York is the Must-See Cultural Destination of the North This Autumn
3 Sep 2015
• Visit the new £8m wing of York Art Gallery
• Explore York’s Roman & Viking heritage, plus the largest medieval gothic cathedral in Northern Europe
• Stay at 17th-century Middlethorpe Hall, home of celebrated feminist and diarist, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
Since it re-opened in August, critics have been raving about the £8m redevelopment of York Art Gallery.
A new mezzanine level has been created within the original Grade II-listed Victorian building, to showcase the gallery’s world-class ceramics collection – including a 17 metre-long Wall of Pots by Anthony Shaw, arranged in the colours of the rainbow; and Clare Twomey’s specially commissioned installation built from 10,000 slip-cast bowls.
Alongside the gallery’s famous collection of Italian Old Masters, there are works by David Hockney, Sarah Lucas, Stanley Spencer and L.S Lowry.
It’s the must-see destination for autumn. And the perfect place to stay is Middlethorpe Hall, a 17th-century William and Mary country house standing in 20 acres of manicured gardens and parkland, just outside the centre of York. The hotel is part of the Historic House Hotels of the National Trust.
Once the home of the celebrated 18th-century feminist and diarist, Lady Mary Wortley-Montagu, Middlethorpe has been restored as a Historic House Hotel, with a stunning carved oak staircase and chequered marble floors.
Exquisitely chosen antiques and artwork give the look and feel of a private country house. Several of the 29 individually decorated bedrooms have king-or queen size beds. All rooms have flat-screen TVs with DVD players.
The hotel is a 15-minute drive from the medieval city of York with its 13th-century defensive walls (the longest and best preserved in England), narrow streets, gothic cathedrals and bookshops specialising in antiquarian books.
Visitors can explore York’s Roman, Viking, and medieval heritage plus a wealth of attractions like the iconic York Minster (the largest medieval gothic cathedral in Northern Europe and a treasure house of over 800 years of stained glass).
For full atmospheric effect, approach the Minster via The Shambles, an ancient cobbled street mentioned in the Domesday Book, where the upper stories of the 14th-century timber houses lean out, almost to within touching distance.
York is one of the best places for historical time travel. The Castle Museum takes visitors back through 300 years of life in the city, with ‘real’ Victorian streets of salvaged shop fronts; while the Jorvik Viking Centre brings visitors face to skull with what was once an important and thriving 9th-century Viking city.
Over at Yorkshire Museum and Museum Gardens, five galleries chart the story of the city in high-tech style, but its real treasures are the many prehistoric, Roman, Viking and medieval artefacts. Outside, the museum’s ten-acre botanical gardens run down to the River Ouse and feature the 950 year-old scenic ruins of St Mary’s Abbey, a tower from the original Roman fortress and beautiful flower borders.
Then it’s time for afternoon tea at Bettys. For nearly 100 years people have been enjoying at the famous cafe and tearoom. Surrounded by huge curved windows, elegant wood panelling and ornate mirrors, you can almost imagine yourself aboard a luxury liner (the design was inspired by the art deco elegance of the Queen Mary).
A few years after Bettys opened its doors in York war broke out, and Bettys – in particular the basement ‘Bettys Bar’ – became a favourite haunt of thousands of airmen stationed around York. ‘Bettys Mirror’, on which many of them engraved their signatures with a diamond pen, remains on display today as a fitting tribute to their bravery.
Sightseeing over, it’s back to the hotel to luxuriate in the hotel’s spa (with its blue-tiled pool and sauna), or explore the fragrant rose garden, intriguing walled garden and romantic meadow, which leads to a lake surrounded by beautiful specimen trees.
It’s the perfect blend of culture, relaxation and fine dining this autumn.
www.middlethorpe.com Middlethorpe Hall, York, Yorkshire, YO23 2GB, Tel: +44 (1904) 641241
B&B priced from £199.00 per night based on two sharing