I have been to York a couple of times before, once with children in tow and once for a whirlwind whistle stop tour for a mental health conference. I didn’t get to see anywhere near as much as I wanted to see. So that was my birthday request, a child free, long weekend in York. And here is why I think you should visit York this year.

A little disclaimer admin here. None of the places I mention in this post have asked me to. This is all my own experience, paid for with my own pennies and I just want to big them up because they made our stay so wonderful.

We left home around midday on the Friday, so we could miss the main rush hours, and got there by 3pm. From the midlands it is about 2 hours 45 mins, which isn’t too bad at all. We stayed at the Double Tree Hilton, near Goodram Gate, which is a stones throw away from York Minster. We were so close we could see it out of our bedroom window. The room was a deluxe room, with amazing shower ensuite. On arrival we received a warm cookie and warmer welcome from the reception team. There is no parking at the site, but a one-minute walk away is a carpark you can either pay £13 per day for a pass from the hotel or use the RingGo App to pay for however long your stay is. You can park outside while you check in, but they are only drop off/pick up spaces.

Once checked in we went for a wander. The beauty of staying where we did was that you are in the middle of York within a few minutes’ walk. Was stretched our legs, had a coffee, got a new battery for the car key fob, and then headed to Five Guys for a late lunch. Being child free actually took Phil longer to adjust to than me. He was so stuck on our usual feeding routine that he couldn’t get his head around having lunch at 3pm! I reminded him no womb goblins were present, meaning if we wanted dinner at 9 or 10pm we could. Humour definitely helped us both relax a lot. As parents to 2 ASD children, it isn’t until you are away from them that you realise how ‘on it’ you are all the time.

We laughed over burgers and spicy fries, before heading back out into the city to just walk around and take it all in. We walked past York Minster, back to the main high street and then decided to head back to our room for a shower and chill out. We laid across the bed in our complimentary robes and just enjoyed the quiet for a couple of hours. It was bliss!

York is incredible, no matter the weather. The cobbled streets, the architecture, the ramparts, the churches, the marketplace. All of it. It can be windy and rainy and still look beautiful. It is also a peaceful place. Which is hard to explain as it is a feeling over a physical sense. We felt lighter, like we could breathe and just enjoy ourselves. In part that could also be the lack of children to watch and monitor and keep out of the way of people or moving cars.

We headed to Wagamama’s for a late dinner, and by late I mean 8.30pm because we are so freakin’ rock n roll! I had the chicken ramen, slurped noodles and laughed about all the things with Phil. We then strolled back to the room, has an amazing shower under the rainfall showerhead before settling down to watch a little Netflix.

The hotel does a buffet breakfast at an additional cost, however being dairy intolerant this can be restrictive. I had already scouted out a couple of places to have our breakfast on the Saturday morning as we wanted to try a few different places to maximise the joy factor of our weekend break. We settled on the cutest independent place called the Double Dutch Pancake House. It was amazing. I had a dairy free pancake with bacon and maple syrup, Phil had a sweet banana, strawberry and yoghurt pancake. The pancakes were huge and so satisfying. In fact we skipped lunch as we just didn’t feel the need to eat afterwards. Get there early as this place has just a few tables, but get there and try their pancakes. You won’t be disappointed. It is a feast for your belly and your eyes with all the Dutch paraphernalia on the walls. It is amazing.

The next place on our hit list was York Minster. I mean it would be sacrilege to go all that way for w third time and still not see the inside of it. As we walked around the Cathedral doors, the bells were in full melodious swing. It was incredible and gave me goose bumps. The sound is incredible. Now we pre-booked tickets to get into the Minster, which I highly recommend you doing especially in busy school holidays. There are a lot of tourists who visit York, so plan ahead to avoid disappointment. The tickets don’t cost a great deal and are valid for unlimited visits for the rest of the year which is brilliant!

Allow a good 2 hours to walk around the Minster. There are several smaller chapel sections plus a museum in the lower levels under the main section. There is also the tower, which we didn’t go up because I am ridiculously scared of heights. I wouldn’t have made it and would like have got stuck! If we go back with the kids then Phil said he will take Ellie up there while I stay at ground level with Callan. Anyway there is so much to take in, so many war memorials including one that names all the women who died in service too. That section caught me off guard to be honest and was quite overwhelming.

The stain glass windows are breath taking. There are so many of them, even if you saw all the pictures of them, it is nothing compared to actually being there and seeing them in the flesh. We said several prayers as we walked around. Some for our family, some for our future, some for friends and some for guidance and reassurance. The sense of God for us as Christians was tangible. It is still very much a living, breathing place of worship and you sense it as you walk through.

