Although the imposing spire of the Minster is the dominant landmark of York, the stark solitary might of Clifford’s Tower is every bit as impressive. This is all that remains of York Castle, which was built between the Rivers Ouse and Foss. No trip to the city is complete without a visit to the tower, which overlooks the town from its man-made hill. It’s the ideal preliminary before a boat trip or stroll along the .
Like many of the country’s finest castles, York Castle was built by the Normans. William the Conqueror wanted to intimidate the old Viking city and show a new ruler was in town. That also made it a target. The first castle was raised in 1068 and destroyed within a year by a combined army of rebels and Vikings. It was rapidly rebuilt with an artificial moat fed by the nearby rivers. In 1190, it was the site of tragedy when 150 Jews took refuge in the castle during a pogrom – many killed themselves rather than fall into the hands of their persecutors.
The castle was rebuilt in stone in the 13th century and became one of the most important castles in the north until it slowly fell into disrepair. A large part was accidentally destroyed during St George’s Day celebrations in 1684. In later years, the castle bailey was used as a prison – it remained in use until 1929. Today Clifford’s Tower, the most prominent surviving portion, is a Grade I-listed building and maintained by English Heritage. York Castle Museum is also open to visitors. This is built on the site of York Castle and includes access to the old castle prison.
The Ouse itself is a popular and busy river for walkers and joggers. The Millennium Bridge has created a circular walk from the city centre via the Georgian splendour of New Walk that also takes in the lovely Rowntree Park, located alongside the river with woodland walks and an ornamental lake.