Ruff Guide to… York

York is surely one of England’s most beautiful cities. With its Roman roots, Viking past and medieval shopping streets, it has centuries of history just waiting to be discovered. But modern-day York is an exciting place, too. More than 65% of businesses in the city are independent – and many welcome dogs with open arms – so whether you’re visiting York to shop, eat or explore, you’re in for a unique experience.

York's medieval Shambles by night
The medieval Shambles by night

Dog-friendly York: the must-sees

No visit to York would be complete without taking in the Shambles. This medieval shopping street is one of the best preserved in Europe. It’s a wonderfully atmospheric place to visit and is thought to have inspired Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books. York Minster is also a must-see. And although dogs aren’t allowed inside the magnificent cathedral, it can easily be admired from afar because it towers over the city. The same can be said for the ancient City Walls, which encircle the heart of York. It’s free to walk along the walls, which run for approximately two miles, but sadly, dogs are not allowed – even though you may see a few ignoring the signs.

To tick off all the main sights in York though, hop on a City Sightseeing bus tour. Fortunately, these ARE dog-friendly and will take you to all of the landmarks mentioned above, and more. The open-top bus tours run seven days a week and can be picked up from 21 different stops around the city. They operate on a hop-on, hop-off system so if you see something you like the look of, you can be spontaneous and explore. Adult tickets cost £16 and are valid for 24 hours. Dogs travel free.

Holgate Windmill, York
Holgate Windmill, York ©

Another great way to see York is from the water, with City Cruises. Their 45-minute tours sail along the River Ouse and give you the opportunity to see landmarks like York Minster, Clifford’s Tower and the medieval Guildhall. Cruises run daily and include a live commentary from the captain. Adult tickets cost £12.50 and dogs are welcome to join their owners either on the top deck or in the saloon. There’s no extra charge for pets, but they must be kept on a lead at all times.

Holgate Windmill – the oldest five-sailed mill in the country – is also well worth a visit, especially if you’re in the market to take home an unusual souvenir. The mill, which was built in 1770, has been fully restored in recent years to produce traditional stone-ground flour. It approximately 1.5 miles from the city centre, or a 25-minute walk. The mill is open to the public some weekends and adult tickets cost £3. Its shop is open every Saturday.

River Ouse in York
There are walks aplenty to be had along the River Ouse

Dog-friendly York: the best walks

Enjoy a gentle two-mile circular walk along the River Ouse, which takes in some of York’s lovely gardens and parks. Start from All Saints Church, by the bus station, then follow the western side of the river to Rowntree Park. This was built as a memorial to the employees of the nearby confectionery factory who died in the First World War. It has a lake, tennis courts, skate park and a cafe-cum-library, which welcomes dogs on the terrace. After visiting the park, cross the river using the Millennium Bridge and head back to the starting point, via York Castle. Alternatively, head over to Millennium Fields, by the aforementioned bridge, and Danesmead Meadow. Both are great places to let your pooch have a good run.

Dogs will also enjoy a visit to York’s Museum Gardens in the heart of the city. The botanical gardens, established by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society in the 1830s, are a popular picnic spot in summer. As well as an edible wood and an Artist’s Garden, you’ll find the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey here. Fans of York actress Dame Judi Dench should also seek out Dame Judi Dench Walk, which runs alongside the gardens next to the River Ouse.

York's Museum Gardens with St Mary's Abbey in the background
York’s Museum Gardens with St Mary’s Abbey in the background ©

For my next walk suggestion, you may want to cover your pooch’s eyes and ears – because it’s the York Cat Trail. Our feline friends have long been associated with good luck. And in York, cat statues have been placed on buildings for centuries to scare off rats and mice. Today, a grand total of 22 are dotted around the city and they make up the hour-long York Cat Trail. It’s a fun way to explore the city, and will certainly make you look at it from a different angle. Don’t forget to look up! Pick up a free trail map, or your own lucky cat souvenir, from the York Glass shop in the Shambles.

