Complete with ancient Roman walls, a piano-serenaded cathedral and a castle tower encircled with daffodils, the city of York in England was another delightful find on my Wicked road trip around the UK and Ireland.
The drive was inspiring. Wind-swept views of wiry amber grasses, rocky outcrops and plunging gullies had me nagging at Dave to pull over every ten minutes so that I could photograph, frolic and take it all in. I made a mental note to come back one day when the weather was a little finer to enjoy some of the many walks that snaked across the fields and rocks.
We arrived in York around lunch time, keen for an afternoon of sightseeing. Leaving Panda at the free Askham Bar Park & Ride, just 2 miles out of York, we caught the bus into the city centre (£2.40 return) and explored the ancient stone walls, cobblestone lanes and buzzing town centre on foot.
The first attraction on our list was the imposing 13th century York Minster, which just happens to be the largest medieval cathedral in Northern Europe, seat of the archbishop of York… and jam location for pianist, Kieran White. While the stained-glass art and detailed spires were quite a sight, we didn’t linger too long or venture inside.
Instead, we joined locals and tourists in a casual walk along the famous York city walls, which hold about 2000 years of history and stones dating back to Roman construction. Although the walls stretch 2.5 miles, wrapping the centre of York, we only walked the corner behind the Minster, from Bootham Bar to Monk Bar. Along the way we found backyards to spy on, carefully tended gardens to admire and a cosy park bench to perch on while devouring our sandwiches.
Then it was time to find the Shambles, a tiny cobblestone laneway just near the York Market square that is full of tourist shops, niche business and tea rooms. While I did find the Shambles a bit underwhelming compared to some of the cobblestone alleys I’ve been lucky enough see, it was still worth a peek and is a good place to have a cuppa.
In the Shambles we found Feel Good Food, a little cafe that serves organic, free trade and nutrition-conscious eats/drinks, including delicious pho. The owner was a very friendly chap with a genuine interest in our travels. I was delighted by his enthusiastic approach and his apparent intrigue when Dave ordered, and then explained how to make, a piccolo (a “crazy Aussie coffee”).
Our last sight for the day was the highlight for me. The Castle, which was surrounded by freshly-bloomed daffodils, is oddly located in the middle of a carpark (short term pay and display) in the city centre.
I knew very little about it when we arrived in York, having only read about Clifford’s Tower in guidebooks. It wasn’t until I followed the confusing signs to The Castle and found Clifford’s Tower that I realised they were one in the same. The tower, which was originally built in the 11th century, then rebuilt in the 17th century and restored in the 19th century, stood calm and proud amongst modern buildings, cars and a main road.
While the inside of the tower was closed for the winter, I was too mesmerised by the daffodils to be concerned about missing an inside view of a really old building that had seen civil wars, fires and public executions… there were sunny flowers to admire!
By the end of the day my legs were ready to rest, my camera card was full of new travel snaps and my spirit was feeling particularly cherry from all those daffodils and the wild beauty of the Peaks District. I would definitely recommend a drive through the Peaks District and an afternoon in York.
Tips for doing York in a campervan:
- York has a few P&Rs to help you stash your camper and get into town without the hassle of expensive parking. Askham is free, huge and right near a big supermarket but doesn’t allow overnight camping. The Designer P&R also forbids overnight parking. We phoned them to ask for special permission, but they weren’t “in a position to help’”.
- We didn’t see many places to pull over to wild camp close to York itself, so we booked into the York Touring Caravan and Camping site, located about 10 minutes drive from York on the A64 towards Scarborough/Malton. We stretched the budget a bit, paying a whopping £18 per night for a grass pitch and 6-second button push showers (with non-adjustable temperatures). But, on the plus side, the park staff were lovely, the site was easy to find and the onsite cafe offered free wi-fi.
- Good places to start for info about York are http://www.visityork.org/ and http://www.york.gov.uk/
A shout out to Wicked Campers UK for the awesome van (Panda) and for making this trip possible. Loving every day of it!