York is essentially a small city. Its city centre is a hive of activity surrounded by the safety of its ancient walls and looked over by the watchful spire of the giant Minster. The following are descriptions of some key areas in and around York and the kind of attractions, shops and businesses you are likely to find in each of them.
Located on the outskirts of the city is this pleasant little village, home to the Archbishop of York’s Palace. Just a short walk away is the Selby cycle track, built on top of the old railway line. As such, this is a superb flat, straight path, great for cycling and marvellous scenery to boot. Those with a keen eye will notice that every few metres are curious metal globes. These are in fact scale models of the planets in our solar system and the 10 miles between York and Selby have been mapped out accurately so that the distance between these models is relative to that of the real planets in space.
Despite being known by locals for its hospital, this is a predominantly residential area which is also home to Bootham Crescent, the playing grounds of The Minster Men, York City F.C. Only a short distance away from the city centre, Bootham Bar is yet another piece of history left by the Romans. This large archway acts as an entrance to the city centre as well as being in sight of pubs like The Exhibition and The Hole in the Wall, although they are an entirely different type of bar altogether.
Where else to start but with St. Peter’s Cathedral, or as it is known to the majority of people, York Minster. It is a truly inspirational sight, towering above all other buildings in York and visible from miles outside the city limits. From the amazing stained glass windows to the tolling of its bells, experiencing York Minster in person is an incredible experience. Being a city so generously enriched with history, York has its fair share of museums, the most popular being The Jorvik Viking Museum, but it would be an injustice to overlook either the Castle Museum or The Railway Museum. York is also famous for its Roman Walls, which run through the city centre and walking along them is an ideal means of navigating your way through the city whilst simultaneously achieving a privileged vantage point for viewing York.
Although somewhat overshadowed by neighbouring Leeds, York has its fair share of shops and high street stores all of which can be found within the cosy city centre area. Major names such as Borders, HMV, Woolworth’s and Marks & Spencer are all found sandwiched between the memorabilia and gift shops. Dining and drinking in the city centre has never been more cosmopolitan as there are plenty of coffee shops, Internet cafes as well as English style tea rooms to choose from. The traditional Betty’s Tea Rooms sit comfortably by the continental flavoured Victor J’s and the fashionably American Starbucks.
This large area in York toward the northern edge of the city is home to the Clifton Moor Retail and Leisure Park. It is a continually growing shopping centre with a lengthy list of major stores, including Tescos, Toys R Us and McDonalds. A large, Warner Bros. Multiplex Cinema is also found here, next to the Frankie & Benny’s Italian American diner. 10 pin Bowling fans will want to check out The Megabowl, which, as well as having a bar is also home to the latest video arcade games.
A quiet village on the edge of the city. It is, for the most part, residential and although there are only a few small, local shops there, you will find some fine, traditional English pubs, like The Tiger.
One of the things York is most famous for is horse racing. The Knavemire derives its name from the infamous highway man, Dick Turpin, who was hung for his crimes upon this very ground. Hanging is much less common nowadays, in fact, you’re far more likely to see a game of football on a Sunday afternoon than a set of gallows. As well as regular motor shows, The Knavesmire has been host to the Netherlands’ National Circus and is the number one choice for kite fliers throughout the city. Usually most peoples’ entrance (or exit) to York, Tadcaster Road is host to pubs, such as The Fox & Roman and The Starting Gate and hotels such as The Swallow and The Posthouse.
Possibly the most famous street in York with the exception of The Shambles. This is home to many of the best pubs in York, from the lively Harry’s Bar and Brubakers to the more traditional Ackhorne and Walker’s Bar. The chain of pubs is commonly referred to as “The Micklegate Run” and some of the most hardened drinkers of this world have felt their knees turn to jelly at the though of tackling all of them. At one time it was quite reasonable to drink a pint in each, but nowadays there are so many pubs it really doesn’t bear thinking about. This is the usual approach path of young revellers making their way towards clubs such as The Gallery, Ziggy’s and Toff’s, so the faint of heart should perhaps take care.
This is a small area of York on the edge of the city centre whose main feature is the Monk Bar. This Roman gate has now been converted into a museum dedicated to the life of that son of York, Richard III. Was he a monster or was he simply misunderstood? Once your history lesson is over, you can enjoy excellent restaurants like The Viceroy of India or enjoy a hearty Sunday roast in The Tap & Spile.
About ten minutes drive from York is this small village, known to many as the home of the Bass Brewery, the John Smith’s Brewery and Samuel Smith’s Brewery. It’s a wonder the locals aren’t pickled.
Located on the edge of the city, this area of York contains an ever growing shopping area as well as numerous places to eat and drink. The Wetherby Whaler serves up the best fish and chips in York and for those that like a bit of spice, there is The Bengal Brasserie. The area also contains a range of businesses from the Arundale Mitsubishi car dealership to family orientated fun pubs like, The Millfield.
