There is a reason that North Yorkshire is commonly referred to as ‘God’s own county’. Its trademark landscape of rolling hills and edifying dales is stippled with warm, welcoming rural communities who have an extremely close relationship to the land around them.
A five-minute walk in any direction is likely to face you with the most impressive English views you’ll ever see. But, despite the sheer beauty presented by these long-untouched swathes of land, it is arguably the region’s largest city that defines it best – not only in name, but also through the tumult of its history and its cultural capital today.
We are talking, of course, about York. York is a thriving urban centre with Roman roots and Viking heritage, York is an outstanding destination for anyone with even a passing interest in English history – or simply an eye for intrigue. York is also eminently easy to travel to; the train station is right in the middle of the city, making a train trip into York the simplest of affairs. But when you get there, where should you explore?
The City Walls
York was a well-fortified Roman city at its inception but has seen its fair share of history in the interim. York’s historic city walls are testament to that history, having been built in the 13th century atop the original earth embankments that defined the city’s limits.
Today, the wall is the most complete of its kind, and completely free for visitors to enjoy. You can walk the circumference of the city via the wall ramparts, taking in the various views before arriving at Clifford’s Tower – once home to William the Conqueror himself!
But the historic delights do not stop with the city walls. Much of York’s infrastructure is also extremely old and well-preserved, with Renaissance-era buildings a regular fixture in York’s tighter city streets. One standout place to see this architecture is The Shambles, a retail street with crooked Medieval buildings that tower over one another in quaint, impressive style.
The Shambles has attained a different kind of significance in recent years though, having been the main inspiration for one of Harry Potter’s most recognisable locations: fictional wizard shopping street Diagon Alley.
Not too far from The Shambles, you will find one of York’s defining landmarks, in York Minster. This imposing cathedral has sat in place since its initial construction in the 600s and is one of the most important cathedral buildings in existence.
Its Central Tower is York’s highest point and can provide stunning panoramic views of this gloriously anachronistic city.