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Travel: Life is Grand in historic and beautiful York

© iStockLendal Bridge at sunset, York.
Lendal Bridge at sunset, York.

For me, city breaks are normally about whirlwind visits around exciting new places punctuated by pauses to sample the delights of the local wine bars.

However, given that this trip was while I was seven months pregnant, things were to be taken at a considerably slower pace.While mulling over where to head off on a babymoon, we decided to head for the historic city of York.

York has no shortage of accommodation options however, for this trip, I was looking for somewhere with a more luxurious edge.

This led me to The Grand, York.

Situated in the heart of city and overlooking the historic walls, The Grand is in the stunning former headquarters of the North Eastern Railway Company.

From the friendly, bowler-hatted doorman to the opulent reception area, I knew we were in for a treat.

As well as the original Edwardian building, The Grand has a second wing, and this is where our room was located. The Classic Room was spacious with an enormous bed, flat-screen TV and marble bathroom complete with underfloor heating and Molton Brown toiletries, absolute bliss.

The Grand also boasts a spa. Situated in the vaults of the original building lies a mood lit blue pool which I took great delight in bobbing around before indulging in a Mum To Be massage.

For an hour I was pampered to within an inch of my life and emerged floating a few inches off the ground. Or so it felt.

On our first venture out to soak up some of the city’s history, we found York very easy to get around.

© iStock
The Shambles, York

Almost as soon as we left the hotel and crossed the River Ouse, one of the city’s most famous attractions, York Minster, appeared before us.

This awe-inspiring cathedral needs to be seen to understand its tremendous scale and mind-boggling architectural detail.

After craning our necks at the marvellous stone carvings and stained glass, we headed for the Shambles, a twisting street packed with delights.

Said to be the inspiration behind the famous Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter series, this bustling area is crammed to the brim with charm as well as a number of independent shops that absolutely have to be explored.

From stationers to the first potions shop I have ever come across, buying or browsing, this is a must-visit for any York visitor.

As we walked the beautiful cobbled streets, we couldn’t help but find ourselves wandering off track.

Gorgeous historic houses that looked so twisted it seemed miraculous they were still standing, traditional sweetie shops stuffed with glimmering glass jars of treats and picturesque parks and gardens lured us in every which way – a trip to this town requires a flexible itinerary.

The number of dining options in York is quite overwhelming.

For our evening meal we sampled the menu at The Rattle Owl in the Micklegate area of the city.

Housed in a 17th Century building and serving dishes packed with seasonal produce, including a pea veloute starter which I could have happily eaten forever, this is the perfect spot to enjoy a long, slow meal while chatting over the sights of the day.

After a hearty breakfast from the hotel’s extensive buffet the next morning, we headed to York Castle Museum to truly immerse ourselves in the history of the area.

The museum is within the city’s 18th Century prison buildings and this forms part of the exhibition.

Deep in the bowels of the museum, you can wander the cells, hear some of the inmates’ grizzly tales and learn of the more famous prisoners, including notorious highwayman, Dick Turpin.

However, it was Kirkgate, the reconstructed Victorian Street, that was the real highlight for me.

From stables with a powerful, horsey aroma to a working sweet shop, school house, candlemakers and much more beside, this exhibit provided a rare glimpse into the past.

For those seeking a short break in beautiful surroundings with history, gastronomic delights and world-class accommodation, York should be the next destination on your bucket list.

P.S. York’s National Railway Museum is the largest train museum in the world. It is also the only place in Europe you’ll see a Japanese Bullet train, capable of reaching speeds of up to 200mph.

Factfile: The Grand, York offers room only from £169 per night based on two people sharing. Visit or call 01904 380038.