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.

[box type=”info”]To help you get the most out of your time in York, pick up the Insight Guide to the city before you arrive. Help the site by buying the guide through this link; it won’t cost you a penny more![/box]

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 (one of several York attractions focusing on military history), and to a York favourite, the Castle Museum (all have entry fees, though there’s a discount at the Castle Museum for local 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.

[box type=”info”]For somewhere to stay near the walls in York, try Middletons Hotel on Skeldergate. Middletons also does a very nice Sunday lunch and owns the neighbouring gym (which I go to). Or there are plenty more accommodation options, including cosy B&Bs and budget hostels. Booking through these links doesn’t cost you any more and I receive a small commission which helps me run this site. Thank you :)[/box]

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.

York city walls tips and practicalities

  • They’re free! You don’t need a ticket – just find the nearest entry point and enjoy.
  • The walls are open every day from 8.00am until dusk, except on Christmas Day and days when there’s snow or ice.
  • They can be busy, especially during weekends and school holidays. A great time to walk York city walls is just before they 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, you can enter the city walls at Micklegate Bar, which is to your right if you exit the train station’s 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!

Day trip from York: Beningbrough Hall by bike

Beningbrough Hall makes a perfect day trip from York by bike. Here’s how to combine gentle exercise with a Georgian mansion, without ending up in a spin.

day trip from York - Beningbrough Hall by bike

… and we’re there *collapse* 😉

Cycle Route 65 from York to Beningbrough Hall by bike

The route from York to Beningbrough Hall forms part of National Cycle Route 65, which means loads of signposts and minimal chances of getting lost. Hurrah!

You’ll pedal along the banks of the River Ouse from central York (passing under the city walls at Lendal Bridge) on dedicated cycle paths, before joining (mostly) quiet country lanes.

The route is mostly flat, so you don’t need to be King or Queen of the Mountains, or even of the Mild Inclines! The most strenuous it gets is a couple of bridges over the East Coast Mainline railway line.

Arriving at Beningbrough Hall by bike

Happily, the National Trust, who run Beningbrough Hall, are well geared up for cyclists.

free brew on a day trip from York to Beningbrough hall by bike

free brew!

There’s a bike rack right next to the entrance, and cyclists can even enter the grounds for free for half an hour – to use the bathrooms, take a quick wander round, and grab all-important refreshments.

Even better, they’ll even throw in a free tea or coffee! Admittedly, it’s more of a “buy a snack, get a free brew” kinda deal, but a flapjack/brownie is practically the law anyway after you’ve spent all that energy, right?

If you want to explore for longer and go in the house itself, you’ll need to buy a ticket. They cost up to £12, depending on the season (more on that a bit later).

What to expect at Beningbrough Hall

Like many of the UK’s grand old houses, you can expect history, grandeur and gardens.

Outside there’s a formal garden with a lawn manicured to an inch of its life, plus the mandatory veggie patch (patch being an under-exaggeration!). Happily, they’re not so precious about the lawn that they won’t let you take a picnic on it.

There’s also parkland with some rather photogenic trees.

photogenic tree at Beningbrough Hall - a day trip from York

photogenic trees abound in Beningbrough Hall’s parkland

In the Hall itself there are super-helpful volunteers, who can give you the lowdown on its previous inhabitants. There’s even 300 china cups to represent the Hall’s 2016 300th anniversary. How can you not love that?

300 cups at Beningbrough Hall - a day trip from York

300 years, 300 cups

There’s also an affiliation with London’s National Portrait Gallery going on. Great if you’re into portraits, even more so if you don’t mind being a bit silly with the dress-up-as-if-you’re-sitting-for-a-portrait option 😉

Beningbrough Hall was home to Royal Canadian Airforce Servicemen during the Second World War. It’s one of many York attractions with an interesting military history. The Canadians used the nearby airfield as a base for raids over Germany. Many didn’t return, and their stories are told in some of the upstairs room. For me, this was the most captivating (and poignant) part of the house.

Practicalities of a day trip from York to Beningbrough Hall

Bike practicalities

If you’re making this day trip from York by bike, wear a helmet and take a lock. Go by car or bus instead if the river is flooded!

cycle helmets - Beningbrough Hall by bike - day trip from York

playin’ it safe with our cycle helmets

Bike Hire is available in York, including at Cycle Heaven at York’s Railway Station. Hire costs are £15 for five hours, or £20 for a full day.

National Cycle Route 65 is well signed. You can also download full details of the route here.

