Places to Visit in North Yorkshire
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York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

Visit York and North Yorkshire through Video

The video below is pertaining to York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour. In this video we relate to you some of the principle things to see and do in York including heritage structures, museums and other attractions. For a tour of the city walls, please visit our York City Walls Guided Tour.

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

York Places to Visit in North Yorkshire
York Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

York Walls Places to Visit in North Yorkshire
York Walls Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

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Introduction to York

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

In our first episode of Places to Visit in North Yorkshire, we begin our journey in the City of York, North Yorkshire’s heartbeat. We’ll be looking at the many historical attractions including its architecture, museums, rivers and gardens. This is no ordinary journey, this is time travel, a journey deriving from pre-Roman times.

Getting to York

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

York is situated in the heart of Yorkshire and was once regarded as England’s second city. York’s closest airports are Robin Hood Airport near Doncaster, Manchester Airport, Leeds Bradford Airport and Humberside. Bus services can take you from the airports to nearby railway stations for convenient travel. The city can also be accessed easily by car, 20 minutes from the M1 and M62 motorways. York is also situated on major A roads such as the A64 Leeds to Scarborough, A19 Doncaster to Teeside, A59 Harrogate to York and the A1079 road to Kingston Upon Hull. Rail and bus services are frequent into the city, linking York with easy rail access from London, and much of the country as well as Scotland and Wales. York is also accessible by rail from European countries owing to the channel tunnel, just a 5 hour journey from Paris. Rail journeys have improved recently with new rolling stock and more services.

Places to Visit in North Yorkshire is not an official guide to York and other locations around North Yorkshire, but the series will help you acquire some much needed knowledge of where to visit and what not to miss.

York is extremely fascinating owing to its history. So much history in fact, that it would be impossible to document York in great detail within a 45 minute video. Even if you do not have a leaning towards history, York’s activities pertaining to lots to see and do often draws visitors from all over the world.

Just to make you aware, although we have touched on York City Walls in this video, we have produced a more comprehensive documentary of the city walls in a separate episode featured on this channel.

York Railway Station

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

This might not seem an obvious place to go sightseeing but in actual fact York Railway Station holds some interesting features. It was built back in 1877 and at the time was the largest railway station in the world. What is amazing about this station is how its platforms, buildings and roof is formed in a long curve that follows the lines running through.

What You Don’t See

However, this was not the first permanent station to exist in York. In fact, the first station was a terminus station and was situated across the road on the other side of the bar wall. In 1841, arches were created into the bar wall to allow the trains to pass through into the station. At this point in time, there were fewer trains and they had to go left to enter the station through the arches. To make things more awkward, in the days of steam, locomotives had to decouple from its stock and run around the train to attach to what now is the front in order to leave the terminus station. As time progressed, more and more trains were on the move and a new station needed to be built to accommodate the increasing traffic.

A Victorian Railway Station Today

Today’s station sits on the East Coast Mainline (ECML) that runs trains from London Kings Cross to Edinburgh as well as incorporating other routes to the South-West, Harrogate, Kingston Upon Hull and Scarborough.

The current station was designed by Thomas Prosser and William Peachey and originally had 13 platforms. York station is a principal stop in the north of England providing access to the rail network. During the 1960’s the Beaching cuts axed many of the unprofitable branch lines. Prior to this, you could travel to almost anywhere by rail including rural villages. 

York could very accurately be called a “railway city”. York was a main employer of railway workers for a considerable time, but sadly not so much today. Not only did it boast the world’s largest station, but also had a roundhouse, a works (or factory where trains were made and repaired), and employed office workers as well as engineers. Rows of terraced houses were built around the city to accommodate the railway workers and their families. The railways also encouraged production of other products such as chocolate. Chocolate factories such as Terry’s of York and Rowntree’s were two main employers in chocolate production. Prior to the railways arrival, York was simply a market town with small manufacturers providing employment.

It would be accurate to say that the railways changed the course of the city. 

Micklegate Bar

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

Micklegate Bar was a prominent gateway into the city. On the approach to the bar is a stretch of straight road known as Blossom Street and The Mount. Straight roads are typical for a Roman road such as this one. Today they are adorned with properties of Georgian and Victorian periods, but even in Roman times it was one of the most affluent areas of the city. Also typical to Romans is how they buried there dead alongside roads and this Roman road is no exception to the tradition. This could possibly be because they wanted the dead to hear the living going on with their every day lives.

In The Mount area in 2004, building work uncovered a grimly 80 bodies in the gardens of a 18th century mansion home. It is thought that the bodies were those of professional fighters who fought to provide entertainment in Roman times. These gladiators were brought to Britain from across the Mediterranean, but the amphitheatre in which they fought has never been found to this date.

The name “Micklegate” derives from the word “Micklelith” which means “great street”. Due to its south facing position, it is noted to be the front gate to the city. It was also regarded as the Royal Entrance and interestingly, every monarch had to ask the Lord Mayor’s permission to enter the city. However, Henry VIII on his second visit forsook this ceremony as well as Queen Victoria. Even Elizabeth II on her Diamond Jubilee celebrations visit York and asked the Lord Mayor’s permission to enter the city! The tradition began when King Richard II offered his sword and permission to hold the sword upright. Since then, monarchs were to touch it on entry to the city, and King James I was offered the sword although he later returned it.

Micklegate Bar is also known as “Traitors Gate” as severed heads were boiled in tar and stuck on spikes at the top of the gate. This was to warn people coming into the City of York. One of which was the Duke of York who was captured during the War of the Roses. 

