Literary Tourism: York, United Kingdom

York City WallsYork is a city in the north of England that dates back to Roman times. It boasts some of the best preserved historical structures and buildings in all of Europe and is an easy two hour journey on the train from London.

Fans of historical fiction that includes the War of the Roses (Alison Weir and Philippa Gregory lovers, raise your hand!) can explore life in the times of Richard III and Henry VII. At Micklegate bar you can experience what Henry VII’s life was like before he became the first Tudor king of England and at Monk bar you can explore Richard III’s struggle for the throne. Both of these bars are ancient, so please note that disability access is limited.

Fans of viking history and Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxon Stories series will love to visit the Jorvik Viking Center (sadly closed until Spring of 2017 due to flooding). This ride/museum has viking artefacts exhibited throughout and shows how viking life used to be like. Exhibitions explore the details of viking trade, industry, everyday life, sanitation and health.

York Castle MuseumOne of the most famous landmarks of York is the York Castle Museum, which is the setting for Kate Atkinson’s Behind the Scenes at the Museum. Atkinson tells the story of four generations of women of a middle class English family who lives in in the city. Castle York Museum is wonderful to visit even if you haven’t read Atkinson, but if you have, make sure to visit the exhibition of facades of old houses from the city because they are similar to the main character’s house in the novel.

 

The house where English American poet W.H. Auden was born is marked with a plaque in the Bootham area of the city. A plaque for the American anti-slavery advocate and scholar John Woolman marks the place where he died in York during a visit where he contracted smallpox.

Because York is so ancient, it’s a city that many people claim are haunted. Indeed, Pamela Hartshorne’s Time’s Echo is set in York and it’s a haunted tale about spirits, past mistakes and finding peace. If this is the kind of stories you are interested in, York offers a myriad of ghost tours around the city – the only one I can vouch for is this one (very theatrical and all the stories told are meant to be real) – including a very cool ghost bus tour that looks pretty scary.

Stained Glass in York UKWhile the York Minster is the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe and it might be why most people take a trip to York, you might be more interested in the All Saints North Street church, which has a stained glass window depicting a woman reading. What’s cool about this woman – her name is Margaret – is that she comes from a merchant family who lived in the Middle Ages, and it was very rare for women of the bourgeoisie to learn how to read at that time.

But one of my favorite things to do in York is, by far, exploring the secondhand bookshops around the city. The Little Apple bookshop is across the street from York Minster and that’s where I got a Matilda tote bag (worth it!). Fossgate Books is located in my favourite part of the city, where there’s loads of independent shops to browse, and it’s full of dusty old books of all kinds. But my absolute favorite secondhand bookshop in York is The Minster Gate Bookshop: it’s housed in a five-floor Georgian townhouse that is filled with books, of all subjects, from top to bottom. Also, the street where it’s located used to be called Bookland Street. I would also recommend a visit to the York library in the city centre because libraries are the best.

During summer, York also has lovely parks to sit and read in. I wouldn’t recommend you do this in winter, but when the sun is shining this is something I do a lot. My favorite park is the Museum Gardens which are relatively close to the train station, so you could kill time reading there before taking a train back to wherever you came from.

 

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