“ This spectacular 11th century Clifford`s Tower is the last remaining part of York Castle. Also known as "Clifford's Tower" thanks to Edward II in 1322 had the rebel Lord Robert Clifford hanged in chains from the walls. This was the central keep of the castle. There were more buildings, surrounded by great walls and then a moat around the whole fortress. „
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Any visit to York is generally considered incomplete without a visit to Clifford's Tower, the remains of an old stone castle first built in Norman times and further developed during the reign of Henry III. Never ones to buck the trend, Mrs SWSt and I decided to make good use of our English Heritage membership and venture inside.
Clifford's Tower is all that remains of what was once a pretty extensive castle which at one time covered a large area of York and offered a strong defensive position. The tower itself is mostly derelict and fell into disuse a long time ago. However, the ruins themselves are still rather impressive from the outside. Although the tower has no roof, its original circular structure is still completely intact. Standing atop a large mount, it offers impressive panoramic views of the city and is one of the main reasons why people choose to visit.
Clifford's Tower is very central and easy to get to. Located near the York Museum, it is less than 5 minutes walk from the city centre and not much further from the train station. York has an excellent Park and Ride system which costs £2.30 per adult for a return ticket and only takes around 10 minutes to get you into the city. If you do decide to drive in, there is a car park right by Clifford's Tower, which is really convenient, but also very expensive - the current charge is £2 per hour!
Inevitably, Clifford's Tower suffers from some accessibility issues. Since it is set on a tall mound, the entrance is accessed via a long flight of some fairly steep steps. There is no wheelchair access and if you are infirm (or even rather unfit), you may struggle to reach the top. The same also applies once you are in the tower. As we will see in a moment, the lower levels are pretty bare and the real payoff for your visit comes from climbing a narrow stone staircase, which is again fairly steep, to reach the upper level.
Once you get to the top of mound, the ticket office is immediately on your right. Here we were greeted by two very friendly staff who made us feel really welcome, having a laugh and a joke with us as we got our tickets. This made a very nice change from the surly ticket attendants you sometimes get. The same staff also proved to be very helpful and knowledgeable, as I overheard one man asking them to point out a couple of things, which they were very happy to do.
Once inside the tower, there isn't actually a great deal to see on the ground level as it has been exposed to the elements for so long that any furnishings and interior detail on the stonework have long since disappeared. There are a couple of fireplaces, windows and other features you would expect to see, but little else. To help you get some idea of both the history and the impressive size of the castle at the height of its powers, there are a number of informative display boards dotted around. These are well designed and interesting to read, giving you a potted history of the site, without going into too much detail. Even if you take the time to read every single word on them, however, the ground floor will not detain you for long.
Moving up one floor, the only room still in existence is a small chapel. Again, there is an information board (although this repeats some of the information you have already seen downstairs.) It's interesting, but again, there's not really much to detain you for long, as little of the original interior remain.
Moving on up, things suddenly become far more impressive as you emerge from the winding staircase onto the roof of the tower (or more accurately where the roof would have been!). The walls here are in pretty good condition and you can actually walk the circuit of the tower. Since Clifford's Tower stands so much higher than the rest of the city, you can get some stunning views on a good day and see for miles. A word of warning, though: the top of the tower is very exposed and completely open, so make sure you go on a dry (and ideally calm) day.
The panoramic views across the city are really stunning, and if you have struggled with the climb up all those steep and winding stairs, at least you feel it has been worth the effort. To help you pick out the more interesting landmarks dotted around the city and its outskirts, there are a number of information boards which contain a skyline drawing of the city and put names to some of the buildings you can see. There are several of these, all different, at different points in the tower, telling you the landmarks you can see from that particular point. These were very well drawn and made it incredibly easy to pick out and identify the building noted on the map and match it against the view in front of you.
The big problem with Clifford's Tower is that once you've walked right the way round the top, there's not much left to do and that makes it a pretty expensive place to visit. It currently costs £3.50 for an adult ticket, yet you won't spend a great deal of time in the place itself. Mrs SWSt and I are both historians by training and are the type of person that probably annoys you when you are in such places. We go around and read every piece of information on every board, so we don't exactly do a whistle stop tour. Yet, even allowing for that, I would estimate we were in Clifford's Tower for no longer than 20 minutes, which doesn't represent great value for money. Apart from the views, there is very little extra you get from paying to go inside - the interior is so sparse, that you can admire the structure of the building just as well simply by wandering around the base of the mound from outside - something you can do for free! As noted above we are English Heritage members, so it didn't actually cost us to go in; yet whilst we enjoyed it, we both felt that had we paid £7 to get in, we would probably not have been quite so happy.
Clifford's Tower is an interesting place, particularly for its fantastic views over the city. However, as ruins go, there's not much else to see and if you take along a family, a visit to Clifford's Tower is going to be a pretty expensive way to spend half and hour. What's there is interesting, but it's expensive and with so many other tourist attractions in York, you might prefer just to walk up to it, look around the outside and save your money for something that will give you greater enjoyment.
© Copyright SWSt 2010
This review is for Clifford's Tower, an historic castle in the centre of York. The monument is easily seen, standing high on a mound and is the original keep of York Castle. It is currently looked after by English Heritage.
The castle was first constructed in 1068 as part of William the Conqueror's defences. It has gone through a turbulent time, in 1190, one hundred and fifty Jews sought refuge in the Tower but were either killed in a fire or killed themselves as some of the local people laid siege to the Tower. Even those Jews who did surrender were killed, and the town received punishment from the King for their behaviour.
The castle costs 3.50 pounds to enter, or is free to members of English Heritage. Children are half price, and family tickets at the time of writing are 8.80 pounds. These ticket prices are reasonable, although a visit is unlikely to take as long as some of the other attractions in York such as the National Railway Museum. There is though a lot of history to the site, so it's still worth visiting.
The castle today is not what it was, and the roof is missing and parts of the walls. That of course means that inside the building, lots is missing, but it is still possible to walk on the city's battlements. The views from these battlements is superb, and you can see across York and much further when the weather is better.
A visit to Clifford's Tower is recommended for children, as the building is very hands on. There is climbing up to the second level of the tower, the climb to get into the Tower, so it should help burn some energy off! There's also a small shop on the site with some guide books and some small and inexpensive souvenirs that children might be interested in.
There are some quite steep steps to get into the castle, so this isn't a visitor attraction which is very easily to either the disabled or those who are physically less able. In times of bad weather the castle is sometimes closed due to the potentially dangerous steps, so phone ahead if you plan a visit during poor weather such as snow or ice.
Guided tours are also offered at the Tower, which tend to last for around an hour, and are offered throughout the year. With buildings as old as this, such tours are definitely good to go on if you can, so that you can hear about all of the history of the building from an expert, rather than risk missing lots of the information.
The castle is quite accessible, it is a short walk from the train and bus stations, and is in the centre of York if you plan to spend the rest of the day in the City. There is a large council owned car park at the base of Clifford's Tower, and many other car parks in the vicinity if this is full.
Overall, this is one of York's oldest and most historic monuments, so is definitely worth a look. The museum isn't too expensive, although you're only likely to be there for around and hour. Members of English Heritage get in free, so for them or for those interested in the history of York, this is definitely worth a look.
Cliffords Tower is one of the premium tourist attractions in York. It was first built in the 11th century, although the tower which remains probably dates from the 14th century. It has a very long history, probably most infamously as the site of a mass suicide in 1190 by a group of Jewish people who were hiding from a mob. The ones who surrendered were killed.
These days, it's a far more tranquil place and is located relatively close to the centre of York. It is next to the Castle Museum, which is where Dick Turpin was imprisoned before his trial. There is also a big pay and display car park here, which is handy if you are visiting either attraction.
Cliffords Tower provides a pretty nice vantage point over the city, and is especially nice in the spring when the daffodils are in bloom. These days, only the walls of the Tower remain and it is open to the elements.
The Tower is open seven days a week and costs £3.50 for an adult, or £1.80 for a child. The site is managed by English Heritage, so you would get in free if you have membership with them. Whilst you're there, Castle Museum is worth a look, and is free for people who have York Cards.
In the summer, the hill is quite popular with drunk people who like rolling down it. I have known people who have been told off by the police for doing this, so beware!
York is a unique historical city in north of England and has so many features to form its reputation as the crowned European Tourism City of 2007.
Clifford's Tower is also known as the Eye of York and is a popular site for tourists from around the world.
Clifford's Tower stands in the centre of York as a proud symbol of the power of England's medieval kings. It is located on top of a green, grassy hill and can be seen from a distance. Climbing 55 very steep steps and with a sweeping panorama of York, it isn't hard to understand why Clifford's Tower is called the Eye of York and played such an important role in the history of England.
Clifford's Tower takes its name from Roger de Clifford, who following the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322 was hung in chains from its battlements, when he was executed for treason against Edward II.
Originally there was a castle built by William the Conqueror in 1068 to subdue the rebels of the north. After twice being burned to the ground Henry III rebuilt a typical French castle in the 13th century. A Frenchman called Henry of Reyns may have designed Clifford's Tower and later was employed by the king to build the new Westminster Abbey.
There is a grisly story connected with Clifford's Tower concerning the Jewish community. There were riots against Jews of York in March 1190. Similar things happened in other European countries at the same time too. Many Jewish people took shelter inside a wooden tower on this site, but came under heavy attack from the citizens as well as a few local knights. Rather than be captured and killed or renounce their faith, on the night of Friday 16 March around 150 Jews and Jewesses set fire to the tower in an attempt to commit suicide. Those who survived were caught and massacred by the rioters. To commemorate the tragedy and learn lessons from history there is a big plaque at the foot of the tower. You can also see an information panel inside the walls telling more about the history.
What you can see
Clifford's Tower contained two floors linked by spiral staircases in the thickness of the walls, and some of the internal walls and the roof have been lost. However you can still see many things, such as a stone-cupboard, windows and original decoration.
1. The ground floor
The ground floor is pretty plain with a simple entrance and a small gift shop. However you will spend more time there studying all the information panels that tell the story of York Castle and Clifford's Tower. At the centre of the yard there is a scale model that shows how York Castle was built, who the officials in history were and how the castle protected York from the threat of the Scots and the Danes. In practice the castle was never attacked in the Middle Ages, but was fully equipped to defend itself if necessary.
2. The medieval chapel
This is located on the first floor and contains some of the best surviving medieval architecture in Clifford's Tower. On the left side you can clearly see the decorative arcading on the stone wall. However the thin columns of the stone wall are missing; just a stone wall-cupboard remains, which was used to contain the vessels for religious services. The fires that happened here have coloured the walls red. Some decorative work is also vaguely seen on the wall opposite the wooden door. The door is very low and narrow. The stone floor is uneven and the chapel size is less than 10 square meters. It has two windows on the left side and right side. The stone wall-cupboard on the left wall, as I mentioned above, is under one of the windows. The right side wall has a long, but narrow window, from which you can look directly at the main gate into the tower.
Historically the chapel was built for the king to take Mass, when he might be staying in York. However the king rarely visited it and the chapel was used for other functions. In 1362 it was used as a store room and was called 'The Treasury'.
3. Views from the top
One of the best things about Clifford's Tower is to climb the spiral steps to the top. Walking along the walls you can see almost all of York even more if the sky is clear, such as Fairfax, York Minster, York Castle Museum, the River Ouse and Rowntrees, a famous chocolate factory in the distance.
The best view is of York Minster. Two tall medieval Gothic towers are surrounded by low red houses. Without the busy traffic and Hilton Hotel beneath you may think you had come upon the setting for a film called The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
Opening Time and Entrance Fee
Clifford's Tower is open daily except Christmas day and New Year's day. In summer time it opens from 10am to 5pm. In winter time it closes one hour earlier.
It's free for English Heritage members and York Pass holders. Normally there is a charge of £3.50 for adults, £1.80 for children and £8.80 for families.
Before I visited Clifford's Tower I had read a few articles about it. When I was there I was still shocked by what I saw, in particular the sad story of the Jews. Compared to other castles I have visited in England the tower is small, but more touching. I felt my heart was in pain, and my soul was seen by those people who lost their lives there. Their eyes seemed to watch me. I feel ashamed I have known so little medieval history.
However I do think the tower is worth a couple of hours of your time when you visit York. Last but not least you can visit York Castle Museum, which is near to Clifford's Tower, and explore more of the great history of York city and England.
PS. Welcome to visit my blog for more pictures.
One of the best things about York, such fantastic views from the top of the Tower but the steps up can be a killer but well worth the haul. You can see the minster and all around from the top, on a lovely day like when we were there (actually it was really hot so a bit of a slog up the steps) the view was just beautiful. Its a part of English Heritage and being members we didnt pay to go in but i think the rates were fairly reasonable for non members.
