the day traveller is spoilt for choice
I don't know why I've never got around visiting York all this time. It's probably the cost - a return ticket costs a whopping £51 even though it purchased a month prior. Considering that York is just over 2hrs from King's Cross Station, that's hugely expensive compared to other medieval cities such as Colchester, Cambridge, Oxford and Stratford-Upon-Avon.
We stumbled across Anderson Tours that offered return tickets for £49 with a free local tour thrown in. We're sold.
To be honest, I've never heard of York before Braveheart. To the uninitiated, it was the first English town sacked by William Wallace (Mel Gibson) in the movie. He promptly sent the governor's head to the English king. Anyway, it seems that Scots aren't the only people who are indebted to the anti-Semitic drunkard for the influx of tourists in the mid 90s.So there we were in York, on a beautiful Saturday morning, ready for some serious sightseeing despite the rather mundane train ride. The guide for the tour offered by Anderson tour turned out to be local volunteers, which was probably some arrangement between Anderson Tours and the local council.
the northern gatehouse, notice that the staircase is built outside the city walls for the tourists
the only working portcullis in York at Monk Bar (yep, that's the gate's name)
We were quite enthusiastic about the tour to begin with. To give the guides some credit, they did know quite a bit and were more than willing to share York's history with us. But one can only spend so long listening about the significance of different layers of Roman and medieval bricks. The tour lasted a tad too long, 2.5hrs to be exact. On hindsight, we should probably have given the tour a miss as we ended up with barely four hours to roam the city with lunch thrown before heading back to London.
York Minster easily rivals Canterbury Cathedral
Having taken a quick stroll along the town walls, which walkway (we were told) was put up especially for tourists during the Victorian times, we headed straight to the York Minster, a Gothic cathedral that pretty much was York's central attraction, everything else practically was built round it.
behold, mere mortals!
Luck was on our side as we made it just in time for the 2.30pm tour that was included in the entrance fee, which started from £6. We spent the next two hours reveling in York Minster's history, tales of treachery, humour, humanity and tragedy. With the train departure time drawing near, we did a quick take of the Shambles, a narrow medieval shopping street, and the Clifford Tower, the site of the 1190 Jews massacre.
Clifford Tower, site of the 1190 Jews massacre
Some tips if you're heading towards York for a day trip.
- Go with Anderson Tours (or any other tour groups) - though I saw advertisement saying that it's only £12 for a return ticket if you buy in advance. But tried as I did, I couldn't find anything cheaper than £50.
- Skip the free tour if you are going with Anderson tour - while it's informative, there's so much more you can do with that 2.5hrs.
- Skip the Blue Bicycle - purported to be one of the better restaurant in York, it was, in my opinion, overpriced and the service could be warmer.
York has its own share of ghost walks
As the locals put it, "Over in York, the streets are known as gates, the gates are known as bars and the bars are known as pubs!". York is definitely worth a weekend trip. Head towards MyTrainTicket for discounted tickets. If you are able to buy in advance, single tickets cost only £14.60 each (save up to £73!).
For more on York, refer to the York Insight Compact Guide.