York Walls Guided Tour Option
The York Walls Guided Tour is not appropriate for those with mobility issues, so if have a problem with steps (and heights), you may want to opt for the York England Guided Tour instead. However, if you are in good health then you may prefer the York City Walls Guided Tour to enhance you historic visit to York. To use this guide, simply follow the directions below and press play the audio guide when you reach the site of interest.
Without any doubt, using the walls as a means to get around the city enhances the historical experience. In addition, as the walls are free of charge to access and open quite early (depending on the time of year) is a huge convenience for both residents and visitors.
As you might expect, you can access the wall at one of the five main gates. Jewbury, as well as Lendal Bridge, where we are going to begin our tour.
Route Guide for York City Walls
As many people arrive in York by train, we are going to access York City Walls next to Lendal Bridge just around the corner. It is also quite convenient for visitors who have parked at St Mary’s Car Park. As a result, we will be travelling anticlockwise along the circuit of the walls. If you have not arrived by train, you can use your smart device to find the railway station by simply entering “York Railway Station” into your Map app for directions. Also the route map above in this guide will help you.
York Bar walls are the most extensive in England. However, you may at times believe that part of the walls are missing. You might even believe that they have decayed or been destroyed. However, this is not the case. At Fishergate Postern Tower and at Jewbury where a postern tower once existed, and the River Foss being wider at the time, came up to the walls of the towers. Therefore a wall was not needed.
York Station (1)
As aforementioned, we start our sightseeing tour at York Railway Station, especially convenient for those who have arrived in York by train. You might want to explore this railway station first as at the time of completion it was the largest in the world. To continue to Lendal Bridge, simply take a left turn out of the main entrance and follow the road over the crossroads and under the arch. To your left you will see Lendal Bridge.
Lendal Bridge (3)
Before crossing the bridge, you will notice an access point to the city walls. However, before you do, you will notice two towers at either side of the River Ouse, York’s predominant river. The cylinder shaped structure is Barker Tower whereas across the river is Lendal Tower.
Micklegate Bar (2)
Accessing the wall, we now cross over the large archway and follow the wall overlooking the railway station. Along this section, it is recommended to look behind you for views of York Minster. It is also a good vantage point for photography (pictured above).
It is only a short walk towards Micklegate Bar, the first of our four main gates with a roomed structure. When you arrive, take a look down Micklegate from the wall’s vantage point. At the opposite side, you will notice Bar Convent as well as the straight Roman Road today known as Blossom Street.
Baille Hill (12)
Following the wall further takes you beside a residential area until you reach another large archway consisting of three arches. This section of the wall is quite straight. Do not be mislead into believing that the bar walls were constructed as one large curve surrounding the city.
Following the route further, you arrive at Baille Hill where York’s second castle once stood. This wooden castle was destroyed and nobody wanted to pay for its upkeep. It is at Baille Hill Tower where we leave the city wall for a moment to cross Skeldergate Bridge.
Skeldergate Bridge (12)
Carefully crossing the road at Skeldergate, you will see Skeldergate Bridge ahead of you. As you cross the bridge using the left hand side, you will see Ouse Bridge in the distance. As you reach the other side, you will now be in view of the remaining castle structure known as Clifford’s Tower.
York Castle Clifford’s Tower (11)
Carefully crossing Clifford Street, you can walk up to the structure that is open to the public. Opposite the entrance to the castle you will see a grass section known as the Eye of York. This is where four districts intersected until they were abolished in 1974. Around this grass section is what is now York Castle Museum and York Crown Court.
Moving around the castle through the car park you will notice a large hotel. To the right of the hotel is Castlegate, the original street to the castle. Look out for Fairfax House, a lavish Georgian town house aswell as York’s tallest spire and St Mary’s Church.
Fishergate Postern Tower (10b)
Heading back towards the direction of Skeldergate Bridge, we are now going to follow the footpath to the left of the roundabout. This takes us across the River Foss, the smallest of York’s two rivers. You will also notice the rear of York Castle Museum.
Directly in front of you, you will notice Fishergate Postern Tower where we can once again access the walls. However, as an option, you might want to walk through the arch here and up the road. On the left of George Street is St George’s Church with only one grave stone, that being of Dick Turpin the notorious highwayman.
Fishergate Bar (10b)
Following the wall around takes us to Fishergate Bar, a gateway without a roomed structure. In the same vicinity you will notice York Barbican Centre, famous for its snooker. It is strongly suggested to alight the wall here so that you can see the small red square above the arch on Fishergate Bar revealing the date.
Walmgate Bar (10a)
Following the wall along, you will arrive at Walmgate Bar (pictured above). Walmgate Bar is somewhat unique as it is the most intact owing to its Barbican and portcullis. The Barbican is the outer section that trapped invaders so that they could be murdered by missiles being thrown from above. The portcullis is the iron gate that was hoisted up and down.
Red Tower (10)
Walking further along takes you to the Red Tower that was fatally controversial at the time of construction. It serves as the only red brick structure on the Bar Walls. It is here that we leave the city wall for a short break. Turning left up the main road with Morrisons Supermarket on your right, we follow the River Foss on the left. Look out for Morrison’s Chimney as this is what remains of an old incinerator that used to burn York’s waste. Additionally, you will notice a small iron footbridge over the Foss, Monk Bridge, dating back to 1931.
It is not strikingly obvious that the area you are now approaching is Jewbury. However, when you come to the intersection, use the Pedestrian Crossings carefully to cross the road to the next access point at the other side. It is here that a postern tower similar to Fishergate Postern Tower existed. On the right hand side you will notice a Sainsbury’s supermarket. On construction of this supermarket, a Jewish burial ground was discovered. Following this section of the wall takes us to our third gateway with a roomed structure.
Monk Bar (8)
Our third gateway is the largest, Monk Bar. At this point we take the steps down to street level and carefully cross the road. However, you will notice a narrow staircase in the structure that takes you back onto the wall at the other side of the bar. Monk Bar also has a working portcullis but has not been used since the Queen’s Coronation.
York Minster (7)
The following section of straight wall takes you alongside York Minster on your left, and Lord Mayor’s Walk on the right. On Lord Mayor’s Walk, pay attention to the “Biles Beans” painted wall advertisement. You might think these are baked beans in a tin but in actual fact was a laxative and tonic in the 1890’s! This has recently been restored and stands as an historic landmark.
On the left you will see York Minster as it towers above the gardens that are also in view. With the distraction of the Minster, the gardens can be missed so make a point of taking note of both.
Moving further along, you come to a right-angled bend to the left where there is a tower with a seating area. This is Robin Hood’s tower. This tower was in fact rebuilt by the Victorians in 1888. This is a good opportunity to take a rest owing to the available seating.
The wall now takes us alongside Gillygate on the right with the Minster still in view on the left. It is now just a short walk away to Bootham Bar, our final gateway with a roomed structure.
Bootham Bar (6)
The interesting aspect of Bootham Bar is that you can walk through the structure over the arch. You will notice the portcullis on your right at the front of the bar (pictured above). At either side you can view the streets below.
We have now completed the walkable sections of the York Bar Walls. However, this far from ends our tour as this brings us to an area of interest.
York Art Gallery (6)
We depart the city walls using the steps down to street level that brings us to Exhibition Square. This is a fitting name because it is where the York Art Gallery resides as well as a statue of William Etty who prevented the city walls from being destroyed. It is also where Kings Manor resides to the left of the art gallery. Kings Manor is an historic building that now serves as part of York University.
Alongside the left of Kings Manor you will see a driveway that appears to be private property at first glance. However, be assured that this is a public right of way. Following this road brings us to our next place of interest. It also serves as a route to the Museum Gardens.
Multangular Tower (5)
On the left, you will see a short path up the bank and through a small opening to an area behind the Multangular Tower. The Multangular Tower is an original part of the Roman wall. Returning to the road and turning left towards the Museum Gardens will bring you to the outside of the tower (pictured above).
St Mary’s Abbey (4)
At this point, you can now follow the path through the park towards the Yorkshire Museum. St Mary’s Abbey is the next door neighbour of the museum and is pleasantly situated in the Museum Gardens. Of course, due to King Henry VIII, many of the abbey’s in the country were destroyed which is why many of them are ruins today. St Mary’s Abbey is no exception.
Be sure to take a walk around the gardens where you can view structures such as the Tudor Hospitium (a white building with wood beams) as well as York Observatory, a cylinder shaped structure hidden amongst the trees and bushes.
City Centre (14 & 15)
You can leave the Museum Gardens at the main entrance (close to the Multangular Tower). Carefully cross over the road at the entrance to the Museum Gardens down a street called Lendal. You will notice the main post office on the right hand side down the road. Ahead of you at St Helen’s Square, you will see a large red/cream building known as Mansion House. This is where the Mayor’s of York have resided throughout the city’s history. The Mansion House is open to the public. Facing the Mansion House is the famous Betty’s Tearooms. You will also notice a medieval street known as Stonegate opposite the tearooms. If you walk to the end of this street and turn right, this will bring you to another area of interest. It is here you will find a square and York Chocolate Story. Following the path outside of the buildings of York Chocolate Story will bring you to the most photographed street in England, The Shambles (pictured above). This street is a medieval street where the upper rooms almost touch each other above the cobbled road below. You will also see York Shambles Market to the right of the street.
At the foot of the street, take a look rightwards for the All Saint’s Church with an unusual lantern tower that used to be lit with a fire at night. To the left however resides York’s shortest street, Whip Ma Whop Ma Gate, that runs parallel with The Shambles. Therefore, we are going to turn left up Whip Ma Whop Ma Gate and down the adjoining street Colliergate which takes you past another smaller post office on the left. The street also takes you back to Kings Square where we will head back along Petergate. You will see the Minster ahead of you.
At the junction to Stonegate, turn right down a small paved area towards York Minster. You will see a statue of Constantine outside the Minster as well as an old Roman Column on the other side of the road.
Taking the path around the rear of the Minster brings you to the Minster School (the large red building) as well as St William’s College (a white building with dark beams). You will also now be able to see the chapter house adjoined to the Minster. Further along the road you will notice the Treasurer’s House that is open to the public.
To return to the station, from the front of the two towers, take the road past Dean Court Hotel and straight across the crossroads, where you will find Lendal Bridge.