york city walls and the minster

Discover the captivating city of York through a leisurely walk along its ancient city walls. These magnificent fortifications have stood the test of time, serving as a living testament to the rich history and cultural heritage of this enchanting city.

As you embark on this walk, you will not only be treated to breathtaking views but also gain a profound understanding of the importance of York’s city walls in preserving its historical and cultural significance. Join us as we delve into the intriguing past and present of these iconic walls, unveiling the stories that have shaped York into the remarkable destination it is today.

looking along york city walls

History Of The York Name

The name of the city of York developed over the time these walls have stood. In 71 AD the Romans founded the place called Eboracum, the Roman capital of what is now North England.

BaldHiker Retreats

Adding a sense of Roman importance, York was a place to stay for Roman emperors, including the fact that Constantine The Great (the first Roman Emperor to be converted to christianity) was proclaimed Emperor of the Roman Empire whilst in the City, by his troops.

In the 9th Century the Vikings invaded, took the city over and called it Jorvik. The Normans shortened that to York and has just about stuck since. Traces of the original Roman name, Eboracum, remain though, York Racecourse has an Ebor festival for example.

city of york emblem

History of the York City Walls

The York City Walls have a rich and fascinating history. They were constructed and developed over several centuries, serving various purposes and witnessing significant events. Here is a detailed section about the history of the Walls:

Construction and Development

  • The construction of the walls began in Roman times around the 3rd century AD. The original walls were made of earth and wood.
  • In the 12th century, the walls were rebuilt using stone by the Normans, who aimed to fortify the city against potential Viking invasions.
  • Over the following centuries, the walls were expanded and reinforced multiple times to accommodate the growing population and changing warfare techniques.
  • During the medieval period, the walls were strengthened with additional towers and gates, including the famous Micklegate Bar and Monk Bar.
  • In the 19th century, the walls underwent restoration works to preserve their historical significance and maintain their iconic appearance.
hstory plaque on york walls about romans

Purpose and Significance

  • The primary purpose of the York City Walls was defensive. They protected the city from attacks by various invaders throughout history, including Vikings, Scots, and other rival factions.
  • The walls also served as a symbol of power and authority, showcasing the city’s importance as a political and economic center in the region.
  • Additionally, the walls acted as a boundary, delineating the medieval city and defining its limits.
  • In later years, as warfare techniques changed and the walls lost their military significance, they became popular as a tourist attraction and a scenic walkway, offering panoramic views of the city.
section of york city walls

Notable Events and Stories

  • One notable event associated with the walls is the Siege of York in 1644 during the English Civil War. The walls withstood a 3-week siege by Parliamentarian forces.
  • The walls are also linked to the story of Dick Turpin, a notorious highwayman, who allegedly escaped capture by jumping his horse across the walls at Micklegate Bar.
  • The walls played a role in the 1900s when they were used as air raid shelters during World War II, providing protection for the city’s residents during bombing raids.
the small part of york walls near Walmgate

Planning Your Walk on the York City Walls

Best Starting Points

The two most popular starting points for the York City Walls walk are Bootham Bar and Micklegate Bar. Both offer convenient access and are easily accessible from the city centre.

Recommended Routes

There are two main routes for the York City Walls walk. The first is the full circuit, which covers approximately 2.5 miles and takes around 2 hours to complete at a leisurely pace. The second option is to do a partial circuit, which allows you to customize your walk based on your preferences and available time.

signpost on york walls

Duration, Distance, and Difficulty Level

The full circuit of the York City Walls is around 2.5 miles in length and takes approximately 2 hours to complete. The walk is considered relatively easy, with a few stairs and uneven surfaces to navigate. It is suitable for all ages and fitness levels.

Not Dog Friendly

Unfortunately no dogs except assistance dogs are permitted on the Walls.

people walking on york city walls

Points of Interest and Landmarks

During your walk on the York City Walls, you’ll come across several notable points of interest and landmarks. Some highlights include:

Bootham Bar

One of the 4 main entrances to the city walls, offering panoramic views of the city from its top. The archway itself is believed to date from the 11th century and the whole gateway dates back to the 14th century, it is one of the most well-preserved medieval gatehouses in York. It was originally built as part of the city’s defensive walls and served as an entrance for travellers and merchants.

bootham bar york

The bar features a distinct design with a double archway, machicolations, and a stone gatehouse. Its imposing structure showcases the defensive purpose it served in the past.

Name: The name “Bootham” is derived from the Old English word “boc” meaning “beech tree” and “ham” meaning “homestead.” It refers to the area where the bar is located, which was once known for its beech tree-lined road.

Notable Events: Bootham Bar has witnessed numerous historic events throughout the centuries, including battles, sieges, and royal visits. It played a role during the English Civil War when it was used as a defensive position.

Restoration: In the 19th century, Bootham Bar underwent restoration work to preserve its historical significance. Today, it stands as a prominent landmark and a symbol of York’s medieval heritage.

the york walls near Lendal

York Minster

The iconic cathedral of York Minster is located within the city walls, known for its stunning architecture and historical significance. It really is worth a long visit to of its own.

Clifford Tower

A medieval castle keep offering breathtaking views of the surrounding area. An iconic tourist draw with the ruin sat on top of a small conical mound. It is also known as York Castle. Built in the 13th century by William the Conqueror, it holds significant historical importance. Here are some notable events associated with Clifford Tower:

clifford tower

Construction: Clifford Tower was initially built as part of York Castle, which served as a symbol of Norman power in the region. It was constructed on the remains of an earlier wooden fortress.