Lendal Bridge

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

This Victorian Bridge was built between 1861 and 1863 designed by William Dredge and serves as one of the three road bridges in the city centre, along with Skeldergate Bridge and Ouse Bridge. Prior to the bridge, a ferry service existed between the cone shaped tower, Barker Tower, and Lendal Tower, the rectangular tower, at the opposite side. The idea of the bridge came about in 1838 but a dispute existed between the railway companies and the Corporation of York, since the ferry was transporting passengers to the old terminus railway station aforementioned. Sadly, in 1861 the bridge collapsed in construction and five men were killed. Remarkably, the collapsed bridge was reconstructed but not in York, it serves as Valley Bridge in Scarborough.

Barker Tower

The cone shaped tower you see next to the bridge is Barker’s Tower. It served as part of the city’s defences when a chain was stretched across the river to prevent ships from entering the city. It also prevented ships from leaving without paying their taxes. Barker Tower used to serve as the ferryman’s cottage.

From Lendal Bridge you can see The Guildhall. It was originally built in 1445 but sadly it was rebuilt after being damaged during an air raid in World War II. It was built for the Guild of St Christopher and St John Corporation.

Lendal Tower

On the same side as Barker Tower but directly across the river stands Lendal Tower, built in 1299 at the time of Richard I. Like Barker Tower is served as part of the city’s defences and was at the opposite end of the chain across the river. Interestingly, it was leased to the York Waterworks Company in 1677 for 1 peppercorn per year for 500 years! Today it is self-catering accommodation for visitors to York. 

St Mary’s Abbey

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

York St Mary’s Abbey is found in York’s Museum Gardens and is situated next door to the Yorkshire Museum. It was the largest and richest Benedictine abbey in the North of England. Henry VIII had his men pull the abbey down in the Dissolution of the Monasteries during the 1500’s. This was because he wanted to redirect funds towards military purposes and some argue simply for the crown.

The Abbey’s History

The original church on the site dated back to 1055. After the Norman conquest, the church came into the possession of the Anglo Breton Alan Rufus and granted the land to Abbot Stephen and a group of Monks from Whitby. After completion of the church it was rededicated to Virgin Mary. Monks then moved to York from a site at Lastingham in Ryedale. The abbey was badly damaged by fire in 1137 and the surviving ruins date back to 1271 after a rebuilding programme.

When you visit St Mary’s Abbey, do not forget to take a brief walk around the back, alongside the Yorkshire Museum. This will give you further views of the remaining structure.

Opening Times and Admission

There are no admission charges but as the abbey is situated in the Museum Gardens opening times apply. The gardens are open between 7.30am and 6pm. The Yorkshire Museum next door does have admission charges. 

Multangular Tower

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

The city walls are also referred to as York Bar Walls, and York boasts the longest intact walls in the country. It is a misnomer to call them Roman walls as this is not actually correct. Granted, they were originally constructed by the Romans, but the Danes rebuilt much of them in wood at a time when the defences were not quite so formidable due to poor repair. However, even though the Danes conquest destroyed most of the towers, they preserved the Multangular tower. The smaller stones at the base reflect a Roman origin whereas the larger stones above were added during medieval times. Only some of the walls follow the original path of the Roman walls.

The Danes occupied the City of York, or Eboracum as it was known during Roman times and Jorvik during the Viking period, and rebuilt the walls. The walls we see today encircled much of the medieval city between the 12th and 14th centuries. You will notice along Lord Mayor’s Walk there is a section of the wall in which you can still recognise the moat at the foot of the structure. Moat’s were not as charming as you might imagine as they were full of rotting waste and the water was far from pleasant.

Down a narrow drive alongside Kings Manor you will find a short path up the bank to the Multangular Tower. This legionary fortress served as one of the two corner towers and was probably constructed in 200AD. It was part of the huge stone wall that looked down into the River Ouse at the bottom of the Museum Gardens. It was designed in such a way to defend against enemies attacking the wall itself.  

Kings Manor

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

York Kings Manor is situated to the left of the Art Gallery and also at the rear of the Museum Gardens. Its existence began in 1270 as the Abbot’s lodging who obviously was the Abbot of St Mary’s Abbey behind it. However, when first built it was much smaller and has been extended twice, firstly in 1480 and also in 1610. 

Turbulent Times

The Kings Manor survived the Dissolution of the Monasteries unlike the abbey itself because quite simply, Henry VIII admired the building.

When the Abbey dissolved, King Henry VIII instructed that it be the seat of the Council of the North until 1641 when the council was abolished. Today it serves as part of the University of York and you can study archeology here. In addition, the building is open to the public.

Along the left hand side of the grounds you can walk to the Museum Gardens along a public right of way.

Opening Times

York Art Gallery & William Etty Statue

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

York Art Gallery was built in 1879 for the city’s Great Exhibition. Probably the first point of interest you will notice is the statue of William Etty that resides in front of the Art Gallery. You can thank him for the city walls as you pass. He was a Victorian painter and also was a York man. His work was displayed in the gallery but it may not have been to everyone’s taste, especially in Victorian times. Etty was a painter of nudes and his pictures were often covered up. So why would you thank Etty for York’s City Walls? Well,

Etty in fact saved them from being demolished as in 1825 the walls were to be pulled down. The council at that time considered the walls to be in the way of traffic. Etty, however, being an influential figure, constructed a group of people (The York Footpath’s Association) that pressured the council for the walls not to be demolished. Suffice as it is to say, he was very much successful. The York Footpath’s Association still exists today.

York Art Gallery has recently been reopened due to much needed refurbishment in 2015. Today it hosts art including 14th century paintings to more contemporary art. It boasts a large collection of paintings, watercolours, prints, ceramics and drawings.

In 1879 it was the home of Yorkshire Fine Art and Industrial Exhibition and was given a major boost by John Burton who was a York collector. The Exhibition prior to 1879 was held in a temporary chalet in 1866.

Today the Art Gallery falls under the ownership of York Museums Trust, but in 1892 the building and collection was bought by York City Council. It was closed for a time due to the Second World War when the building was used for military purposes. It reopened again as an art gallery in 1948 after the war had ended. Sadly however, the building suffered some bomb damage during 1942. 

