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York - a city of the ages
Yorkshire and the city of the white rose
Yorkshire is the largest county in the British Isles and within its borders is some of the most beautiful countryside in England. ‘God’s Own County’ it embraces two National Parks, the Yorkshire Dales and the North Yorkshire Moors, the magnificent Pennine Hills, miles of rugged coastline, high cliffs and sandy beaches, and many fine towns and cities. With its rich historical legacy this county of the ‘White Rose’ has a unique culture, humour and dialect all of its own.
And at its centre stands a jewel, the city of York, a historic walled city and a destination high on the 'visit list' for both overseas and domestic visitors alike. A city of ages.
Whether you are in York for just a few hours or several days your stay will be magical and the city will capture your heart.
A city of 200,000 people York is easily reached by road and rail and a very 'walkable' city destination.
York, a brief history
The beginnings of a city
For over two thousand years the ancient city of York has been a magnate for conquerors and visitors alike.
The Romans founded a northern outpost to their empire in 71AD and called it Eboracum; the Saxons made it the capital of their kingdom of Deira; in the 9th century the Viking Danes renamed it Jorvik and in the 12th century the Normans sacked the city.
Out of this early melting pot and on through the Tudor, Stewart, Georgian and Victorian ages York flourished and grew to become one of England's great cities.
From The First Romans
York is over 2,000 years old,
more than twenty six human lifespans!
City Walls, Clifford's Tower and a Minster
Medieval walls, towers and a cathedral
York's ancient city walls, with 45 towers and the medieval gateways of Micklegate Bar, Bootham Bar, Monk Bar and Walmgate Bar, stretch for 3 miles around the city and are the finest and most complete example of city walls in England.
Dating back to the 13th century the city walls are a great place to start a tour of the city. They can be accessed (free) at all 4 of the city's major gateways and at several other points too. A walk along the walls offers magnificent views of the major landmarks, its narrow streets and the River Ouse.
Visitors with limited time should walk the walls between Bootham Bar and Monk Bar, one of the oldest sections, and which gives good views of the Minster and Treasurers House. Monk Bar, a 4 storey gatehouse, houses the Richard III museum. Walk the walls in springtime and the embankments are a sea of golden daffodils.
York Minster, built between 1220 and 1470, is a real spectacle and one of England's greatest architectural treasures and a 'must see'. It is the second largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe, 158 metres (518ft) long, with three towers 60 metres (200ft) high and the interior height of the choir is 31 metres (102 ft). Some of the stained glass windows date back to the 12th century, and the Great East Window, Rose Window and Five Sisters Window are some of the largest examples of medieval stained glass in the world.
Clifford's Tower is all that remains of the medieval Norman castle originally constructed on the orders of William the Conqueror in the 11th century. Standing on a huge raised mound this two storey tower formed the keep of the original motte and bailey castle, though the present tower dates from the 13th century. And the view from the ramparts over the city is well worth the steep climb.
The Tower is in the care of English Heritage and there is a modest admission charge.
Old Buildings and Museums
It is hardly surprising that York has more than its share of ancient buildings: The Merchant Adventurers' Hall, a medieval timber-framed hall; Barley Hall, a medieval house once home to the Mayor of York; the Treasurer's House, a fine 17/18th century period residence, to name but a few.
The Shambles is a complete narrow medieval street dating back to the 14th century lined with overhanging timber-framed buildings, many which used to be butchers' shops.
There are many museums to visit too, the Jorvik Viking Centre which depicts Viking York; Castle Museum, which includes a reconstructed street of shops; the newly refurbished Yorkshire Museum which tells the history of York through the ages with an emphasis on the city's Roman occupation; the York dungeons, a trip into the darker history of York; and the National Railway Museum which houses the largest collection of railway locomotives in the world.
Admission charges apply but the Railway Museum is free!
Snickelways, the Shambles and a river
Exploring the old streets and alleyways, or 'snickelways' of York is a great way to discover many smaller shops and some of the city's hidden corners.
The most famous old street of all is the Shambles with its overhanging timber-framed buildings dating back to the fourteenth century. The name derives from the Anglo Saxon 'fleshammels' and refers to the external shop shelves and meat hooks once used by butchers to display their wares.
York is also noted for its many pubs and numerous places to eat from restaurants and cafes to coffee shops and the world famous Betty's Tea Rooms. Hotels, large and small, guest houses and bed and breakfast establishments offer accommodation to suit all budgets.
And there is also a lively entertainment scene with theatres, live music and cinemas.
Finally, York is a city built upon the banks of a river, the Ouse so there are many nice walks through parks and gardens and along the riverbanks with boats and sightseeing trips.
York is truly a city destination with something for everyone.
York 'on location'
York is the star in a new TV series -
Read more below.
...a new TV series set in York
Eternal Law is a 2012 television fantasy drama series set in York, and centred on two angels sent to Earth to assist in court cases.
Mr Mountjoy in Heaven sends two angels, Zak Gist and Tom Greening, to Earth to help humans with their problems. Zak is an experienced angel who has been on earth before whilst Tom is still learning the ways of humans. It is decided that they can best help humans by acting as barristers. In York they are met by Mrs Sheringham, an angel who became mortal to marry a human and subsequently widowed, who arranges offices and accommodation and in court they cross paths with a fallen angel, Richard Pembroke, who is also a barrister, usually for the prosecution. Zak also meets Hannah English, a woman he is in love with from one of his past visits to Earth; but she does not recognize him.
The prime rule for the angels is non-interference in the free will of humanity. The angels are allowed to guide and comfort but they have powers to influence the human mind which they must resist the temptation to use. How far will they go?
The series is filmed in York and many of the city's famous landmarks and streets are easily recognisable including the Minster, The Shambles, Stonegate, Coney Street, to name just a few.
PS Unfortunately Eternal Law was 'axed' after just one series!
A view of YorkClick thumbnail to view full-size
About the author
Antony was born in the small coastal town of Saltburn-by-the-sea, and lived in Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire before returning to his native Yorkshire. He has spent his adult life in the north of England working for a UK Bank and two Government Agencies.
Now living in Yorkshire between the Dales and the Moors Antony enjoys writing and taking photographs. He has written and published two ebooks bringing together some of his short stories and humorous anecdotes, and been published in The Yorkshire Dalesman.
His interests include walking, photography, history, travel, reading and watching cricket.
© 2011 Antony J Waller