I’m increasingly interested in exploring more of the UK, and in particular identifying great destinations that are within easy distance from London. A few weekends ago, Mum and I travelled to York to celebrate my Mum’s best friend’s 60th birthday. Although the celebrations took place in a hotel in a peaceful little village a half hour drive from York, we still managed to spend some time wandering the city on both Saturday and Sunday. The last time I visited York was a few years ago, so it was a real pleasure to be back exploring the beautiful, ancient city.
Our journey from London to York was under 2 hours, so it’s perfectly possible to visit York as a day-trip (or weekend stay) from London. We’d booked an early train from King’s Cross, so we pulled into York station at about 8.30am, feeling a little peckish and on the hunt for a good breakfast spot.
Exploring The Shambles
I’d had a suggestion on Instagram that The Flax & Twine cafe would be a good choice for breakfast and a lovely view across The Shambles, an historic (and very picturesque) street in the centre of York that is home to various shops and cafes.
Alas, I realised my Londoner’s mindset had entirely overlooked the fact that not everywhere would be open before 9am on a Saturday. The Flax & Twine, and all the other little teashops nearby, were closed until 10am. Still, we took the opportunity to explore the surrounding streets before the masses of tourists arrived (it’s definitely worth arriving early if you’d like some relatively people-free shots of this popular part of the city). Every little alleyway seems to lead somewhere interesting in York, whether to a beautiful timbered building, or an inviting bakery, and there’s also a market at The Shambles (open from 7am everyday) which is fun to explore. I thought of a friend back in London and picked up some Yorkshire fudge for him to enjoy.
After our walk, my growling stomach was getting harder to ignore, and a little research on my phone told me that No. 8 Bistro was a short walk away and served a highly acclaimed brunch menu.
A Wonderful Breakfast
I’ll have to go back to Flax and Twine next time I’m in York, but I’m very glad that on this visit I discovered No. 8 Bistro, as it was the ideal spot to enjoy a tasty brunch on a sunny spring day. The Bistro has a very pretty garden, which is overlooked by the City of York Walls, and was a haven of sunshine, peace and good food. We had the garden almost entirely to ourselves (it seems the city doesn’t really wake up until about 11am on the weekend), and it was a lovely place to relax over a cup of tea before tucking into our Full English breakfasts.
We had the full works: eggs, sausage, bacon, fried tomato and mushroom, hash-browns and black pudding, with toast alongside and copious amounts of tea. It was absolutely delicious, and I’d be happy for a visit to York to always start out with breakfast at No.8 first.
York Art Gallery
I was very keen to get to York Art Gallery to see The Lumber Room exhibition (ends 7th May 2017) curated by one of my favourite York-based illustrators, Mark Hearld. I’d been on a tour of Mark and Emily’s home and studio when I was last in York, so I was very pleased that this time I was able to catch his exhibition. It was marvellous, so much so that I want to dedicate an entire post to my time at the York Art Gallery alone, so look out for that very soon!
After seeing the Gallery’s main exhibitions, we had a little wander around the pretty courtyard next to it, before heading back to the train station (only a 10 minute walk away) to catch a bus to Boroughbridge and celebrate with the birthday girl for the rest of the day.
Some Practical Tips
// Pack sensibly. It’s colder up North! I didn’t bring a coat with me, but I was very glad to have layered a t-shirt, jumper and chunky scarf (I was lucky to be sent the latter items from TOAST, who noticed my love of their clothes from this post). Even though the sun was shining brightly, it was definitely chilly in the shadows.
// If you have extra bags with you, leave them at York Train Station so you don’t have to lug them around with you all day. It cost £7 per bag for the day (but prices may change or vary).
// Check opening times in advance! I’ve been caught out a few times now by having too much of a London mentality. The rest of the UK generally has much shorter opening hours and shops are often closed on Sundays, so be sure to plan ahead.
// If you don’t have a car, it can feel daunting to get out into the countryside. I was impressed by the bus system from York though, which is a tiny fraction of the cost of a taxi, and there are buses to pretty villages in the surrounding countryside, as well as to places of interest like the awe-inspiring Castle Howard. Be warned again though: for the most part, buses run on Saturdays, but often not Sundays! Check York bus times online, or pick up a timetable from the tourist information centre at York Train Station.
Stay tuned for my upcoming York posts, covering the fantastic York Art Gallery and how we spent Sunday in the city.
Have you been to York? What did you enjoy about your visit? Like me, are you keen to explore more of the UK?
P.P.S. Read about my Yorkshire adventures from a previous trip here.