Taking day trips out of London is fun. You get to see a part of England that you might not otherwise visit, and don’t have to move your luggage. The downside is that you don’t usually get to explore the nightlife (if there is any), and you can get but a perfunctory feel of a place. But, sometimes you have to take what you can get. A few years ago, my friends and I hopped on a train and took a short trip to the city of York.
The area of York shows evidence of being occupied as long as 9,000 years ago, with more extensive archeological remains for 700 BCE. The Romans found the area advantageous due to the confluence of two rivers (the Foss and the Ouse) and built here around 70 AD, and left walls and ruins that are still existing. During the Middle Ages, it became a center for religious activity in northern England: the York Minster cathedral was constructed beginning in 1080, shortly after the Conquest. The cathedral is the largest Gothic church in northern Europe, and is quite beautiful. The old Roman wall surrounds the central city, and you can walk the circumference.
William the Conqueror built extensive forts here. Clifford Tower, which was the castle keep, stands picturesquely atop a hill. Now in ruins, you can climb the walls and walk around the perimeter to look over the city of York. In addition to the beautiful old town, where the cathedral is, off in the distance I could see Terry’s of York chocolatier, a 250-year-old business and makers of the fantastic Terry’s Chocolate Orange. Unfortunately (in my mind even though I own Kraft stock) Kraft food bought the company about 20 years ago and the “don’t tap it, whack it” wonder is made outside of England. (Note: York’s Peppermint Patties did not originate in York, England, but in York, Pennsylvania.) This is also the site of a massacre of the Jewish inhabitants of York in 1190 CE. Between ongoing antisemitism, hysteria raised by the kings and popes urging the country to participate in the Crusades, local priests who urged the death of the ‘Christ Killers”, and the desires of certain wealthy nobility to rid themselves of debt owed to Jewish bankers, rioting mobs attacked and burned to death the Jews of the city. The 150 people who sought refuge in the castle were eventually turned over to the mob, and murdered by burning, as well.
Another area of York visited by tourists is an area called The Shambles, in the older part of town. Little shops line the streets. Although some of them are quaint little tea shops and one-of-a-kind places, I thought the area was pretty commercialized and featured chain stores that you can see anywhere else. A Starbucks was a block away from a 17th century pub, for example. Which we stopped at, and had a nice pub lunch and beers in an open courtyard under a beautiful, sunny October sky.
Other things you can do in York, if you have more than just a few hours:
A quick search shows that there are dozens of activities in York: historical, cultural, natural. It’s a destination I hope to see again, when I’m able to visit for a few days and explore the surrounding countryside as well. I hope you enjoy the photos!
- Goodbye York / Hello city of Bath – Yorkshire, United Kingdom (travelpod.com)
- A Dash Of Olive Oil May Preserve Decaying British Cathedral (npr.org)
- What Did the Vikings Look Like? (history.com)
- National Railway Museum (marksimmsphotography.com)