This has to be one of the coolest places we’ve seen so far. York as a whole is a really beautiful city, with the Minster and the Shambles (that post is coming soon!) …. but my favourite part was the city walls. York has more miles of city walls still standing than any other city in England, and some of those walls date back to Roman times! In the first century CE, the Romans built a fortification on the banks of the River Ouse and called it Eboracum. The walls of this small town became the base of the medieval walls that still stand today.
By the time the Danes occupied the city in 867, the walls were pretty crumbly. Luckily they fixed the walls up, and added a few towers for additional protection. At this time the city was called Jorvik, which then became the current-name York as the language was twisted. Many of the walls were again updated in the 12-14th centuries, and this was when the three famous “bars”, or gates into the city, were added.
Bootham Bar, Monk Bar, Walmgate Bar and Micklegate Bar, served as entrances and toll booths to the town. History/Literature fans may recognize Micklegate Bar as the scene of Queen Margaret’s infamous lines from Shakespeare’s Henry IV: ” Off with his head and set it on York gates; So York may overlook the town of York”. You see, during the Wars of the Roses, the town of York actually favoured Lancaster. When the Duke of York was killed at the battle of Wakefield in 1460, his head was stick on a pole overlooking Micklegate Bar. But don’t worry, a bit afterwards his son was crowned king as Eduard IV, and he had his father’s head removed and replaced with his enemies’ heads!
Apparently Monk Bar is home to the Richard III museum, which I’m really sad that we missed! (I’m a Richard III apologist, you know.) So now we definitely have to go back!
We entered the wall by this cool looking tower, and then up a long flight of stairs to the top. It’s really cool that the walls are still standing, and are pretty much left alone! I kept thinking that this kind of thing could never exist in the US, because of safety reasons. You can easily fall off the side and go for a harsh tumble! Some of the higher sections of wall did have a safety rail, but most of it was wide open to the grass below.
Alex made me post for this ridiculous picture through the window of the tower. We were totally mocked by some passing locals, because I guess every tourist does this, but I don’t really care. I was definitely geeking out at the turret!
The top of the wall is only 3 to 4 feet wide, so you have to be a little bit careful. And since there has been some weathering, the edge can be slant downwards. About halfway through our walk, I commented that the nicest thing about being up there was the complete lack of baby strollers! And then, of course, we saw one coming around the corner.
After you pass over the Micklegate Bar, you get to this section along the north edge of town. There is an amazing view of the Minster in the distance. It was really lovely! This section also has the least amount of drop down to the grass.