Clifford’s Tower looms over one side of York. It dominates my walks to work and most walks that I do around town. (Until I get into town proper and the Minster takes its place as the building supreme.) Another name for Clifford’s Tower is York Castle, though it might not tick all the “castle” boxes in your mind.
It was originally built by William the Conqueror when York was still a Viking city, before it quickly became the most important city in the North. After its strategic military importance, it has a tragic past as the site of one of the biggest pogroms in the Middle Ages (1190), which gets left out of a lot of official information. In fact, a memorial stone wasn’t laid until the 1970s to commemorate the victims of the massacre. Further down the historical line, during the English Civil War the castle was re-fortified as a Royalist stronghold against the Parliamentary forces. And it remained active until an explosion in 1684 destroyed the interior of Clifford’s Tower.
Now it is an English Heritage property that gets hundreds of thousands of visitors a year.
Once you are inside the tower, you can look around the main section (including peering into a massive fireplace), before venturing up the very steep stairs to the upper levels. On the middle floor you can explore the medieval chapel before continuing your climb up the stairs to the top. Once you’re at the top you are treated to 360 degree views of York.
Even if you aren’t interested in history, Clifford’s Tower is worth exploring just for the incredible views of York alone.
But visit it whilst you still can. There is an extremely hotly-debated and divisive plan to build more parking and a visitor centre around the Tower. The plans are being contested in court at the moment, but if planning goes ahead Clifford’s Tower could close in October indefinitely.
Adult tickets into the tower are £5 each. It is located at Tower Street, York, North Yorkshire, YO1 9SA
Have you ever explored Clifford’s Tower?