We started our second day in York with a visit to the National Railway Museum which houses 100 or so locomotives from the 19th century to the present day. Kids of all ages will love it here and adults will love the entrance price – it’s free.
We began by looking at some of the old Royal steam trains that ferried Queen Victoria and Kind Edward about. Everything was opulent, as you’d expect. Victoria’s carriages looked like a miniature palace, decked in blue silks with golden trim. Even the ceiling had gilded cornicing. King Edward appeared to have tried to out-do her with his duck-egg and mahogany smoking room. But King George’s carriages, built for touring the country in the Second World War, were much more spartan.
Moving through in to the main hall we entered the modern age with a large shinkansen display including a carriage that you can walk through. There are trains from all ages and countries in this large hall, including the 15 foot high Chinese locomotive whose wheels were taller than me. Don’t miss the Mallard – the fastest steam engine in the world.
For very little ones there is a play area and plenty of interactive displays for older children. We would not advise the miniature rides if you have a toddler who doesn’t understand that other children would also like a turn. The Cub’s shrieks echoed quite spectacularly around the hall so we took this as a sign to scarper, and quickly.
York city centre is a short walk from the railway museum so we wandered in and had another lunch at Wagamama. We then headed to Clifford’s Tower, the largest remaining part of York Castle, and the Cub and I made it to the top for a good view over the city. Bee had to stay behind as the Tower is not accessible for buggies or wheelchairs. The York Castle Museum just opposite is a worthwhile visit for slightly older children, who will think that the recreated Victorian street inside is fabulous. We didn’t attempt it this time but have been in the past. Instead the Cub had fun on a carousel and helter-skelter outside the museum entrance.
Another historical museum that covers a different phase of York’s history is the Jorvik Viking Centre just a short walk away from Clifford’s Tower. Unfortunately it was flooded at Christmas 2015, suffering a lot of damage, and is not scheduled to re-open until 2017. We would have taken the kids had it been open as it’s quite interactive.
You cannot visit York without either eating at, or buying from the shop at Betty’s Tea Rooms. Queues can be around the corner so visiting outside of lunch time is recommended. In the past we’ve had lovely afternoon teas here but our little ones can’t be trusted not to melt down in the sophisticated and quiet setting so this time we settled for a take-away macaron for the Cub, fat rascals for the husband and a slice of cake for me. All delicious!
Kids now exhausted, we headed back to the hotel for the evening. Before we had to leave the next day, we walked the city walls from outside our hotel to the city centre.
If you find yourself stuck for something to do on a rainy day you could do worse than touring York’s Chocolate Story to learn how chocolate was brought to York. Book ahead of time and allow an hour and a half. Tasting is mandatory!
As the weather gods were smiling on us we let the Cub blow off some steam in the Museum gardens where you can see the remains of St Mary’s Abbey left derelict in the 1530s on orders of Henry VIII during the dissolution of the monasteries.
The medieval hospitium, where visitors to the now ruined Abbey would have stayed, is one of the other buildings that can be seen inside the gardens, alongside the York Observatory and some Roman ruins. This is a lovely peaceful garden perfect for a picnic, but there are also riverside pubs here if you don’t want to pack your own lunch.
Sadly, we had to pack up and head home after our walk. I don’t think we did too badly for a couple of days, especially considering we had two headstrong little ones who don’t always listen to reason…
Still, there was much that we left undone – everywhere you turn in York there is something else interesting to look at. Yes, it can be expensive to visit, it’s often crowded, and yes, there are a lot of tourists. But where else can you visit with such a rich history, with so much of it so carefully and lovingly preserved?
Roman Ebacorum; Anglo-Saxon Eoforwic; Viking Jorvik; modern York. Which will you visit first?
This is our second post on York – you can read about our first day’s adventures in York here.