[box type=”info”]To help you get the most out of your trip to York, pick up the Insight Guide to the city in advance. Help the site by buying the guide through this link, at no extra cost to you.[/box]

Beningbrough Hall costs and opening times

Georgian mansion Beningbrough Hall - day trip from York

Georgian mansion? Don’t mind if I do!

Entrance costs to Beningbrough Hall depend on the season. During the Winter, only the gardens are open, and tickets are cheaper. For full details, see their website.

In the Summer, Beningbrough Hall is open Tuesday-Sunday and the Adult price is £10.80 or £12.00 with gift aid (a scheme that enables tax-effective charitable giving by UK tax payers).

In the Winter, the gardens are open and on weekends only. The Adult price is £6.30 or £7.00 with gift aid.

Children pay half price and family tickets are available.

Prices and information correct 7th June 2016.

Getting to Beningbrough Hall by bus

If you don’t fancy a bike ride, there are a couple of other options.

One is to drive, the other is to take the service bus from York to the nearby village of Newton-on-Ouse (a pretty village with two good pubs) and walk from there. The timetable can be found here.

However, no bike = no free brew 🙁

Tell us your tales of Beningbrough Hall. Did you go by bike? Where else would you recommend as a day out from York?

Returning home to the UK: reflections

[quote]Here’s to journeys near and far, short and long; to the people we meet on the way, and to those we come home to.[/quote]

I can’t believe it. My month-long trip from Budapest to Athens is at an end.

It’s been awesome. From the hospitality in Albania, to the Greeks who kept trying to overfeed me; from the architecture of Budapest to the “too cool for school” vibe of Zagreb.

As I spend my first 24 hours after returning home to the UK, I’m having a little reflection time – café latte in hand – on what I’ll miss most from my time in SE Europe.

Top 5 things I’ll miss about returning home to the UK

The weather

It’s been a sunny month in SE Europe. Factor 15 has been applied on a regular basis. T-shirts have been worn. I sit writing this wearing a jumper. And it’s not technically even “cold” yet. Boo.

Eating and drinking outside

returning home to the UK

Street-side dining in Athens, Greece

Outdoor coffee culture is alive and kicking across SE Europe – from the streets of Zagreb where seemingly the entire city is on a coffee break, to the wine bars of Ljubljana and the street-side dining in Greece.

Good value

It’s no good something being as cheap as chips if it’s rubbish. The whole SE Europe region was good value, with Meteora and Athens in Greece, and Ljubljana standing out for me.

At no point in my trip did I feel as though I was being ripped off. Example: a 0.75 litre bottle of water at Athens airport was €0.50. Try that in the UK!

Albania was the cheapest destination I visited; and also good value (with the possible exception of bus travel on some journeys – always cheap, just not always cheerful with it!)

Experiencing something new every day

Castles, galleries, new cuisines, the local firewater, meeting new people, learning about history of different places, wandering and getting lost, lakes, the sea, alternative architecture, cool street art. It’s gonna be hard to keep up the same level of wide-eyed wonder back home.

Convivial people

I felt welcome throughout my travels, even where language has been a barrier. It’s not as though us Brits aren’t friendly to people visiting our country, we sometimes just need a little more warming up.

And, for balance …

5 things I’m looking forward to most about returning home to the UK

Café latte

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a lot of good coffee during my month on the road. I’ve tried all the local concoctions: Turkish style in Albania, strong Greek coffee, to the practically inhaled variety that purveys on the streets of Zagreb. I’ve enjoyed them all, though I’ve drawn the line at coffee and a cigarette for breakfast.

Now though, I need lashing of lattes I can linger over a little longer in the British autumn. I’ve been back home less than 24 hours, and I’ve had two already. Bliss.

Cooking a meal

returning home to the UK

I’ve been to my UK equivalent of this place this morning. With fewer sausages.

The simple pleasure of cooking food. The food on my travels has been plentiful in the extreme and tasty to boot, but the freedom of making my own dishes is calling me. I’ve been to my local deli, butcher and greengrocer this morning to stock up.

Going for a run

Steps up to numerous castles in Albania and up the 498 steps of Torre degli Asinelli in Bologna have been good for my fitness, but only in a sporadic kinda way.

Plus I’ve walked everywhere; but … I miss the gym. God, there’s a sentence I didn’t think I’d ever write. I’ll be buying pay-as-you-go membership for the couple of months until my next trip.

Speaking the same language

In Albania I reacquainted myself with school-girl German and Italian in an attempt to find a mutual language in which to converse. I got by. Kind of. However, I felt a bit rubbish when I was only able to communicate in basic greetings – which has been the whole month if I’m honest. And knowing the Albanian for car wash hasn’t got me too far.