History Of York
Eburach to Eboracum – The Roman Invasion– Two thousand years ago the region that we know as York was called Eburach, which is thought to have meant the field at the meeting of the waters; the rivers Ouse and Foss. Eburach was at that time a small settlement of fierce, war-like tribes known as Celtic Brigantes who were subdued by the invading Roman army marching North in search of a secure and defensive position on which to build a fort. They chose this site at Eburach, which then became the Roman military capital in the North known as Eboracum. There is a 4th century Multangular Tower still standing in the grounds of the Yorkshire Museum Gardens which is an excellent example of Roman military architecture. The Romans occupied the city until the year AD 410. During this time a series of Roman Emperors, amongst them the famous Hadrian; Severus and Constantine the Great, had all exerted their considerable influence on the town, which was demonstrated in the many improvements made, such as baths, sewers, roads and drainage and from this the city grew and prospered.
Eoforwic – The Dark Ages – When the Romans finally withdrew their army in order to protect the rest of their Empire elsewhere, Britain once again became vulnerable to the many attacks from both sea and land. From the North came attacks by the Picts and from the Continent Britain was attacked by the Angles and the Saxons. In the 7th century the Anglian King Edwin unified the provinces of Deira and Bernica and the city previously known as Eboracum now became Eoferwick, the capital of Northumbria. Edwin was converted to Christianity and baptised in a wooden church near the future site of the present Minster and it was during this period that Eoferwick became a centre of religion and education.
Jorvik – In the 9th century the Vikings attacked Eoferwick by both land and sea. In AD 867 the Vikings sailed across the North Sea to the Humber; they landed an army at Barton-on-Humber, which approached Eoferwick stealthily from behind whilst the fleet of Viking warships were able to navigate their way up the river Ouse. Their long narrow boats made it easy to manoeuvre in relatively shallow water, and thus surround the city. The Vikings took possession and renamed the city Jorvik. Many of the street names still remain the same now as in the Viking days. Interestingly, several of the York street names still end with the word “gate”, which was the Viking word for street. Numerous important archaeological finds from this era can now be seen at the Jorvik Viking Centre in Coppergate. Jorvik became an affluent city of trade and commerce, particularly with the Scandinavian countries.
York – Under Norman Rule – In 1068 William the Conqueror attacked and captured the city, which by now had come to be known by the English name of York. A wooden tower was built to guard the city, known as Baile Hill and later a second tower or fortified castle named York Castle, was built on the opposite side of the river. This second site is where Clifford’s Tower now stands; built on the original moat, but at the later date of 1244, by Henry III. Religion flourished during the Norman period and proof of this can be found in the many religious buildings which archaeologists have found the remnants of, in and around York. The foundation stone of St Mary’s Abbey is known to have been laid by William II and the parts of the Abbey still standing are an impressive sight indeed.
Medieval York – It was in the 13th century that Henry III rebuilt York Castle, this time it was built in stone. Eventually, over a period of about 100 years, the rest of York’s wooden palisade defences were also rebuilt in stone. The River Ouse became the main route for trading and areas for docking and storing goods were enlarged throughout the Middle Ages. This was the age of the Guilds, which were associations of craftsmen, merchants and traders, who met to discuss business in the guildhalls. There are quite a few surviving examples of these guildhalls in York such as the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, the Merchant Taylors’ Hall and the rebuilt Guildhall, which was destroyed by fire in the last war. By 1472 York Minster was almost complete and many other monasteries, religious houses and parish churches were being rebuilt or altered.
Tudor and Stuart York – York played an important part in the War of the Roses. In 1486 Elizabeth of York married Henry VII, which brought the two warring houses of York and Lancaster together, which is commemorated in the famous Rose Window in York Minster. In the 16th century the King’s Council governed the North of England from its seat at King’s Manor, which at that time was within the grounds of the old St Mary’s Abbey. York continued to be an important city for trade and commerce until the 17th century when the Civil War disrupted this growth of prosperity. York became instead a city subjected to attack and then capture in 1644 by Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarians. The Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 was the last occasion that traitors’ heads were exhibited on Micklegate Bar, one of the four principal gateways (or bars) to the city of York.
Georgian York – By Georgian times York had become an important coaching centre, flourishing still as a market town but with less concentration on the use of the River Ouse as a means of transporting goods. To accommodate the increasing road traffic, streets were widened, giving improved access to places such as the newly built Assembly Rooms by Lord Burlington in 1732, and Mansion House – home to the Lord Mayor of York. York became an elegant centre of fashion and also a centre of craftsmanship.
Victorian York – Prosperity and squalor rubbed shoulders with each other; cholera broke out in 1832 and again in 1848. Typhus fever hit the city in 1847, probably caused by the insanitary conditions in the city at that time. York’s population expanded from an estimated 12,000 in the 18th century to nearly 70,000 by the end of the 19th century, this increased population inevitably brought dramatic changes to the city. The much needed changes included new roads, bridges and buildings in order to accommodate the increasing traffic and housing problems and in 1877 – a station was built – for the new form of transport, the steam engine. The railway had arrived in York. George Hudson, who was Mayor and also a Member of Parliament in the 1830s and 1840s, was mainly responsible for this new development in York. Sadly, the only significant remaining Victorian Buildings still standing in York are The Royal Station Hotel and York Station, which was designed by Thomas Prosser. York’s National Railway Museum celebrates railways from the 1820s to the present day.
Present day York – This is a city in which the old and the new can be seen side by side. Modern day gift shops are set in picturesque mediaeval cobbled streets. Stone walls still surround the city. Norman castle towers and mediaeval manors mingle with the 21st century. Each complements the other and nothing looks out of place.