Visiting York: What the historic city has to offer a young family
Fresh from Manchester at the end of July, I booked a couple of days’ holiday to make the most of the long August bank holiday weekend, which took us to York!
I’m not sure why we keep ending up on road trips up north. Maybe I’m on the cusp of discovering that Stark blood courses through my veins.
Neither Jenna or I had been to York before, I don’t think Roma had either, but I’m pleased to say the three of us have officially ticked the grand old city off our ever-evolving list of places to visit.
Learning from the Manchester trip, the most crucial thing we did this time around was set an alarm, rather than relying on Roma to wake us up. 5.30am rolled around and we were in for a rude awakening, but I mustered the energy to stagger into the shower half an hour later.
We set a target to be on the road by 7.30am. With triple checks, all three of us fed and car loading completed, we were on the road for 7.50am, which is pretty impressive by our previous records.
After a brief service station stop and the odd patch of light traffic, we arrived in York at our accommodation, StayCity ApartHotels, at 12pm.
The gent on the desk was incredibly helpful and managed to check us in early, which was brilliant since official check-in time wasn’t until 3pm. Immediately we had corrected where we went wrong with Manchester, which resulted in an almost 3pm arrival after leaving at 9.30am, essentially losing most of the day.
Having only opened its doors in July last year, the building felt fresh and the room was spotless, while the travel cot was ready and waiting on our arrival.
We’re yet to stay in a hotel as a family, but, like our stay in Manchester, the benefits of an apartment meant we were able to easily cook, prepare bottles and have, what I expect is, a more comfortable stay.
After parking in a secure long-stay car park that can be found around the back of StayCity, we dumped our bags and strolled into town – once Jenna had found the room, that is…
First impressions of York
In the city, a slow ten-minute walk away from the apartment, there’s a real mix of old meets new. The aged buildings in the centre are fused with high street stores and independents alike, with everything from Poundland to the famous 1930s-launched Betty’s Tea Room.
Feeling peckish, but not wanting to ruin our appetite before dinner, we came across bakery Cooplands. Founded in 1885, the business is still family-run and in its fourth generation, but most impressive of all, you can buy four sausage rolls from there for £1!
Ripe with tourists like ourselves, street performers could be found on every other corner, enchanting explorers from home and abroad.
And speaking of home, I have to note the sheer friendliness of the locals. After enquiring about a hair appointment in one salon, Jenna found herself being given a guided tour to a couple of cheaper alternatives around the corner from the one she visited, as the hairdresser she was speaking to said they couldn’t fit her in.
Can you see that happening in London?!
Elsewhere, there’s the delightful “Welsh Mel” who we met running the Millie’s Designs stall, a homemade gift business in the stunning Shambles Market area. Warm and jovial, she was only too eager to have a chat as we browsed her wares.
The purpose of our first jaunt into town was to get familiar with the lay of the land, before kicking up the tourism a notch the next day. After getting as acquainted as we could with the cobbled streets, we headed back to the apartment to freshen up for dinner.
When we arrived at Carluccio’s for our dinner reservation at 7pm – alright, we were late, we arrived at 7.30pm – situated in a grade II-listed building, my first impression was how elegant the restaurant was. Seemingly no expense was spared for the restaurant opening just six months ago.
Part of me did briefly worry that it may be an inappropriate setting to visit with a baby, but research ahead of the visit assured me that children and babies alike are welcome, with high chairs and kids’ menus available. A sight in the lobby was also settling.
— Zen | DADult Life (@DADultLife) August 25, 2017
Aided to our seat by a member of staff – there were a handful of steps to ascend from the bar to the restaurant – we were helpfully given a corner table, with the staff taking on board the fact we had a pram we needed to park.
With a fully-loaded regular menu to choose from and an evening set menu too, there was an endless choice of treats available.
In the same way she stayed up throughout our meal in Manchester, Roma remained alert during our time at Carluccio’s. She was in good spirits thankfully, apparently wanting to be as nosy as her mother, and it was a simple matter of eating one-handed and alternating between which one of us held her.
For me to start with, it was the Sicilian arancini – delicious crispy balls of rice and cheese – while Jenna opted for mushroom soup and all of the bread. For my main, I got adventurous and tried a new dish, the chicken saltimbocca, as the missus elected a mushroom and chicken risotto.
With the two courses, both of which were lovely, polished off, by the time the dessert menu rolled around the pair of us were really struggling to make a choice. Embrace the lure of greed and guzzle some chocolaty goodness, of which there were a number of tempting choices, or abstain?
Jenna resisted and I contented myself with a cocktail – a Disaronno marmalade sour. It would be worth going back for that alone and I daresay it has the potential to surpass my penchant for Long Island Iced Teas, but I’ll have to go back for more, just to be certain…
— Zen | DADult Life (@DADultLife) August 25, 2017
Sightseeing shoes on
Having gotten a feel for the city layout the previous afternoon, the second day was all about the sightseeing.
There are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to attractions. You can pay as you go or if you plan on doing as much as humanly possible there, the York Pass from tourism board Visit York could be the way to go. While there, we were given the opportunity to put them to the test.
Think of the York Pass as an all you can eat buffet. For one payment, you can sink your teeth into various attractions with a flash of your Pass at each one, rather than paying individually. Prices start at £38 and come in options of one-day, two-day or three-day passes.
The first stop on our York adventure was Clifford’s Tower, a development requested by Henry III, beside the York Castle Museum.
Definitely not one to ascend with a pram – or if you have a fear of heights – so we tag-teamed to climb the steps leading up, while the other waited on ground level waiting with Roma.
Following that, we made our way deeper into the centre and grabbed a couple of pasties to devour before heading into the York Minster.
A magnificent sight from the outside, the inside of the cathedral was no less stunning as the stained glass windows glistened throughout. It ought to be sensational though – after all, it did take 250 years to complete its construction.
In true Roma fashion, she decided it was time to go to the toilet at the most inconvenient of moments, but there was indeed a most-fancy baby changing facility available. I also spotted, for older children visiting, a family discovery tour is on offer.
If you’re interested, you can always tweet @York_Minster – the social media manager is always good for a laugh.
what do you think the answer is? 😜
— York Minster (@York_Minster) August 26, 2017
The next stop was the park, where we rested our burning feet to feed Roma before continuing to stroll through the lush greenery and onto the bank of the River Ouse.
Walking at a very relaxed pace, we continued along until we reached Kings Staith Landing and diverted into the town centre for an ice cream hunt, which led us to Debbie’s on Stonegate, a quaint sweet shop and ice cream parlour that would meet the needs of even the fussiest sugar fiends.
The final day
Checkout time was 11am, but we’d managed to extend that by an hour, since Jenna had done a disappearing act to get her hair done.
The original plan was to leave early, but it seemed senseless to rush back. What would we have done once we got home? Besides, the weather was glorious, so it seemed only right to capitalise on that with a cruise on the River Ouse with York Boat – another excursion covered by the York Pass.
We were going to board a city cruise, but a boat heading to Bishopthorpe Palace was departing sooner, so we ventured on to that one. It wasn’t an issue taking the pram on board, though it had to remain on the lower deck, so we parked it out of the way and got upstairs to feel the wind in our hair.
It was the perfect end to the trip as we drifted along the river while having facts tossed at us by the captain.
So what does York have to offer a young family? What doesn’t it have? Whether you’re like us and travelling with a young baby or you have an older child to entertain, there’s plenty to see and do.
There’s no question about it, we’ll be making a return in due course – the peanut butter and salted caramel brownies from Tray Delicious on Shambles Market would be enough to convince me of that.