It’s stating the obvious to say that London is the British city most visited by tourists. What do you think the second most popular city could be?
|Old friends in new places|
Could be the home of the Beatles…
The home of prestigious universities…
The home of comedy…
Maybe the home of Roman history…
Turns out none of the above are visited as much as Manchester (the home of the Premier League’s best team) or…York. The home of…what exactly?
|They may not have been last season, but they are statistically the Premier League's best team!|
I decided to find out whilst visiting friends made in Kazakhstan. York is a fair distance from Cardiff on a train: approximately five hours. This meant an early start so that I could arrive in York at lunchtime. Exiting the train station immediately introduces you to one of York’s main features; the centre of the city is protected by a low, faded stone wall. The foundations of these walls date back to Roman times but were erected in their current guise in the medieval period. You can walk along the walls and get some nice views into the city centre.
One such view is of York’s ‘castle’. These days it’s less a castle, more a simple keep known as Clifford’s Tower. It was built by William the Conqueror shortly after…well, conquering England for the Normans. Having run up the stairs to the stone base, I can tell you that it’s higher than it seems.
No matter how high or low you are in York, it is difficult not to spot the city’s premier building: York Minster. This is a large, largely rectangular cathedral – apparently the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe – which dates back to the 8th century. Amongst the relatively pale spires and straight edges are some elegant windows which seem to droop down from the roof. I was surprised at how angular the building was but it is impressive nonetheless.
York is also the location of the National Railway Museum. This may interest some more than others but, as someone who enjoyed building train tracks with Brio as a young lad, I was very keen to explore this homage to trains.
For people older than myself, it may be a welcome trip down memory lane. Retro adverts promoting various regional railway operators hang from the walls of one of the main atria. Old ticket stubs with much more personality than current, bland versions are dotted around. Yet all of this is merely decoration, for the trains dominate each room you enter.
There are trains of all shapes, sizes and ages. From early variations on Stephenson’s original model in the early 1800s to one of Japan’s ultra-modern bullet trains, there is an incredible range of trains on display. We witnessed a train being manoeuvred on a turntable, which moves much faster than I would have imagined (about 90 seconds for a complete rotation).
|Trains from the early 1820s and late 1990s - spot the difference?|
One aspect of the trains which surprised me was the height of the wheels. It’s something you don’t really appreciate as the train tracks are so much lower than the station platforms, as well as modern trains covering much of the wheel. However, some of the wheels on the older trains were almost as tall as I am!
So what is York the ‘home’ of? It is full of history, both old and modern. It was home to the Romans. It was the second city for both the Vikings and the Normans. It is the home of the largest train museum in the world. York is thus an important historical centre in the United Kingdom; I can fully appreciate now why so many people come to visit this pretty city.
Love you all