York never fails to deliver as a tourist destination.
Summer or winter, rain or shine, this gem of a city always offers something fresh for visitors old and new.
I slotted in a sneaky York spring break before the city - and county of Yorkshire as a whole - gets enveloped in Tour de France cycling mania this summer.
With the historic city walls bathed in warm sunshine and bursting with cheerful daffodils, it was a shame to venture indoors but a tour of the centrally-located Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, with its creaking floorboards, treasure chests and chilly undercroft (a former infirmary in a bygone era) called.
And with a church building seemingly on every corner, we found ourselves drawn inside to admire the architecture and discover more about their fascinating history. The Priory Church of the Holy Trinity, in Micklegate, shared its secrets about the area’s monastic traditions and another Holy Trinity Church (from the 15th century), this time in Goodramgate, showed off its historic box pews.
And no visit to York would be complete for us without a peek inside the Minster, which is undergoing major renovation work on its Great East Window. With new interactive displays telling the Biblical stories portrayed the intricate window, as well as guided tours, a trip to the Minster always reveals something new - and it has a great little gift shop, too, on the way out!
And the added bonus of the on-going renovation work is that visitors to York get a behind-the-scenes look at the skilled workmen and women creating the stonework and stained glass that will be on show for generations to come. We spent a lazy 10 minutes or so admiring the skills of the stonemasons working outdoors in the sunshine carving intricate designs with ease and a sense of humour.
And, of course, any trip to York would not be complete without our obligatory trip to the National Railway Museum and its exhausting array of trains and railway paraphernalia old and new. With free entry and interactive boards, the museum is a honey pot for rail buffs old and young, with the latest news on the Flying Scotsman, the Japanese Bullet Train and a Mallard simulator drawing the crowds in 2014.
With big-name High Street stores filling traffic-free streets and quirky shops packed into The Shambles, York is truly a shopper’s paradise while history buffs can get their fix at the ever-popular Jorvik Centre or the Castle Museum. Ghost hunters can get their fill on the evening ghost walks that set off from points aross the city centre, while York Dungeons are guaranteed to scare.
We found a two-day York Pass (costing £48 each) was a convenient and economical way to enjoy everything York has to offer, entitling you to entry to some 30 attractions in the city and beyong, as well as money-off vouchers to use towards trips and eating-out.
What’s for sure is that you need a comfy bed to rest those aching limbs after a hard day’s sightseeing and a big breakfast to set you up for for a busy day in York. We stayed at the three-star Mount Royale Hotel and it delivered in spades with friendly staff and an intimate atmosphere that can be sorely lacking in so many of today’s chain hotels. The garden suite we enjoyed was a tranquil haven just 10 minutes’ stroll from the ancient walls. We enjoyed sitting on our private patio enjoying the birdsong and garden views with the everyday hustle and bustle of city life seeming a world away.
The award-winning breakfast certainly lived up to its reputation, with locally sourced produce and generous portions served in the cosy, horse-racing themed breakfast room. The hotel also boasts the highly-rated Oxo restaurant if an evening trip into the city to eat seems just too much trouble.
An outdoor swimming pool, sauna and spa pool, along with a privately-run spa hidden away at the bottom of the garden, complete a great offering at the Mount Royale.
Want to find out more about York? Visit www.visityork.org
Find out more about a York Pass here: www.yorkpass.com
Need a great place to stay? Click here: www.mountroyale.co.uk