With only a few months left in Leeds before I graduate, leave the (York)Shire and venture into the realm of forty-hour working weeks (quel horreur!), I fully intend to make the most of the time and ensure that I visit (and revisit, as the case may be) as much of this beautiful county as possible! York is a picturesque walled city with a rich cultural and historical heritage that is sure to impress confectionery connoisseurs, architecture enthusiasts and history buffs alike . . .
Conveniently, York is a mere twenty minute train journey from Leeds (on a fast train) and with reasonably priced off-peak day return tickets it’s a budget-friendly day trip. Upon leaving the station we were greeted with the stereotypical northern drizzle, which stubbornly persisted for the entire time we were there! Tant pis, allons-y . . .
Leaving a walk round the city walls for later, we headed straight towards the centre of town, following the aptly-named Station Road and crossing the (now not overflowing*) River Ouse. A wander down Stonegate brought a glimpse of York Minster, the city’s magnificent Gothic cathedral, the renowned Bettys tearoom . . . and a toyshop, dedicated entirely to teddy bears, complete with a giant one stood outside the shop!
Since it was already past twelve, we ventured into The York Roast Co. which serves delicious roasts in sandwich form, or, alternatively, in a giant Yorkshire Pudding. Their classic pork roll, filled with stuffing, apple sauce (complete with chunks of apple) and crackling, makes for a pretty substantial sandwich.
Next we ventured to the picturesque medieval street known as the Shambles; the name is somewhat ironic, since the vast array of independent tearooms and gift shops on this street are anything but a shambles! This historic street was once an open-air market and slaughterhouse hence the name; the term shambles means slaughterhouse or meat market, but the word has now slipped from common usage. Once voted Google’s ‘Most Picturesque Street in Britain’, a coup d’œil at its overhanging half-timbered buildings and wrought iron shop signs is enough for any visitor to recognise the charming character of this beautiful street.
For chocoholics (or, as the French say, amateurs de chocolat), York’s Chocolate Story is located just off Lower Petergate, round the corner from the Shambles; we felt the price was a little steep (especially as it’s not actually a working factory like Cadburys) so gave it a miss on this occasion. Instead, we wandered along Lower Petergate towards York Minster. There is an entry fee, but don’t be put off as a 2-4-1 offer can be obtained via Northern Rail if you’re travelling by train. The interior of this stunning Gothic masterpiece is well worth seeing, even if you just take a peek and don’t opt for the guided tour.
After a brief wander around the (small) bit of the cathedral that can be visited for free, we headed back towards the centre of town, whereupon we stumbled across Saint Martin’s Church. It had the cutest little gargoyle ever, shaped like a little dragon . . .
Having already contemplated a visit to the famous Bettys tearoom, we decided that it necessitated a visit, if only to decide for ourselves whether or not it lived up to its reputation. Bettys is a family-owned chain of tearooms across Yorkshire, which is perceived as the ultimate place for afternoon tea in the region. The Ritz of Yorkshire, if you like. York, rather conveniently, has two of them: the larger one on St Helen’s Square is always jam-packed, with queues often stretching down the street, whilst a few streets away, on Stonegate, is another Bettys with much shorter waiting times and a more peaceful atmosphere. Unsurprisingly, we opted for the latter. Whilst their signature “Yorkshire Fat Rascal” buttered scone is extremely overpriced, at £4.10, their Yorkshire Cream Tea is a better option, offering two scones, with the essential jam and clotted cream, and a pot of tea for £9.95. Still a little pricey, but arguably the most economical way to experience afternoon tea at Bettys. We also discovered that while it was pitched as a “teapot for one”, it actually made about 4-5 cups of tea! Although it was nice to have been a scone is a scone – and next time I’ll be perfectly content to bake myself a batch of twelve for less than the price of one at Bettys.
Before catching the train back to Leeds, we decided to go for a brisk walk around the walls . . . or, rather, as brisk as the slippery path with no handrail would allow us! On this visit, we ran out of time to revisit the National Railway Museum, but if you like locomotives it’s well worth a visit, as it’s free and is conveniently located near the train station.
*For context, this is what it looked like at the end of December: