GLT heads to the glorious walled city of York, named the best destination in the UK, to find out what’s on offer for groups and why 2018 is the perfect time to go.
After spending a weekend exploring, it’s no surprise that York was voted the Best UK Destination at last year’s Group Leisure & Travel Awards, says GLT editor Keeley Rodgers. Here, she reports back on just some of the many highlights on offer for groups:
1. Marvel at the stained windows of York Minster
The vast gothic Minster dominates the city; wherever you look, the magnificent building is in the skyline, and rightly so. As you get closer, the stunning detail becomes clearer, and it’s no wonder the building took an impressive 250 years to build.
Voluntary guides are on offer to groups, at no extra cost, and if you’re feeling particularly energetic you can climb the 275 steps to the top of the tower, the highest point of York. It’s no mean feat but the panoramic views of the city are more than worth it.
2. Satisfy your sweet tooth at York’s Chocolate Story
Did you know six million Kit Kats are produced in York every day? Yes, among its claims to fame, York is world-famous for its chocolate and sweets, being home to many of the notable families including the Rowntree and Terry names.
I’ll admit to being a big fan of chocolate and so there was no doubt that a trip to York’s Chocolate Story would feature high on the itinerary for the trip. You’re taken on a trip down memory lane, discovering the origins of chocolate and how the sweet stuff made history in the iconic city of York.
It’s perfect for groups; those of 15 plus receive discounted admission rates, free admission for the group organiser and coach driver as well as free fam visits and exclusive retail offers.
3. Scale the steps of Clifford’s Tower
Ready to work off that chocolate? Head to the ancient mound of Clifford’s Tower, built by William the Conqueror to strengthen his grip on the north.
Today, the tower provides panoramic views over the city and you can walk along the open-air wall to imagine life looking out for the enemies. Groups of 11 or more receive a 15 per cent discount along with free entry for coach drivers and tour leaders.
4. Shop until you drop in The Shambles
No trip to York would be complete without a spot of shopping along the beautiful cobbled streets of The Shambles, inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter series. It gets its name from the centuries of being a street of butchers, referring to the place where butchers gathered and sold their meat.
Today it’s arguably the best preserved Medieval street in the world and houses a great selection of shops and places to eat. I’d recommend heading there early before the crowds descend at lunchtime.
5. Re-imagine history at the JORVIK Viking Centre
It’s the year AD960, Eric Bloodaxe, the last Viking King in Jorvik has been expelled and the city is transforming itself. Taken back in time aboard the improved ride experience, you’ll discover life in Viking-Age York.
The JORVIK Viking Centre reopened last year after a major project and it now offers the new ride experience as well as an updated historical interpretation of 10th century York. A ‘Groups Pastport’ gives you access across five city centre attractions as well as a host of events including the biggest Viking Festival in Europe, next held in February 2019.
6. Enjoy Afternoon Tea with a difference
Who doesn’t love a traditional Afternoon Tea, complete with fancy scones, scrumptious homemade cakes and dainty sandwiches? Guilty! But if you’re looking for something with a twist, you won’t go wrong with The Countess of York experience at the National Railway Museum.
Enjoy one of York’s finest luxury afternoon tea experiences from the comfort of a beautifully restored rail carriage which is available to hire exclusively.
Dining in one of the carriages at the National Railway Museum. Photo credit: Visit York.
Groups also benefit from some special perks when visiting the Railway Museum and a road train can take you between the museum and York Minster, but make sure you book your museum tickets in advance.
Extend your visit
I’d certainly recommend spending a good few days exploring York but if you do the impossible and tick off all the highlights in the city itself, there’s plenty more on the doorstep to do.
Just minutes outside York and set in lovely landscape gardens, the indoor McArthurGlen’s York Designer Outlet is a must with over 120 leading UK and international designer and high street brands.
And if it’s gardens you’re looking for, don’t miss a trip to the RHS Harlow Carr, just on the outskirts of Harrogate. There are far too many highlights to mention, including the wildflower meadows and my personal favourite, the alpine zone. With so many benefits on offer for groups including free coach parking, private tours and reduced entry prices, it’s a must for your agenda.
My top tip? Save time, and space for some delicious tea and cake at the famous Bettys Café Tea Rooms; groups can book a ticket including a tour and cream tea voucher for a special rate.
A new tourism campaign, which will run year-round, highlights 30 visitor experiences for people heading to York, providing even more inspiration for groups.
Lead image: York Minster. Photo credit: Visit England and Diana Jarvis