The historic city of York is one of England’s most well-known and most loved. It oozes charm, character and history, and there’s a wealth of attractions to be found even without stepping foot outside the city centre. Our Sheriff Hutton Club Site makes a great base for exploring the city, being just 20 minutes north of the centre. If you’d rather not take the car, there’s a bus that stops nearby that you can ride directly to the city centre. Here are eight attractions well worth a visit.
1. York Minster
Head over to York Minster to appreciate the architectural and history of the city’s cathedral. According to local legend, couples who kiss under the Minster’s Great West Window will stay together forever. On a clear day, the view from the top of its tower across the city and its surroundings is unparalleled – you’ll feel the burn from the 275 steps you have to climb to achieve it, but every one of them is well worth the effort. If you’re visiting with kids, don’t forget to pick up a free-to-borrow Explorer Backpack. Inside, you’ll find a magnifying glass, colouring kit and torch so you can turn your child into a trainee history detective.
2. The Shambles
York is a mediaeval city and no street reminds us more of this than The Shambles. The street was once known as Flesshammel, translating as “to do with flesh”, and was home to the city’s butchers, the wide windowsills of the shop fronts doubling as alfresco meat counters. These days the butchers have gone and in their place dozens of quirky shops and welcoming cafés have sprung up.
3. Jorvik Viking Centre
The city’s famous Jorvik Viking Centre has been a firm favourite with visiting families since it opened over three decades ago. Step over the threshold and you’re transported back over a thousand years to a tumultuous time that saw England’s southern kings take back control of York after the murder of Eric Bloodaxe, the last Viking to rule the city. The museum’s exhibits are showcased on the actual site of the archaeological dig where they were uncovered and offer a fun and interactive experience that will transport you back in time to reveal the secrets of the past.
4. Dick Turpin’s grave
The infamous highwayman Dick Turpin terrorised north-west Essex in the 18th century, working with a gang of thieves to steal horses. In 1737 he shot a man dead in Epping Forest and fled north to evade capture, adopting the name John Palmer and fetching up in Yorkshire. Alas, old habits die hard and dastardly Dick was no exception, winding up in court in Beverly a year later for shooting someone’s cockerel. As evidence emerged linking him to the more serious crime of stealing horses, he was transferred to York Castle Jail. He was tried the following year at York Assizes and hanged on Saturday 7th April 1739. A gravestone in St George’s Churchyard bears the inscription “John Palmer otherwise Richard Turpin, the notorious highwayman and horse stealer”. There’s a twist in the tale, however, as the actual stone on his grave is thought to date from the 20th century. Experts believe his remains are in the churchyard somewhere, but no one is exactly sure where.
5. National Railway Museum
You don’t have to be a train buff to appreciate the collection of railway memorabilia, engines and carriages on display at the National Railway Museum. Famous names such as the Mallard, the world’s fastest steam locomotive, and Stephenson’s Rocket (albeit in replica form) draw the crowds year after year. Every exhibit bar one – a 1960s vintage Japanese Shinkansen – has some connection to British railways but the vast size of the museum ensures its collection is world-class. You’ll find a Wagons-Lit sleeping car that once ferried the rich from London to Paris, the historic Gaunless Bridge now reassembled in the museum’s car park, and many posters, uniforms, signalling equipment and more that tell the story of Britain’s enduring love affair with the railway.
6. Jacob’s Well
This fine mediaeval house was built in the 15th century and began its days as the home to some of the priests from Holy Trinity Priory before becoming a pub. Its porch isn’t original and was moved there in 1907 from another drinking establishment, the Wheatsheaf Inn on Davygate. Look carefully for the carvings. On one side, you’ll see a husband and wife embroiled in a heated argument but on the other the woman is now a widow and looks very happy to have got rid of her spouse! These days, Jacob’s Well is no longer licensed, but the city has a plethora of opportunities should you wish to try the excellent local ales. Try the evocatively-named House of Trembling Madness tucked away on Stonegate, housed in the oldest Norman house in York, which dates from the 12th century.
7. Whip Ma Whop Ma Gate
It won’t take long for you to walk Whip Ma Whop Ma Gate – it’s York’s shortest street though one with a long history. Back in the 16th century it was known as Whitnourwhatnourgate, meaning “What a street”, though some say the term loosely translates as “neither one thing nor the other”. The street’s present name is thought to derive from its former use as an area where criminals were flogged, though fortunately for today’s visitors that activity is no longer practised and the whipping post once found on site has long since been removed.
8. York’s Chocolate Story
The city of York is synonymous with chocolate and the list of its most famous former residents reads like a Who’s Who of wrappers on a sweet shop’s shelves. Joseph Rowntree learned his trade at his father’s shop in the heart of York city centre before opening the factory that Nestlé operates to this day, producing popular brands such as Kit Kat and Yorkie. The name Terry is also associated with York, its factory manufacturing favourites such as Terry’s Chocolate Orange and All Gold until it closed in 2005 when production moved elsewhere. That’s not all. Confectioners Cadbury and Fry have a close connection to the city as well, sending their sons to the Rowntree factory in the mid-19th century to serve their apprenticeships. It is no surprise, then, to find an attraction called York’s Chocolate Story. Chocoholics of all ages will enjoy a fully guided tour that begins in the rainforests of Central America and ends with a lesson in the art of 21st century chocolate-making.
Camp close to York
There you have it, eight attractions to keep you and the family busy during a long weekend or weekday break in one of the UK’s most popular cities. Sheriff Hutton Club Site reopens on March 31 2017 after the winter break. If you want to pay a visit before then, Boroughbridge Club Site is open year-round and is just a few minutes further away from York in the car.