Opening Times

Bootham Bar

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

York’s Bar Wall’s obviously required gates (or Bar’s/York City Gateways) to enter the city.

In York it is important to remember that streets are known as “Gates”, gates are known as “Bars”, and to confuse you further, bars are known as “public houses” or pubs for short. The Dane’s influence in Viking times has a bearing on this because Gates comes from a Viking word for street being Gata. However, the gates are bars due to the influence of the Normans, in the same way you might use the word “barrier”.

York Bar Walls contain 5 main gates, however, only 4 of them contain a structure with internal rooms.

Bootham Bar is the most northern gateway and has existed for around 800 years. However, in Roman times it was also the northern gate into the fortress almost 2000 years ago. If you have good eyesight, you may have observed the stone figures on top of the structure. The centre figure is Nicholas De Lanterne and he was the Lord Mayor of York during the 1300’s representing the citizens at the time who paid for the walls. You will also notice the stonemason holding a model of the bar as well as a soldier who is prepared to defend the city.

One point of note is that the wall opposite Bootham Bar is not part of the city wall. This wall was built to circumference St Mary’s Abbey (located in Museum Gardens). This was to protect the Abbey from the Scots who were threatening England’s second city. You will also see another section to this wall down St Marygate. This wall also prevented local residents from seeing what the Monks were up to within the Abbey walls! It was the largest protective wall at an Abbey in England. 

The steps up to the city walls at Bootham Bar were obviously added by the Victorians as it would have defeated the object of the city walls if they existed in Medieval times! Inside the bar itself you get to see the portcullis, the gate that was raised and lowered. 

York Minster

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

York Minster, the enormous cathedral officially speaking is the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter in York. However, it is more common to hear it referred to as York Minister. It is the largest of its kind (Gothic) in Europe and is the seat of the Archbishop of York being the second-highest office of the Church of England. The present building took 252 years to build from 1220 to 1472. There are 128 stained glass windows at York Minster with over 3 million items of glass within them.

York Minster and Cathedral

York Minster is both a Minster and a Cathedral. The word “minster” derives from the latin word “monastarian” and the local monks would go out to teach or minister. The reason why it is also a cathedral is because it has the throne of a Bishop. It derives again from latin “cathedra” and literally means seat, of which in York is the seat of an Arch Bishop.

The Minster’s History

The minister is managed as it were, by a Dean and a Chapter. However, the term minster is used when a church is established in Anglo-Saxon times. Some well known features of the minster is its Rose Window and Chapter House that you find at the rear of the minister. It also has a wide decorated gothic nave that contains a Great East Window that is over 600 years old. It is the largest expanse of stained glass in the country. The five sisters window is located in the north transept that is 52ft high.

York has had a Christian presence since the 4th century but it is believed that it could be earlier due to missionaries sent from Rome. However, the first church on the site was a simple wooden construction built in 627 to baptise the King of Northumbria. Then a more substantial building was constructed that fell into disrepair. In 741 it was destroyed in a fire and another more impressive structure was constructed until it was damaged in 1069 by William the Conqueror. It was destroyed completely by the Danes and rebuilt yet again in 1080.

Gothic style cathedrals came about in the mid 12th century and it was not until 1215 that after Walter de Gary ordered the construction of a cathedral after he was made Arch Bishop. The Chapter House was not built until the 1260’s. It contains some of York Minster’s finest carvings and if you pay a visit, it is extremely impressive inside. In 1287 it was used by King Edward I as a location of Parliament. 

You’ll also notice a large column and this came from the north-east colonnade of the Roman headquarters built in 100AD by Roman soldiers, although it was rebuilt in the 4th century. However, what you see today was rebuilt again in 1971 after its discovery by archaeologists. Stonegate was the approach road to the headquarters although would have looked a lot different then! 

Another window to look out for is the fantastic Rose Window which is typically gothic. It commemorates the union of the Royal Houses of York and Lancaster. 

In 1984, the south transept was hit by lightening in which a fire broke out and £2.5 million was spent on repairs that were completed by 1988. Sadly the glass in the Rose Window shattered with the intense heat and was part of the restoration work.

Close to the south transept you will notice a statue of the first Christian Roman emperor Constantine who in AD306 was the proclaimed emperor in York. Philip Jackson was the sculpture of the statue along with the sword that was unimaginably stolen in 2016. It now appears in many guide books since it was commissioned in 1998. 

St William’s College was originally accommodation for priests and was constructed from 1465 and therefore grade I listed. The college however was founded five years earlier by George Neville and the Earl of Warwick, and reflects York Minster as a centre of religious education. 

Part of The Minster School resides alongside the Queen’s Path at the rear of the Minster and also faces the Great East Window. The school serves as a preparatory school for 3 to 13 year olds but originally was for choristers for York Minster.

Opening Times

York Treasurer’s House

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

York Treasurer’s house resides around the back of the minister in Minster Yard. This building was acquired by Frank Green in 1897 in order to create a lavish show home that impressed Edward VII. His passion for history helped to preserve not only this building but also other buildings in the city. Minster Yard is where the minster gates are situated and there are also some quaint medieval buildings along this stretch.

At the Treasurer’s House you can find out more about the demolition and restoration of lost houses of Yorkshire also how Frank Green created the Treasurer’s House. You can also take a closer look at the collection inside the Treasurer’s House and view a series of short videos and learn about some of the fascinating stories that reside with the collection. In addition, you can also view the attractive garden that adorns this remarkable structure. York Treasurer’s House is under the ownership of the National Trust.

Opening Times

Monk Bar

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

One of the five main gates to the city is Monk Bar. Monk Bar is the tallest of the gateways at 63ft. It was a self-contained fortress and each floor is able to defend itself. Each arch has so called murder holes in which missiles was projected at the enemy.