Catching up with my friends

I’ve missed you 🙂 I have a pub-filled social calendar for the rest of this week, where I’ll be raising a toast or two:

[quote]Here’s to journeys near and far, short and long; to the people we meet on the way, and to those we come home to.[/quote]

Cheers!

What have been your experiences of returning home after a trip? Do you find it easy or difficult to readjust?

What to expect on a yoga retreat

Ooh, it’s a while since I’ve used those hamstring muscles. That’s my initial thought, just five minutes into the first class of a weekend yoga retreat in Devon, UK.

Whether it’s for a holiday or as part of a career break, here are my tips on what to expect on a yoga retreat.

The format

Typically there are two classes a day, one in the morning around 8am, another in the early evening. Afternoons are usually free to do your own thing. what to expect on a yoga retreatClass intensity will progress gradually on each day and you’ll be surprised what you can do.

Retreats are a good opportunity to experience different yoga styles and their benefits. Some retreats have a more spiritual focus than others.

Top tip: Check whether the retreat suitable for beginners or those with more experience, and let the teacher know your capabilities in advance.

Where to go

I’ve been a participant on four yoga holidays in the last four years – two in Spain, one in Morocco and – most recently – a weekend in Devon, UK.

I love to explore, so I always check out what else there is to do nearby for those free afternoons. Many guests use that time to relax on the retreat premises.

Retreats are often located remotely, so if you want to explore you need to account for car hire or other transport costs.

How to find a yoga retreat

I’ve used yogaholidays.net, which has links to up-coming weekends, weeks and longer stays around the globe. Thailand, India, Costa Rica, Florida, Spain, Morocco, Turkey and Greece are just some of the varied locations on offer. The world’s your oyster. Or should that be your crab?

Other guests

In my experience, the average girl to guy ratio has been around 10:1. Age range is typically 30s-50s. Most people go on their own and are fairly sociable types. At fancier places you may find the odd mum and daughter combo.

Costs and what you get for your money on a yoga retreat

Prices for yoga retreats typically include your accommodation, yoga classes, and at least 2 veggie meals per day. Alcohol may or may not be available, depending on the nature of the venue.

Mid-range

This is my preferred option. Rooms may be shared with one other person, though you can usually pay a single supplement to guarantee your own space. Rooms usually have a simple en-suite bathroom, or a bathroom shared with one or two other rooms.

Weekend (2 or 3 nights): £250-£400 ($415-$660) exc flights

Week: £500-£750 ($825-$1240) exc flights

Locations in this price range will have landscaped outside areas to relax in. Think English country garden, Moroccan riad roof-terrace, or Spanish patio and pool.

Spare the pennies or splash the cash

Ashrams in India provide a more authentic and simple approach. The expectation is that you attend all classes, and it’s a no-alcohol affair.  A week booked in advance starts from around £200 in a shared dorm or room.

You can also find your own yoga class on your travels. I found a private lesson in Pokhara, Nepal for £4.

Luxury yoga retreats are all-out pampering holiday affairs in historical or otherwise beautiful properties. They come complete with spa treatments, but can reach the £2000 mark ($3300) for a week. Ouch!

My Devon yoga weekend

Fast-forward three days from my arrival in Devon. I’m stretched, relaxed, feel surprisingly invigorated, and uplifted and energized. Nothing can zap my energy. Not even the 7-hour drive home. When can I go again?

[typography font=”Cantarell” size=”10″ size_format=”px”]Exchange rates calculated on www.xe.com 2nd September 2014, rounded to the nearest $5, and based on a rate of £1=$1.65.

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What have been your yoga retreat experiences? What would put you off going on a yoga retreat? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Top 5 Yorkshire days out

Here’s a snapshot of five varied days Yorkshire days out in what us local folk call – without a sense of irony – “God’s own county.”

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Best for short walks with a bit of art thrown in

Barbara Hepworth. Henry Moore. Just two of the internationally famous sculptors whose works you’ll see in the countryside setting of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Even if you’re not too fussed about art or sculpture, the YSP makes for a pretty gentle stroll in rolling parkland (complete with woods and lake). Visiting exhibits include international names such Ai Weiwei, and are housed indoors or outdoors depending on their medium.

Practicalities

  • Free to enter. Car parking costs £8 per car for the whole day.
  • A bus runs from Wakefield and Barnsley, both of which have train connections to elsewhere in Yorkshire.