Tragedy: In 1190, during the infamous York Massacre, around 150 Jews sought refuge in Clifford Tower from an angry mob. Tragically, they chose to commit mass suicide rather than face the violent crowd

Severe Damage: During the English Civil War in the 17th century, Clifford Tower faced considerable damage from Parliamentary forces. The tower’s interior was largely destroyed by an explosion, leaving only the outer walls intact.

Reconstruction: In the 19th century, Clifford Tower underwent restoration work to preserve its historical significance. The tower was revitalized, and additional features, such as a spiral staircase, were added to enhance visitor experience.

The Multangular Tower

The Multangular Tower is a historic structure located within the Museum Gardens of York, England. It is a part of the city’s ancient Roman walls, which were built in the 3rd century AD. The tower itself is a multi-sided structure with ten sides, hence the name “Multangular Tower.”

The tower is made of limestone and measures approximately 9 meters in height. It is one of the best-preserved sections of the original Roman walls in York. The walls and towers were constructed to protect the Roman settlement of Eboracum, which later became York.

gatehouse in york

Micklegate Bar

Micklegate Bar is a historic gateway located in the city of York, England. It has great significance in the city’s history and is one of the most important landmarks in York. The Bar dates back to the 12th century and was originally part of the city’s medieval fortifications.

Micklegate Bar has played a crucial role throughout the centuries. It served as a main entrance point for visitors and travelers entering the city from the South. The Bar also acted as a way to control access to the city, with its imposing structure serving as a deterrent to potential attackers.

Over the years, Micklegate Bar has witnessed several significant events. It was the traditional point of arrival for monarchs entering York and also served as a place for ceremonial purposes. It was here that victorious monarchs would enter the city in grand processions, while the heads of traitors were displayed on spikes as a warning to others.

Today, The Bar is also home to the Richard III Experience, which provides insights into the life and reign of the famous monarch.

Monk Bar

One of the best-preserved barbicans in England, with a museum showcasing its medieval history.

Monk Bar is one of the four main gateways in the city walls of York, England. It was built in the 14th century as part of the defensive fortifications to protect the city.

monk bar, York

Monk Bar has a unique feature – a barbican or outer gateway, which served as an additional defensive measure. This feature allowed guards to defend the gate more effectively by creating a narrow passage for attackers to pass through, exposing them to increased vulnerability.

Red Tower

As you walk the walls you will see the warm white colours of the limestone everywhere. Then suddenly you will see a red brick building near Walmgate Bar called Red Tower, imaginatively. As far as the wall towers go this is the only red brick one.

red tower in york

It was part of improvements to the wall made in the late 15th Century.

Barker Tower

This quirky looking building, by the River Ouse next to Lendal Bridge, the Barker Tower has a history. Constructed in the early 14th century as part of the city’s medieval fortifications, the tower served as a defensive structure and a gateway into the city. It was originally known as “Barker Halt” or “Barker Gate.”

barker tower in York

During its early years, the tower housed a prison and served as a residence for the city’s gatekeepers. It played a crucial role in protecting the city from external threats, including attacks during the English Civil War. The tower’s strategic location allowed it to control access to the city via the Foss Bridge.

Dining and Refreshment Options

York is packed with quirky and/or independent refreshment and dining options for during or after your walls walk. Here a few great examples:

  1. The York Roast Co.: Located near the Micklegate Bar, The York Roast Co. offers delicious roast sandwiches and other meaty delights, perfect for a quick and filling meal.

  2. The House of Trembling Madness: This unique pub offers a wide range of craft beers and ales, along with a selection of tasty snacks and platters. Enjoy your drink while admiring the medieval surroundings.

  3. The Star Inn the City: Positioned close to Lendal Bridge, The Star Inn the City showcases a stunning riverside setting. Indulge in their seasonal menu featuring locally sourced ingredients, and savor the panoramic views of the river.

  4. The Golden Fleece: Located near the Monk Bar, The Golden Fleece is believed to be one of the oldest pubs in York. Enjoy a traditional pub atmosphere along with a range of beers, ales, and pub grub.

  5. The Shambles Kitchen: Situated near the Shambles, this eatery offers a variety of street food-inspired dishes, including wraps, burgers, and salads. Grab a quick bite while exploring one of York’s most iconic streets.

  6. The Evil Eye Lounge: Positioned near Bootham Bar, The Evil Eye Lounge is a vibrant cocktail bar with a quirky atmosphere. Sip on their creative cocktails while enjoying the eclectic decor and lively ambiance.

  7. Brew York: Located near Walmgate Bar, Brew York is a popular brewery and taproom. Sample their wide selection of craft beers on-site or grab a few bottles to take home and enjoy.

york wall ruins

Conclusion

So, the walk along York City Walls is a perfect way to journey through the rich history and stunning views of the city. From the medieval architecture to the picturesque landscapes, this walk offers a unique perspective on York’s heritage.

If you are a first time visitor to the city then this 2.5 mile walk will make for a perfect introduction before exploring within.

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3 Comments

  1. Love York and your post brought back memories. Last time we were there the weather was atrocious so walking the walls was out of the question. However the museum provided shelter and hours of fascinating facts and exhibits.

    1. Paul Steele says:

      Hi Rosemary, yes indeed there is something for every weather there.. You must get back to do the walls 😀

  2. Gary Alan Henson says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful ‘hike’!

    I now have to add another place to wander when I get to this fair country.

    For me, I have to wait a while longer for retirement so I can travel. 😉

    Thanks!

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