Interestingly, only this particular gate still has a working portcullis, the strong heavy gate that raises up and down until 1970, and it originally had a barbican, the outer defence, at the front. Walmgate Bar has one of these still intact. The portcullis at Monk Bar was last lowered in 1953 in association with the Queen’s Coronation.

Although the gate lowered satisfactorily, the gate got stuck in the road below! As a result, it has never been dropped down again to this day.

Another interesting fact is that it served as a jail for rebellious Catholics in the 16th century. You will notice a fantastic Model Shop situated underneath the pedestrian arch.

You may have noticed that similar to Bootham Bar there are stone figures situated on top (although Bootham Bar’s are considerably smaller). They are known as the “Wild Men of York”. A legend is associated with the figures in which they would come alive and throw missiles at those daring to attack. 

The Shambles

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

York Shambles is one of the most photographed streets in York, if not in the whole of England. Shambles is an old Danish word that comes from “fleshamels” which denotes a street of butchers. Raw, fresh meats were sold on the street and the “flesh” was the meat whereas the “shamels” was the large window ledge where the meat was sold.

One of the extraordinary things about The Shambles in York is how the top of the houses nearly meet in the middle to the point you could handshake with your neighbours out of the upper windows. You might think that this is a flaw in construction but in actual fact they were especially designed this way. Its purpose was to shield the meat being sold below from the direct sunlight. Of course, meat was as fresh as it came as the animals would come from York Cattle Market in Walmgate. Horrifically, animals were slaughtered in the back yard with a channel containing their blood running through the street. Offal was left to rot, no doubt prompting the plagues during the 14th and 15th centuries.

Mind Your Head!

The term “gardez l’eau” carries a warning. If you were to hear this cry from above you, you would need to move very quickly. This is
because gardez l’eau means that someone is emptying their chamber pot out into the street below. Of course, today York has indoor plumbing!

At the foot of The Shambles you will notice a wooden framed building across the road. Up until recently this was a shoe shop. It originally was occupied by Sir Thomas Herbert who was a personal assistant to King Charles I and even attended him at his execution in the capital city. After the execution, Sir Thomas Herbert was now jobless and he retired back to York. It is thought that King Charles gave him his pocket watch. This is of particular interest because it is the first recorded account of a watch being given as a retirement gift! 


York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate is the shortest street in York comprising of only 3 properties. However, the numbers of the properties are 1, 1a, and 1 and a half. The property identifier never reaches 2. You will find this street between Colliergate and Fossgate and it intersects The Pavement and The Stonebow. It’s not entirely certain what the name means but it’s possibly Neither one thing nor the other. 

At the foot of Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate you will notice a church in the direction of looking towards the town centre. This is All Saints Church and it has a somewhat unusual tower. This tower is in fact a lantern that was lit at night. Its purpose was to guide travellers back to the city. It is worthy to remember that in medieval times, the surrounding countryside was a vast woodland known as the Forest of Galtres. This woodland was certainly not a place you would wish to spend time in at night due to robbers and wild animals. 

Opening Times

To visit York Shambles is completely free of charge and can be accessed at any time.

Walmgate Bar

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

Walmgate Bar is one of the five main gates to the City of York. Walmgate Bar (or gate) is somewhat unique as it is the most complete in the UK in the sense that it still has its barbican and its portcullis. The barbican is the structure on the outside of the gateway that trapped enemies between the gate of the bar and the gate of the barbican so that missiles could be hurled at them from the walls at the top of the Barbican. The portcullis is the iron grid gate that could be hoisted up and lowered down. The rear of the bar contains a white Elizabethan extension resting on two stone columns. The gate is a cafe and you can enjoy sustenance on the barbican itself. 

The cattle market was relocated in the same area from 1828 where cattle was traded from all over the country. In the grassy banks of the walls the cattle would be penned awaiting their sale. However, since 1971 the cattle market resides in Murton close to the city. It is now known as York Livestock Centre. There were public houses (“pubs”) located just down the road at Fishergate that all faced the same way except for one which was the Edinburgh Arms. This was because the Scots would leave the public house on the opposite side to prevent drunken brawls between the English and the Scots. 

Red Tower

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

The Red Tower is the only brick construction on the city walls and was constructed in 1490, though it wasn’t called the red tower until around 1511. The construction material failed to impress the local stone merchants that even caused a fatal dispute. Sabotage was employed due to unhappy masons due to the tilers employment and this lead to them petitioning the city council to protect them from the masons. Two masons were charged with murder, William Hindley and Christopher Homer. 

It is at the Red Tower you can regain entry to the Bar Walls after a short gap due to the river.  The tower has recently been refurbished by local residents and is now available for events. It has even won the York Design Awards.

Fishergate Bar

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

Fishergate Bar is the smallest of the main gateways into the city. It was first recorded in 1315 and the red stone that is painted just above the arch reveals the date of the current structure as 1487. Two years after, the gate was attacked and damaged by the peasants against Henry VII. After the attack, the bar was bricked up. The bar was opened again to give better access to the cattle market in 1834.

The battle of Fulford occurred just down the road from Fishergate in 1066 where the Vikings overcame the Saxons. However, the Saxons overcame the Vikings at a later date at Stamford Bridge just five days after. The more well known battle occurred, the Battle of Hastings, happened just 3 weeks later when the Normans lead by William the Conqueror conquered the Saxons. 

Fishergate Postern Tower

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

Fishergate Postern Tower stands where the wall meets the River Foss (which meets with the Ouse just over the other side of the road opposite Skeldergate Bridge near St George’s Field). In those times, the River Foss would have met the foot of this postern tower and there was also a King’s Fish Pool. However, these days the River Foss has been canalised which is why it appears there is some of the walls missing, but actually the River’s Foss and Ouse as well as the Castle would have filled in the gap as it were. 

