York

The capital of one of Britain’s most historic counties, and the most important city in the North during the Middle Ages, York was the perfect base from which to spend nearly a week exploring the region.

York Minster is the obvious place to start, one of the largest gothic cathedrals in Europe. The £11.50 entry price put me off going inside, I have visited so many cathedrals and churches by now, but the exterior was impressive, particularly in the evening light.

The nearby South African War Memorial I initially mistook for a WW1 monument, the 1899-1902 Second Boer War in South Africa is rarely remembered in Britain, but cost the lives of ~30,000 soliders and ~45,000 cilivians.

York is a very walkable city, with the old parts filled with pleasant areas such as the Shambles. Heritage has been generally protected here, with good examples of reuse such as the 300 year old Grand Assembly Rooms now home to an ASK restaurant.

A more recent addition is the shipping container pop up mall style Spark: York, not a new concept, I’ve seen them in Christchurch and Canberra, but still effective and buzzy.

The National Railway Museum is the largest of its kind in the world, with a huge collection of trains from the Locomotion to the Eurostar. A short walk from the town centre it was the perfect way to spend a wet morning.

There are three main halls, filled with trains, carriages and associated equipment. The Great Hall has the bulk of the engines on shows, the South Hall is home to the collection of royal carriages from Queen Adelaide to the Queen Mother, while the North Hall has memorabilia they have yet to properly sort.

Unfortunately both Mallard and the Flying Scotsman weren’t there when I visited but there was plenty else of interest.

Relatively close by the Grand Hotel York was originally the headquarters for the North Eastern Railway, built in 1906.

Across the road are sections of the extensive remaining York City Walls.

By which is the simple but effective York War Memorial.

The River Ouse and River Foss flow through York, and in general good use has been made of the riverside opportunities.

Across from the Cathedral the Treasurer’s House is a National Trust gem of a house, mainly dating from the 1630s, though it was modified significantly over the years before being restored in the early 1900s by Frank Green, a wealthy local industrialist.

Clifford’s Tower offers the best views of the city, though they were less exciting than expected…

I’ve already covered in more detail in another post but to give another plug for the fascinating York Cold War Bunker, a sobering remainder of what was at stake not that long ago, with the threat of nuclear warfare.

Less than half an hour from York, Beningbrough Hall is a moderately interesting, typical National Trust property. The late Georgian period house is grand if relatively sparse inside, though the exhibition on notable people from Yorkshire was good, and outside are rather pleasant gardens.

To end with another National Trust property, their regional headquarters at Goddards House, which has been partly opened to the public. It was built in 1927 by the Terry family (of Chocolate Orange fame) in Arts and Crafts style, quite old fashioned by then. The house was homely but the gardens, even in the pouring rain, were lovely.

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