When we went to North Yorkshire in the Easter holidays we wanted to see as much of York as we could and on any trip to York you cannot miss the York City Walls. As part of the Jorvik Viking Centre Pastport we purchased, we were able to visit the York City Walls Experience as well as the other Jorvik Group attractions – Barley Hall, the Jorvik Viking Centre and Jorvik Dig.
What is the York City Walls Experience?
New for this year, the York City Walls experience is a small museum dedicated to the history of how York became a walled city and how it has evolved over the centuries since the first embankments were built by Romans through to them becoming the magnificent stone walls that still stand today.
The experience is housed in the gatehouse of Micklegate Bar and boasts three floors of history. Pre-booking a timeslot is advised on the website when we bought the ticket so we chose to go early one morning at the start of our day.
We arrived in the city that day using a park and ride bus and the nearest stop we found was at York railway station, a short distance from Micklegate Bar. As we walked around part of the wall towards the experience we were able to soak in the beauty and stature of the walls in all their glory.
We soon arrived at Micklegate Bar and found the entrance to the museum wasn’t at ground level as we had expected, but we needed to ascend the first set of stone steps to get in. When we went inside, we found a couple of members of staff who checked our booking and gave us a brief verbal guide to the space. This entrance also serves as the gift shop and exit.
In the York City Walls Experience
Over the course of the small museum, we were able to learn about historic characters linked to Micklegate Bar and found out that it served historically as the main entrance to the walled city for visitors from the South, and was also the gate through which visiting Royalty were welcomed. We discovered a vast 2,000 year history of the city walls involving battles, sieges and imprisonment for some unlucky souls.
The exhibition features a film of characters talking about their lives in Micklegate Bar that you can watch on one of the floors. Professionally acted and produced, it really bought the experience to life and engaged the children. A princess describes her life living within the walls as does a Royalist during the English Civil war. A local 20th Century Policeman also described living at Micklegate Bar with his family.
We also found a creativity area for younger children where they could design their own emblem that they would have proudly displayed on the medieval city walls and we probably spent about 45 minutes inside the museum before we decided to actually explore the closest section of the York City Walls on our own.
Tours of the York City Walls
Walking Tours are also offered as a York City Walls Tour from Micklegate Bar at 10:30, 12pm and 2pm. Pre-booking is essential for these and the 12pm tour is noted as being an accessible walking tour. We didn’t have time to do this and instead explored sections of the wall as we came across them on our adventures around the city.
Walking the York City Walls
We spent quite a lot of time walking along the York walls and the children loved seeing the city from a whole new perspective. Most of the walk has railings on the side for safety but there are some areas without safety rails – something to be aware of if you’re doing the City Walls walk with little ones.
The York City Wall Trail
There’s also a York City Walls Trail you can follow around the city. The York Walls walk around the whole wall trail takes about 2 hours and lets you explore the main features of the roman walls. Four main bars – fortified gateways – Micklegate Bar as well as Monk Bar, Walmgate Bar and Bootham Bar plus two smaller gateways and a postern, towers, windows, arrow-slits, gun ports and sculptures.
The trail takes you through the Museum Gardens with the Roman fortress wall and the Roman Multangular Tower, St Mary’s Abbey, the River Ouse and River Foss and so much more. It’s a great way to see a lot of the city in one go. You can see a York City Walls map here.
The York City Walls Experience is small – just two rooms – but it does give a really good insight into the history of one of the most iconic parts of York. It’s probably not something I would pay to go to as a standalone attraction but it’s well worth visiting with the Jorvik Viking Centre Pastport ticket.
You can find out more about the York Walls Experience and check York City Walls opening times over on their website and for reference the address is: Micklegate Bar, Micklegate, York, YO1 6JU