York, Yorkshire, England

York Minster
York is a city in the north of England  at the heart of the Yorkshire counties and is a unitary authority in it's own right.  Most people around the world have heard of New York but fail to connect with the fact that New York was named after the City of York in England.  The Harper family moved to York in 1959 after returning from a two year posting to Singapore.  I have lived in the York area since that time except for work interludes that took me away to Leicester and Switzerland.  When you hear tourists wondering if the locals appreciate their nice city my response is "yes, York is so nice, that I live here". There is a lot to see and do in York and something to suit just about all tastes.

Over these pages I will take you on a virtual  walking tour of my city and hopefully take you into some off the beaten track areas.

Car parking in York is a nightmare and very expensive.  By far the best approach is to come either by bus, train, bicycle or if you must come by car use the Par and Ride car parks that are dotted around the ring road.  The Park and Ride car parks can be found at Askham Bar, Rawcliffe Bar Grimsto n Bar, Monk's Cross and  the Designer Outlet.  For more information visit the York Council Park & Ride site.

For this first walk I'll assume that you have found the Park and Ride at Grimston Bar and travelled in to the City and are standing in Piccadily next to the Merchant Adventurers Hall.
Circular Walk 1
Piccadily - Walmgate - Foss Islands - Peaseholme Green - Fossgate

View Larger Map
Banana WarehouseRed LionFrom the bus stop you should be able to see The Banana Warehouse facing Merchantgate.  If you like browsing around second hand furniture and bric a brac this is a place you could easily spend half an hour exploring.  Opposite the Banana Warehouse is an old derelict looking building that at one time was Neville Shute's aeronautical factory.  Last used as a laser shoot em up entertainment venue.   Walk in that general direction but turn left into Merchantgate. On your right will be the Red Lion Inn a pub full of historic character.  

Red LionFR STUBBS IronmongersDiagonally opposite the Red Lion is a building of mixed ages, part old , some new that used to be FR Stubbs Ironmongers but is now a Loch Fyne seafood restaurant.

 At this point the majority of tourists will be clutching their maps and trying to work out where the Minster is! Remember, we are going off the beaten track here so we will turn our backs on the Minster and turn to our right into Walmgate.  For those of you who can't wait to see the Minster look up Fossgat and you will see the Minster framed by the  buildings of Fossgate.  You might need to go as far as the hump of the bridge over the River Foss to get a good view.

Red Lion EntranceFive LionsThose of you that find pubs inviting, the entrance door of the Red Lion beckons.  There will be more good pubs along the route.  Just a few steps down Walmgate and you reach the Five Lions pub.  Five lions appear on the coat of arms of York.

George StreetJoiners YardThere are many interesting buildings as you proceed along Walmgate some old and some not so old.  There are many courtyards some small and some are large. They are usually entered via a passageway like the one in the photograph to the right.

Spreadeagle public houseWalmgate shopsThe Spreadeagle public house is a fine example of an old building that had fallen into a severe state of disrepair that has been restored to make it the best real ale pub in the street. The photograph to the right shows the old shops next to the Spreadeagle with new infill building. On the opposite side of the road are new shops and flats.

Mix of old and newBowes Morrel HouseHere we have another illustration of the old sitting cheek by jowl with the modern.  In the left hand photo there is an alternation of old and new all the way down to the Spreadeagle pub.  The right hand photograph shows the Elizabethan Bowes Morrel House standing next to the parade of modern shops and flats.

Walmgate bar with surviving barbicanWalmgate bar from wallsAt the end of Walmgate we come to the mainly 14th century Walmgate bar the only gate surviving with an intact Barbican.  Some parts of the structure date back as far as the 12th century.  It has been damaged and repaired many times over the centuries having suffered riots against tax increases, bombardment during the civil war and  in more recent times was being damaged by heavy goods vehicles getting lodged and stuck in the gateway you can see under the Elizabethan house on pillars.  Traffic no longer passes through this gateway and two way traffic now passes through the arch to the left, controlled by traffic lights.  Take the steps on the left up to the city walls to walk round to the Red Tower and Foss Islands.

Barbicans are fortified outpost gateways usually standing proud of the walls.  The name is derived from the latin barbecana.

City wallsEarly music centre
As you walk along the walls you will see the back of a Church in Navigation that is used as the Early Music Centre.  From here it is only a short walk to the Red tower and a break in the walls. At this point the city defences were provided by the marshy ground as the River Foss meandered its way to the River Ouse.

Red Tower view from Foss Islands RoadRed Tower Foss Islands RoadFrom Red Tower make your way to the footpath that runs alongside Foss Islands Road.  On the opposite side of the road is Kwik Fit. Turn to your left and follow the footpath and cross Navigation Road taking you past Travis Perkins builders yard and the Majestic Wine Store.

Rowntree WharfRiver FossAs you pass the Majestic Wine Store the path runs alongside the River Foss and you will see a large building to your left known as Rowntree Wharf.  This is a former flour mill which was bought by Rowntree and used as a warehouse for storing ingredients like Cocoa Butter and Sugar.  It was planned at one time to make the building into a museum of Chocolate and Confectionery manufacture but the plans never came to fruition and the building was converted into apartments.  Looking up-river you can see the old County Hospital on the skyline also converted into apartments.  

Power station bridgeBridge detailBefore the old City Hospital you will see  a blue bridge crossing the river this provided access from the power generating station that used to stand where Halfords and Staples now stand to the cooling tower that stood in the marshy land at the side of the river Foss.  Continue walking beside the River Foss until you come to the multiple junction and the road bridge over the river.

DEFRA buildingFoss Islands BridgeAt the junction known as Foss Islands Bridge with multiple traffic lights turn left over the bridge with the DEFRA building on your left and The office block of Solicitors on the other side of the road and turn into  Peasholme Green.

St CuthbertsBlack SwanJust after the Solicitors offices on the right is the church of St Cuthbert dating from 687 has links with General Wolfe. The church is now the administrative centre for St. Michael le Belfrey church next to the Minster.   A little further along is the Black Swan pub a building dating back to Tudor times which later became an Inn. It is thought that General Wolfe may have been conceived here as his parents lived here during that time.  .  

Archaeology HungateStonebowDespite the ugly 1960s Stonebow building history is impotant to York and before building takes place within the walls there is usually some archaeology takes place. The photograph on the left shows the Hungate area which has been demolished for rebuilding and the white square within the fences is where a dig is currently being carried  out (jun July 2007).

The dreaded rising bollardYork Bed CompanyNot all buildings in the area have been removed as the owner of the York Bed Factory has stubbornly held out and the local council are looking towards a compulsory purchase order.  

Most of the city centre is pedestrianised during the day and the entrance through Stonebow is controlled by a rising bollard.  When it was first installed some years ago there were instances it rising under legitimate vehicles and causing damage to the underbody of the vehicles. After catching a few buses cars and vans the problems were sorted out and nothing is heard of it these days except for vehicles going to the wrong side of the road to get round it.

St Crux Whip Ma Whop Ma GateWhip Ma Whop Ma GateA short walk along Stonebow next to the ugly Stonebow building brings you to the shortest street in York Whip Ma Whop Ma Gate.  There is a plaque on St Crux church explaining the name. There is a little passageway at the back of the church leading to the shambles. In the passageway is a Letting Agent with the address one and a half Whip Ma Whop Gate, eat your heart out Harry Potter!

Pass through this alleyway into the bottom of the Shambles and turn left.

All Saints, PavementGolden FleeceYou will now be facing the Golden Fleece pub one of the oldest buildings reputed to have ghost. It also sells some good beers as well and has a fascinating history. It is worth raising your eye level to view the upper stories of the building here as there is much of interest. Looking to your right you can see All Saints, Pavement church with ornate lantern tower. Turn your back on the church and head back towards Stonebow and then take the first left into Fossgate Between the Army and Navy Store and the YO1 pub (what a strange name for a drinking place).

Fossgate corner PavementBlue BellFossgate is a treasure house of interesting buildings and once again it is worth raising your eyes to look at the upper parts of the buildings and take your gaze away from the restaurants, fabric, music and discount shops..  Next door to the Army and Navy store you will find one of York's little gems The Blue Bell a fascinatingly small public house well worth a look inside and if you haven't dropped into any of the pubs you have passed so far you have probably earned yourself a quick refresher.  Service is from the bar in the front room or from the curtain or hatch if you are in the back room or passageway.  You might be lucky and find a spot to sit otherwise you will be best off standing in the passageway.  This a pub full of character serving a range of real ales.  A couple of doors away is Harvill's restaurant who do a nice lunchtime menu for £6.95.  As you progress down the street keep your eyes upward for wonderful upper floors some dating back to Tudor times like above Zik Zak and Supersave.  At a more down to earth level McDonalds furniture store is a former cinema with an ornate frontage.

Merchant AdventurersTowards the Minster from bridge in FossgateWhilst keeping your eyes on the Upper stories make sure you don't miss the entranceway to the Merchant Adventurers hall.  This was the meeting place for the guild that controlled overseas trade and is well worth going in for a look round.  As you progress further down the street you will come to the river Foss.  Just before the bridge is a good restaurant called the Blue Bicycle, see the photograph below.  One of it's trademarks is the blue bicycle outside chained to the post of the roadsign next to the bridge over the river.  Asyou reach the top of bridge look back along Fossgate and you will have a view of the central Towers of the Minster.

Blue Bicycle RestaurantAt the junction of Merchantgate turn right after the old FR Stubbs now Loch Fyne Restaurant building into Merchantgate and then right again and you are back where you started in Piccadily ready to catch the Park and Ride back to where you left your car or ready to press on and look at some more parts of York.

Circular Walk 2
Circular Walk 3
Circular Walk 4

Return to Index Page

If you have enjoyed this article you will probably enjoy the daily picture of York in The Jollygreenp Images of York blog.

Images of York Banner
Contact John Harper
© John Harper 2006
Designed by Jolly Green P**l**k

Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional