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Hidden York

Through streets and alleys of the historic walled city.

Distance 3.2 miles (5.2km)

Minimum time 1hr 30min

Ascent/gradient 82ft (25m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths City pavements

Landscape Historic city

Suggested map AA York streetplan

Start/finish SE 598523

Dog friendliness City streets, so dogs on leads

Parking Marygate Car Park, off Bootham

Public toilets Parliament Street and Museum Gardens

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1 Walk back into Marygate, turn left, cross the road and enter Museum Gardens through the archway. Follow the path straight ahead, passing the Observatory, and leave the gardens by the lodge.

2 Turn left, then left again towards the library. Go left through a gate, and along the side of the library. Go up the steps, and through a gate in the wall. At the bottom of the slope, turn right and follow Abbey Wall into Exhibition Square.

3 Cross at the traffic lights and go through Bootham Bar. A few yards on your left, take a passageway beside the Hole in the Wall pub and turn right down Precentor's Court. By the Minster go left through the gate, signed 'York Minster Library and Archives'.

4 Follow the path left to the Minster Library building. Bend right through the gate and along the cobbled road. Turn left by the postbox down Chapter House Street, bending right into Ogleforth. At the crossroads turn right, then go left through an archway opposite the National Trust tea rooms.

5 Bear right into Bartle Garth, which bends left. At the T-junction turn right, and then go left down Spen Lane. Opposite Hilary House go right along St Saviourgate. At the T-junction turn left to the crossroads, then right. Next to Jones's shoe shop on the left take a passage, Lady Peckitt's Yard.

6 Go under the building then turn left to Fossgate. Turn right, go over the bridge and then turn right along Merchantgate. At the T-junction, cross the road and take the glazed passageway beside the bridge, signed 'Jorvik Viking Centre', into the car park by Clifford's Tower.

7 Bend right and go to the right of the Hilton Hotel. Just before the Job Centre, go left down Friargate, right along Clifford Street, and left by York Dungeon. At the riverside turn right, ascend the steps by Ouse Bridge and turn right. At the traffic lights turn left by St Michael's Church. By the NatWest Bank go right, forking left by The Link shop.

8 Go ahead to cross Parliament Street and pass St Sampson's Church. Go straight on at the next crossroads into Goodramgate. Opposite Bon Marche go through a gateway into Holy Trinity churchyard, and leave by a passage to your left, to reach Low Petergate. Turn right then take the next left into Grape Lane. Where it bends left, turn right down the narrow Coffee Yard into Stonegate.

9 Go left to St Helen's Square and turn left by the TSB. Go straight on at the next crossroads back to Exhibition Square. At the traffic lights turn left up Bootham. Turn left down Marygate by the circular tower to return to the car park.

St Olave's Church, at the start of the walk, was founded in 1055 by Siward, Earl of Northumbria and heavily repaired after it was used as a gun platform in the Civil War Siege of York. Further along, past the library, look right as you ascend the steps, to the Anglian Tower. Built on the Roman ramparts during the time the Anglians ruled York (from the 6th century), this small building is now surrounded by the exposed layers of successive York defensive walls.

The King's Manor, on your left as you go towards Exhibition Square, was the house of the Abbot of St Mary's, and was appropriated by the King in 1539. The residence of the President of the Council of the North from 1561 to 1641, it was apartments until 1833 and then a school. Since 1963 it has been leased to York University. The Minster Library, approached through Dean's Park, north of the Minster, is the only remaining substantial part of the palace of the Archbishops of York. Built about 1230 as the palace's chapel, it became the library in the 19th century.

Bedern, off Goodramgate, was where the Vicars Choral of the Minster lived. They sang the Minster services, and had their own Chapel and Hall (both of which you will pass) as well as a wooden walkway to the Minster precincts to avoid the undesirables who inhabited the area. On St Saviourgate is the red-brick Unitarian Chapel. Designed in the shape of an equal-armed cross with a little tower, it was built for the Presbyterians in 1692. Lady Peckitt's Yard goes by the spectacular half-timbered Herbert House of about 1620. As you turn into Fossgate, notice Macdonald's furniture shop opposite. This was the Electric Theatre, York's first cinema, built in 1911. After passing Clifford's Tower and reaching Castlegate, visit Fairfax House, a fine town house of the 1740s with its interiors beautifully restored in the 1980s after it, too, was used as a cinema for many years. On King's Staith, once the main wharf for the city, is the 17th-century King's Arms Inn, which has the distinction of being Britain's most flooded pub. Ouse Bridge was for centuries the only crossing place linking the two banks of the river. This 19th-century bridge replaced two earlier ones: the Elizabethan bridge had houses on it. Holy Trinity Church off Goodramgate has delightful box pews and uneven floors. On the way back to Marygate, notice the round St Mary's Tower at its junction with Bootham. Part of the walls of St Mary's Abbey, it was blown up in 1644 during the Civil War and later rebuilt, rather inaccurately.

Where to eat and drink

As one of Britain's main tourist centres, York is well supplied with places to eat, from fast-food snacks to gourmet meals. There are many good, characterful pubs, too. Friday and Saturday evenings see Micklegate's bars thronged with young people. For wonderful surroundings, you can eat in the 18th-century Assembly Rooms in Blake Street.

While you're there

In the Roman and medieval city, the Greek-temple style of the Yorkshire Museum in Museum Gardens, designed in 1827, is an incongruous sight. Indeed, the Victorian Gothic architect Pugin called it a 'detestable building'; 'it would have been hardly possible,' he wrote, 'to have erected more offensive objects than these buildings in the immediate vicinity of one of the purest specimens of Christian architecture in the country.' Among its excellent displays are Roman objects, sculpture from St Mary's Abbey, Viking remains and the medieval Middleham Jewel of finely-engraved gold.

What to look for

You should visit York Minster. Allow time to visit The Foundations while you are there. It's worth the admission fee to walk through the building's history, including Roman walls, some with painted plaster intact, and medieval foundations. Also visit The Treasury and the shrine of St William of York.

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