Saturday 18 August 2018

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Home > YORK

Getaway Guide: YORK

by Pat Richardson, founder of Hotels That Were Not


This is a city that comes gift-wrapped, which makes discovering it a delight akin to opening a beautifully packaged present. Imagine a flattened sheet of tissue: York’s substrate, the fertile Vale of York. Picture the outer paper, pulled open and pushed away: the rolling wolds, the rise-and-fall of the dales, and the rugged moors which, at a distance, hold York in their green embrace. Inside, a box of treasures - its sides, the city walls - holds 2,000 years of history, interleaved layer-upon-layer. And, threading through the city’s centre like ribbons, narrow lanes centuries-old and cobblestoned - the best-loved of which is The Shambles.

Romans, Saxons and Vikings have all lived here, leaving fascinating traces you can easily and enjoyably explore. Descend to the cellar of Treasurer’s House in Minster Yard to hear the incredible-but-true tale of the ghosts of Roman soldiers who walked through the walls there. Time-travel 1,000 years at Jorvik Viking Centre. Marvel at the magnificence of the Minster: work began there in 1220. It’s the largest gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. Walk the 600-year-old walls, with their time-worn portcullis gates – the bars.

Visit the spellbinding Merchant Adventurer’s Hall: dating from 1350, its undulating floors and tip-tilted walls breathe the past audibly. Admire the fine art and beautiful furniture in Fairfax House, England’s finest Georgian townhouse. Stroll along the Castle Museum’s Victorian street. York’s world-famous National Railway Museum keeps track of history, too.

You don’t have to look to the past to appreciate York – it’s a great place for theatre (there are two), for eating out (with an annual 10-day Food Festival, held in September) and for shops. You will spot big-name retailers, but the real stars here are the small individualists.

I know just the place...

From a spoilt-for-choice selection, here’s my choice of one to shop in, and one to stop in.

Shop in Mulberry Hall at 17-19 Stonegate for exquisite china, crystal and tableware. Even if you come away empty-handed, it’s a delight to wander through the rooms of this higgledy-piggledy medieval house, admiring the displays.

Stop in Little Betty’s at 46 Stonegate (beats queuing at bigger, better-known, but no better, Betty’s Cafe Tea Rooms) for a decision-defying choice of teas and coffees. If you want to follow tradition, order a ‘Fat Rascal’ - but make it one to share; you’ll never finish this enormous, spicy, fruit scone on your own!

Wouldn’t you rather stay somewhere really special?