A WALKING GUIDE TO YORK’S CITY WALLS TRAIL
York still has most of the medieval walls that surrounded the city 700 years ago. The tops of these walls were partly rebuilt about 150 years ago so the public could walk along most of them –and feel safer by having a tall parapet on one side of them. Most think these are the best city walls in Britain, some say they give us the best city walk in Britain. In York –and in this guide –these are usually just called “The Walls”. Locals also sometimes refer to “The Bar Walls”. The walls you see today were mainly built in the 13th century of magnesian limestone and, uniquely in England, were set on earthen ramparts. York’s Roman Walls are mainly hidden in these ramparts.
This guide is to help you enjoy a circular walk that is on top of the Walls wherever possible. This guide can also help you select particular bits of the Walls to walk on because there are about a dozen places where you can climb up to [or down from] the Walls. In this guide descriptions go clockwise on this “City Walls Trail” but the Walls can be walked in either direction.
Information here mainly explains what you can see but there are a few stories of the sort that could begin “if you had been here in ….”. These are for those who want to know what these walls have “seen” even if these events have left no obvious physical trace for you to see as you walk the Walls today.
If you have a smartphone or a tablet with you when you are out on the trail look out for the small A6 size QR cards which can be found at strategic wall-walk access places around the York City Walls Trail. These QR cards are located on the large A1 Information Panels at :-
Bootham Bar (bottom of the steps)
Monk Bar (under the bar’s arch)
Layerthorpe Bridge (bottom of the steps)
Red Tower (on the tower wall)
Walmgate Bar (bottom of the steps)
Fishergate Bar (bottom of the steps)
Fishergate Postern Tower (on the tower wall)
Tower Gardens (opposite Clifford’s Tower)
Baile Hill (bottom of the steps)
Victoria Bar (road outside the bar)
Micklegate Bar (2) (outer wall at side of bar & bar’s inner wall)
Barker Tower (wall at start of elevated wall-walk)
Multangular Tower (area inside Multangular Tower)
Scan the QR codes to give links to the web pages relevant to the nearest wall-walk section(s).
ACCESS – to the wall-walk and trail (see MAP 1)
The wall-walk is usually open [and FREE] from 8.00am and closes at dusk, a time which changes through the year. For details see the CYC web site page at: https://www.york.gov.uk/york-city-centre/city-walls/3 All sections are closed for the whole day when a morning check suggests that snow, storm or ice will make any part dangerous. For information on short term closures, like those for ice, the phone number is now 01904 551551, from 8.30 -5.30 Monday to Friday. This takes you to an operator at “Smarter York” who should have had an email informing them of any closures; these should also be posted on the City of York Council twitter and facebook accounts, there are links to these on the CYC web site page.
The wall-walk is not usually scary for people with a medium fear of heights but is not suitable for use in a wheel chair [there are steps to go up, then frequent steps and it’s too narrow for safe passing]; pushchairs create problems but occasionally people try to use them; dogs [other than guide dogs and assistance dogs] are banned.
There is always a parapet wall on one side of the wall-walk and the other side is also safely guarded with continuous railings from Bootham Bar to Monk Bar then on to Layerthorpe. All other lengths of the wall walk have unguarded drops of 1.5 to 2.5 metres on the inner side, opposite the parapet. Young children should be closely supervised.
When the wall-walk is closed, or if you can’t go up steps, then you can get some sense of being on the wall-walk by going on the first 20 metres of wall at the west end of Lendal Bridge [the more northerly bridge over the River Ouse, on map1.], but further along there are gates and steps. There is also level and usually constant access to Tower Place, the private-looking path with a narrow wall-walk behind the length of low city wall in Tower Gardens, running to the Ouse near the east end of Skeldergate Bridge [the more southerly bridge over the River Ouse, on map1.]
For detailed information on accessibility for those with special problems see: https://www.accessable.co.uk/city-of-york-council/city-of-york-council/access-guides/york-city-walls
You can walk in either direction round the Walls; (but the following pages go clockwise). You can get up to it by stone steps at the four main bars, at the 3 minor gateways, at the four other places where the wall-walk ends and, oddly, from a sort of large island in roads 200 metres east of the railway station. For these last steps: start at the front of the station, with your back to the station go to your left using zebra crossings. Then continue along the pavement in front of the Victorian station hotel and its grounds till you come to a road junction controlled by traffic lights. Cross the road on your right first but turn left at the traffic island to cross again so you get to the pavement with a statue, then go under the Walls and the steps are on your left. Even if the wall-walk is closed there are excellent views along it from the top of these steps.
The City Walls Trail links all the accessible wall-walk into a single circuit. The route between the walks on the Walls is marked on the ground with small brass pavement studs showing a tower with battlements.
This studded route is mainly on the flat, and the steps that do exist are avoidable. This route can be made into a fairly flat full circuit of the Walls –nearly always by going along the pavement on the Walls side of the roads which ring the Walls; these roads are often busy, some bits of the pavement are busy too – but there is often a good view of the Walls. A short [but very good] part of the studded route goes through the Museum Gardens, entry to these is free [for opening times see https://www.yorkmuseumgardens.org.uk/].
If you wish to follow York’s City Walls Trail and stay on ground level then see the map HERE.
For more information on the Walls Trail continue to The Overview Section
The information here was first compiled in the spring of 2013 and is continually checked. It was last updated in October 2022. Please tell us if you discover any mistakes or changes.
The web pages Walls Trail – HOME, INTRODUCTION and OVERVIEW contain some small sections of repeated text. This has been done to aid the clarity when viewing these as individual pages.
LINKS TO TRAIL PAGES :-
Wall Trail: – map 1
NEXT SECTION = Wall Trail: Overview
The Trail: Section 2. North Corner (Bootham Bar to Monk Bar)
The Trail: Section 4. East Corner, part1 (Monk Bar to the river Foss)
The Trail: Section 5. East Corner, part2 (River Foss to the Red Tower)
The Trail: Section 6. East Corner, part3 (Red tower to Walmgate Bar)
The Trail: Section 8. South Corner, part1 (Walmgate Bar to Fishergate Postern)
The Trail: Section 9.South Corner, part2 (Fishergate Posern to the river Ouse)
The Trail: Section 10. South Corner, part3 (River Ouse to Micklegate Bar)
The Trail: Section 12. West Corner, part1 (Micklegate Bar to the river Ouse)
The Trail: Section 13. West Corner, part2 (River Ouse to Bootham Bar)
Wall Trail: Appendix (with more on stonework, plants, notices, names, cafes & pubs, etc..)
Walls Trail: Glossary, Maps & Credits
Walls Trail: Contents & Links
RETURN TO WALL TRAIL HOME PAGE
Layout, text and all content is copyright to the Friends of York Walls.
Any comments, errors/corrections, etc. to email@example.com
A similar guide to this on-line guide is also in print, and sold for about £6.00
See “A Walking Guide to York’s City Walls” by Simon Mattam. Eboru Publishing – ISBN 978 0 9929002 0 5.
It was published in 2014, but is updated on its Facebook page HERE