Historically, York is Yorkshire’s greatest treasure. It is an ancient settlement, established even before the Romans set up the camp of the Ninth Legion here in AD71, and was conquered successively by the Saxons, the Vikings and the Normans. The town of York grew up at first between the Rivers Ouse and Foss. In the Middle Ages the city walls were enlarged; remains of these walls can be seen in the photograph.
York’s famous Minster, the largest medieval cathedral in northern Europe, dominates the city. The first church on this site was built when Paulinus, sent with Augustine to convert the English, baptised Edwin, King of Northumbria, in AD 672. The present building, now expertly restored after the disastrous fire in the south transept in 1983, dates mainly from 1200-1480.
In the northern part of the city, in a 10-acre botanical park now known as the Museum Gardens, can be seen the remains of another of York’s great churches, the Benedictine Abbey of St. Mary, founded in 1080.
To the left of the gardens, on the edge of a small square, is Bootham Bar, the northern gate of the city, and the only medieval gate to stand on the site of a Roman one.
The west bank of Ouse is less rich in historic buildings than the east bank but it was here that the Romans set up their camp as a base for subduing the North of England. However, York is teeming with wonderful sights, even on the west side of the city, including the wonderful Skeldergate Bridge.
There is also a continuous, well-preserved section of the medieval city wall on the west side of the river (such as here, looking up Station Road, towards the Minster) and, by the station itself, is the excellent National Railway Museum. York became an important railway town largely through the efforts of the draper George Hudson.
In the heart of the city stands a curious little quatrefoil building on a high mound. This is Clifford’s Tower, built between 1245 and 1259 on the site of a motte and bailey castle raised by William the Conqueror. The place has a grisly history: the rower’s name derives from the Lancastrian leader Roger de Clifford, whose body was hung in chains here after his execution in 1322.
No visit to York would ever be complete without an amble down one of its most famous attractions; The Shambles.