The City of York England
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York City Walls Smartphone Tour Part Two City of York England

Baile Hill to Micklegate Bar

Baile Hill (York’s Second Castle)

York City Walls Smartphone Tour

Although the second castle is long gone, you can still see the earth motte today at Baile Hill. It is at this location that we alight the walls once again at Baile Hill Tower at Skeldergate. Before you rejoing the York City Walls, you may want to look around the back and see some of the remaining earthworks for the castle.  This particular castle was never upgraded to stone, in fact it was left to ruin.

You can also witness the motte from the bar walls, but much of it forms a small coppice behind the walls edge. 

At Baile Hill Tower there is a lengthy staircase so you may want to take a moment to get your breath back at the top. It is worth it in the end as the walls coarse to Micklegate is quite interesting.

The walls at this point kind of zig-zag with views of Bishopthorpe Road and Nunnery Lane. Nunnery Lane is named such in the sense of the convent found opposite Micklegate Bar. Between here and Micklegate Bar we encounter some interval towers as well as Victoria Bar.

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Bitchdaughter Tower

York City Walls Smartphone Tour

As you walk further you will notice a flat looking tower at the corner. This is known as Bitchdaughter Tower, and although the name sounds very medieval, it’s not certain why it was called this. However this was the King’s prison from 1451 before it became known as Bitchdaughter in 1566. The tower and wall was a defense protecting the bailey of the castle found at Baile Hill. At the time the walls were reconstructed in stone, stonemasons were taken from York Minster to work on it as instructed by Archbishop Melton, and the same inscriptions can be found at the Minster and Bitchdaughter Tower. 

On the tower you will notice an engraving in the stone referring to the castle at Baile Hill. It also illustrates the river running between the two castles. 

When you come to a tower, its recommended to look out over the top and peer down the wall to gain a look of the outside. On this section of the wall, you can also see some very leafy remains of the accompanying moat.


Victoria Bar (Rear)

York City Walls Smartphone Tour

As we walk parallel to Nunnery Lane on your left, you will shortly arrive at Victoria Bar. As you will have already guessed by now, the gateway was created by the Victorians. Their goal was to allow traffic flow between Bishophill and Nunnery Lane. Granted, this has left a Victorian stain on the medieval walls. However, Micklegate Bar was getting dangerously congested so relief was needed by creating this additional gateway.  You can use the steps to attain street level.

Victoria Bar (Front)

York City Walls Smartphone Tour

The main arch (that has never had a portcullis or defensive purpose) was created in 1838. The two pedestrian arches were added later in 1864 and 1867. When the main arch was being constructed, a much earlier gateway was discovered underneath from the 12th century known as ‘lounelith’ (secluded). This gateway was filled in with earth and the reasons for this are uncertain.

You will notice a reference to George Hudson who was a former Lord Mayor of York and became known as the ‘Railway King’. He established investors to invest in a network of railways around the country, promising great dividends or returns in their investment. Sadly, these returns never came about and George Hudson became disgraced. The statue of George Leeman on Leeman Road was originally to be George Hudson, but after he was disgraced and held to be fraudulent, the head was replaced with George Leeman. So in other words, the statue is a George Leeman head on a George Hudson body!

Former St Thomas Hospital

York City Walls Smartphone Tour

In this area you will see the rear of St Thomas Hospital that later became The Moat Hotel (owing to it being situated in the moat!) The hospital was rebuilt in 1862 from a previous building dating back to the 12th century. This was not a hospital as you might imagine it to be but they were alms houses for 12 single women.

York Walls Earthworks

York City Walls Smartphone Tour

From the interval tower you get a better view of the magnesian limestone wall sat upon its earthworks or ramparts. These ramparts gave the wall additional height and further protection along with their moat. When the Vikings came along, the Roman walls were in disrepair, so they demolished much of the Romans work except for the ramparts. They established a protective wall in wood, building their own ramparts. The walls were later converted to stone in the 13th century. 

A great time of year to see these earth ramparts is in March when the bright yellow daffodils arrive and adorn the walls with plenty of colour and vibrancy.

Views of Micklegate Bar

York City Walls Smartphone Tour

On the horizon you will begin to see the structure of Micklegate Bar, and historically speaking, this is probably the most important gateway of them all.

Micklegate Bar is south facing, making it the royal entrance to the City of York. When a monarch arrived at the gateway, he or she had to ask for the Lord Mayor’s permission to enter. The Mount and Blossom Street leading up to Micklegate Bar overlies a Roman Road hence why they are straight roads. Micklegate (Mickleith) means great street and formed an important route into the city. There are half a dozen monarchs that have passed through this particular gateway.

You will notice that Micklegate Bar contains some defensive turrets as well as some figures on top of them.

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York City Walls Experience

York City Walls Smartphone Tour

You can take the steps at either side of the bar to attain street level. However, you can also walk through this particular bar and you will see signs for York City Walls Experience. This is a new feature to York and provides walking tours around the walls. 

Previously this was the home of the Henry VII experience which has now closed. Alternatively, we can walk through the narrow arch towards the railway corner of the city walls.

Micklegate Bar (Front)

York City Walls Smartphone Tour

The top two storeys on Micklegate Bar derive from the 14th century, and the remaining the 12th. Again multigenerational. It became inhabited in 1196. The additional arches at either side of the gateway are again Victorian. 

