Back in May we took a day trip to York. It is somewhere that I haven’t visited since I was about 7. I posted over on Facebook for recommendations and my cousin reminded me of our trip with our Aussie relatives when I was little. It reminded me that I was probably very unlikely to remember much about York whatsoever.
Having a Two Together Rail Card we like to take the train from time to time. It kind of makes it a different kind of adventure too, which is nice. Plus, I can have a look at the surroundings and eat my breakfast simultaneously.
As you will know, I like to find places that you can adventure to from Manchester. To do this I do a bit of Googleing and looking at maps to work out places within day travel distance. York is one of the places that came up and somewhere that Jit has never been and I don’t really remember. Perfect for a day holiday outside of the city.
As with any new city we visit, our first port of call is the Visitor Information Centre. Yes, you can grab a load of stuff from the internet to get you going, but there is nothing quite like learning from a local. And a local that wants to show off the place that they love. It is people like that who share the best bits and the lesser known information. Anyway, we chatted to the staff and discovered a cat trail. It seemed like I might have just arrived in my spiritual home when I realised that they loved cats too.
On our way, we passed by the York Minster. I remember going up it with my cousins, but didn’t quite realise the scale of the building. We lingered only long enough to take some pictures as we wanted to get to the Cat Trail to start exploring! (and collecting cats, obviously!)
I follow lots of great photographers and Northern explorer and travelers, so I had high hopes for grabbing a shot of The Shambles. My luck was out. It seems you have to get there at the crack of dawn to avoid the tourists. So my pictures had to be done with people milling around. Something that I am trying to get better with, though, so it was all good practice in the end.
All the same, it was exciting to see the protruding buildings down the winding streets, people peering into the show windows and cameras at the ready for souvenir shots. It wasn’t long before we were joining in the fun, although we carried on wandering through to the Market Place. One thing that instantly struck us was the vast difference between the spaces. We were now in a whole new, modern, world with independent eateries with metal roofing. It was quite a difference, but absolutely lovely to see how the two could sit so well side by side.
We browsed the area for a few moments before remembering that we were only there for the day and heading out to find the trail we were hunting.
Walking in circles
Despite having about three maps on us, we managed to wander around in circles a few times. It was to get acquainted with the city – honestly! No, really, we did manage to get a bit lost trying to find the starting point of the cat trail, but checking out some little book shops, other narrow streets and corners made it worth the while.
I really do enjoy getting lost and just wandering as it gives you that bit of freedom to just follow your curiosity to discover something new. However, saying that, when you do only have one day and want to fit a lot in, you might want to follow the map and keep on track. We did have to keep reminding ourselves of this while we meandered and dawdled our away about the city.
After a bag of freshly cooked doughnuts and a little more direction finding we arrived at the Cat Gallery. Finally!
The Cat Trail
Of course, as a fully fledged cat lady, we just had to do the Cat Trail. It started at the Cat Gallery (can you spot the kitty?) and the leaflet gave a map and description to find the others. Eager and with camera at the ready we went off to discover all 22 of them. The leaflet is lovely, giving you some history and information about each cat as well as hints and tips for finding them. Some are pretty tricky! I’m not going to tell you all about it here (I could go on and on!) as I’ll share it in another post of its own.
One of my favourite things about the tour (other than the obvious) was that you really had to look at the buildings. You were looking upwards, around corners, scouring every inch seeking out the little kitty face. And in doing so you would find other interesting features, such as a face or piece of history.
The trail really is an excellent way explore the city as it takes you through The Shambles, the shopping areas and even along the river. We stopped to get our bearings again and also take photos of the geese that seem so at home on the banks. They didn’t even really mind the attention of the odd eager dog.
Doing quite a lot of city exploring this year, it is easy to start feeling familiarity in the places that you visit. Even when you have never been before. The Roman style of York bring up images of some of the places in Chester and Shrewsbury. Long rivers that cut through the city and winding walls (or streets where there were walls) around the perimeter. Not to mention the beautiful black and white buildings that now hose modern shops.
I’m not sure whether it is because I grew up on the Wirral peninsular or that I live by water now, but there is something special about a city with water running through. Whether it is a river or canal, it just brings that little bit of calm into the hustle
Cats and Lunch
When we set out on the cat trail, we never expected that it would lead u to lunch. cat number 7, Bob as he is known, just happens to be perched on the top of a veggie vegan cafe called Goji. We still had some cats to collect but duly noted Bob’s location on our map to return later on.
Carrying on, we collected the remaining cats along with the special extras then gave in to our hunger and headed back to the cafe. It was incredibly popular with queues to the door waiting for a table. Luckily they do take-away too so we ordered our food and went for a wander in search of a place to picnic while it cooked. A couple of circles later and a picnic plot in mind we returned to collect our burgers. Warm and delicious smelling we hurriedly returned to our sought out spot and began lunching.
Oh my goodness, I am getting hungry just thinking about the halloumi and portobello mushrooms with pesto sauce!! Mmmmm.
The Treasurer’s House
While we were having our picnic on the green behind the Minster, we noticed that there was a National Trust shop. Curious because they generally only appear next to Trust properties, we decided to head over for a look.
Oh, I should add that if you picnic here, you are likely to inadvertently become part of the backdrop for wedding photographs! However, if you are lucky, there will be no wedding, but the musicians will practice on the green – makes for a very pleasant lunch.
Anyway, back to the shop. We wandered over and saw a sign pointing to a little alley. Always curious, we followed it and discovered that there was in fact a National Trust property right in the heart of York! Membership cards in hand we headed straight inside.
I got so involved with chatting to the staff and volunteers inside the Treasurer’s House that I completely forgot to take photographs. Give us an excuse to return though, which I can’t complain about. But even the gardens are worth a visit. For something so grand and historical to remain hidden in the centre of a city is just magical.
With our surprise discovery of the Treasurer’s House we ended up with a little less time than expected for the remainder of our visit To make sure we made the most of the final hour we did a whistle-stop tour of the inside of the entrance of the Minster, a quick wander on part of the walls and to the ruins (to be honest, we didn’t really catch much information about these) and then back to the train.
As we meandered back to the station, past strewn stone coffins in the grass, we spoke about our return. Anyone who says you can see a city in a day has never really seen a city! Or certainly not seen all that it has to offer, anyway. There is so much more that we want to see in York and as it is not far on the train, a perfect excuse for another day trip out. It looks like Yorkshire is our home from home at the moment, doesn’t it? That and train travel!
For our next visit, I would like to take more of an audio walking tour. Something to help us to learn more about the history and what shaped the city. Any recommendations, welcome!
It takes just over an hour (about 1 hour 15 minutes) and around £37 for the two of us with our Two Together Rail card, I can’t really say no. It is a fun way to travel, you get to see all sorts of countryside and there is enough to keep you going throughout the day. I’m definitely looking forward to our next day trip to York.
Hoorah for rail cards and cities of delight!
Have you ever be on a day trip to York? What recommendations do you have for our next visit? Would you enjoy the Cat Trail?
Let me know in the comments.