York and Hull

The Tay Rail Bridge

14 June – Dundee to York – The train trip to York was definitely one for enthusiasts. For a start, it ran on the Northern Line, the famous route between London and Edinburgh that was the source of much rivalry in the Golden Age of Steam, with the famous Flying Scotsman being the hero. We crossed two huge bridges, both considered engineering wonders in their time. The Tay Rail Bridge out of Dundee crosses the Firth of Tay with a length of 4.43km. It was opened in 1887, after the first one collapsed in high winds, taking down a train and everyone on it. The second major bridge is across the Firth of Forth to Edinburgh, with a length of 3.97km. This iconic cantilever bridge was named voted Scotland’s greatest man-made wonder in 2016. It was no steam train for us, unfortunately, but the new LNER Azuma train was fast, quiet and comfortable.

York Station is a sight to behold. It is the most impressive to date, not for its grand entrance or surrounds, but for the huge arching roof made of beautifully engineered steel girders. When it opened in 1877, it was the World’s largest. Its beauty is enhanced by the long sweeping curve of the platforms.

Views of York, with the rail station at top left

Out of the station, we were faced with the old city walls, dating originally from the Roman era, but mostly built in medieval times. There are 80% intact, and walking along the top from gate to gate is a popular tourist pastime. The walk to our apartment was beautiful, across the lovely stone Lendal Bridge as it crosses the River Ouse and through another gate in the wall called the Bootham Bar. Our first floor apartment was just down the road from Bootham Bar and proved spacious and comfortable. Even better, there was a Sainsbury’s within 100m and the Bootham Tavern even closer We unpacked, bought a few supplies and made our faces known in the tavern. Before retiring for the evening, we took a stroll around the immediate neighbourhood, admiring the many quaint little shops with display windows full of curiosities. It was a terrific location to be in, and a welcome change from staying a bus or tram ride away from the city centre.

The Bootham Bar and city walls. Our apartment is down the street lower left.

15 June – York – The day was spent walking the streets, and city walls. We completed two of the four sections of walls, from Bootham Bar to Monk Bar then later, Lendal Bridge to Mickle Gate. The wall is arranged with a parapet on the outer side and an iron balustrade on the inner side, but there was a long section that had no iron balustrade. Christine did not like this one bit, but was very good about it, and successfully negotiated it without plunging over the side. The great joy of York is discovering charming little shops, many of Elizabethan design, tucked away in lanes and alleyways. The towering York Minster seems to dominate the skyline wherever you are, totally changing in appearance as each new perspective is gained. Our walking app suggested a historical pub walk, and even though we didn’t follow it, we did come across a lot of the really old taverns and inns listed, including the Snickleway Inn, Ye Olde Starre Inne and The Royal Oak. Some of these date from the 15th Century and all purported to have one or more resident ghosts.

Views of York Minster

We were starting to think about lunch when we passed a place selling meals based around Yorkshire Pudding, so we were hooked. We shared a large pudding with pork, potatoes and gravy. To be honest, it was underwhelming. The pork and gravy was delicious, but the Yorkshire Pudding did not meet our expectations, certainly nowhere near as good as my mother’s, which came from my Yorkshire born grandmother.

By the time we were done for the day, we had covered more than 10km and were ready for a break.

16 June – York – We set out a little later in the day than usual, headed for the National Rail Museum, up the hill behind the station. This free entry museum consists of a large covered enclosure that houses a huge railway turntable and various locos and carriages parked on the spokes of the turntable. There are some wonderful trains, dating from a true replica of George Stephenson’s Rocket in 1829 to a Japanese Maglev train. One locomotive that really held my attention was a cutaway, with the insides of the boiler, pistons and firebox exposed to show the inner workings. I love that kind of stuff.

We strolled around admiring carriages and engines, chatting to a few other visitors, including another Aussie woman from Melbourne and generally enjoying a chilled time in a wonderful environment. Apparently, there is often far more to see but a half of the facility was closed for refurbishment. We found enough to satisfy us.

We hopped aboard a cute little “Road Train” that would take us back into the city and drop us at the York Ministry. From there, we walked through to the beautiful Museum Gardens, overlooking the river and holding the interesting ruins of St Leonards Hospital and St Mary’s Abbey. Finally, we headed to the Bootham Tavern to watch a bit of Test Cricket over a pint. There was another Aussie couple from Adelaide, and we spent a terrific couple of hours comparing notes, admiring the Australian batting prowess and sinking a few lagers, before grabbing some food from the Sainsbury’s and heading home to collapse.

17 June – Hull – A trip to the nearby city of Hull was planned to catch up with Sally, niece of a friend in Perth. Officially, Hull is called Kingston upon Hull, the Hull being a river flowing into the large Humber Estuary on Britain’s east Coast. It was about an hour’s train journey south of York. With Sally having only limited availability, we spent the morning exploring the small city. Over 90% of the city was destroyed during WWII, because it was a strategically important port, and so there are relatively few old building of great merit, and quite a few modern glass and steel structures. The two blend together well in Hull, and the central part of the city is interesting to wander through. The huge Humber estuary  and marina areas add interest to the town, although the very low tide left the River Hull as a winding sludgy mud path.

The town has an old quarter, with quite a number of Georgian style houses and commercial buildings. There is also a museum quarter, housing the main Hull Museum, the Street View Museum and the William Wilberforce Museum. All are free to enter and adjacent to each other, making a great place to go if you have the time to browse all three. We only admired William Wilberforce’s home from the outside, lacking time to go in, but his prominent place in the abolition of the slave trade is worth recognizing. The Street View Museum was wonderful, being composed of a series of recreated 19th Century streetscapes and shops, along with a lot of transport pieces from the 19th and 20th Centuries. We wandered the streets and soaked up the charming atmosphere, so quaint and quirky. The reality is that we would have been avoiding horse dung, pushing through household refuse and choking on the highly polluted air, but the presentation of the sanitized view of Victorian life was worth the experience.

The Street View Museum and William Wilberforce

We found the right bus and caught it out to the area where Sally lived, spending a lovely time filling her in on how things are in Australia for her aunt, before she drove us back into the train station for our return to York. Not much more remained of the day other than another trip to the Bootham Tavern, where we were in danger of being called regulars.

York has been one of our favourite British towns to date, partly because of the excellent location of our accommodation. There is so much to see and admire and so many wonderful little nooks to explore it is a must for any traveller to England. Tomorrow, we move to Newark on Trent.

Comments are closed.