Fishergate Postern Tower is one of six postern towers on York City Walls. The term postern simply means a rear entrance, and Fishergate is the only such tower that remains. You will notice a stone projection sticking out above of which served as a medieval toilet shoot. Its contents would fall into the King’s fish pool below the tower. Fishergate tower or postern tower has recently been restored by the Friends of York Walls. It was built between 1504 and 1507 and has a tiled roof. Fishergate Tower is occasionally open to the public. 

Clifford’s Tower (York Castle)

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

Clifford’s Tower is part of a castle complex that was erected in 1245 but this structure is not the original one. In fact, the original castle was made out of wood. In addition, this is the survivor of two castles which sat side by side looking over the River Ouse. They were built by William the Conqueror’s men around 1068. The wooden castles were burned down during a rebellion against William the Conqueror. Consequently and not unexpected, William the Conqueror was angry and took revenge using his troops to quench the rebellion. However, his manner was brutal and barbaric and is termed the Harrying of the North. Everything was burned down between York and Newcastle Upon Tyne (north-east of England). This included buildings as well as animals and crops too. It is also understood that he even salted the soil to prevent further crops being grown. Understandably, many thousands of people died.

The castle was upgraded into a stone structure during the 13th century. However, what you see today is not the full structure because it had a roof. In addition, Clifford’s Tower also had a wall and a moat. Clifford’s tower is the Keep and you can access the top of the walls and walk around them giving you a 360 degree view of York. The roof is missing because in 1684 a gun solute went embarrassingly wrong as not only were the canon’s set alight, but also the gunpowder store and you can imagine the rest. Amazingly, there were no fatalities but it is said that the man responsible for the mishap was found swimming in the moat outside! Shortly afterwards, the Castle was closed.

Clifford’s Tower gets its name from the Clifford family who were prominent landowners for a considerable amount of time. 

The rest of the castle complex would have stood where the Castle Museum and Crown Court stands today, and it was a walled section on a rectangular mound of earth with a moat surrounding. A structure of a similar size to Clifford’s Tower would have stood in the wall at the far side facing the River Foss. Clifford’s Tower stands hollow today, but it would have had an inner section creating different storeys and providing rooms. 

In the grounds of the Castle Museum you can see some of the castle walls today. You will also see the Eye of York, a circular lawned area in front of the museum where up until 1974, the four ridings of York intersect. 

Opening Times


York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

Castlegate was the original street that took you to the castle. It is down this street you will find York’s tallest spire at St Mary’s church. It is also the home of Fairfax House that was built around 1740 to 1745. However, today, you can get to the castle down Clifford Street. It is on this street you will find York Dungeon and this building used to be the Grand Hall of Victorian Institute of Learning.

York’s second castle stood on the opposite bank of the Ouse and a chain was stretched between the two areas over the river to prevent enemy ships coming through as well as stop ships leaving without paying their taxes. The second castle at Baile Hill was never rebuilt in stone but left to ruin. 

Fairfax House

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

York Fairfax House is a 12th century Georgian townhouse open to visitors. The lavish townhouse boasts a collection of fine art, and other artefacts relating to the era. The high stucco ceilings are a must see. This once fashionable townhouse was bought in 1759 by Charles Gregory the ninth Viscount of Fairfax of Emily for just £2000!

York Fairfax House often has events such as lectures, special events and exhibitions. It is therefore recommended to view their website regularly at

Opening Times

York Castle Museum

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

Facing Clifford’s Tower is the Castle Museum that backs onto the River Foss behind. What the Castle Museum contains is of interest enough, but the building itself, along with York Crown Court beside it is also of interest. This building is a former debtors prison as well as the adjoining former women’s prison. These structures are understandably grade 1 listed buildings. It stands on the site of where the castle once stood including its moat and artificial lake.

The museum was founded by Dr John Kirk who was a doctor who lived in Pickering. This museum boasts a huge collection of artefacts relating to the area including the famous Kirkgate victorian street mock up to explore. This Victorian street was rebuilt brick by brick inside the museum.

You can find York Castle Museum at Clifford’s Tower/Eye of York.

Opening Times

York Army Museum

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

York’s Army Museum/Royal Dragoon Guards is a museum that can be found neighbouring Clifford’s Tower.

In 1685 the Royal Dragoon Guards was established by an amalgamation of four of the senior cavalry regiments of the British Army of which recruits were from Yorkshire and Northern Ireland.

The museum relates the Royal Dragoon Guards from the 17th century until the present day. On display are uniforms, prints, paintings, weapons as well as standards.

The Royal Dragoon Guards is situated behind Clifford’s Tower next to the Hilton Hotel. 

Opening Times

Skeldergate Bridge River Ouse

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

The River Ouse is the largest of York’s two rivers that meet close to Skeldergate Bridge. The name Ouse comes from Keltic “Ousos” possibly meaning slow moving river. It has a browny looking colour obviously due to the soil type on which it flows. You can venture the Ouse on open top tour boats or hire small private boats to explore this historic river. The River Ouse empties into the North Sea after forming the

Humber Estuary at Kingston Upon Hull, a confluence of a variety of rivers including the Ouse and Foss that meet at York.

River Foss

The River Foss is the smaller of the two rivers. It is believed to have received its name from the latin “fossa” of which definition is stream. Once upon a time there was commercial traffic on this river but this no longer is the case. In 1792 it was made into a canal in the city centre. Instead, both rivers in modern times are occupied by pleasure boats.

Skeldergate Toll Free Bridge

Skeldergate Bridge links Clifford’s Tower and Castle Museum area to Bishophill where the Bishops Wharfe luxury riverside apartments now stand. It was designed by George Gordon Page and built in 1878 to 1881. The first arch once was a toll house and the bridge opened up for tall ships to pass through. This bridge was declared toll free as the sign suggests, back in 1914. This is now a grade 2 listed building.