The North Yorkshire Coast

Best for picturesque fishing towns and villages, paddling in the North Sea, fish and chips

Top 5 Yorkshire Days Out - North Yorkshire Coast

Whitby harbour, with the Abbey in the background

Whitby – a bustling fishing port famed for Dracula and its Abbey. Reach the abbey by climbing – count ‘em – 199 steps.

Robin Hood’s Bay – impossibly pretty fishing village and former smugglers hideout housing numerous art, gift and bookshops. It’s a steeeeeep hill down to the bay, but there’s a top chippie (fish and chip shop) at the bottom. Just don’t eat too many chips before attempting the climb back up.

Runswick Bay – paddle your feet in the bracing North Sea and look back over the cute cottages that line the cliff down to the water. Good ice-cream can be found by the small harbour.

There are some lovely walks along this part of the coast; you can have some great Yorkshire days out walking from one town/village to another before cooling off in the North Sea – if you’re brave!

Practicalities

  • Car parking can be truly horrific on summer weekends, get there early (or late) to beat the rush and get a parking spot. Most car parks are pay and display.
  • A bus runs from Scarborough to Whitby via Robin Hoods Bay; an infrequent train goes from Middlesbrough to Whitby. Buses run from Middlesbrough and Whitby to Runswick Bay.

Rievaulx Abbey & Helmsley

Best for gift shopping and ancient ruins

Top 5 Yorkshire Days Out - Rievaulx Abbey

Rievaulx Abbey

Helmsley is a pretty market town around 20 miles north of York that comes complete with castle, a good craft and gift shopping scene, and a very upmarket spa. Popular with bikers, it makes for an enjoyable couple of hours roaming and browsing.

From Helmsley, you can walk the well-marked (sometimes muddy) footpath for three miles to the former monastery of Rievaulx Abbey (pronounced Ree-voh).

An audio guide provides a great insight into the history of the Abbey from the 12th-16th centuries, when it became victim of the Tudor dissolution of the monasteries. Don’t miss the on-site café, which has a mouth-watering selection of home made cakes.

Practicalities

  • Buses run from York, Scarborough and Malton to Helmsley.
  • Rievaulx Abbey costs £6.20 for adults (less for children/concessions); the price includes the interesting audio guide. Car parking at the Abbey is £4, which is refunded when you buy an entrance ticket. The Abbey isn’t open every day during the winter.

Brimham Rocks & Nidderdale

Best for releasing your inner child and getting outdoors

Get your boots on and explore the outdoor playground of Brimham Rocks and surrounding Nidderdale.

Brimham Rocks sits 11 miles west of the spa town of Harrogate, and is a top spot to scramble about. Go on, you know you want to! Some rock formations are for the hard-core only (ie for those with climbing gear), but for the most part you can pretend you’re seven again to your heart’s content and clamber where you will. Great fun.

Top 5 Yorkshire Days Out - Brimham Rocks

Releasing my inner child at Brimham Rocks

Walks lead directly from Brimham Rocks into surrounding Nidderdale, which is also home to several easily-walked reservoirs, and the pretty riverside town of Pateley Bridge. Pateley is also a good base for walks – most of which involve a steep uphill jaunt out of the valley at their start.

Practicalities

  • Entrance to Brimham Rocks is free, but car parking costs £5 for up to 4 hours, or £6 all day.
  • Buses run the route between Harrogate and Pateley Bridge, stopping 2 miles from Brimham Rocks at Summerbridge. Summer Sunday buses go directly from Harrogate to Brimham Rocks.

York

Best for museums and all things historical, city pubs

Top 5 Yorkshire Days Out - York

Wide-eyed and in jail at the Castle Museum, York

Ah, York. A thousand superlatives could be said about the place. From gentle walks by the river Ouse, to explorations of the famous gothic Minster, race days and live music; it’s a city that could easily keep you entertained for several Yorkshire days out.

The Castle Museum is a good bet for kids and adults alike. It’s brilliantly curated and will happily keep you occupied for a few hours. Visit the recreated Victorian streets, or lock yourself up in the old city jail.

In sunny weather, you can’t beat a walk around the old city walls. Call at one or two of York’s independent coffee shops en-route; or stop for a beer in the Lamb and Lion Inn, whose beer garden has a stunning view of both walls and Minster.

Practicalities

  • York is a mere two hours north from London by train. Tickets from the capital are expensive in peak hours and/or if you just show up. Avoid the main business travelling times and book in advance if you can.
  • Trains from York go directly to Wakefield, Scarborough, Middlesbrough and Harrogate to allow you to link up with the other sights here.

It was nigh on impossible to select just five top Yorkshire days out. What did you think of my recommendations? Where would make your list?