York is a cathedral city with Roman origins, sited at the confluence of the rivers Ouse and Foss in North Yorkshire, England. It is a historic county town in Yorkshire. The city has many historic buildings and other structures, such as a minster, castle, and city walls.
We have been to visit York Minster several times, but it is a special place and we still love this place we go back to time and time again.
The first York Minster dates back to the year 627. This church was itself rebuilt by St. Wilfrid around 670 but burned down in 741, but it was replaced by a glorious new church containing no less than 30 altars.
Over the next few hundred years, York Minster went through many changes, with more devastating fires and additions to the building. The building suffered from further fires in the Victorian period, and the ravages of time necessitated ongoing repair work during the 20th century.
We entered the Minster from the main entrance and into the nave. From here you can see the beautiful vaulted ceiling and the stained glass windows that line the length of the nave. Ahead of us, in the distance, was the altar.
We walked up toward the altar and reached the cross point of the transept and the nave. The North and South Transepts are Early English Gothic. Towards our right was the south transept. The main feature of the end wall of the south transept is the 22-foot-high Rose Window, which was added 250 years after the transept was built to commemorate the War of the Roses (1455-85). Despite temperatures of 450 degrees, the Rose Window somehow stayed in place during the 1984 fire even though some of the lead joints (restored 12 years earlier) melted. It cracked into 40,000 pieces but was removed and then fully restored thanks to the glaziers’ trust.
On the north side of the North Transept, you’ll see five narrow lancet windows dating from about 1260. They’re known as the Five Sisters Window after a term coined by Charles Dickens.
From the transept and altar, we passed behind to the choir of the Minster.
The cathedral’s Norman Choir was rebuilt in the late 14th century and was later damaged by a fire in 1829 that destroyed the roof and woodwork (including the choir stalls). Copies of the originals have replaced all that was destroyed.
St. William’s Window (1422) in the South Gallery depicts scenes from the life of St. William, whose shrine in the sacristy was worshipped in the Middle Ages. St Cuthbert’s Window (dating from about 1435) in the North Gallery portrays events in the life of this saint, who was consecrated as Archbishop in AD 685 in the former Saxon minster.
Behind the Choir is the Lady Chapel. This important chapel is famous for its magnificent East Window, which dates from about 1408 and is reputed to be the world’s largest medieval stained-glass window.
We decided to check out the Minster’s chapter house which is just off of the North Transept. Along the way, we stopped to admire the astronomical clock, which is a memorial to the airmen operating from bases in Yorkshire, Durham, and Northumberland who were killed in action during World War II, designed by R. Atkinson, and installed in York Minster in 1955.
The delicate Chapter House, where the day-to-day business of the Minster was run, was begun in about 1260. It is a superb example of the Gothic Decorated style which was then in vogue.
The entrance to the Chapter House is along a fairly low passage, which gives no hint of what is to come. You pass through a twin arched door, where a wonderfully carved Madonna and child stand, and enter into a circular space ringed with low stalls, above which soar traceried stained glass windows that can rival the famous 5 Sisters for delicacy and lightness.
The ribbed wooden roof is truly a masterpiece of medieval architecture, with colourfully painted panels and a profusion of gilded bosses (see photos below). Unlike other chapter houses, such as that of Wells Cathedral, there is no central column to support the roof vaulting; the ceiling is “free-standing” if you will, seeming almost to hang in space.
The stalls which line the chapter house are topped with a wonderful profusion of gargoyles – some humorous, some depicting souls in torment.
There are other areas of the minster that can be visited including the crypt and the tower (for an extra charge). We’d been to the tower before, so we skipped it this time, but we did head down into the crypts.
Planning your visit to York Minister
AddressYork Minster, Deangate, York, YO1 7HH
By TrainGetting to York by train is both easy and great value for money. LNER and Grand Central will bring you to York in under two hours, while Edinburgh is only two and a half hours away. There are direct services from Birmingham and the South West and additionally, TransPennine Express runs direct train services from Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle.
By BusOn average, the bus takes approximately 5 hours and 10 minutes to get from London to York. The fastest journey by bus from London to York is 4 hours and 45 minutes, however, your journey time may vary depending on traffic conditions along the route.
By carSituated midway between Edinburgh and London, just 20 minutes from the M1/M62 motorway network, York is within comfortable driving times of most regions in the UK. To make your trip to York even more convenient, six Park & Ride sites currently operate in York. They allow you to travel to York by car, park for free in secure car parks and complete your journey into the city centre by bus.
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MINSTER & TOWER
Best time to visit York
York is a beautifully preserved historic city that has earned its place as one of the UK’s top tourist attractions. With sites like the National Railway Museum, York Minster – one of the largest cathedrals in northern Europe – and The Shambles, the most famous of York’s charming cobblestone streets, visiting this ancient city is almost like taking a trip back in time. The perfect destination for history lovers, the city also offers some great dining options and some interesting shopping in the cobbled streets of York city center.
