Hidden York – 5 places you’ve never heard of (but will wish you had)

York is about more than Vikings and steam trains. There’s another side of this Yorkshire city to explore – hidden York.

1. Explore the secret passages of medieval York

The one for: exploring the narrow labryinth of passages that made up medieval York

Pope’s Head Alley. Mad Alice Lane. Lady Peckett’s Yard. The names leap out at you like something from Dickens. But these aren’t works of fiction - these narrow alleys and winding lanes typified medieval York.

Normally going down the side of a building or through a wall, these walkways are known locally as ‘snickelways’ – a term coined by local writer Mark W Jones, who wrote a book guiding you around them. Explore these to get a feel for the city in medieval times. But don’t forget the book, A Walk Around the Snickelways of York.


2. Wince at York’s grisly medieval past

The one for: learning about York in medieval times when Henry VIII’s dad ruled the land

Severed heads of traitors and rebels were displayed outside Micklegate Bar in medieval times. Thankfully it’s much safer these days.

It’s been transformed into a museum dedicated to Henry VII. He’s a pretty important monarch, and also Henry VIII’s dad. Learn about the 24 years he spent on the throne.

Micklegate Bar itself is fascinating too. But what’s a Bar? And why’s it so important? York is surrounded by medieval walls. And in medieval times entry was only granted through one of 4 bars, or gates.

Micklegate is the most famous of these bars, and looks like a little castle. Fascinating stuff.

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Who’s Henry VII? A really important king. He ended the Wars of the Roses, ushering in the Tudor era. The Tudor rose was a blend of the white Yorkshire and red Lancastrian roses.


3. Pulled pork on The Shambles 

The one for: fantastic pulled pork sandwiches served from York’s most historic street.

Pulled pork is everywhere these days. It’s even found its way on to York’s oldest street. The Shambles is one of the best-preserved medieval streets in the country – Google named it the most picturesque street in the UK in 2010.

And the pulled pork butties served up at the Shambles Kitchen taste as good as the street looks. The locally sourced meat is flavoured with a top secret rub and slow cooked for 12 hours. Served with slaw in a soft white bun.  

In days of yore, The Shambles was home to medieval butchers – the pulled pork of today is continuing that tradition.


4. Get crafty at the Quilt Museum

The one for: seeing how crafting has always been cool

From Mollie Makes to Etsy, The Great British Sewing Bee to trendy blogs, crafting is cool. But it’s no new thing.People have been making patchwork quilts for hundreds of years.

See how techniques and styles have evolved and fallen in and out of fashion over the centuries. Mermaids, castles and ships are embroidered upon a white cot quilt – which dates back to the 1700s.

Prefer something more recent? Check out the 90s Collection for some big, bold and beautiful prints.

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5. Step inside a real Cold War bunker

The one for: a day out less ordinary – how often do you see a bona-fide nuclear fallout shelter

The Cold War and its fears of nuclear attack gripped the world from the end of the Second World War ‘til the early 1990s. Designed as a nuclear fallout shelter, this restored bunker harks back to those days.

It’s got its own decontamination room and blast-proof doors. There are also authentic maps, technology and period furniture.

It opened in 1961 and was decommissioned in 1991. It’s run by English Heritage.

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