TRAVEL: Total MK enjoys a mid-week break in Christmassy York

It is day three of our mini-break, and as we stand, shivering in the York chill,  we are warmed by the festive feeling that envelops us - and the steaming cups of mulled wine help too!

Around and about, carol singers are united in song, shoppers are snacking on roasted chestnuts and hot breath meets cold air from the excited chatter of youngsters anticipating Santa's visit.

York doesn't merely 'do' Christmas, it is the very essence of the most wonderful time of the year.

We're at York's Christmas Market, making good on our promise to enjoy a few days of seasonal delight, and the many stalls here selling all manner of lip-licking liquor certainly help with that.

But the ancient city is ripe for history lovers too, and so we brave the biting winds, and heavy showers and travel back to Viking-Age York with a trip to the centrally located Jorvik Centre.

Less than 40 years ago, archaeologists exploring the site where the museum now stands made startling discoveries - uncovering the houses, backyards and workships of the Viking-Age city, as it was 1000 years ago.

We are taken straight onto a state-of-the-art time capsule which quickly rolls back time and we engage with the sights, sounds and even the smells of the Viking Age!

It's so good that you will want to repeat the experience, and so you can - your entry ticket allows re-admittance for 12 months.

When the anicent city has been explored, hop off the ride and explore the rooms of artefacts - from preserved shoes and coins to fossilised Viking poo.

Yes, it's all here, including the skeletons of some of those who lived and worked the area.

By comparison, the Richard III Experience at Monk Bar is smaller, but it is also rich in history, and a whole lot less busy.


Tucked inside York's famous city walls, it tells of power and conflict in the reign of the last Plantagenet King of England.

Unsurprisingly the 'Two Princes in the Tower,' said to have been snatched in Stony Stratford, figure here.

It was a brutal, bloody time in English history, and a 30 minute long documentary brings home the horror; this is a story of cousin fighting cousin, and of brothers and lovers being hacked to death in a war that untimately proved pointless.

Your ticket (again valid for a year, and costing just £5) also allows you into the Henry VII Experience at Mickelgate Bar. Stunning value, and the chill of the ancient walls only adds to the atmosphere.

York is fantastically easy to get around, and though you'll clock up the mileage as you go, you'll be way too busy soaking in the picture perfect streets to notice.


No visit is complete without a quick stroll down the Shambles.  York's medieval street with its middle leaning buildings and cobbled floor is pretty as a picture...quite at odds with its past as a hub for butchers, who slaughtered and sold their animals in the area.


Then, the streets would have been awash with blood, but today the cobbles are occupied by the bustle of tourists who have made it one of the most visited streets in the country!

A stroll through the Abbey Gardens at sunset provides picture perfect opportunities, the long ruined St Mary's Abbey is majestic and still...until your eyes adjust and begin to take in the mini army of squirrels darting and dashing and no doubt hiding their winter stash of tasty essentials.

The National Railway Museum wasn't on the top of our 'must do' list, but it's free to visit, so we pop in, fully expecting to be in and out in pretty sharp time.
Not so. We are wowed by the beautiful carriages on display - some from the 1900s, and others owned by Royalty; we watch conservation at work on Queen Victoria's stunning saloon, and before we know it, we've lost all 'track' of time - and we're still in the first hall!

We leave at closing time and return the following day to explore the Great Hall and Warehouse.
We walk underneath a train and hop aboard the Japanese bullet train as we stroll the vast expanse.

The halls here are full of steam and diesel engines, with more than 200 years of history to explore, and a million railway objects displayed.
Far removed from the image that the word trainspotting conjures up, the National Raileway Museum, the biggest such collection in the world, is a cool, buzzy place. Even the shop t-shirts are fresh and fun; 'I do all my own shunts' shouts one t-shirt slogan.

Yorkminster is the largest medieval Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe, and is custodian to some of the most important art from the period.
Pay once, and receive re-entry for a year, and with so much to absorb, more than one visit is necessary.

Attend a service, climb the 275 steps of the central tower or head down to the Undercroft museum. The striking building (the second Minster to stand in the location) is 800 years old, but the history of the site dates back 2000 years. The remains of Roman barracks were uncovered in the 1960s and 1970s and can be viewed in the Undercroft.

York is the city that just keeps on giving, and when we leave the Minster, it has one more surprise in store for us; it is snowing. Another picture perfect moment in this most wonderful of places.

Visit: We stayed at Hedley House Hotel, which offered a roaring fire, tasty home cooked food, and a fresh vibrant feel. A home from home where a warm welcome comes as standard.
Special attributes: Luxury spa treatments are available daily, the hotel is dog friendly and the vegetarian breakfast is a good 'un!



> Never miss leisure news in Milton Keynes - Follow us on

And on Facebook: