York in October is a magical place. There is a crispness to the air as the days shorten and prepare for winter. It is an ideal place to be (and I wish as I’m writing this that I was there now).
We were there to be tourists and we started with a visit to Fairfax House. This is a grand Georgian townhouse which showcases period furnishings collected by Noel Terry (of Terry’s Chocolates) in the 20th century and was the townhouse of the Fairfaxes of York in the 18th century. As a volunteer at the National Trust for Scotland’s Georgian House, I am always interested to see other houses of the era and how they are interpreted. (Sharp-eyed readers of the previous instalment of this travel diary will have noted that the name of our York hotel is not a coincidence.) Fairfax House had an excellent collection of period costumes, The Georgian Edit which really brought the rooms to life. The guides were knowledgable and friendly and we had some good chats as we toured the house.
Next was the York Castle Museum which I found a bit bewildering. There is a real mix of exhibits and I think it may be too much to take in on one day. This may be another case where the necessity of COVID precautions is a silver lining. I can imagine a guided tour being a pleasure and less overwhelming by providing focus and context.
Cultural targets obtained, there was no longer any reason to delay one of the best reasons to be in York. Yes, of course, I mean the pubs!
One of my favourite pubs anywhere is the Three Legged Mare. I follow them on Twitter (@3LMYork) even though I live hours away (even farther now when, under current restrictions, I’m trapped Scotland’s Central Belt). Luckily there was some Lucid Dream: Cookie Cream Stout still on draught when I finally got there. The ‘Wonky Donkey’, as it’s also known is a friendly place. I was looking at my guidebook for Fairfax House when the people at the next table introduced themselves as volunteers there and we had a nice chat about being heritage volunteers. The pub was their local and they often met friends and family there for gatherings. I hope they still can, even if on a smaller scale than before. (The beer was excellent, by the way.)
Just up the street and opposite the Minster is the Guy Fawkes Inn, the actual birthplace of the infamous gunpowder plotter. Inside was full, but there is a garden out back. This proved to be a good thing since we were treated to cascades of bells – not from the Minster, but very nearby. Unfortunately, by this time the races had finished and York was filling up with people who had perhaps been drinking for a bit longer than us and on stronger stuff. But the bells were magical even so.
Plans to venture to an excellent Argentinian steak restaurant that we visited before were scuppered by a combination of not booking and sore legs, since it was on the opposite side of town. A pleasant meal at nearby Wildwood – basically the first place we saw with plenty of space – finished the day.