Things to Do in Yorkshire
With over 1,000 acres of landscaped flower gardens, boating lakes and scenic woodlands, and a grand baroque façade that appears more like a royal palace than a country home, Castle Howard is one of England’s most undeniably beautiful estates. Built in the 17th-century for Charles Howard, the 3rd Earl of Carlisle, much of the castle’s striking design was the work of architect John Vanbrugh and the stately home, with its central domed cupola, sculpted pilasters and elaborate frescos, took over 100 years to complete.
Today the palatial building is open to the public by guided tour and exploring the interiors unveils a trove of period décor, antique furnishings and fine china. A notable highlight is the castle’s vast art collection, including paintings by Van Dyke, Rubens, Tintoretto, Canaletto and Reynolds; a portrait of Henry VIII; and an array of personal works by the 9th Earl of Carlisle.
The last vestige of York Castle, Clifford's Tower is now one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, perched on a grassy mound overlooking the River Ouse. Although the castle was originally built by William the Conqueror in 1069, the present-day tower was erected between 1245 and 1265 by Henry III when the fortress was rebuilt in stone and has served numerous purposes throughout its long history. Used over the years as a royal mint, a prison and an execution ground, the tower takes its name from Roger de Clifford, who was executed for treason by Edward II and hanged in chains from the tower walls.
Today, climbing the 55 steps to the top of the mound is a popular pastime among visitors to the city and walking along the tower ramparts affords expansive panoramic views over York.
Go back in time and learn about the Viking history of York at the Jorvik Viking Centre. The museum is actually built on the site of a famous archeological dig uncovered more than three decades ago. Buried under eight tons of dirt, archaeologists found the remarkably preserved Viking city of Jorvik as it was 1,000 years ago. Along with houses, and workshops they uncovered more than 40-thousand artifacts. Rare objects made of wood and leather; objects that normally do not survive over time, were un-earthed in great condition. The moist-oxygen free soil is credited with helping to preserve the artifacts.
Visitors can explore the reconstruction of the Viking streets, seeing how they would have looked so long ago. Built by the York Archaeological Trust, the goal was to recreate the Viking city keeping it as authentic as possible, from the layout of houses to the distinct smells of the neighborhood.
This historic site was discovered by accident, when it was scheduled to be destroyed. The oldest parts of Barley Hall date from about 1360, but until the 1980s the house was hidden under a more modern brick façade.
The medieval house was once home to the Priors of Nostell and the Mayor of York. The building has been fully restored to replicate what it would have looked like around 1483. A living museum, many volunteers work in costume to help recreate history. Visitors are allowed to touch objects, even sit in chairs to get a true feel of life in Medieval England.
Welcome aboard the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, a historic rail line in North England. When it first opened in 1835 trains were originally horse drawn, except at a steep incline where they were hauled by rope. It wasn’t until 1845 that steam engines came into the picture.
When first created it served as a trade link, today it’s Britain’s most popular heritage steam railway carrying more than 300-thousand annual visitors along 18 miles of railway. In addition to rolling through impressive scenery in the heart of the North York Moors National Park, each station along the line takes passengers on a trip back in time depicting a year from 1912 to 1952. But the “celebrity station’ is Goathland, maybe better known as Hogsmeade. The station was transformed into Hogsmeade station for the first Harry Potter film.
More Things to Do in Yorkshire
Founded in 1938 to display the personal collections of Dr John L. Kirk, the York Castle Museum is situated close to Clifford’s Tower on the grounds of the former York Castle. Celebrated as one of the UK’s most unique museums of everyday life, the vast exhibitions center around a series of period reconstructions, designed to evoke the feeling of stepping back in time.
There’s an 1850s-style cottage and a 1940s kitchen; Jacobean and Georgian dining rooms laid out with china tea sets; and a Sixties gallery crammed with music, fashion and design from the era. There’s even a prison cell, fashioned like the one where notorious highwayman Dick Turpin was kept prisoner; an early 19th century flourmill; a military exhibition; and a collection of Jane Austen costumes.
Most renowned is the reconstructed Victorian street of Kirkgate, which was renovated in 2012 and is now kitted out with sound and light effects to offer an interactive experience of Victorian Britain.
Located in the center of the city, the Mansion House is the official residence of the Lord Mayor of York. But along with being a home, this historic house is popular with visitors. The Mansion House exhibits an impressive collection of paintings, silver and furniture.
It was designed to entertain distinguished guests and host ceremonies, so a bit of grandeur was a must. Built in Georgian style, the first brick was laid in 1725. But just like building projects today, costs grew. A few craftsmen worked for free in return for citizenship. The Mansion House was completed in 1732, seven years later.
The Mansion House offers a variety of tours tailored to guests’ interests, including a Silver Tour. The Candle Light Tour shares spooky stories and secrets of the house as you explore. Book in advance if interested in a specialized tour.
Chronicling the life and times of the iconic explorer, the Captain Cook Memorial Museum offers fascinating insight into Whitby's most famous former resident. Housed in the 17th-century home where a young James Cook took on his apprenticeship as a seaman, the museum’s star attraction is Cook’s attic room, decked out in period furnishings. At the museum, visitors can learn about Cook's now-legendary voyages through a fascinating collection of artifacts, letters, ship models and maps. Pore over original letters written by Cook and his crew; follow his travels through maps and charts; see items brought back from Cook's long journeys to New Zealand and the Pacific Islands; and admire paintings of the voyages by Parkinson, Hodges and Webber.
As the name implies, York’s Merchant Adventurers were merchants. They traded along the English coast, northern Europe and sometimes as far as the Baltic and Iceland, bringing back an assortment of desired goods to York. The city was an important river port and the wealthiest city in Northern England, second only to London for most of the Middle Ages, allowing the merchants to make enough money to build the Hall between 1357 and 1361.
It was ahead of the time, built before craft or trade guild halls were common in Britain. There are three rooms in the Hall, and each served a specific purpose. Business and social gatherings took place in the Great Hall, the Undercroft served as an almshouse caring for the sick and poor, and religious events were conducted in the Chapel. The Hall has a number of collections; everything from paintings, to furniture and silver. The Company of Merchant Adventurers still use the Hall for meetings and events and hold services in the Chapel.
Regarded as one of England’s most impressive Georgian town houses, Fairfax House dates back to 1762 and takes its name from Charles Gregory, the 9th Viscount Fairfax of Emley, who acquired the property in 1759. After a short-lived incarnation as a gentlemen’s club and cinema, Fairfax House was bought and renovated by the York Civic Trust, reopening in 1984 as a house museum, showcasing a fine collection of period furnishings and antiques.
Today, the museum displays the Noel Terry Collection of Georgian furniture, but it’s the painstakingly restored interiors that earn the most acclaim. Designed by Yorkshire architect John Carr, the house is a masterpiece of Georgian style, adorned with elaborate wrought ironwork, intricate woodcarvings and striking stucco ceilings. Highlights include the exquisite Great Staircase, the grand Venetian Window, furnishings including one of the houses’ original four-poster beds and a selection of 18th Century paintings.
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- Things to do in North East England
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