A Day in York

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Yesterday Miranda and I got up very early, bundled ourselves up very warmly, and boarded a train from beautiful King’s Cross to even more beautiful York. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly you can whizz up and down the country these days; in just over two hours we pulled into York station, whose cathedral like proportions and vaulted iron and glass ceiling is a perfect example of the Victorian worship of steam. Breathing in the fresh, slightly manure scented air (you don’t get that in London!), we set off for the city centre, walking over the city walls and a very pretty bridge in the process. In the distance we could see the tower of York Minster standing proudly above the rooftops, and we were entranced by the beautiful Georgian architecture and intriguing cobbled lanes that run off the main streets. We wandered along until we came to a square of shops, one of which was the famous Betty’s tearoom. Betty’s has been a Yorkshire staple since 1919, and I had the great pleasure of visiting the Harrogate branch last year. As we were hungry, we decided that we may as well start our York experience with a spot of lunch, and into Betty’s we went. Lots of tea and delicious food in the sumptuous Art Deco surroundings later, and we were ready to explore.

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We had tickets for a talk and tour of York based artist Mark Hearld’s home/studio, which was the reason for our visit, but we also wanted to see as much of York as possible while we were there. We walked along very Dickensian looking streets, with cobbled pavements, medieval shop fronts that leaned in all sorts of directions, and gorgeous Victorian bow windows filled with lovely displays of goods that reminded me of Cranford. We just had time to pop into a very posh Oxfam books that had some real treats inside before heading out of the city walls and along a main road lined with beautiful four storey Georgian houses and an amazing art deco Odeon cinema. We knew immediately when we had reached Mark’s house; the quirky fox door knocker was a dead giveaway! The talk and tour were absolutely wonderful and so inspiring; I learned so much and had my imagination fired up by the incredible array of objets trouves that fill the house. Mark Hearld and his girlfriend Emily Sutton are superb artists; I will post more on them and their home another time, as they certainly deserve a post of their own!

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We left Mark’s house as twilight was beginning to fall, lending an even more Dickensian feel to the streets of this ancient city. On our way back to the centre, we passed some lovely bookshops, where we found cards made by Mark Hearld and Emily Sutton that we swiftly snapped up (much more affordable than originals!) and I bought a handful of orange Penguins for a song. As we walked back through the gates of the city walls, we heard the cathedral bells tolling five o clock, and we made a beeline back through the maze of cobbled streets for its now illuminated tower. The cathedral closes to visitors at 5, but thankfully there was a prayer service at 5.15, so we were still able to go inside (advance warning – York Minster costs £9 normally, so if you can go in during a service, do!). It is a beautiful building, filled with the usual features one would expect, and somehow feels quite intimate despite its size. We very much enjoyed taking part in the service amidst the flickering of candles and the hushed atmosphere; I imagined how many people must have done the same over the years, and the thought of all those voices thickening the air with their secrets and petitions was quite awe inspiring.

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We had one last stop to make before we went to catch our train; Betty’s shop. We picked up fat rascals, which are divine giant scones native to Yorkshire and beautiful mugs and tea caddies designed by Emily Sutton. Laden with goodies, we walked back through the darkened streets and across the river lined with Victorian wharfs to the station, from which we were swiftly borne back to the mean streets of the capital. Reflecting on our day whilst on the train, I decided that York is a place where I could definitely live. There is beauty everywhere, and plenty to see and do. There are so many nooks and crannies that you could probably explore for years and still be able to find somewhere new, and there is a lively artistic scene that finds much inspiration in the quirky, historic surroundings. I’d love to go back for a longer visit, and also explore some more of the local area. I can see myself renting a cottage in the Yorkshire Dales this summer!

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ps. I’ve had a half term book clearout as Miranda sent me home with a load of lovely books she was getting rid of, plus I bought a few in York, so I had to make some room…if you fancy something exciting to read, check out my shop!

28 comments

  1. I always used to love the masses of daffodils outside the station and up Clifford’s Tower. I fact, I can’t think of York without daffodils.

  2. I live in York and have to say it is completely wonderful. There are so many amazing pubs and places to eat and book shops and, of course, all the heritage and beautiful architecture. But it does feel very far from London sometimes and the major happenings in literature, art, history. I get frustrated that so few events happen in the North. Still I’d choose York any day.

