One of my favourite ways to get to know a new city is to wander through its streets with a camera in my hand.
This definitely applies to York, which has quirky, cultural and historic photo opportunities waiting around virtually every corner. It’s also a city best explored on foot.
There’s plenty of choice when it comes to walking tours, from religious tours, to historic tours, to general tours of the city, to ghost tours… It’s a city with plenty to discover, and plenty of people to help you discover it.
But for those people who like to wander at their own leisure, there’s a fun way to do that, too.
Enter: the York Cat Trail.
The York Cat Trail may not be as old as some of the city’s other attractions. The oldest cats are just 200 years old (compared to the city’s 1000-year-old Viking history and 2000-year-old Roman remains). However, the tradition of adding cats to York’s buildings dates back to the Middle Ages.
Originally, these cat-statues would have helped to ward of the plague-carrying mice and rats – a bit like cat scarecrows.
Now, the cats have become a kind of craze, with shops, restaurants and houses taking part. 21 of these cats now prowl the roofs, walls and window-ledges of York.
To find them all, there’s a handy trail map, which can be picked up for free outside York Glass Ltd in the Shambles: York’s famous higgledy piggledy medieval street. The first two cats are actually located just outside the shop.
From here, the trail takes you past top must-see sites such as York Minster and Clifford’s Tower, as well as the street with the best name ever: Whip-ma-whop-ma-gate. It’s also a great way to get to know the layout of the city centre, and eye up those all-important cafes and restaurants that might prove useful later on.