Contrary to the vast majority of bloggers and instagrammers who are filling up my feeds with their joy at the return of woolen jumpers, rainy days, and cold, dark nights, the colder months are not my favourite. I dread saying goodbye to warm sunshine and long evenings when this time of year rolls around. But now I live in York, there’s something to ease the transition into the latter parts of the year, because autumn in this city can be nothing short of spectacular. Perhaps because it’s the time of year I first moved here (almost exactly four years to the day as I type, no less), but York’s autumn holds such a special place in my heart. I actually think it’s one of the best times to visit the city, so if you’re heading to York this autumn, here are some prime photo-spots for your cosy, golden-toned Instagram feed.
The Minster and Dean’s Park
We’ll start with the most obvious one; I walk by the Minster pretty much every time I head into town, so it’s almost certainly on anyone’s to-do list while in York. But the Minster’s gorgeously bright limestone bricks seem to emit light themselves on a sunny autumn day, and on an overcast one it towers in all its gothic glory. While you’re there, don’t forget to take a wander through Dean’s Park, which sits behind the Minster itself, where you can practically watch the leaves turn.
The City Walls
Again, if you’re in York, walking the city walls is a must-do, but I really advocate doing so in the cooler months. In the summer, some of the best views are obscured by the trees which line parts of the trail, so heading around the two-mile walk in October-time gives you the best of both worlds: the stunning views, framed by all the hues of autumn. The walls are locked at sunset, but if you time it just right, golden-hour is extra rewarding.
Exhibition Square and King’s Manor
King’s Manor – formerly an Abbot’s House, a royal residence, and a school – is now owned by the University of York. As a student I spent a fair amount of time at the King’s Manor library, mostly to get a change of feel from campus, or working with the University’s events team, and I really urge those visiting York to pop by and take a look around. It’s absolutely beautiful in the autumn, and really does feel like stepping back in time. Outside the courtyard is Exhibition Square, home to the York Art Gallery. It’s one of my favourite corners of the city, and incredibly photogenic – but do go one step further and head inside the gallery to have a look at its wonderful collection and original exhibitions.
Museum Gardens and the River
Bigger than Dean’s Park, the Museum Gardens is another of the city centre’s green spaces well-favoured by locals and tourists alike, and for good reason. Among the beautifully designed gardens are the Yorkshire Museum, the 14th-century Hospitium (now used for weddings and other events), Yorkshire’s oldest working observatory, and the ruins of the medieval St Mary’s Abbey. In the autumn, though, the trees take precedence, as their leaves turn and fall, coating the gardens in blends of gold.
The Knavesmire, Goddard’s House, and Tadcaster Road
As a student I didn’t once explore this southernmost side of York, but after moving here this time last year it’s really captured me. Tadcaster Road is an old Roman road running straight all the way to Micklegate and lined for much of it by trees. It’s also home to the Knavesmire, now the home of York Racecourse and large local events (as I write, the annual Balloon Fiesta is taking place), but which in the past has been the site of a golf course, a secondary school, and York’s public hangings between 1379 and 1801. A little further up, in Dringhouses, you’ll find Goddards House, a National Trust-owned arts and crafts house which was built for the Terry family of chocolate orange fame. The house and gardens are just lovely at the season’s change. All this within a 30-minute walk or a 10 minute bus ride (£2 for a single ticket) from York Railway Station.
Regardless of when you come to visit York, you’ll almost certainly be struck by its beauty. But it takes on something just a little more magical in autumn; every year it captures my heart all over again.