    1. I am jealous, Victoria! I’d love to live there, though I can understand the frustration. I wish culture/jobs/everything was spread a bit more evenly throughout the UK as then it would be much more viable to move outside of London for many people, and we’d end up with a much more interesting and vibrant country as a result. One day I do think I will make the move up North though – house prices will force me to!

  3. I must have that knocker. It’s so…foxy?😉

    I agree, York is a place where I could definitely live. The architecture, the landscape, the people: I love it all. The only thing I don’t like about it is so cold it is. Maybe it was just bad luck, but every time I visited it seemed to be much, much colder in York than in Leeds.

    1. They’re available online! I just had a google!

      Well yes, the cold was quite brutal! I’d have to see what the summer was like before I made a final decision!

  4. There is a set of Edwardian townhouses on Gower St, just down from the Waterstones at Torrington, with the same fox door knocker! I can’t resist looking for it and saying ‘hello’ when on one of my trips to London.

    I’m adding York to my list of places to visit, Rachel, what a great day out! And there is a recipe in one of my English cookbooks for Fat Rascals, a hilarious title for something so yummy sounding. Very much looking forward to an upcoming post on Mark Hearld’s work, those cards are gorgeous! Extreme envy all around, wish I could have been there.

    1. How lovely! I’d love to see that! I know you’d love York, Darlene, and fat rascals too! Wish you could have been with us – you’d have so enjoyed visiting the house and the city. I shall post on Mark Hearld as soon as I can!

  5. The number of interesting places I can get to in an hour or two is one of the main reasons I’ve stayed in Leeds – I can get to York in 30 mins and spend a lot of my weekends there, exploring the bookshops, visiting my favourite deli etc. The fox shaped knocker is gorgeous by the way; I love the idea of a tour around an artist’s home.🙂

    1. I love Leeds, Alex! I’ve been seriously considering moving to Leeds myself. The Northern cities are so close together which is certainly an extra attraction. You’re lucky to live in such a beautiful place!

  6. You made wonderful use of the time – I was on hot coals hoping you girls wouldn’t end up being stuck en route with the rail problems for East Coast trains, but all worked out as it should🙂 I feel York would be very liveable too – apart from the winter weather and too far from London for me – soft southener that I am! Lovely to visit though. xx

    1. I know, it was a bit of a squeeze but we definitely did everything we wanted to and were lucky with the trains! Thank you so much for arranging it all, and I’m only sad that you couldn’t enjoy it too. Next time things will be different! Yes, the weather is certainly a concern for this soft southerner too!🙂 xx

  7. What gorgeous pictures! I know I’ve said this before, but I do infinitely regret not traveling more around England when I was living there. In my defense, I was really quite poor. :p But still, I wish I’d taken some trains and done some more day trips. There are so many beautiful buildings to visit and sights to see.

    1. Well, likewise for me with the US! I so wish I had done more exploring, but finances and my 10 measly days of holiday prevented me! When you come again, I will take you on a trip. Promise!

  8. I wonder if the Slightly Foxed shop has one of those sweet doorknockers? And as for your amazement over how quickly you can go from one end of England to the other, I completely understand. I’ve spent a total of 4 days in England in the flesh, but a lifetime in books, most of which are set before the railway era. Imagine my surprise at finding that Bath is practically commuting distance to London ‘these days.’

    1. That’s a lovely idea, Peggy! I shall have to go and see! Oh yes – everywhere is commuting distance! My dad used to commute between London and Manchester for a while! I love how accessible everywhere is, especially after living in New York and travelling for four hours without even leaving the state!

  9. I live not too far from York and love it to bits. It’s such a treat of a town with so much to marvel at. I’ve been going there for my shopping since I was a child and I still gt excited about the bookshop, Fat Rascals and cobbled roads! I echo the daffodil comment too. Spring is so beautiful in York – seeing the mass of daffodils outside the wall and around Clifford’s Tower hail the new season for me! The Castle Museum and gaol is a good visit too! Glad you enjoyed the trip!!

    1. You’re lucky, Jessica! I shall have to come back and see those daffodils; they sound wonderful! I need to visit again as it really was a whistlestop tour. I was desperate to go to the railway museum too!

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