A Day in Medieval York: Halls, Walls and Vikings
During a three-day road trip from Glasgow to York in September 2021, we visited Vindolanda and Housesteads Roman Fort before staying at Roker Beach, Sunderland, for two nights. One of the highlights of our trip away was a day trip to Historic York. We spent the day exploring this walled city, discovering its Viking past and Roman roots. We returned to Glasgow up the East Coast, stopping at Alnwick Castle and Lindisfarne.
History of York
We purchased a triple ticket for £18 each (lasts for 12 months) so that we could visit three of the best city-centre attractions – the JORVIK Viking Centre, the Barley Hall and DIG: An Archaeological Adventure.
Jorvik Viking Centre
The Jorvik Viking Centre is a museum and visitor attraction containing life-like animated figures and life-size dioramas depicting Viking life in the city at the Coppergate site at 5:30 pm 25 October 975 AD. You start the tour walking on glass flooring over the top of the recreated dig site. You then climb into small but comfortable carriages suspended from the ceiling and glide through a recreated street-scape. There is mood lighting, companion smells, conversations in Old Norse, dioramas of actual homes, shops and markets; even a Viking boat. It is a fun, historical time warp. You can then examine the museum, including tools and skeletons found during excavations. It’s fantastic!
At the bottom of the next picture, you will see the Lloyds Bank Coprolite – measuring 20cm (8 inches) long and 5cm (2 inches) wide; it is thought to be the world’s largest example of fossilised human faeces ever found. Also known as the Lloyds Bank Turd, it is the crown jewel of ancient poo, left by a Viking in York in the 9th century AD.
York’s Medieval Barley Hall
Described as York’s hidden Medieval townhouse, the Barley Hall was once home to the Priors of Nostell and the Mayor of York. The oldest parts of Barley Hall date from about 1360. York Archaeological Trust purchased Barley Hall in 1987 and was able to restore the site to its Medieval glory.
The video below explains the history of the building and highlights the extent of the restoration work.
I thoroughly enjoyed walking around the Barley Hall townhouse, exploring the rooms and learning about the magic and witchcraft of the day.
The Streets & Walls of York
No visit to York is complete without walking through the streets and along the walls. Remember to look up and familiarise yourself with the opening/closing times of the walls (gates to the wall) – read the signs so you don’t get trapped (thank you to the coffee shop owner that warned us).
DIG: Archeological Site
We did visit in the afternoon but thought it was more for family groups, so after a brief lecture and walk around; we left after about 20 minutes.
York City & North York Moors National Park
There are lots to see and do in and around York. We did all of the above in about 5 hours, including lunch. Next time we plan to explore York Minster Cathedral (the largest single expanse of medieval stained glass in the country), Clifford’s Tower (panoramic views of York), and North York Moors National Park (an International Dark Sky Reserve).
Here’s a gorgeous video I found in 4K…