Travelling Through Time in the Viking City of York | Travel Research Online


Travelling Through Time in the Viking City of York

A recent press release confirming the restaging of the popular York Mystery Plays (every 4 years) started me thinking about how this medieval form of street theatre could become the star attraction in a customised tour for a couple of clients, two-four friends travelling together, or a small group from a local church.

In addition to attending a Mystery Play performance, there’s a Vikings to Georgians journey-through-time walking tour, a cathedral celebrating its 1350th anniversary; a 12th century Cistercian Abbey; a Georgian water garden complete with ornamental lakes, avenues, temples and cascades; a treasure-filled Baroque castle; and, for light relief, a fascinating collection of period rooms ALL in miniature!

I know you’re extremely busy, but this novel approach to a 3-4 night York-based programme could generate a profitable outcome.

Experience the York Mystery Plays

The York Mystery Plays (see video) are one of the city’s greatest literary and theatrical traditions and a hugely popular part of York’s cultural heritage. The next production takes place from 16th June 2022. The plays themselves are a cycle of 48 medieval plays covering the Christian history of the world from the Creation to the Last Judgment. In medieval times, the City Guilds performed them on pageant wagons, parading through the streets from one location to another; a tradition which still continues. Filling the City streets with drama and pageantry they are a unique way to experience York’s rich history.


A Time Travellers Tour – Part 1

With so much to see and to allow time for shopping, let’s split the tour into two halves. The journey begins at the award-winning Jorvik, amidst the sights, sounds and smells of the Viking city built on the very site where the Viking settlement was discovered in the 1980s. Next up, and dating from 1357, the nearby Merchant Adventurers’ Hall is one of York’s medieval marvels, as well as one of the world’s finest medieval Guild Halls. Surrounded by beautiful gardens, this stunning timber-framed building was constructed as a centre for charity, worship and business.

A Time Travellers Tour – Part 2

With the morning filled with more free time for shopping and maybe a cup of tea or coffee at Betty’s famous tea rooms, start the afternoon with a visit to the Fairfax House, arguably the finest Georgian townhouse in England where they will be transported back to the glory days of city-living in 18th century York. The day closes at York Minster, one of the world’s most magnificent cathedrals, a 2,000-year-old masterpiece of stained glass and stone, and a place of inspiration and wonder. Stay on for the deeply moving short service of Choral Evensong.

Image credit


Image ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

A Cistercian Abbey and a Georgian Water Garden

A very full and unforgettable day starts with a visit to a World Heritage Site of sculpted water gardens, natural landscapes, and awe-inspiring atmospheric ruins. Hidden in the secluded valley of the Driver Skell, Fountains Abbey was established by Cistercian monks in 1132 and the walls echo with centuries-old stories. A riverside walk leads to the elegantly impressive Studley Royal Water Garden, where you can wander through a Georgian landscape to see mirror-like ponds and canals, and take in statues, while follies and rushing cascades provide a succession of unforgettable eye-catching vistas.


Celebrating Their 1350th Anniversary

Following on from a visit to Fountains Abbey, spend much of the afternoon at nearby Ripon Cathedral, one of the smallest and oldest in the country. Founded by St Wilfrid and dedicated in 672 AD, it will be celebrating its 1350th anniversary next year. The Saxon crypt is all that remains of the of the original church but, within the nave, you’ll see evidence of how master craftsmen have expressed their faith in wood and stone over the centuries. The medieval Misericords that decorate the choir stalls are a hidden world of wonderful wood carvings.


Image ©NationalTrustImages/Mike Williams

A World in Miniature

Located just 40 minutes north of York, the National Trust-owned Nunnington Hall is a 17th century manor house set on the quiet banks of the River Rye and home to the fascinating Carlisle Collection of miniature rooms, fully furnished to reflect different periods. Housed here since 1981, it’s now an intrinsic part of the house and collection. Gifted to the National Trust in 1970, it is regarded by many as one of the finest collections of miniatures. The collection is noted for the high-quality craftsmanship and attention to detail, as well as its unusual scale.


A Baroque Masterpiece

After a morning at Nunnington Hall, spend the afternoon at nearby Castle Howard. Dramatically set between two lakes with extensive gardens, it is undoubtedly one of Britain’s finest private residences. Take a tour of the treasure-filled castle and, after a photo op at the Atlas Fountain, head for the tranquil walled garden, originally laid out in the 18th century. Today, part of it is still given over to an ornamental garden that produces vegetables and cut flowers, with the remainder now transformed into an intoxicatingly perfumed and colour-filled rose garden which will look and smell fabulous in June.

Paull Tickner, owner of U.K-based Custom GB, is known for his expertise in creating and operating imaginative, value-added tours of Great Britain and Ireland. Visit his website at or email him at

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