York has always been one of my favourite places to visit both when I was still living in Yorkshire and nowadays on visits back home. With its rich tapestry of history, wonderful old cobbled streets, alleyways, the imposing Gothic minster not to mention the numerous little curiosity shops plus cafes and restaurants galore – suffice to say you’re spoilt for choice (see here for an earlier visit).
However on last month’s trip, there was only enough time to fit in a quick afternoon visit one day with my dad. With the bottleneck and one way systems in the centre of town we always use the Park and Ride and take the bus into the city centre. Getting off at Lendal Bridge there are attractive walks in all directions. We could have gone down to the River Ouse via the Museum Gardens or taken a tour along the city walls.
We were, however, making for Coppergate and the famous Jorvik Viking Centre which we discovered had recently reopened (courtesy of the advertising poster at the bus stop!) following extensive damage in the York floods of 2015. It’s about a 10 minute walk from Lendal Bridge and we skirted round the Minster, Deanery Gardens and the pretty Treasurer’s House nearby en route to the museum.
York’s history has always fascinated me – I can well understand why ghost tours are a popular attraction as there must be plenty haunting the old streets and buildings!
York has its origins as a Roman fortress town (becoming known as Eboracum at this time) and later as a trading city during the Viking period and middle ages. In the 1970s workmen came across some historical artefacts quite by chance during renovation works in Coppergate. This discovery turned out to be of major archaeological significance as over the course of the next few years the 10th century Viking city of Jorvik was unearthed. It led to a rethink of the Vikings’ links to the north of England as they had actually formed a thriving settlement here. Jorvik proved that they lived and traded extensively from this base rather than simply plundering and pillaging and disappearing back to their Scandinavian homelands.
The revamped Jorvik is an amazing experience. The famous interactive ride takes you through a re-enactment of the bustling town as it would have been in AD 960. The last Viking King in Jorvik, Eric Bloodaxe, had been banished and the city was once again a flourishing manufacturing and trading centre. It was also a cultural melting pot with Scandinavians, Anglo Saxons, Irish and peoples from far away in the East coming to and fro to trade. The animatronic figures are very life-like and the homes, furnishings, markets and animals (down to the rats!) have been recreated complete with the sounds and smells of the ancient town. The time travel ride (with commentary in many languages) takes about 16 minutes. You really feel you could be in the old town – it’s a great interactive way for people of all ages to enjoy history. The lighting was not conducive to taking too many photos inside so you’ll have to imagine the experience!
After the ride you can explore the museum exhibits in more detail including seeing some of the skeletons that have literally been unearthed. The gift shop, as always, is one of my favourite places to browse round, with a large range of books, jewellery, china, trinkets and toys – there is something for everyone here!
Wandering round museums is always thirsty work and we had just enough time to stop off for afternoon tea at one of our favourite cafes, Bailey’s Tearooms, before heading off back home!
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