Inn Hotel. The building is of sixties architecture and was first opened as the Viking Hotel in 1969. The River Ouse flows around the opposite side, giving guests some fantastic riverside views.

 

Directly opposite is the spire of All Saints Church. The earliest part of the church is the 12th century nave and the rest of the structure derives from the 13th and 14th century. It is said to have the most impressive collection of stained glass in York. Similar to York Minster, many of the windows have names, or titles. 

In the 1700’s there was a large steam powered flour mill here, and this has sadly gone. What you can find is this fantastic timber-framed building next to All Saints. North Street was the dwelling place of Peter Atkinson, the architect who designed the current Ouse Bridge. However, it is not just North Street containing some impressive architecture. 

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York Guildhall

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

The present guildhall was constructed in the 15th century and was sadly damaged in an air raid during World War II. It sits on site of a former ‘Common Hall’ that was constructed much earlier and the first reference to it was in 1256. The current structure was built in 1445 for the Guild of St Christopher and St George. The cost of the construction was split between them!

Museum Gardens

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

On the opposite bank, you will notice views of The Hospitium found in the Museum Gardens. The timber framed building was constructed to accommodate visitors to St Mary’s Abbey when they were not permitted to stay in the abbey itself. The so called watergates on the right hand side denote that it had some kind of warehouse function too. The water at this time would have met the building. 

York City Memorial Gardens

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

On your left you will see the Memorial Gardens and you might want to take a moment to visit these. You will see the World War I memorial to those who have fallen. The gardens opened in 1925 especially for the war memorial of which was designed by Edwin Lutyens

Westgate Apartments

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

Immediately after the Memorial Gardens, you will notice a much more modern construction, Westgate Apartments. Not dissimilar to the riverside apartments at Bishop Wharf, they provide riverside views from luxury dwellings. The penthouses at the top give you 360 views of York. A local by-law stipulates that you cannot build above the height of York Minster, to preserve its views from miles around in the Vale of York.

City Cruise Moorings

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

Situated underneath the Guildhall you will often find some of the City Cruise boats. The office for City Cruise are located in Lendal Bridge at the Museum Gardens side of the structure. 

Wellington Row

River Ouse Smartphone Tour

After passing by Tanner Row (the side street on the left to Rougier Street) you will find Wellington Row. Situated next to Lendal Bridge is the Environmental Agency York Community Flood Hub. It was an electricity sub-station and is grade II listed. Around the corner you will also see a former ‘horse repository’ from the 19th century, identified by the large arches.

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