If you’re in need of a weekend away, but don’t want to spend too long travelling, then York offers a beguiling combination of history, food, events, culture and shopping…
York is a fabulous city for a short break. Airbnb offer over 300 choices, so you’re bound to find something that suits. Most of the large hotel chains have a presence, but The Parisi, Middlethorpe Hall & Spa, and Grey’s Court all fit the bill for an upscale stay, while Hotel Indigo offers a central locale, and a modern design at an affordable price.
A visit to the Minster and an amble round the city walls will set you up nicely for lunch. If you fancy trying the local delicacies, by which we mean Yorkshire puddings and local craft ales and cider, then try the Chopping Block and Walmgate Ale House. As with most cities, there’s a huge variety of cuisine on offer, so if you have a sudden desire for something Vietnamese or Eastern European, then you’re in the right place.
History buffs will delight in the Jorvik Viking Museum, which is also great for kids. Aside from historic trains, the Railway Museum also offers a chance to eat in old-fashioned elegance on board the dining car of the Countess of York.
The city is home to some fascinating events and festivals throughout the year. Easter brings York’s Chocolate Festival. June sees York invaded by the Romans for the Eboracum Roman Festival with re-enactments and living history events. If you like your history a little more modern, then the North Yorkshire Moors Railway hosts a 1960s festival in mid-July. December is, as you might expect, a festive feast of Christmas Markets and fairs.
If you’re feeling gothic, try an evening ghost tour by vintage bus, or take the kids for a trip to the York Dungeon. They’ll love the mix of plague, torture, rebellion and witchcraft on show. A day trip to Whitby offers some excellent fish and chips. Whitby Abbey inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and if the idea of mingling with 20,000 Creatures of the Night appeals, Whitby also hosts a Goth Weekender twice each year in April and October.
The train takes just over five hours from Aberdeen and deposits you just outside the city’s ancient walls. Not only will you arrive refreshed, but it means you don’t need to swear at the sat nav as you try and navigate York’s peculiar ring-road and one-way streets while trying to find your hotel. Train fare pricing remains one of the great travel mysteries of our times, so it’s best to check for special offers with operator LNER up to three months ahead, or check out split ticket pricing. Working a month ahead, we found singles priced between £21 and £129. The return journey always seems to be a little more expensive. If you can travel at a cheap time, then upgrading to first class can offer a bargain in terms of comfort and little extras. Last minute booking will put a major dent in your spending money, with rail prices only about £70 less than
a cheap return flight to New York!
York even offers a medieval twist on shopping, with the Shambles, a higgledy-piggledy collection of cobbled alleys. If you want to avoid the crowds, go early, as this is Europe’s most visited street. It’s like a set from Harry Potter, with its half-timbered buildings and projecting upper storeys. You’ll even find several Harry Potter themed shops selling merchandise and potions!
The Shambles originally housed the city’s butchers, but now you’ll find lots of independent and quirky little shops nestling alongside some unusual places to grab some refreshment. Try Monkbar Chocolatiers or Hebden Teas for a treat.
Gillygate offers Love Cheese, which has over a hundred cheeses to choose from and Sore Thumb Retro Games. Pop in and try explaining to your children about the days when you had to type your game programme into the Spectrum and being wildly excited when the squares on your portable TV changed colour! Marvel at the graphics on the Commodore 64. Still on a retro theme, Dog and Bone Vintage, on Castlegate could be the place you discover the perfect outfit. Old Sole is an amazing shoe shop whose owner trained in Florence. You’ll find it on Swinegate.
Stonegate is home to The Pyramid Gallery which stocks a wide variety of pieces from artists and craftspeople. Stonegate is also home to several antique centres and antiquarian book shops for those who enjoy rummaging around for treasure.
The Bath House on Low Petergate offers an artisan collection of scent, bath and beauty products all made locally, or you could head out of the city to Wold’s Way Lavender at Malton, which is one of the UK’s few lavender farms.
Whether you’re looking for a family break, a trip with friends or a romantic few days away, York’s definitely worth a visit!