There is a rather popular film out in the UK at the moment called The King’s Speech. It is about King George VI. One thing I know about George VI is that he once said that “the history of York is the history of England” and he was pretty right about that. York is one of the great cities of England.
If you are lucky enough to be there anytime soon then try this walk out. You can begin at Bootham Bar, one of the old gates into the city and formerly guardian of the main road to Scotland.
Here you can see remains of the old portcullis in the gate and begin to understand the purpose of barbican gates. In York the word Bar means gate and Gate means a street (blame the Vikings). If you have plenty of time, you can begin climbing onto the city walls here at Bootham Bar. Walk in a North Easterly direction (keeping the Minster on your right hand side) descending at Monk Bar and walking into Goodramgate (Monk Bar still has the original machinery for raising and lowering the portcullis and in Goodramgate you will pass a little row of houses built in 1306 and some of the oldest in England). Turn right into College Street passing St. William’s College. Bear right along Queen’s Path into the Minster Yard. You will see a Roman column on your left which was part of the Roman fortress. If you don’t have time for the walls now, turn left through the gate and walk straight ahead for 3 or 4 minutes to the Minster, the dominant site in the city and very deserving of a visit inside.
Once you get back outside, turn down Low Petergate which was originally one of the main streets in the Roman fortress. At the end of Low Petergate, cross over King’s Square and into The Shambles. It was on this street that butchers plied their trade in the Middle Ages, and today’s shops still have the wide window ledges that were used as counters by the shopkeepers. The Shambles is one of the best preserved medieval streets in Europe, and the buildings are so close that neighbours can reach across the street to shake hands! The house at number 35 is a shrine to Saint Margaret Clitheroe, a young butcher’s wife, who was pressed to death in 1586, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, for being a Roman Catholic. A wooden door was laid on top of her and stones were piled upon it until she died. The shrine is very small, but it is worth a look. At the end of The Shambles you reach York’s smallest street, although it has the longest name Whip-ma-whop-ma-gate. Turn right here and right again into Parliament Street, where you will find lots of stores and the centre of modern-day York. Parliament Street leads in to Davygate, where you will find the famous Betty’s Tea Rooms, there is usually a queue to get in but it is well worth it!