Thursday, May 8, 2014

York, England

Executive summary by darmansjah

YORK’s rich heritage is woven into virtually every brick and beam. Its spider’s web of medieval streets are enclosed by a circuit of 13th-century walls and, at its heart, lies one of the world’s most beautiful Gothic cathedrals, York Minster.

The whole county celebrates Yorkshire Day (1 August) while June, July and August are good for walking, as well as horse racing at the Ebor Festival. Autumn and winter are atmospheric, with the St Nicholas Fayre Christmas market a highlight (24-27 November).

Major airlines fly from Singapore and Malaysia to London. From Edinburg or London, take the National Rail to York. Alternatively, National Express operates bus services to York from Birmingham, Newcastle and London Victoria.

BEST FOR HISTORY built in 1220-1480, York Minster encompasses all the major stages of Gothic architectural development, from the 13th-century chapterhouse to the decorative-style nave and the Great East Window – the world’s largest medieval stained-glass window (01904 557200; 9am-5pm Mon-Sat, noon-3.45pm Sun; minster US$14).

BEST FOR WALK the city walls for a new perspective on the city. Start in the botanical Museum Gardens or at Bootham Bar, on the site of a Roman gate, where multimedia exhibit provides some historical context (8am-dusk; free guides at

BEST FOR CRUISES for a waterborne tour of Saxon and Viking battle sites and where witches were ‘ ducked’ in the Middle Ages, take a York city boat cruise on the River Ouse (01904 628324; 10.30am-6pm Feb-Nov; cruises US$12).

BEST FOR ANTIQUES Coney Street, Davygate and the adjoining streets are the hub of York’s shopping scene, but the real highlights are the antique, bric-a-brac and second-hand bookshops, which are predominantly in Micklegate and Fossgate (01904 635888).

BEST FOR EXCURSIONS the work of architect Nicholas Hawksmoor, the great Castle Howard is full of treasures, such as the chapel’s Pre-Raphaelite stained glass (01653 648333; house 11am-4.30pm, grounds 10am-4.30pm; house and grounds US$20).

The blue bell is what a real English pub should look like: a wood-panelled room with a smouldering fireplace and 18th-century décor. Staff are friendly and efficient, and you’ll find Timothy Taylor and Black Sheep ales on tap (01904 654904; 53-Fossgate; no food served).

Betty’s serves afternoon tea the old-fashioned way: all waitresses in white aprons and linen tablecloths.  The house speciality is the Fat Rascal – a huge fruit scone smothered in a butter (01904 659142; St Helen Square; mains from US$10, afternoon tea US$24).

Near Castle Howard, the Stone Trough Inn is a traditional country inn serving gourmet pub food. Try the pork and herb sausages with thyme-scented mashed potato and real ale gravy (01653 618713; lunch and dinner Tue-Sun; mains from US$14).

Melton’s is one of Yorkshire’s best restaurants, with a sophisticated menu featuring locally sourced produce transformed into elegant, but unfussy dishes (01904 634341; 7 Scarcroft Road; lunch and dinner Tue-Sat; mains from Us$24).

At J Baker’s, superstar chef Jeff Baker pursues his own vision of Modern British cuisine. The ironic 70s-style décor is echoed in a menu offering clever interpretations of classics such as macaroni cheese (01904 622688; 7 Fossgate; lunch and dinner; two/three-course dinner US$36/US$44).

YORK is easy to get around on foot. Alternatively, hire a bike to tour the city centre from Bob Trotter Cycles (US$24 per day, £50 deposit; 13-15 Lord Mayor’s Walk). Pick up a free cycle map from the Tourist Office on Museum Street.

The Dairy Guest House has six cottage-style rooms with pine furnishings arranged around a flower-filled courtyard. It’s lovely Victorian home that has retained many of tis original features, including stained-glass windows and cast-iron fireplaces (01904 639367; 3 Scarcroft Rd; fro mUS$128).

The Golden Fleece offers four distinctive, Gothic-themed rooms above a bar in what claims to be York’s most haunted pub. Located in the medieval centre, all rooms have great views over the pitched roofs (01904 625171; 16 Pavement; from US$144).

The Mount Royale Hotel is a grand, early 19th-century listed building converted into a luxury hotel, complete with a solarium, beauty spa and swimming pool. The rooms in the main house feature four-poster beds and period furniture. Opt for a garden suite, reached via a corridor of tropical fruit trees and bougainvillea (01904 628856; The Mount; from US$169).

Part of the Best Western group, Dean Court Hotel is a gracious Victorian building that once housed the York Minster clergy. You won’t find a better location and superior rooms have fantastic views of the cathedral (01904 625082; Duncombe Pl; from US$232).

York’s top spot is the 17th-century Middlethorpe Hall, a country house set in 20 acres of parkland. Rooms are spread between the main house, restored courtyard buildings and three cottage suites. Those in the main house are the grandest with period details (01904 641241; Bishopsthrope Rd; from US$318).

The Eye Has It if you like your bars a little out of the ordinary, the Evil Eye Lounge is for you. It has a unique and very surreal feel. You enter through a shop into the bar and den, and there are even beds upstairs! The long bar must have every alcohol under the sun. it is total cocktail heaven ( 42 Stonegate; cocktails fro mUS$8).

A Popular Haunt Supposedly York’s most haunted pub, the Punch Bowl boasts not one, but two ghosts and a fascinating history that goes back more than four centuries – taking in two major fires and a spell as the tavern of choice for whig, the punch-drinking political party, along the way. It is now the perfect spot for real ales and hearty pub grub. Try to arrive around midday for lunch as it does get crowded, and do be sure to try one of their fine pies ( 7 Stonegate; pies from US$12).

Gorgeous Georgian Fairfax House is an excellent example of a Georgian townhouse with well-reconstructed and friendly guides in each of its rooms with obvious enthusiasm for their subject. From drawing room to kitchen, it has a lived-in feel and offers a glimpse of Georgian home life (Castlegate; open mid-Feb to 31 Dec; admission US$9).

Find out more get to grips with some of the most famous characters and episodes in the city’s history with Alison Wier’s Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses (US$16; vitage), for further details, see visityork.

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