The Shambles is a quaint and very touristy area of York. In medieval days, butchers sold meat here on benches. Some shops still have the benches. Narrow and closed in, this street reminds me of when Frodo went to the Prancing Pony in Lord of the Rings.

Well, we did only one walking tour whilst we were in York and we chose the best value tour.  Actually best value because it was free!  Only on Fridays at 10 am in front of the Art Gallery for those of you who like free walking tours. I can’t remember what it’s called, but if you Google it, you might find it.  Otherwise, if you miss this mob, which we so very nearly did having taken too leisurely a breakfast, there are heaps of other paying walking tours.  We did not do those, but I understand they are about 8 “squids”.

The walking tour was around 2 hours and really good.  The lady gave a good commentary on all major sites. Of course, York is so old. Every corner has a story. Having spent much of last year reading Philippa Gregory’s Tudor series of books  and watching David Starkey’s Monarchy series (as substitutes to reading history books), it was amazing to actually visit some of the sites where major events took place.  We visited the old palace, now the University of York’s Medieval Studies, which was the location where Katherine Howard met up her lover (name escapes me) and was apparently watched by Henry VIII. It was what led to her execution for treason.

Coat of arms from Old Palace, now Department of Medieval Studies, York University.

We also visited St Mary’s Abbey, now in ruins, due to the Reformation and the dismantling of the Catholic Church in England and all of its assets. It’s sad wandering amongst ruins and looking at the footprint of the building.  All of the stone taken to build many a castle or country house.

Abbey ruins

Around the many areas of York, the guide would point us to the Roman section, and then the Medieval section, and then the Norman section etc.  Whilst a bit confusing to follow sometimes, I still got a real sense of history going back 1500 years which to me, makes York absolutely fascinating.

York's medieval wall built on top of old Roman wall in this section.

I was also very excited to visit the Holy Trinity church, which was built around the 12th or 13th century.  It is a “stubby” little church, rather squat looking and built with an extremely heavy base to support the ceiling.  All this is before flying buttresses allowed builders to go higher and higher into the sky.

Interior of Holy Trinity church. Short and squat, the interior is very dark and gloomy, made worse by the heavy boxed pews belonging to various families in the village. In those days, masses were 5 hours long.

I could go on and on.  In just 2 sq. miles, there is enough history to keep an academic or two busy for their whole lifetime, and then some.

We also visited the dungeons of York, or rather, York Dungeon, sister (or brother) to the London Dungeon.  If you’ve been to London Dungeons, York Dungeon is pretty much based along the same theme.  But it is smaller, though not the price.  Whilst very good, the downside is that I knew what to expect. Some stories were new, but they were all in the same genre.  Overall, it took us only 50 minutes to cover York Dungeon, which I felt was a massive rip-off.  At least the experience in London Dungeon was at least an hour and a half.  So, here’s some advice from a tourist who likes to do all the main attractions:  “You can really give York Dungeon a miss.”

A couple of other attractions I did not do that (in hindsight) I would have like to do are Fairfax House, which is Georgian mansion that is furnished as it was in those days.  It’s situated very close to Clifford Tower.  Probably only relevant to those who like looking at architecture, buildings and furnishings. Unfortunately, my company (aka family) are not into admiring buildings, so I never get a lot of support when I want to see these attractions.   The other attraction is a Ghost walking tour.  Given York is such an old city, there are lots of creepy corners at night. But it was very cold during the time we were there, and hibernation felt like the wiser thing to do.