York – Vikings and Squirrels

We started our final day in York with another sun-drenched walk into town by the river.  This walk was a lovely way to start and end each day, although we did have to watch out for cyclists occasionally blasting past.  On this particular day, we cut through the Museum Gardens.  The squirrels here are great fun, and really don’t seem too concerned about people.

Jorvik Viking Centre

Our first port of call for the day was the Jorvik Viking Centre.  This is a museum telling the story of Jorvik (as York was known in Viking times), and includes a ride through a reconstruction of the Viking city.  I’d heard about this place ever since I was a child; I remember my grandparents telling me that they had visited, and about the authentic Viking smells!  Naturally, it was always going to be on our travel itinerary for this trip.

It wasn’t exactly how I expected it, however.  The first hint of things to come was the fact that we had to queue for around 40 minutes to get inside.  Thankfully, the sun was periodically hidden behind clouds, which kept things cooler than they otherwise would have been.  There were a few guys dressed as Vikings who kept us entertained and we were able to ask them a few questions about the place.  Jorvik was actually severely damaged by flooding recently, and had to be closed as a result.  It has only just re-opened (in April this year).

Unfortunately it was so crowded inside that we did not spend much time at all in either the first exhibit (with information about excavations), or the final museum section.  There were so many people in there that we were having to jostle just to look at the various displays, which really spoiled it for me as I like to take my time to read the information and learn about the things displayed.  So while the ride through the reconstructed town was fun, this was a big disappointment.  This is not to say that Jorvik is not recommended; what I did see of the museum was very interesting, and I can hardly criticise them for being popular.  All I’m saying is that I would very much recommend that you avoid school holidays if you are able, especially if you wish to visit more famous attractions, like Jorvik, without feeling like you’re on the tube at rush hour.

York Army Museum

Thankfully, after the crowds at Jorvik, the rest of our destinations were actually pretty quiet, which was a blessing.

We visited the York Army Museum next.  This museum spans 300 years of history relating to the Royal Dragoon Guards and the Yorkshire Regiment, and includes a well presented collection passing through the Battle of Waterloo, the First and Second World Wars, into more recent times.

What I really liked about this museum was that you could handle some of the collection.  There was an instructor (ex-army himself I guess), who demonstrated and instructed me in the handling and (dry) firing of a number of firearms.

I imagine if the museum is busier, there may be a bit of a wait if you want to do this (I had to wait myself for a family before me to finish), but it certainly gives you a bit more of a feel of what you are learning about than the average museum.

Definitely a good one for young (and not so young) boys!

York Bus Tour

After a tasty lunch from a local bakery, we picked up a York City Sightseeing bus tour from the base of  Clifford’s Tower.  This was interesting, and gave us a bit more information about the city, along with some new scenery.  Can’t say that it did my sunburn any favours though; I finished the day looking like a tomato!

If you take a bus tour, you are probably best off (unlike us) starting outside the York Art Gallery (St. Leonard’s Place), as this is the ‘official’ beginning of the tour.  Though of course you can get on and off as you wish to visit places as you pass.

Also, watch your head near the racecourse as the trees may take a swipe at you!  I had to duck behind the seat in front at one point!

Fairfax House

Next up, Fairfax House; a finely restored Georgian Townhouse.  Each room has a guide who will talk you through the history of the house, answer questions and show you some of the features of interest.  It is well worth checking out if you have an interest in history, and I have to say was probably one of my favourite places we visited.

Be aware that no bags or cameras are allowed inside.  There are free lockers provided which you can use to deposit such prohibited items.

And there we have it!  A lovely anniversary and a great trip to a new city.  York is a great place, so if you are in the UK and looking for a city to visit, you can’t do much better in terms of history, architecture and chocolate.  🙂  Just avoid the school holidays!


Author: Andrew

I originally learned photography with my Grandad. When I was a child, I used to helped him develop films in his darkroom; I can still remember the smell of that place. My grandparents gave me my first film camera, and I’ve been taking photos ever since. My love for photography has grown through travelling the world and exploring other nations and countries. All captured through the lens. Click here to see some products made with my photos.

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