Out and about in York – discovering the legend of The Flying Scotsman.

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.

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A weekend in York – wandering the old city walls

I was scanning the UK map carefully, looking for a perfect place to get away on a short weekend trip. Since I am a huge fan of English cathedrals, York was an easy choice. The famous York Minster awaited!


The location of the B&B we stayed in was more than perfect. Just 5 minutes’ walk from the incredible National Railway Museum (this place deserve a separate post!) and less than 10 minutes from the York Minster (post is coming your way!).

After visiting both places, we have decided to go for the York City Walk! The evening wander on the city walls, from one unique Bar to another, was a perfect end to our day.

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The views from the walls were incredible. Without realizing we have walked about 3.4 kilometers! The walls are beautifully preserved and are the longest medieval town walls in England. Apparently about 2.5 million people walk along all or part of the City walls each year! If you decide to do it, you must have at least 2 hours at your disposal.

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In 1642 Civil War broke out between King Charles I and Parliament. York reminded loyal to the King and in April 1644 was besieged by a Parliamentarian army commanded by a Yorkshireman Sir Thomas Fairfax. Charles’ nephew, Prince Rupert, was sent to help York with an army of 15.000 men. He forced Fairfax’s troops to break off the siege and retreat. While in pursuit, Rupert he suffered a crashing defeat. The siege was renewed and lasted until 16 July 1644, when the devastated Royalist Army opened Micklegate Bar and marched out in surrender.

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Despite its proximity to one of the main areas of fighting Micklegate Bar was not damaged during the siege. It was protected by the nearby Royalist Fort on the mount, which held out against Parliamentarians who described it as “a curious and strong work”.

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Next stop was Multangular Tower, which we have almost passed by, as the map took us to the park and we got confused at first. But we have quickly managed to find the tower and were ready to keep going further.

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During our wander we have discovered that the tower was added later on, in the time of the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus, from 209 to 211, although the walls were originally constructed in 71. About nine meters tall this is the only remaining defence tower.

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The next stop on the map was Bootham Bar – the gateway almost 2000 years old! Roman legions marched through it towards present day Scotland. The earliest parts of what reminds date from 11th and 12th centuries, although some of the stone was reused from the original Roman gate. In the 19th century a section of city wall, which originally linked Bootham Bar to the fortifications, was demolished. These fortifications, still visible across the street, were not part of the City Walls, but they were built to protect the Abbey of St. Mary, which stood just outside the city.

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The next was Monk Bar – the tallest (measuring 19.2 m) and most ornate bar in York. The majority of it was constructed in 14 century and the forth storey was added by King Richard III. There are rooms above the gateway, which originally gave access to the murder-holes, where enemies could be fired down! Today they house the Richard III Museum.

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Walmgate Bar was next. This is the most complete gateway in the City Walls. The oldest part of the Bar is 12 century archway, part of a small gatehouse. It existed when they were only earth ramparts, before the stone walls were build. Look carefully and you might be able to see a 15th century wooden gate.

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The last stop was Fishergate Bar – the inscription above the central arch commemorates William Todd, the Lord Mayor of York, knighted by Henry VII, for his support against Lambert Simnel, a pretender or claimant to the English crown. In return for the honour Lord Mayor Todd paid for the restoration of 55 meters of city walls.

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The tour was nicely planned and allowed us not to get lost, as the City Walls are not complete and sometimes to get from one point to another you need to go down and try to figure out the best way to be back on track. By using the map – we did not get lost!

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A perfect walk – Blenheim Palace.

The smell of roses hit my nostrils before I saw it – perfectly designed and hidden away, easily accessible and incredibly enjoyable rose garden.  It  shares space with the view over the lake, hidden on it site. Each corner hosts a bench you can sit on and rest, drinking the incredible smell of roses and enjoying their rainbow colours.

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Gloucester’s stairway to Heaven

The top of Gloucester cathedral was surprisingly spacious. The roof was padded with steel sheets and surrounded by pointy towers. We could freely walk around, guarded by metal barriers on one side and rocky fences on the other – the centre of the roof was inaccessible. I looked down at the town stretching below. There was no end to it on any side of the square roof.

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The tour of Gibraltar – the airport, St. Michael’s cave, the great Siege tunnels, the rock and the apes.

A thick cloud was hanging over the rock of Gibraltar. Its greyness made the rock looking heavier, more awkward. The sea below lost its deep blue colour. From the top of the rock you could see all ships mooring in the bay. They looked like slowly sinking into deep water. The sun we had during our first week in Spain has decided to take a day off. Today I missed it more than ever.

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A fairy-tale land – Scotland.

Today I am feeling like packing my bags, leaving my job and going away. No plan, no destination. Free myself from responsibility. Make my life a little less purposeful and defiantly more fun. In some ways travel gives me that freedom, but it is a temporary freedom. I am always back to square one – back to reality, with bills, work, same people every day, same routine. Breaking this routine would be brave and freeing at the same time. Breaking this routine would be much more fun than I have at the moment. And recently the “fun factor” became much more important than trying to fit into the life the majority people live or dream about living. The so called “normal”.

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Urquhart Castle – on the banks of Loch Ness.

The fog we spotted just before leaving our caravan has disappeared by the time we arrived at Loch Ness. The mystery of the monster was lurking around but the only thing I wanted to admire today was the loch and the ruins of the Urquhart Castle. Just a few white clouds wandered above our heads, before the sun pushed them aside. Ruins of Urquhart Castle, spellbound by time, were sitting in exactly the same spot I saw them for the first time five years ago. The thought struck me as silly. Why would anything change within five years if the castle been here, more or less, since XIII century?

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