St Georges Field

St Georges Field resides close to Skeldergate Bridge, between the rivers Foss and the Ouse. It is here where there used to be a ducking stool. A person could be “ducked” for being a witch, brewing terrible ale or even being a wife who nags her husband. 

Ouse Bridge

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

Residing on Bridge Street is the site of the oldest bridge in York built in 1521 that supersedes older bridges that date as far back as the Viking era. The original bridge over the River Ouse in the city, the medieval Ouse bridge, had become somewhat cluttered with shops and houses. After the reformation it was converted into apartments. After a sudden thaw in the winter of 1564 the bridge collapsed with the death of 12 people. This allowed for a new bridge to open in 1566 with five arches but it is not the bridge we see today. This bridge replaced the former in 1821 after a decade of building it.

York Mansion House

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

York Mansion House is the home to the Lord Mayor of York so you can imagine that this is no ordinary home. York Mansion House is full of attractive, inspiring grandeur and helps you to understand some of York’s history. You can learn about the Lord Mayor’s from the middle ages to the present day.

Obviously, the home is filled with stunning collections of gold and silver under the canopy of dramatic interiors. This stunning house is very much a place to visit and has events held throughout the year.

You can find York Mansion House in St Helen’s Square, and this kind lady allowed us to take a clip of her in costume!

Opening Times

York’s Historic Streets

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

York also hosts a collection of medieval streets including High and Low Petergate, Goodramgate, Stonegate (pictured) and the famous Shambles. One of things you notice is the sagging beams on some of the medieval

buildings due to the drying out of timber used in construction. To the naked eye, they may not look very sturdy though attractive, but remember that these buildings have been very much stable for centuries.

Petergate has a Low and High end that contains public houses, cafe’s and restaurants as well as smaller artisan shops. They also host a view of the minster’s three main towers which chime loudly over the streets below.

Most of the older streets in York not only contain high street retailers but many of the artisan shops that are rare to find in other cities.

Cats and Lamps

The more vigilant visitors to York may notice a small white cat on some of the Victorian buildings, typically situated with overhanging lamps. There are many of these cats across the city. They were initially purposed as good luck charms but as time progressed they became a architectural trademark. The architect was a local man called Tom Adams. Sometimes we fall into the trap of only seeing what there is at eye-level. These cats serve as a reminder to look everywhere when you visit the City of York.

Bricked Up Windows

Again, looking upwards in the city streets you will undoubtedly see some bricked up windows in your exploration. This is due to a Window Tax that came about in Georgian times. In 1696, property owners were taxed on the amount of windows that their property or properties contained. As nobody likes to pay their taxes, theoretically it was a financially sound idea to brick up some of the windows. It is thought that the expression “that’s daylight robbery” (used when prices are extortionate) derived from. 


York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

York has other museums that are not covered by our route and we feel it would be appropriate to include these.

National Railway Museum

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

York National Railway Museum (NRM) contains over 300 years of railway history. There are over a million objects to discover including a vast collection of locomotives, carriages, freight wagons and other items of rolling stock.

Within the extensive collection are famous locomotives such as the Mallard. You can also see the only Shinkansen Bullet Train outside of Japan. You may also have chance to see the famous Flying Scotsman that has recently been restored. For more information about their collection, please visit their website at

You can find the Railway Museum next door to the Railway Station at the rear. It is possible to access the museum from a short walk over the footbridge at the station.

The museum itself resides on both sides of Leeman Road connected with a subway underneath the road. Therefore there is a main entrance at either side.

The museum has two main halls of which one contains mainly royal trains whereas the other has trains from different era.

The National Railway Museum also has a second museum situated at Shildon near Darlington. If you wish to visit this museum you can board the train to either Middlesbrough or Darlington and change there. 

Opening Times

Jorvik Viking Centre

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

The Jorvik Viking Centre (pronounced “yorvik”) is the site of one of the most famous discoveries. During the interim of 1976-1981 archaeologists (from the York Archaeological Trust) had discovered homes, workshops, backyards belonging to the Vikings. Of course, the name Jorvik is the Vikings name for the City of York as it stood then, around 1000 years ago.

Incredibly, Jorvik Viking centre is situated on the site where this discovery was made and the excavations took place. Of course, the Viking

Age experience is a reconstruction of the era including Viking streets and life as it would have been during the 10th century. It consists of unique exhibitions based on careful research over 30 years.

You can find the Jorvik Viking Centre at the Coppergate Centre

Opening Times

Richard III & Henry VII Experiences

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

The Richard III Henry VII Experiences are two unique but strongly related museums situated in the gateways to York, so in actual fact they are on our Guided Tour route. They are related in the sense that Henry Tudor defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth.

Richard III was the last Plantagenet King who ruled for just 2 years before the Battle of Bosworth. He had to endure through the rule of Henry Tudor who defeated him in a struggle for England’s crown.

The Richard III Experience is situated in Monk Bar on the first floor.

Henry VII was the fist Tudor King of England ruling for some 24 years after defeating Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth. His early reign became unsteady after the murder of the Earl of Northumberland which prompted a revolt by the peasants in York.

The Henry VII Experience is situated in Micklegate Bar on the first floor.

Opening Times

York Barley Hall

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

York Barley Hall is a medieval house that was found accidentally after removing a facade from a derelict office block during the 1980’s. The house was purchased by the York Archaeological Trust in 1987. It has since been restored and opened to the public. It was home to the Priors of Nostell and a Lord Mayor of York.

The oldest parts of Barley Hall date back from 1360 and in 1430 a new wing was added before being the home of William Snawsell, Goldsmith, Aldeman and Lord Mayor of York.

You can find Barley Hall in the Coffee Yard between Stonegate and Swinegate. However, it seems that these were not the only residents in this building!