Underground is the museum which explains the history of the Minster right back to before it was even there and a roman basilica stood in its place. There is so much to take in, but excellent for children as there are tactile activities they can do to help them learn about different parts of the Minster, its history and the building techniques used. Did you know the romans used steel rods to reinforce their poured cement columns? Neither did we but it made me chuckle as that’s what my Dad used to work with, steel rebar.

When in the Cathedral you can barely hear the bells. It is quite odd to be honest. However look for one place in particular, there is plaque to identify it. Apparently when you stand there the acoustics are just so that the bells sound like choral voices. As you can imagine my worship leading husband found this part of the Cathedral absolutely fascinating! As you leave you head through a little gift shop. An ideal place to grab a fridge magnet or memento of your visit which financially supports the immense upkeep of the building.

The Shambles is definitely a place you should make a bee-line for. It is an outdoor market full of local produce and goods. We found a lovely lady who makes natural soaps. Ellie suffers with psoriasis on her scalp and body. We have tried many things to help wash her hair but they all contain SLS and perfume, the two things you need to avoid. This lady recommended one of her hand made soaps, which another customer swears by for psoriasis. We got a bar for Ellie and it has made a massive difference to her scalp and hair condition. I believe she sells the soaps by mail order, so definitely worth checking her out. We will be buying more soaps from her in the future for sure.

Not far from one of the towers is York Gin. Now anyone who knows me, knows about my passion for all the gins. We get a bottle wherever we go to add to our gin bar. Obviously it would be rude not to get a bottle of York gin right? The ladies in the shop were brilliant. We sampled a few of the gins, and they were so helpful in helping us decide on one. We got a medium sized bottle to sup on special occasions. If you love gin as much as we do, make time to head to the York Gin shop, grab a sample or two and buy a yummy small batch bottle.

All in we walked about 4 miles around York that Saturday. Slowly, punctuated with a coffee here and there, but it such a pleasant day nonetheless. We headed back to the hotel to rest and wash before heading out for our evening meal together. I had booked us a table at a Tapas restaurant called Ambienté, and it was a very good decision too.

I have never had tapas before, and we were not disappointed by Ambienté. The waiting staff were amazing, so friendly and helpful. Our waitress recommended an insanely yummy Tempranillo red. It was rich and fruity, perfect for the food we ordered. They offer a great option for newbies called the Introduction to Tapas for two.

Plate after plate came out to our little table, but it was so delicious. We had Chorizo y Patatas, Albóndigas – beef & pork meatballs served in a chorizo, tomato & olive sauce, Croquetas de Pescado – salmon & smoked haddock croquettes served with a wild mushroom aioli, Judías Verdes – green beans pan fried in garlic with sun-dried tomatoes & pine nuts, Calamares Fritos – calamari rings deep fried in batter & served with aioli, Patatas Bravas – triple cooked sagitta potatoes served with aïoli & spicy tomato sauce and focaccia bread served with olive oil & balsamic vinegar. We ordered extra bread and olives at the end too, because we had a little wine left and weren’t ready to leave yet. When we did leave we felt so satisfied with our meal and wine. Next time though we are opting for the Paella, which serves 4, is made fresh to order and takes 45 minutes. Plenty of time to drink wine, chat and eat olives again.

One perk of staying at the Double Tree was the complimentary drinks voucher we had in our room on arrival. You could use it for tea, coffee, soft drinks, house wine or a beer. We used our vouchers after dinner to grab a final glass of red wine before we retired to our room. Thankfully it was a fairly decent red too so if you stay there keep an eye open for that!

Sunday morning, we had breakfast in the hotel. The buffet breakfast offers both cooked and continental options. However, if you have dietary requirements like dairy intolerance, this can really restrict your options. They did have soya milk, but when I asked about things like the mushrooms and eggs, everything had been cooked using butter. If you are happy with plum tomatoes, beans, bacon and hash browns then you will be fine. Although sausages usually have milk powder in the husk filler so keep that in mind. None the less we really enjoyed our quiet, slow breakfast. We sat overlooking Goodram Gate, and I got admire all the lush green houseplants in the restaurant.

After breakfast we went for another explore. We found the Little Yorkshire Candle Company, which sell natural soy candles, scented with essential oils. I got one of the candles because they were just delicious. I would have bought more but we were still trying to be a little money conscious! I had a quick chat with the lady who decided to set up shop after suffering for years with migraines. She found synthetic fragrance was the primary trigger for her, as soon as she cut them all out and started making her own soy candles, the headaches got better. And yes we both geeked out over essential oils for a solid 10 minutes before Phil dragged me away! You can find her on Instagram where she has links to her shop too.

I cannot recommend York enough. I think on the weekend break stakes it is often overlooked in favour of bigger, more cosmopolitan cities. However we thoroughly enjoyed it. It wasn’t too crowded being as we visited in January, which was definitely more what we were looking for.

Have you been to York? Where did you visit? If you haven’t been do you fancy now going? Let me know in the comments below.

Sophie xx

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