Exploring York

Through the streets and alleys of the historic walled city.




3.25 miles (5.3kms)

82ft (25m)
1hr 30min

About the walk

St Olave's Church, at the start of the walk, was founded in 1055 by Siward, Earl of Northumbria and heavily repaired after it was used as a gun platform in 1644 during the Civil War Siege of York. Further along, past the library, look right as you ascend the steps, to the Anglian Tower. Built on the Roman ramparts during the time the Anglians ruled York (from the 6th century), this small building is now surrounded by the exposed layers of successive York defensive walls.

Abbot and archbishop

The King's Manor, on your left as you go towards Exhibition Square, was the house of the Abbot of St Mary's, and was appropriated by the King in 1539. The residence of the President of the Council of the North from 1561 to 1641, it was apartments until 1833 and then a school. Since 1963 it has been leased to York University. The Minster Library, approached through Dean's Park, north of the Minster, is the only remaining substantial part of the palace of the Archbishops of York. Built about 1230 as the palace's chapel, it became the library in the 19th century.

Vicars and Nonconformists

Bedern, off Goodramgate, was where the Vicars Choral of the Minster lived. They sang the Minster services, and had their own chapel and hall (both of which you will pass) as well as a wooden walkway to the Minster precincts to avoid the undesirables who inhabited the area. On St Saviourgate is the redbrick Unitarian Chapel. Designed in the shape of an equal-armed cross with a little tower, it was built for the Presbyterians in 1692. Lady Peckitt's Yard is beside the spectacular half-timbered Herbert House of about 1620. As you turn into Fossgate, notice Macdonald's furniture shop opposite. This was the Electric Theatre, York's first cinema, built in 1911. After passing Clifford's Tower and reaching Castlegate, visit Fairfax House, a fine town house of the 1740s with its interiors beautifully restored in the 1980s after it, too, was used as a cinema for many years. On King's Staith, once the main wharf for the city, is the 17th-century King's Arms Inn, which has the distinction of being Britain's most flooded pub. Ouse Bridge was for centuries the only crossing place linking the two banks of the river. This 19th-century bridge replaced two earlier ones: the Elizabethan bridge had houses on it. Holy Trinity Church off Goodramgate has delightful box pews and uneven floors. On the way back to Marygate, notice the round St Mary's Tower at its junction with Bootham. Part of the walls of St Mary's Abbey, it was blown up in 1644 during the Civil War and later rebuilt, rather inaccurately.

Walk directions

Walk back into Marygate, turn left, cross the road and enter Museum Gardens through the archway. Follow the path straight ahead, passing the Observatory, and leave the gardens by the lodge.

Turn left, then left again towards the library. Go left through a gate, and along the side of the library. Go up the steps and through a gate in the wall. At the bottom of the slope turn right and follow Abbey Wall into Exhibition Square.

Cross at the traffic-lights and go through Bootham Bar. A few paces on your left, take a passageway beside The Hole in the Wall pub and turn right down Precentor's Court. By the Minster, go left through the gate, signed 'York Minster Dean's Park'.

Follow the path left to the Minster Library building. Bend right through the gate and along the cobbled road. Turn left by the postbox down Chapter House Street, bending right into Ogleforth. At the crossroads turn right, then go left through an archway almost opposite The National Trust gift shop.

Bear right into Bartle Garth, which bends left. At the T-junction turn right, and then go left down Spen Lane. At Hilary House turn right along St Saviourgate. At the T-junction turn left, then right at the crossroads into Pavement. Next to Jones' shoe shop on the left, take a passage, Lady Peckitt's Yard.

Go under the buildings, then turn left to Fossgate. Turn right, go over the bridge and then turn right along Merchantgate. At the T-junction cross the road and take the glazed walkway beside the bridge, signed 'Castle Area', into the car park by Clifford's Tower.

Bend right and go to the right of the Hilton Hotel. Just after the church on the right, go left down Friargate, right along Clifford Street, and left by The York Dungeon, down Cumberland Street. At the riverside turn right, ascend the steps by Ouse Bridge and turn right. At the traffic-lights, turn left by The Spurriergate Centre. By the NatWest Bank go right, forking left into Feasegate.

Go ahead to cross Parliament Street and pass St Sampson's Church. Go straight on at the crossroads by King's Square into Goodramgate. After 50yds (46m), go left through a gateway into Holy Trinity churchyard, and leave by a passage to the left of the tower, to reach Low Petergate. Turn right, then take the next left into Grape Lane. Where it bends left into Swinegate, turn right down the narrow Coffee Yard.

Turn left into Stonegate. On reaching St Helen's Square turn right up Blake Street by LloydsTSB. Go straight on at the next crossroads back to Exhibition Square. At the traffic-lights, turn left up Bootham. Turn left down Marygate by the circular tower to return to the car park.

Additional information

City pavements

Historic city

City streets, so dogs on lead

AA Street by Street Pocket Map York

Marygate Car Park, off Bootham

Museum Gardens and Bootham Bar

Been on this walk?

Send us photos or a comment about this route.

Know a good walk?

Share your route with us.

Walking in safety

Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.

Find out more

About the area