Opening Times

York Chocolate Story

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

York Chocolate Story has a sweet story to tell. During the industrial revolution the main trade in the North of England was textiles and steel. However, York had both the chocolate and railway industries that were both predominant employers throughout York’s history.

The coming of the railways helped to sweeten the chocolate industry in York, aiding the product to be distributed.

York has had a chocolate history for around 200 years with the establishment of the Terry’s of York factory. Later, Rowntree’s also became a significant employer and producer of chocolate, starting with just a small grocers shop in the city centre.

Sadly, the economics of our time have seen chocolate being made in other parts of the world, including Terry’s famous Chocolate Orange that is now made abroad.

Without a doubt, the chocolate you find here has a 200 year filling of history and York Chocolate Story hasn’t left anything uneaten when it comes to telling the tale! Whatever the case, you certainly do not need a sweet tooth to enjoy this museum – but it helps!

You can find York’s Chocolate Story at Kings Square in York (near The Shambles).

Opening Times

York Dungeon

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

The York Dungeon uncovers the darker side of York’s history within a 75 minute theatrical tour. The tour not only contains a cast of theatrical actors but the experience is enhanced with special effects and scenes that target the senses of sight, hearing and smell.

It includes 10 shows with laughs and screams through cutting edge storytelling. The 10 shows follow the lives of real history where you come face to face with characters such as Guy Fawkes and Dick Turpin.

You can find York Dungeons close to the Grand Opera House on Clifford Street.

Opening Times

York Merchant Adventurer’s Hall

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

York Merchant Adventurer’s Hall is a medieval Guildhall and was a meeting place for the Guild of Our Lord Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1357. It was granted the Company of Merchant Adventurers of York by Elizabeth I. The undercroft once served as a hospital for poor people in the city. It is one of the finest guildhalls in the world.

The lower section of the hall is built mainly with red brick of which are the earliest to be made in York since the Romans departed. When you visit, take a look at the barge boards that contain a grape and vine design. Where these vines meet you will also see a Tudor Rose.

The art in the hall represents five centuries of York’s history. You will see oils, watercolours, prints and drawings depicting Governors of the company.

The Merchant Adventurers Hall can be found at Fossgate/Piccadilly in York city centre.

Opening times

Yorkshire Museum

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

The Yorkshire Museum is under the care of York Museum’s Trust along with York Art Gallery, Castle Museum and York St Mary’s. The Yorkshire Museum however contains artefacts pertaining to the area in various exhibitions. The museum was opened in 1830 by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society and interestingly was the first purpose built museums in the country.

After a refurbishment it reopened in 2010 and consists of five galleries including some of Britain’s finest archaeological treasures of many rare animals, birds and fossils. It is also home to the Cawood Sword which was found 

The Yorkshire Museum is situated in the Museum Gardens close to the city library.

Opening Times

Holgate Windmill York

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

Holgate Windmill York is situated just outside the city centre at Holgate, a suburb of York. It is York’s last surviving windmill and it is also the oldest 5 saled windmill in the country. Having lied dormant for some years, the windmill has now been restored and opened for visitors.

The windmill is open during open days throughout the year where you can listen to a talk by knowledgable volunteers as well as purchase flour! The best time to visit is every Saturday morning between 10am until 12 noon.

The windmill was built by George Waud who was born in December 1768. The Windmill became functional by 1770 and George Waud was living in the mill house. At that time, the windmill was situated in open countryside overlooking Holgate. The crossroads at the foot of the hill to York, Acomb and Poppleton provided the necessary routes to distribute the mill’s produce.

Obviously, much of the high quality flour was taken to York.

After you have visit the Windmill, it is a good idea to visit York Cold War Bunker as this is situated close by.

Granted there are many historic buildings to see in York and many museums to visit. However, we have picked out just a few more places of interest for you to view should you want to.

York’s History with Cholera

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

Cholera is an infectious disease that causes severe watery diarrhoea and contains a bacteria known as Vibrio Cholera. If not treated it can be fatal and York was no stranger to the disease and the death it caused. Across the road from York Railway Station and heading townwards, you will notice some grave stones amongst the trees. The graves belong to some of the victims of cholera of which outbreak was in 1832. There was a mass grave situated outside the walls but only the few headstone remain today. These few would have had the necessary money to pay for a headstone.

As the cemeteries were getting full quite quickly, compounded with the fact the church was scared of the consequences of burying cholera victims in their churchyards, a pit was dug outside the city walls. As knowledge was minimal of cholera in those days, they failed to understand that cholera is not airborne but rather infection is spread through dirty water and sewage.

York Racecourse

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

York Racecourse hosts the horse racing in York. Horse racing has existed in the city since Roman times and it was from 1730 that horse racing began in the Knavesmire area that continues today. It is believed that it gets its name from a “knave” (an area of land for people to use for leisure and animal grazing). A “mire” is bogland.

The Knavesmire hosts more than just horse racing but was also used for cockfighting and bare knuckle fighting. Hangings even took place here including that of Dick Turpin the famous highway man. Today however, the Knavesmire holds up to 15 days of horse racing each year as well as being leased out to other events. Although hosting Ebor yearly, it also hosted Royal Ascot in 2005 when the Ascot course was being renovated.

The Knavesmire is a popular venue for concerts, fairs, circuses and also the Beer Festival in the North of England on several occasions.

Terry’s Chocolate Factory

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

In the past and until recent years, one of York’s foremost industries was chocolate producing. Terry’s of York, famous for its Chocolate Orange, employed a huge number of local residents. In the same vicinity as the former chocolate factory you will find many terraced housing that housed its workers as well as railway workers. Where these terraced houses exist, there were older structures that were pulled down around 1644 when York was under siege for 3 months due to the civil war. They pulled these buildings down in order to get a clearer view of who was attacking them, being around 30,000 parliamentarian troops.

