York – Walking the City Walls
York, where the rivers Ouse and Foss meet.. A place with a grand history. Almost two thousand years of history in fact that remnants of can be seen to this day. Take a look at the name of the City and you can see a passage of time in itself! In 71 AD the Romans founded the place called Eboracum, the Roman capital of what is now North England. Adding a sense of Roman importance, York was a stay for Roman emperors, including the fact that Constantine The Great (the first Roman Emperor to be converted to christianity) was proclaimed Emperor whilst in the City, by his troops. In the 9th Century the vikings invaded, took York and called it Jorvik. The Normans shortened that to York and has just about stuck since. Traces of the Roman name remain though… York Racecourse has an Ebor festival for example.
The walls you see today that circle the City are from the 13/14 Century, the most complete medieval example of its kind you will see in England. The Danes had buried the Roman walls under earth and the current walls are on top of that. There was a scare in the 18th century. The City’s administrators wanted to expand and grow with the industrial revolution. Old walls hindered that. Protests prevailed and all is protected as the top historic monument that can be seen today.
If you ever visit York, then a fantastic way to get your first glimpse is to walk the walls themselves. About 2 and a half miles around the modern inner city. I find myself that the tourists are all packed in the narrow streets of the centre and on parts of the wall you can get peace together with great views of the buildings within. And it is completely free.
There are lots of interesting points on the wall trail. Some historic and plenty of quirky. There are four ‘main’ gatehouses or ‘bars’ as they are called. Some have stonework back to the original 11th century. Monk Bar is home to the museum of Richard III, the last King of the House of York and was used as living quarters and small dungeons. The bars in medieval times, together with the walls enabled the extraction of toll payments into the City. Great little hidden cafes now sit inside a couple of towers and gatehouses. Absolutely charming spots to take a break.
Whilst treading the old stonework it can be surreal to look either side. Of course on much of the walls you can see history rising up in the shape of towers and the Minster, plus parts where archeologists have uncovered the Roman remains below. City life has swelled and modernised around too. Supermarkets standing where the moat once ended. Car parks and modern business buildings standing right where arrows once aimed.
At points the walls give way to the crossings of the rivers. The sun seemed to come out at this point today too! Bonus.
Again, I say these couple of miles is a great way to get introduced to the overall history and plan of the ancient city. There is of course plenty to see within the walls, York Minster stands tall from any section, teasing you in for a closer look. That will be where BaldHiker heads in the next post of course.