As a Londoner, going up North for the day sounds like it should be some sort of grand experience. When I was planned my day trip to Yorkshire, friends questioned “why on earth” I would drive so far in one day. When I told residents in Yorkshire that I wouldn’t be staying the night once I arrived, they were astounded.
Then I informed them all that a direct train from King’s Cross Station only takes two hours to travel. The distance is actually less than you imagine. In just one hour and twenty minutes, York’s romantic sandstone replaces London’s industrial gray, and the gruffness of Londoners is replaced by the overwhelming friendliness of the North’s chatty residents.It takes me just 14 minutes to reach the center of a medieval street after arriving at York Station and following directions from one of these Yorkshiremen. I have the impression that the oblique buildings are about to collapse. As the frosting between the sponge layers melts, these formations appear to be stacked cakes falling out of alignment. They encircle me and block off the outside world.
What is this strange environment that I have entered? one of magic, bakeries, and ghostly commerce. The Shambles draws Harry Potter fans from all over the world and local vendors have capitalized on the mania. It is said to be the model for Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley.
With everything from wands to Hogwarts sweaters, The Shop That Must Not Be Named is on my left, and Potions Cauldron is to my right.
Even though JK Rowling may not have actually been to The Shambles, the location seems like it belongs in a movie. It’s a shambles is typically used to describe a mess or a complete state of disorder. This street’s “mess,” which includes crooked window fronts and diagonal wooden beams, contributes to the
But there is no place for chaos. A staff worker in a bowler hat and apron instructs me to the opposite side of the street as I approach the now TikTok renowned York Ghost Merchants store. Enthusiastic ghost hunters (or purchasers) crowd the Shambles every day, and chalk marks on the cobblestones warn them to give way to patrons of the pub, the chocolatier, and other establishments.
Where once garbage from the butcher shops would have washed away, we are now standing in a dip. At 2pm on a Thursday, the 20-minute wait allows me time to take in the narrow street.
At least there isn’t a dragon with fire breath at the end of this alley; instead, there is an Instagrammer asking her spouse to take another photo ofshows her in front of a display of wizard brooms.
It gradually comes to be my time as the line runs smoothly and is consistently controlled by the merchants. I enter a shop filled with ghosts once the red velvet rope is opened. This must be the most haunted location on earth, but ghosts don’t seem quite so frightening when they can be bought, do they?
I choose a large (£17) ghost that appeals to me, pay the cost, and a toy railway brings it to me (no, not the Hogwarts Express). Where in York do you take a ghost?
I choose House of The Trembling Madness because it sounds like the kind of location a ghost would adore (not to be mistaken with House of Trembling Madness located only a short distance away). Perhaps the specter ofAn animal would undoubtedly find the stuffed corpses that protrude from the beamed walls’ necks disturbing.
I arrive at a Viking drinking den after passing through an unusual bottle shop and up the wooden stairs to what feels like an attic. The tabletops are covered in tall candlesticks that are bursting with layers and layers of drippy wax, and a couple is cozily seated in the corner. Today, York has been packed everywhere I have looked (sorry about the ram’s head on the wall), but this pub is quiet.
The costs are also less eerie than those in London. Pints cost £4 and up. If a local at the table next to me asks where I’m from, it’s obvious I’m a tourist whether or not it’s because of the surprise on my face when I hear the pricing. “So, you’ve gone to the ghost shop… just
I have one: why? Like any city, there are portions geared toward locals and parts geared toward tourists.
The Shambles, several bars, and the 275 steps up to York Minster may all be seen in about six hours in the city (never again). I have seen the city from platforms overlooking the county to dips in narrow streets. I now have a ghost, and knowing that York’s stunning walls and its pockets of medieval craziness are only two hours away makes me eager to return for another day trip.