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Car-free adventures aroundYorkNorth Yorkshire

Two thousand years ago, a Roman legion, marching north from Lincoln, built a fort where the little River Foss meets the larger River Ouse. Eight centuries later, a Viking army invaded by boat, rebuilt the city and lived there; a thousand years after that, the railway arrived... every era has left layers of history to explore – on foot, by boat, bus, train or bike.

Steam train - York car-free adventures
  1. 3. Take a steam train ride

    If you love railways, you’re in the right city! From Stephenson’s rocket to Japanese bullet trains, from model railways to classic station architecture, you can see it all here. Half way between Edinburgh and London, it’s not surprising that York’s railway station should be an important transport hub. Next door, the world’s largest rail museum attracts nearly a million visitors per year and spans three centuries of train-related history. It’s free (although they encourage donations quite actively) and packed with extraordinary exhibits.

    • The National Railway Museum car park costs £10, which is one good incentive to get there by other means: it’s less than five minutes walk from York Station, ten minutes (and signed) from the town centre, or a fun trip on the road train (£3) from Duncombe Place near the minster.
    • From York railway station, climb the steps behind the signal-box-café, passing a spectacular clock and walk along the raised bridge over the platforms to emerge behind the station. Go down the steps and follow the fenced path ahead and you’ll soon see the National Railway Museum on your left.
    • Go inside the museum and turn right, down and up steps and past the Countess of York carriage-tearoom, to start in the Great Hall. Walk right to find the Mallard, the world’s fastest ever steam train. Nearby you can admire a Eurostar engine and an early Japanese bullet train.
    • Go back past the main entrance into the Station Hall to see Queen Victoria’s carriage – an ornate “palace on wheels”. Head out into the South Yard to enjoy steam train rides and a miniature railway.
    • You can also take steam train tours from York Station with Grand Yorkshire, puffing through the Yorkshire countryside towards Castle Howard or over the moors to the coast.
    • If you simply want to see one of the trains in action, have a look at the timetable and wander over to the station to catch the locomotive setting off on its journey.
  1. 4. Get the bus to Castle Howard

    Surrounded by the rolling Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, many-roomed Castle Howard has grand interiors and formal gardens to enjoy. You can stroll through the landscaped park, take a boat trip on the lake, or explore the surrounding countryside with views of the baroque mansion, the domed mausoleum and the elegant Temple of the Four Winds.

    • Bus 181 leaves from Station Avenue, near York railway station, every couple of hours and costs £10 return to get to Castle Howard, passing through several lovely Yorkshire villages along the way.
    •  And arriving by bus gets you £3.45 off entry. The whole Malton area is great for car-free adventures and you can even take the Coastliner bus all the way to the sea!
    • From the bus stop at Castle Howard, it’s a very short walk past the obelisk to the Yorkshire Aboretum. As at Castle Howard, the cafe is open to visitors with or without an entrance ticket and does some seriously good cakes.
    • There’s also a farm shop at Castle Howard selling local produce so you can take home edible souvenirs, from Yorkshire crisps to lavender-flavoured goat’s cheese.


  1. 5. City of Chocolate

    From chocolate makers in the heart of the city to the Arts and Crafts home of the Terry family, York has a sweet legacy: the Chocolate Orange, Smarties and other world famous names were all invented in York, which still produces millions of Kitkats every day. The sweet success of local pioneers, like the Rowntree and Terry families, is reflected in the city’s landmarks.

    • You can find out more at the Chocolate Story, King’s Square, and stroll through the nearby picturesque Shambles to  Monk Bar Chocolatiers, one of York’s many artisanal chocolate shops.
    • Turn left along Pavement (the first Rowntree store was to the right, where Pizza Hut is now) and right onto Fossgate to visit the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall through an archway next to the Hairy Fig delicatessen. The Company of Merchant Adventurers controlled York’s trade for centuries and still own this fine beamed hall with a great garden café.
    • Make your way past the hall, up steps onto Piccadilly and turn left. Turn right before the bridge onto a path beside the River Foss. Turn right into Coppergate shopping centre and left at Carluccio’s, past Scoops ice cream kiosk, to find Fairfax House. This elegant Georgian townhouse recreates the grandeur of eighteenth century York with furniture from the Terry family home.
    • To the right on Castlegate, on the far side of Fairfax House, is the York Cocoa Works. This new chocolate academy, shop and café is taking forward the city’s luscious legacy on the site of a warehouse that once belonged to Mary Tuke, the independent Quaker woman who started the business that would become Rowntrees of York.
    • Walk back along Castlegate and keep straight past Clifford’s Tower to the York Castle Museum (6). Kirkgate, a reconstructed street full of real Victorian shop fronts includes a real sweet shop and a Cocoa Room.
    • Walk back past the castle and cross over Tower Street to bus stop TE. Hop on bus 4, 12, 13, or the Coastliner and get off at Dringhouses to find Goddards. This lovely National Trust Arts and Crafts house was once home of the Terry family and has a confectionary-themed exhibition upstairs. Catch any of the frequent buses back into town from near the Cross Keys pub over the road.
    • Goddards has a café with an outdoor terraces, where you can have lunch or fresh homemade cakes. Help yourself to sherry in the drawing room at Goddards (donations in the pot).
  • Steam train - York car-free adventures
  • Castle Howard - York car-free adventures
  • Yorkshire Arboretum - York car-free adventures
  • York chocolate story - York car-free adventures
  • Country house - York car-free adventures
  • Leather chair in cafe - York car-free adventures
  • York city walls - York car-free adventures

Look out for the Good Journey Mark – where car-free visitors are welcome and enjoy a discount

Visit car-free in 2020!