The coats of arms upon the bar have been recently restored and this is by far the most aesthetic of the gateways. However, it is is missing its barbican that was removed in 1826.

Micklegate Bar (Rear)

York City Walls Smartphone Tour

Certainly do not miss the opportunity to admire the rear of the gateway too.  This is our final gateway before we complete our walk around York City Walls. 

The restored coats of arms and other adornments certainly look very eye-pleasing. This is ironic, because for some centuries the front of Micklegate Bar looked far more sinister. This was because the heads of traitors and rebels were boiled in a form of tar and hung from Mickelgate Bar. This also included the head of the Duke of York too. This was practiced to provide a warning. However, by 1754 all the heads had been removed from the gateway. During that period, the bar was known as “traitors gate”.

Amusingly, although the barbican was demolished, you can still see the doorways on the wall of the bar where the defenders of the city would come out onto the barbican. Even with the barbican removed, it still remains one of the most impressive of the gateways and provides a huge welcome for those entering York from the south. 

When arriving at the gateways, certainly look out for the information boards that are displayed. They give you a concise understanding of the structures history.

Micklegate Bar to Lendal Bridge

The Railway Section

York City Walls Smartphone Tour

Although not officially designated such, you could call our last stretch of the tour ‘the railway section’. This can be said because we are now approaching the location for York Railway Station which is an historic marvel in itself. 

You can begin to see the roofs belonging to York Railway Station as well as the avoiding lines on the left heading north. These avoiding lines carry freight trains instead of running them through the station.

You will also see an interval tower and a right-angle in the walls. However, looking down at the walls here reveals archways we mentioned at the outset.

Remember how William Etty campaigned against having archways carved into the medieval walls? Here you will see the arches that once bridged the walls over railway lines beneath that belonged to York’s first railway station. The station was a terminus but as traffic increased it became ever more cramped and difficult to use. Locomotives would have to decouple on entry and run around to the front of the train in order to leave the station. Therefore a new station needed to be built that could cope with the congestion. 

The current railway station was built from Scarborough stone and opened in 1877, designed by railway architects Thomas Prosser and William Peachey. At the time it was constructed it was the largest station in the world. What is fascinating in terms of engineering is that the roof, platforms and structures are all built in a curve to marry up with the route of the lines. At the time of construction it was somewhat of a marvel. 

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The Last Stretch of the City Walls

York City Walls Smartphone Tour

The last section of the wall carries you between hotels and railway buildings before arriving at Lendal Bridge. You will probably begin to receive views of the railway monument for soldiers who died during the Great War.

On the paving you see an etching giving information about the whereabouts of York’s first railway station. We term it as York’s first station, but in fact prior to this there was a simple single platform on Queen Street before the terminus was built.

A Popular Minster View

York City Walls Smartphone Tour

Probably one of the most famous of places to take a photo of York Minster is right here. It makes an interesting composition when the medieval wall acts as a leading line up to the enormous structure of the minster, creating depth in your images.

Former Royal York Hotel

York City Walls Smartphone Tour

Just after the station was opened, the Royal York Hotel was added. It is no longer the Royal York Hotel as it has changed hands. The amusing fact about The Royal York hotel is that there has never been a member of the Royal Family that have stayed here. Therefore to call it the Royal York is somewhat of a misnomer. 

North Eastern Railway First World War Monument

York City Walls Smartphone Tour

The NER First World War Monument shouldn’t be confused with the York City Memorial found at the opposite side of the wall in Memorial Gardens. This was to commemorate those railway employees who had died during the war. However, both memorials were designed by the same architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens. There was controversy at the time owing to its design and location. 

The Grand Hotel

York City Walls Smartphone Tour

The Grand Hotel is a five star hotel situated close to the railway station and city walls. However, this building was actually intended for railway offices in its heyday. It belonged to the North Eastern Railways which was one of the richest businesses in England at the time. If you look at the weather vane on top of the structure you will notice it has a railway theme!

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Victorian Arches

York City Walls Smartphone Tour

Our tour of the existing city walls ends here back at the River Ouse. The two arches that you see where the road passed though were built by the Victorians. 

Although the trail ends here, we are not done yet! We need to walk over the River Ouse upon Lendal Bridge and enter the Museum Gardens at the opposite side. 

Multangular Tower Museum Gardens

Multangular Tower and Wall

York City Walls Smartphone Tour

In museum gardens, you will see on your right the Multangular Tower. The smaller stones below the band are Roman in origin. This wall would have followed the river for a time and come up beside St Helen’s Square and Stonegate. It is a corner tower and the others had been demolished by the Vikings. 


Walking towards the Kings Manor, there is a way through to access the opposite side of the wall.

Originally the entire tower would have been built by the Romans, but as it stands today, the bricks above the Roman’s work are medieval. This however, is not the only tower on this particular Roman wall.

Anglo Saxon Tower

York City Walls Smartphone Tour

If you follow the wall along, you will see the only remaining Anglo Saxon construction at the foot of some steps. We tend to focus on Romans and Vikings in York, but between these periods the angles arrived before the Danes took control of the area.

We hope you have enjoyed your tour of York City Walls! Please select a further tour below.