It's not often that work takes me away overnight but, back in September, I was lucky enough to go on a conference in York. Lucky because it's such a beautiful and interesting city to visit. Having looked at the conference programme, I'd spotted a couple of windows of opportunity to do some brief sightseeing.
I knew I was in for a great time as this sunflower was shining over me at the railway station as I set off.
The first window of opportunity was on the evening of the first day before the start of the conference dinner. We were staying at the Royal York Hotel which had the Wheel of York in its grounds (though it's moved to another location now). Even better, one of the perks of the conference was a voucher for a half price ticket.
The capsules were much smaller than those on the London Eye which I'd been on many years ago when it first opened. In these it was seated room only with a commentary on the history of York and sights to look out for.
Below us was the hotel with the railway station right behind it.
Over to the right in the distance was Holgate Windmill.
Further round was the river Ouse.
And York Minster dominating the skyline. You can also see part of the Roman wall amongst the trees.
In the grounds of the museum, I could see the ruins of another unidentified religious building. Intrigued, I decided that would be my destination in my final window of opportunity.
Next morning I was up and breakfasted early to give myself an hour to explore. Heading towards the river, the first building I came across was Barker Tower which was built as a watchtower in the 14th century. Apparently it was also once used as a mortuary! Now though it's a cafe.
Continuing on over the river and along the street, the next building of interest was this one. You might think it's a church but it's actually part of St Leonard's Hospital which was built in the 12th century and, at that point, was thought to be the largest hospital in the North of England.
In those days, hospitals did have a religious element in that the sick were also treated for their spiritual health. Unfortunately, that connection to the church meant that St Leonard's was included in the buildings destroyed as part of the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1540s under Henry VIII. This lovely undercroft survived though.
Whilst wandering around photographing St Leonard's, I could see other buildings nearby and was irresistibly drawn on towards them. This is the Multangular Tower which was built around 300AD by the Romans and is the last surviving of eight similar towers. In Roman times it was only as high as the orange line of terracotta tiles.
The upper part with the arrow slits is 13th century.
Behind the tower and along the wall was a small fernery. I loved reading the little information board which said that in medieval times, ferns were associated with mysticism and superstition and were believed to help you become invisible!
I have to say that the all of the information boards I came across were very interesting and well put together. It was refreshing to have so much free information, particularly in somewhere with such rich history as York.
Anyway, I could now see the building I'd noticed from the top of the Wheel the evening before.
This is St Mary's Abbey which dates from the 13th century, though it stands on the site of an older abbey of 1055. It was once the richest abbey in the north and, I love this bit, was renowned for its decadence! So much so that the rich Abbott is featured as one of Robin Hood's enemies in medieval ballads.
Like St Leonards, it was destroyed in the Dissolution. If you're interested, there is more about the Abbey and all of the other buildings I've mentioned in this post on the History of York website.
Did I mention I only had an hour? I'd already managed to pack a lot in but wanted to take a closer look at the Minster.
You get an idea of the scale of the building from the man standing in front of the door.
And this is the arched window from inside.
You have to pay to wander around inside but, with time so limited, it wasn't worth it so I made do with the shots I could take from the doorway.
In any case, it's just as impressive from outside.
With time marching on and a last look back at the Minster, I carried onwards to circle back to the hotel via the town centre.
I didn't have to go far before I came across something else of interest though: a statue of Minerva, goddess of wisdom and drama.
The great thing about York is that there's something of interest every few steps. This is the spot where it is believed Guy Fawkes was born in 1570 (though the building is 18th century) and he was baptised in the church across the street.
This is Mulberry Hall which, as you can see from the front of the building, dates from 1434. It's now a shop selling fine china, crystal, dining and kitchen ware. There are lots of these wonky half-timbered buildings around York.
Mulberry Hall is relatively modern compared to some of the buildings though, or rather the ruins of some buildings.
And there are lots of interesting details like this amazing door knocker.
My favourite find though was this pair of mischievous looking dragons.
All too soon it was time to head back to the hotel and the conference with a last look at Barker Tower and the city walls. I'm so glad I made the time for some whistlestop sightseeing and it's safe to say I'll be making time to visit again at some point to see what else York has to offer. x