Travel: A choc-a-block break in York

People walking on the street of the Shambles, inspiration of Diagon Alley in Harry Potter. (iStock)
People walking on the street of the Shambles, inspiration of Diagon Alley in Harry Potter. (iStock)

IT has a rich history, from the Romans to the Vikings, the Georgians to the Victorians.

All left their mark on York. In fact, when it comes to things to see and do, York has more attractions than any other city in the UK.

That makes it a fabulous, fun-packed destination. But what if, like many who pay a visit, you do so for just a couple of days? That’s how long we have – and we’re determined not to be heading home regretting having missed something special.

We’ve come prepared with a two-day York Pass (£50) – you can also get one and three-day versions.

It gives you entry to more than 30 attractions in and around the city.

We make a beeline for York Minster and the sheer size and majesty takes the breath away.

York Minster (iStock)

We defy anyone not to be impressed by the medieval stained glass. What a sight.

York is also famous for its chocolate. And just a couple of minutes away is one of the city’s tastiest attractions, York’s Chocolate Story.

We really do mean tastiest as, within minutes of stepping out of the lift we’re munching on some choccie and then learning about the factories and people behind our Kit Kats and much more. Happily there’s more munching to be done at the chocolatier demo.

We take a wander down the Shambles – recently voted Britain’s prettiest street – stopping for a reviving cuppa at The Flax and Twine, one of the quirkiest cafes you’ll ever come across.

It’s just another short stroll to the National Railway Museum. This is a train-spotter’s heaven, but even non-buffs will find something to catch the attention.

Key to making the most of your time is having a handy base and we’ve picked a cracker.

The Grange is a fabulous four-star boutique-style hotel in a Grade II-listed building and we’re enveloped by its classy comfort.

Built in 1829, it was taken over by the current owners in 1989, opening its doors as the luxury hotel the following year.

They haven’t rested on their laurels and just last year five gorgeous new rooms were added on the ground floor. It’s to one of these we are ushered by the friendly reception staff.

In fact, we notice that’s a feature over the next couple of days, everyone is super-chatty with beaming smiles to go with their brisk efficiency.

The room is really spacious with a large entry hall area with a separate door.

There are a couple of cosy lounges and the main staircase has ancient memorabilia from York racecourse.

We’ve worked up a real appetite and couldn’t wait to sample the fare in the basement Ivy Brasserie.

Railway Museum

 

Recently opened in what used to be wine cellars, there are low, brick-vaulted ceilings and blue wood panelling. It’s intimate, classy but not in the least bit stuffy.

It has two AA Rosettes and we can soon see how they have been earned as everything from the rabbit rillette starter to the almost-too-pretty-to-eat chocolate delice was sensational.

We lingered so long as a result there was just time for a night cap. As the hotel is just a matter of minutes from the Minster we round off the day in the Guy Fawkes Inn directly opposite. Birthplace of Fawkes, it’s full of history and character.

The next day we set out to take in one of the oldest – but newest in a way – attractions.

JORVIK re-opened its doors at the start of April after a multi-million pound revamp.

The sights, sounds and smells of Viking York are brought brilliantly back to life as you take a 15-minute pod ride through history with animatronic figures, realistic down to their dirty fingernails.

Part of what else is new in the city is its growing reputation as a foodie destination and Micklegate now has some fabulous restaurants garnering the highest praise.

And before another restful night at the glorious Grange, we see some of the more recent past at the fascinating Cold War bunker where 60 souls would have been cocooned in the event of nuclear holocaust.

We might not have seen absolutely everything, but we leave happy and with no regrets.

FACT BOX

The Grange Hotel has 41 individually-designed bedrooms and an overnight stay costs from £99 per room (two sharing) including full English breakfast.

Call 01904 644744 or visit grangehotel.co.uk

For more information on the city of York, see visityork.org and yorkpass.com

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