I arrived in York by car, so I took the opportunity to drive out to Castle Howard, which was used as the location for Brideshead Revisited. It’s about 15 miles north of York, and pretty easy to find with a map. That’s where my good luck ended, though, because I didn’t have enough time before I had to return my rental car.
Castle Howard is hidden away across the river and behind a lot of trees from the welcome center (formerly the stables, of course), and you can’t just casually drive over to view it without paying an entry fee. Since I didn’t have time to do it properly, I just spent a little time in the welcome center (nice gift shop) before returning to York to drop off the car.
In retrospect, I would schedule at least two full days (possibly three) in York with the use of a car for at least a whole day to explore the northern Yorkshire countryside. It would have been nice to get more than a glimpse of Castle Howard, and the North York Moors National Park is said to be quite beautiful. That’s definitely on my list for future visits.
Back in York, I visited the ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey, which is in the Yorkshire Museum gardens. They are open to the public, and I saw a few people picnicking there on the grass. It was very peaceful. There are benches on the grounds, and it’s a nice place to take a breather in the middle of a long day of sightseeing.
Next up was the York Minster, a huge Gothic cathedral. The current structure dates back to the 13th century, and it’s full of the usual Gothic embellishments, tall stained glass windows, and the standard cross-shaped layout. The thing is huge. I think I mentioned that, but it bears repeating. It’s almost Notre Dame huge, and by far the largest cathedral I saw on my entire trip to the United Kingdom. (Caveat: I didn’t make it to Salisbury or Canterbury, so don’t hold it against me if they’re larger!)
It’s not cheap to see the Minster. Ten pounds will get you in, and it currently costs fifteen pounds if you want to visit the towers as well. Lots of stairs, be warned.
I was told it’s been mandated that no permanent structure in York can be taller than the Minster. While I was there, a large Farris wheel had been constructed near my hotel, the Royal York (best bathtub ever). Although the wheel was taller than the Minster, the city allowed it to be built on a temporary basis.
The gift shop was also pretty large. The best part for me was the very elaborate door. It looks just like a castle door should, doesn’t it?
Tea that day was at Bettys Tea Rooms. It was a simple tea, but delicious. They are one of the busiest tea rooms I visited, but they manage to handle all the customers handily. I didn’t make a reservation and only waited about five minutes for a table.