York is widely known as England’s most haunted city. With its gruesome history of the Black Death, poverty, war, murder, genocide…it’s hardly a stretch to make this claim. The only thing scarier is not knowing what to do when your car is repossessed! Out of its history, York has produced some of the world’s best ghost stories. And York businesses are cashing in.
Businesses are taking advantage of York’s haunted history with offerings such as nightly ghost tours that take wanna-be ghost hunters out to tour famous sites, hotels, and pubs. Many hotels offer stays in their “haunted suites” at premier rates. Dozens of local pubs claim to be “the most haunted”. Yet, when you look past the spooks and tourist traps, York is a quite charming place to visit or call home.
Here are some charming places to visit. Who knows, you may see some ghosts along the way!
The Postern Tower, also known as the Barker Tower, is a small medieval tower located just before you reach the Lendal Bridge. It has served as a watch tower, a toll collection point for boats, and even as a mortuary in the 19th century for bodies found floating down the river.
The tower no longer has dead bodies, but instead houses the Perky Peacock Coffee Shop. The Perky Peacock is a charming cafe serving hand-crafted artisan coffees and a variety of traditional English savoury and sweet pastries. Inside, you’ll find quirky decor and a warm welcome. It’s a fantastic place to grab a snack before heading out to search for your next haunt.
Shambles and street markets
The Shambles are one of York’s busiest streets. This quaint, narrow street is packed with shops offering traditional English foods, boutique clothing, and fine jewellery.
The street previously was home to York’s butcher shops. You can still find some of this history along the way. The large windowsills, were meant to hold meats for display. Many still have hooks above them for hanging meats.
Saint Margaret Clitherow was a butchers’ wife, mother of two children, and outlaw turned martyr. She called Shambles her home. When Roman Catholicism was banned by Henry the VIII, Saint Margaret maintained her strong faith and offered refuge for Roman Catholic priests. When she was found out, she refused to denounce her faith and was killed.
Today, Shambles are a busy and thriving stop for tourists to view English medieval architecture. Tourists can walk, shop in many of the boutique storefronts, and grab a great selfie.
The Minster serves as the centrepiece for York itself, rising above all other buildings. It is one of the largest gothic cathedrals in Northern Europe.
Some say that the church was once attacked by God himself in July 1984.
A bolt of lightning hit the York Minster and sparked a fire that destroyed the South transept roof. It is believed that this was an act of God due to an unusual sermon the previous Sunday. The priest had announced that Mary might not have been a virgin, prompting the act. The restoration cost upwards of £2.5 million and took nearly 4 years to repair.
A medieval city wall, also known as the ‘bar’ walls, York’s walls surround the city and once served to protect it from outsiders.
Bootham Bar, Monk Bar, Walmgate Bar and Micklegate Bar are the four main gates to the city.
During medieval times, it was common for outsiders to trade with monks that lived inside the wealthy York monastery. Entering through one of the four bars was the only way to access the city and trade with the monks. Prior to entering through the bars, outsiders were harassed by guards and usually had to pay hefty taxes on goods brought into the city which hadn’t even been sold yet.
Micklegate Bar is the most important Bar as it was the only gate where the Queen could enter York. The Queen is required to go to the gate and ask permission from the Lord Mayor to enter the city. This is still practised to this day as tradition.
What would a visit to York be without visiting the Castle! Clifford’s Tower is all that remains of the original York Castle. It sits upon the motte (hill) overlooking York. Bring your camera or phone and be sure to grab some of the best panoramic views and selfie spots in the city.
Around 1190, Jews in York were under large amounts of prejudice since at the time, it was against Christianity to lend another person money. Typically, Jews were the only people who would offer loans at the time. A rumour spread that King Richard I decreed that all Jews be killed as tensions mounted over loan disputes. The people of York formed a mob and began killing any Jews they found. Around 150 Jews sought refugee in Clifford’s Tower, led by Rabbi Yomtob. The Rabbi encouraged the Jews to instead commit suicide in lieu of being killed by the local mob. The Tower was then set on fire and the bodies burned. Despite it’s dark history, Clifford Tower is still a must-see on your visit.