There are exhibitions inside and the ramparts to climb which is of course the point of going up there!. There is a small reasonably stocked English Heritage shop and the staff are helpful and friendly.
The walk down was considerably easier than up though i was tempted to just roll down the hill...not advisable however as you would roll onto the road or into a car park!
THIS REVIEW PREVIOUSLY POSTED ON QYPE BY MYSELF UNDER THE NAME SUNLINESAM
Clifford's Tower stands on the top of a green, grassy mound of earth right in the heart of York's town centre. It has the appearance of a miniature castle, but it is actually all that now remains of the former keep of the castle that once stood on the level ground below here. This site at ground level is now occupied by three different large buildings, two of which form the York Castle Museum and the other is now used as the town's court building.
It is obvious at first sight why such a defence would originally been built in this location. As one of the highest points above sea level in York this position would have afforded views for many miles. It also lies very close to the River Ouse, which would have been the most likely way of approach by any unwelcome visitors.
York has a rich and vibrant history. In Roman times there was a huge settlement here called Eboracum and as a mark of the importance of this Roman Fort the Roman's protected their town with a huge wall that circled their Fort, today the York City Walls are incredibly well preserved and serve as just one of many reminders of the town's past. Clifford's Tower would have been, and still is today, one of the few vantage points within the walled in part of the town that offers an elevated view beyond these walls.
Access to Clifford's Tower is via 55 very steep steps that have been dug deep into the grassy hillside. Looking at Clifford's Tower from the bottom of these steps it is apparent that it would be almost impossible to reach the tower by any other means.
The steepness of the steps does mean that unfortunately this attraction is not accessible for disabled visitors or the infirm but for able bodied people and children it is good exercise and well worth the effort to climb to the top as the views from the top are quite breathtaking.
I have been to York many times but it was only during my most recent visit that I made the climb to the top of Clifford's Tower. The site is now in the hands of English Heritage, of which I am now a member so admittance for myself was free but for non members there is an admission charge. The current charges are:
Adults - £3.00
Children (aged 5-15 years) - £2.40
Concessions - £1.50
Family ticket (2 adults + 2 children) - £7.50
Children under 5 - Free
English Heritage members - Free
If I am honest there is not a great deal to been seen once you reach the top and pass through the turnstile and enter into the interior of the walls. The interior is quite small and more or less a perfect circle in shape but the walls are very well preserved and thanks to sympathetic restoration and repairs they are now completely intact. The best views of York are actually those obtained from the top of the steep steps, just before you part with your money and enter through the turnstile since beyond this point you are closed in within its walls. There are however numerous slits within the wall, through which it is possible to peer out onto the town below.
I have always been fascinated by castles and in many ways it is the history of such places that always makes such a visit to a place like this worthwhile for me. I like to imagine what it must have been like hundreds of years ago for the soldiers that were here, defending the town from attack.
One of the most important events that occurred here took place in 1190. Following several weeks of persecution the Jewish community within the town fled, driven out of their homes, they ran to the sanctuary of the tower where they remained for several days. However as the angry mob continued their attack it became obvious that they could not remain here for ever. Rather than fall prey to the mob many of the Jews within the tower committed suicide, whilst those left behind set fire to the keep, which at that time was constructed mainly of timber. On the 16th March 1190 one hundred and fifty Jews lost their lives and the few remaining survivors were bludgeoned by the crowds outside as they emerged from the tower. Today, there is a plaque that sits at the foot of the steps leading to the tower that serves as a memorial to those that died. The inscription on this plaque reads:
"On the night of Friday 16 March 1190 some 150 Jews and Jewesses of York having sought protection in the Royal Castle on this site from a mob incited by Richard Malebisse and others chose to die at each other's hands rather than renounce their faith.
ISAIAH XLII 12"
Following this massacre and the destruction of the timber keep a new stone keep was erected, which is the one that we see today. Nowadays, this new tower stands as a stark reminder of the racial and religious intolerance suffered at the hands of the Jews. It became known as Clifford's Tower after Roger de Clifford who was hanged at the tower in 1322 for opposing King Edward 11.
Clifford's Tower is open daily throughout the year. Between March and October it is open from 10am until 6pm, during October it is open between 10am and 5pm and between November and march it is open from 10am until 4pm.