With the arrival of the railways, the city grew extremely quickly and more homes were needed. During 1801 there were 17,000 but by 1881 it had increased to 77,000 homes. In fact, the arrival of the railways helped York to become the tourist and leisure capital of the north. The railways obviously helped to bolster the chocolate producing in York though it had been made in York since the 1700’s. In 1767, Terry’s began to make chocolate and much later Rowntree’s joined the scene who began with a grocers shop in the city centre around 1822.

The Rowntree family were Quakers and were a contrast to other local employers as they looked after their workers. Some of the ways in which they achieved this was by providing a library, swimming pool, medical centre and a canteen all situated at the factory. They also provided pensions and unpaid leave which was almost never heard of during the Victorian era. The Rowntree family also provided parks such as Rowntree Park as well as Homestead Park.

Terry’s on the other hand, ceased making chocolate in York in 2005 as production was moved overseas. You will notice that the clock on the factory tower contains no numbers but the words “Terry York”.

Dick Turpin’s Grave

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

Dick Turpin grave (or his assumed name of John Palmer) resides in the church yard of St George’s Church on George Street in York. In fact, it is the only headstone in the church yard. Dick Turpin was a well known Georgian highway man who held up stagecoaches during the 18th century.


Dick Turpin was buried in the original church back in 1739 and since this point in history, he has become somewhat of a romantic figure. However, this is far from the real Dick Turpin. In fact, he never even owned a horse called Black Bess, as this was introduced through a novel called Rook Wood a hundred years post death. Rather than a romantic figure, he was a burglar, a poacher, a thief and a murderer. 

Dick Turpin’s Death

Dick Turpin under the alias of John Palmer was originally from Essex but was laying low in York to avoid capture. He was residing just east of the city until he shot the landlord’s cockerel that was keeping him awake. In turn, this act got him arrested and was then tried for being a horse thief. He was then hanged in 1739 on the Knavesmire close to the home of York Races.

York Cold War Bunker

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

York Cold War Bunker is situated in Acomb not far from Holgate Windmill. Forget Viking warriors and grappling Roman gladiators for a moment and consider a more modern day spine-chilling aspect of York’s history. The Cold War Bunker was active since the 1960’s up until the 1990’s and it was a nerve centre that monitored fallout from nuclear attacks. Fallout is what’s left of a nuclear explosion that returns to the ground as a dust.

This chilling museum of sorts belongs to English Heritage and is open to the public. There are guided tours available as well as a short introductory film. You can visit the decontamination room and purchase one of the guidebooks amongst other merchandise at the shop.

Opening Times

Morrison’s Chimney & Monk Bridge

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

Near the Red Tower you will notice a large chimney next to Morrison’s Supermarket. This chimney formed part of the York Destructor Incinerator that is no longer used. It now stands dormant and on its own, but once the incinerator burned the city’s waste. The chimney has camouflage paint that goes back to the zeppelin raids during World War I.

Only across the road at Foss Islands you will notice a small iron footbridge across the River Foss. Its purpose was to improve communications between York’s Power Station and Cooling Tower which are both now demolished. It was erected in 1931 by the Monk Bridge Construction Company and is not a public right of way as it leads to the DEFRA site.

York’s Parks and Gardens

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

York has many gardens and parks both inside and outside the city. We have picked a few of the most predominant parks in the city centre to help you.

Museum Gardens

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

The Museum Gardens surrounds both the Yorkshire Museum and St Mary’s Abbey. It is furnished with mature trees, Roman ruins of the Multangular Tower, the Hospitium being a Tudor structure and lush green grass. It also attracts wildlife of various kinds including the grey squirrel. The gardens also faces the River Ouse and it is a great place to meet and relax. You also see York Observatory from 1832 where Thomas Cooke built a 4″ refractor telescope. He later went on to build the largest telescope in the world. 

Dean’s Park

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

Dean’s Park (pictured) can be found towards the far side of the Minster in the city centre. This is far from a large park but it is a great place for sightseers as it has benches to rest and take in views of the Minster. There are occasionally mobile stands selling cupcakes etc.

Homestead Park

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

Homestead Park is a large park garden area situated in Clifton. You can walk up beside the River Ouse northwards and depart the path at Clifton Road Bridge and venturing right. This garden is popular with families as it has a play area. There is also a small cafe selling hot and cold drinks and snacks at reasonable prices. Like Rowntree Park it is related to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation who were major chocolate production employers at the time of being landscaped.

Rowntree Park

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

Rowntree Park is probably the most popular park especially with families. The Rowntree family were Quakers who employed many York residents and provided very well for their employees. This was practically unheard of in Victorian times.

Rowntree Park has many features set in 20 acres of land. It has a children’s playground, tennis courts, bowling greens, basketball court, skateboarding area and picnicking areas. This is a great park to meet and relax, especially in the summer.

From the city centre, you can walk southwards on the right bank of the River Ouse to enter the park.

Live Entertainment in the City

York North Yorkshire England Guided Tour

If you enjoy live entertainment York has various venues including the very popular Grand Opera House which is a theatre situated on Clifford Street next door to York Dungeon. York Theatre Royal is another historic theatre in the city built on the former grounds of St Leonard’s Hospital. The City Screen cinema and Basement Bar is a venue for watching movies as well as live entertainment of various genres. The Joseph Rowntree Theatre is a community run theatre just a short walk from the town centre. York Barbican is renown for the UK Snooker Championships but is also a further venue for all manner of live shows and entertainment.


With many things to see in the City of York, you could very easily spend an entire day here. As there are so many museums and attractions to visit it would be impossible to visit all of these during the scope of one day. Therefore it is strongly recommended to spend a week or perhaps longer if you are planning to enjoy the many museums and the historic buildings open to the public.

However long you spend in York, we hope you enjoy your visit and perhaps learn more about this attractive and romantic city!

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