But as a northern city, York gets four distinct seasons, and each has something different to offer. So when’s the best time to visit York? Well, that’s going to depend on what you want to do in the city. If you want the best weather possible, the hottest months of summer might be what you’re after. But if you prefer cultural activities in this historic city, you can skip the busy summer months and brave the cooler weather of fall or even winter.
Other things to do in York
1. NATIONAL RAILWAY MUSEUM
The museum tells the story of rail transport in Britain and its impact on society. It is the home of the national collection of historically significant railway vehicles such as Mallard, Stirling Single, Duchess of Hamilton and a Japanese bullet train. In addition, the National Railway Museum holds a diverse collection of other objects, from a household recipe book used in George Stephenson’s house to film showing a “never-stop railway” developed for the British Empire Exhibition. It has won many awards, including the European Museum of the Year Award in 2001.
2. YORK CASTLE MUSEUM
York Castle Museum was founded by Dr John Kirk, a doctor from Pickering, North Yorkshire, and houses his extraordinary collection of social history, reflecting everyday life in the county.
One of its renowned displays is the reconstructed street, Kirkgate, that has been hugely influential in museums displays worldwide. The York Castle Museum is housed in a former debtors’ prison and an adjoining former women’s prison, both of which are Grade I listed. The museum’s name comes from the fact it stands on the site of the former York Castle.
3. JORVIK VIKING CENTRE
At JORVIK Viking Centre you are standing on the site which revealed some of the most astounding discoveries in modern archaeology. Your first experience at JORVIK is an exploration of the Coppergate Dig, with a fully immersive display taking you back to the 1970s.
The Jorvik’s interactive ride takes you around 10th-century York city, experiencing what it was like living in the city. The sights, sounds and even the smells of the Viking Age are brought vividly back to life as you journey back 1,000 years. There is also an exhibit of rare Viking artefacts, from delicate earrings and socks to frying pans and padlocks and even a fossilised Viking poo!
4. TREASURER”S HOUSE
This house was the residence of the treasurers of York Minster from 1100 until the office was abolished by Henry VIII. It belonged to 3 post-Reformation Archbishops of York, the last of whom, Thomas Young, rebuilt it. Further alterations were made in the early 17th century; the building fell into decline during the 19th century by which time Young’s mansion had been split into at least five separate properties. The present garden front with its classical central entrance bay dates from c.1630. It now contains the furniture collection of the wealthy industrialist and aesthete Frank Green, who restored and remodelled the building after acquiring it in 1897. Inside, Green’s architect, Temple Moore, created a huge hall out of the 2-storey central block with a half-timbered gallery supported by classical columns. There is an early 18th-century staircase that has been attributed to the joiner-architect William Thornton, who worked at Beningbrough.
5. CLIFFORD’S TOWER
Clifford’s Tower is the largest remaining building of York Castle, northern England’s greatest medieval royal fortress. With a spectacular new update for 2022 including a dramatic roofdeck, internal walkways and soundscape interpretation – the fascinating story of Clifford’s Tower will finally be told
The tower offers unrivalled views over the ancient city whilst the new interpretation makes the tower’s history and interior more accessible than they’ve been for centuries, bringing its dramatic and sometimes tragic story to life as never before.
Standing as a proud symbol of the power of England’s medieval kings; the tower was originally built by William the Conqueror to subdue the rebels of the north, it was twice burned to the ground, before being rebuilt by Henry III in the 13th century.
Where to stay
1. YHA YORK HOSTEL
York YHA is a large hostel housed in a converted manor house in the Clifton area of York with spacious, leafy grounds. The hostel had a £2 million renovation in 2013.
It currently has 203 beds in 45 rooms and 32 rooms are en-suite. Private en-suite rooms can sleep between 4 and 6 people and are accessed by a key card.
There is a well stocked kitchen, a large lounge and games room plus an onsite restaurant and free WiFi on site.
York YHA is a friendly hostel but it is not a party hostel and attracts many groups and business people. It is a perfect choice for visiting York with kids as the hostel is adjacent to Homestead Park and playground.
The hostel offers free parking on site – a rarity in York – and a bike store.
2. THE JORVIK HOUSE
Dating back to the 1750s and overlooking the 11th-century church of St Olafs and the remains of St Mary’s Abbey, Jorvik House has a 24-hour front desk and a bar. Free WiFi is provided throughout the property.
All rooms have en-suite facilities with a bath and shower over or walk-in shower. Complimentary toiletries are provided. The rooms feature a flat-screen TV with Freeview, tea/coffee making facilities and Egyptian cotton sheets. A continental breakfast is available in the morning.
York Rail Station is 10 minutes’ walk from the Jorvik and York Museum Gardens is just over 5 minutes’ walk away.
3. GALTRES LODGE HOTEL
Overlooking the spectacular York Minster, this elegant Georgian residence is set in the heart of the historic city centre, just a short stroll away from medieval streets lined with modern boutiques.
Situated in the heart of York’s café quarter, within easy reach of the city’s many attractions, Galtres Lodge provides the perfect base for your stay with Wi-Fi internet, comfortable rooms and delicious brasserie-style meals.
The friendly and efficient staff aim to offer you the best personal service in order to ensure a memorable and enjoyable stay