Since Marcin and I moved to the UK to live here permanently, exploring this incredible island was always on the agenda. We have bravely took our first car – a white Volkswagen polo G40 – on a numerous trips around. During the ten years of living here, we have visited Devon, Scotland (4 times), Cornwall, Cotswold. Isle of Wight (few times) and many many towns, not mentioning exploring the National Trust properties across England. Our recent trip to York has proven that the United Kingdom has some hidden gems and you do not really need to spend a fortune to see incredible places.
One of the highlights of our trip to York was the famous Shambles – a charming labyrinth of tiny streets, with overhanging timber-framed buildings, some dating back as far as the 14th century! In the 19 century as many as 25 butcher’s shops were located here, but they have now disappeared, letting in local shops offering sweets and products of the local artists. In the middle of Shambles you can spot an incredibly bizarre market. One of the sellers was selling… a purified water for your body, claiming it’s got magical powers to cure you from any illness you might have…
During our stay we have manged to wander around the city and its ancient city walls (completely free!), visited York Minster (the tickets cost £10 per person as we could not climb the tower on that day, but they are valid for 12 months, similar to Winchester cathedral) and met the mighty Flying Scotsman at the National Railway Museum, conveniently located just a short stroll from our hotel.
York’s National Railway Museum is a home for over 300 years of history and over a million wonderful objects. It is amazingly spacious and available to visit for free! They will ask for a donation of £5.00 per person, and we gladly donated, but if your budget is very tight, there is no need to do it. So – you can explore for free!
The museum was opened at Leeman Road in York in 1975 in the ideal location – a massive former steam locomotive depot, just 700 m from York Minster. In the 90s the Station Hall was opened and almost doubled the size of the museum and today you have masses of ground to cover, if you want to see everything!
In 1999 the former diesel depot was added to the Great Hall and now you are able to see The Works – stores and workshops – from the gallery overlooking York station. There is a lovely balcony, which allows you to look across the station and observe the trains too! Apart from that the interactive display allows to widen your knowledge about the railway service.
The railway legend – Flying Scotsman – has it special place here too.
As I am writing this little post, I am aware that The Flying Scotsman is making his way across England and had visited Surrey yesterday!
The famous locomotive was named after the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) flagship service. The LNER worked hard to create a star which was the equal of 1920s most glamorous services. The company presented the locomotive at the pinnacle of modern engineering at the Wembley Empire Exhibitions in 1924 and 1925.
At the same time the LNER were pulling all out all the stops to impress passengers on board of The Flying Scotsman service. By 1930 carriages included every possible comfort, including reclining seats and a hairdresser! A cinema carriage and headphones for listening to an on-board DJ even made special appearances in the 1920s.
But that is not all. The Flying Scotsman was as well the first locomotive to reach 100 m/h speed! And this was measured on 30 November 1934.
The museum have the only Japanese Bullet Train outside Japan (speed of 270 km/ph can be achieved) and a collection of Royal carriages, from those used by Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth II. There is over 300 locomotives, 628 coins and medals, 4899 pieces of railway uniform and costume, railway equipment, documents, records, artwork and railway related photographs… Well, you are not going to get bored!
After wander around the museum, you can visit their lovely shop, located near the exit, so you can get some nice railway related souvenirs. Even though I am not a big fan of the trains, I have enjoyed our long visit! Do not give it a miss, if you are in York!
Opening hours 9-6, free entry, but donations of £5.00 welcome.
Address: Leeman Road, York, YO26 4XJ
It’s a 10 minute walk to the Museum from the center of town, and the route is well signposted. For more fun Travel straight to the Museum’s door from Duncombe Place (next to York Minster). Trips leave the Museum on the hour and half hour from 11:00* to 16:00, and depart from Duncombe Place every 30 minutes from 11:15 to 16:15. Trips cost is £2.00 each way per adult and £1.00 each way per child.