How to spend a full day walking York city walls

This locals’ guide to York city walls features several hot spots that make this English city so special. Plus: I include some insider tips about the off-wall places you shouldn’t miss.

You could walk the 3.4km around York city walls in an hour or so. But, take in sights and the occasional pub en-route, and that hour could easily stretch into a day – and night.

York city walls at Lendal Bridge

Yes, the walls even have in-built coffee shops. This one’s The Perky Peacock under Lendal Bridge.

Start with a good breakfast

If you’re going to be on your feet all day, give yourself a good dose of fuel to start with. Begin your York city walls walk with breakfast at the Brew and Brownie on Museum Street. Their all-day pancakes are to die for. Get there at opening time though, as tables are in demand. The visitor information centre is a couple of doors down.

Start your York city walls tour at Bootham Bar

A “Bar”, in York city walls terminology, is not somewhere to buy a lovely glass of wine or a fancy cocktail. Oh no. It’s the ancient term for a Gatehouse. In the case of York, the gatehouses are stone structures or towers the size of several houses. They were used as tollhouses or defensive positions to guard what was once England’s second city.

There are four large and two small Bars around the walls, and they’re all pretty photogenic. Start your York walls walk at Bootham Bar, which is next to the De Grey Rooms.

If you were hoping a bar was secret code for “pub”, more of those later!

Go clockwise to York Minster

You’ll soon look over the beer garden of the rather fine Lamb and Lion pub; overshadowed by the Gothic splendour of York Minster looming before you.

The Minster’s current exterior dates from the 13th century. There’s a fee to get in for non-residents, but the views from York’s walls are free.

Continuing, you’ll overlook gardens and fancy houses galore. York St John University (on your left), the Treasurers House and the Quilt Museum (on your right), before arriving at Monk Bar. The tiny Richard III Experience is located inside this Bar (joint ticket with the Henry VII Experience at Micklegate Bar).

Sadly, the walls aren’t continuous (boo, hiss), so – about 10 minutes after Monk Bar – you’ll need to get off them at a particularly unattractive road junction opposite a carpet store. Walk with the waterway on your right and the entirely unglamorous retail units of Office Outlet and Halfords on your left, before rejoining at Red Tower.

Walmgate Bar

After rejoining the walls at Red Tower, you’ll reach recently-restored Walmgate Bar after only a few minutes. If you fancy a restorative cuppa you’re in luck, as it’s home to the rather fine Gatehouse Coffee.

York Gatehouse Coffee - York city walls walk

Yes, it really is a coffee place in a “bar” – one of my fave places for a brew in York

Clifford’s Tower and the Castle Museum

Moving on from Walmgate Bar, you’ll pass the Barbican – a venue for concerts and the occasional snooker championship – on your left, before arriving at York’s former castle, just past the Travelodge. Clifford’s Tower is the old Castle Keep. It’s run by English Heritage and offers fine views of York from the top.

Clifford's Tower York - York city walls walk

Clifford’s Tower – even if you don’t pay to go in, it makes for a good photo 🙂

York Army Museum - York city walls walk

At York Army Museum
– who can resist dressing up?

From here you can also detour to the fascinating Army Museum, and to a York favourite, the Castle Museum (all have entry fees, though there’s a discount at the Castle Museum for residents with a York Card).

In the Castle Museum you can get locked up in the old city jail, and wander the streets of a very plausible Victorian York. It’s the kind of place you can have fun for hours. It also makes for a brilliant stop if the weather isn’t kind to you.

From the Castle, cross the river over Skeldergate Bridge, where you can rejoin the walls or keep going straight ahead for a minute or two for a little off-piste detour.

You’re in locals’ territory here. This is Bishy Road – Great British High Street of the Year and a slightly gentrified but very lovely little row of shops, mostly of the independent variety. It’s also round the corner from my home; so I admit I’m rather biased in loving it!

For a bite to eat, I can highly recommend Sicilian bistro and gelateria Trinacria, the bustling Pig & Pastry or the fabulous Robinsons. If you’re after something stronger, The Swan pub is a good bet.

Micklegate Bar

Rejoining the walls at the end of Skeldergate Bridge, continue to Micklegate Bar, which houses the Henry VII Experience.

York city walls - Micklegate Bar

Micklegate Bar. Not bad for a city entrance.

If you didn’t have a Bishy Road lunch stop, another option here is Your Bike Shed Café, just below the Bar. Brigantes, slightly further down the hill into town on your left, is a fine pub/bistro option; or you could mix it up with a tasting and/or tour at York Brewery.

York Brewery - York city walls walk

The York Brewery tour – you get a tasting at the end of it 🙂

Keeping on the walls, you’ll soon see York’s magnificent railway station on your left. You can detour here – it’s a ten-minute walk (signed through the station) to the free and fun National Railway Museum. Like the Castle Museum, there’s entertainment to be had for kids and big kids alike.

Finish your tour of the walls with a beautiful vista of York Minster straight ahead with you. At Museum Gardens grab yourself an ice-cream, and sit in the sun (optimistic here, this is England, after all!) under the remnants of St Mary’s Abbey to enjoy it. Bliss!

the view down to York Minster from York city walls

Looking towards the Minster on the home stretch of this York city walls walk

Best time to visit York city walls

York city walls - March daffodils

Don’t miss the March daffodils

March, without a doubt. Spring is in the air and the daffodils are in full bloom. There’s no finer sight.

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York city walls tips and practicalities

  • They’re free! You don’t need a ticket – just find the nearest entry point and enjoy.
  • They’re busy, especially during weekends and school holidays. A great time to do the walk is just before dusk (the walls close at dusk) – you’ll have them pretty much to yourself.
  • Many stretches of the walls have sheer drops to one side; not to be tippled over when tipsy. There are also steps galore.
  • York is half way between London and Edinburgh. If you arrive by train, Micklegate Bar is to your right as you exit the train station at its main entrance.

Have you walked York city walls? Did you manage to complete the circuit without stopping at a pub? Tell us all about it!

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4 Responses to How to spend a full day walking York city walls

  1. Anna Grant 22 October 2017 at 5:34 pm #

    We’ll be using this to help keep two 12 year old boys entertained when visiting later this, week. Army Museum is definitely on the list now. Thanks Julie

    • Julie 22 October 2017 at 8:42 pm #

      Thanks Anna 🙂 There’ll be dressing up, I hope! Have a fab day out, Julie

  2. Michael 6 March 2016 at 10:36 am #

    Some wonderful tips here. My favourite stretch is definitely between Micklegate and Lendal Bridge, with the station on one side, the Grand Hotel on the other and the Minster straight ahead, though the corner between Baile Hill and Micklegate runs it close. Also really like the Phoenix Inn just inside the walls by the Barbican. A little further up the street is the purported grave of Dick Turpin, though it’s always looked suspiciously modern to me…

    • Julie 6 March 2016 at 11:49 am #

      Thanks Michael 🙂 I’d forgotten about The Phoenix – great pub; not been in there for ages. I had no idea that’s where Dick Turpin’s grave was – need to brush up on my York history, methinks.

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