To escape the hustle and bustle of the city, head to Hob Moor Local Nature Reserve. This peaceful space is part of the Knavesmire – one of York’s ancient commons – and is a mile or so from the city centre. It’s a lovely place to walk all year round but in late spring, the moor is covered by a carpet of buttercups. There may well be cattle grazing at that time of year too though, so be aware. A circular walk around the moor will take roughly an hour.

Beers at Brew York
Enjoy a craft beer or two at Brew York

Dog-friendly York: the best pubs and cafes

To sample some of the finest craft beer around, head to Brew York. The award-winning brewery has three venues across Yorkshire but I recommend visiting the tap room and beer hall in Walmgate. Dogs are welcome in both the ground floor tap and the Bavarian-style beer hall upstairs. Here, you’ll find more than 40 beer taps – the biggest selection of beers, lagers and ciders in the city. Brew York is also home to Yuzu Street Food, which serves delicious Asian-inspired dishes that pair perfectly with the beers.

If street food is your thing though, you’ll find some fantastic independent food stalls at the Shambles Market. And SPARK: York is a great place to visit with dogs in tow, too. This outdoor community space, in Piccadilly, is home to exciting start-ups and has great options for eating, drinking and shopping. Inside upcycled shipping containers, you will find everything from fledgling food stalls and artisan coffee makers to local artists. There’s even an aeroponics farm that grows micro herbs.

Cheese toastie at FortyFive Vinyl Cafe, York
My Glory Days grilled cheese sandwich – with vegan sausages and caramelised onions – at FortyFive Vinyl Cafe

Music fans will love the FortyFive Vinyl Cafe, on Micklegate, where grilled cheese sandwiches and cool tunes are the order of the day. Dogs are very welcome at this relaxed music mecca, where you can flick through new and used records while waiting for your food. There are more than 10 different types of grilled cheese sandwiches to choose from, all of which come with a unique three-cheese blend of Mozzarella, Cheddar and Monterey Jack. The menu is regularly updated but gluten-free and vegan sandwiches are always available.

Valhalla, in Patrick Pool, also has a unique menu that celebrates all things Viking. Get stuck in to the mead – which is widely regarded as the drink of the Gods – and accompany it with a meat and cheese platter board, packed with local produce. And for fine dining with your dog by your side, head to The Chopping Block at Walmgate Ale House. This Anglo-French restaurant, housed in a 17th Century building on Walmgate, is run by Michael Hjort, who previously worked as Michel Roux Jr’s Sous Chef. Expect dishes such as Bouillabaisse, Boeuf Bourguignon and Aubergine Timbale, all made with fresh Yorkshire produce.

Inside the ornate York Tap at York station
The ornate York Tap at York station

If you like your pubs to have character, try the York Tap. This Grade A listed Edwardian building, in York train station, has an excellent selection of brews and original features, such as stained glass windows. It’s also a great place to try the excellent York Gin and the bar snacks, from The York Pie Company. The award-winning Shambles Tavern, on the famous street, is also packed full of charm. Dogs are welcome in both the candlelit tavern and bottle shop, which has a top range of ales and spirits to take away. At the time of writing, it had a great pie, pint and pickle deal for just £5 on Wednesdays.

Lucky Days, which has three branches across the city, also welcomes pets. The quirky cafes, which can be found in Church Street, Parliament Street and Lower Petergate, are great places to go for breakfast, brunch or lunch. The cakes are well worth trying, too. The original cafe, on Church Street, used to offer one of the most novel loyalty card schemes in York. Essentially, you had to roll a dice when you ordered and if it landed on a six, you could have anything on the menu for £1. The scheme is long gone now, sadly, but the chain is now a York staple.

Osbornes at 68 Gillygate
Inside Osbornes at 68 Gillygate

No guide to dog-friendly venues in the city would be complete without mentioning Osbornes at 68 Gillygate. This amazingly dog-friendly cafe, in a converted house with garden, is a great place to visit for breakfast or lunch. You probably won’t be able to resist the delicious cakes in the window, either. The cafe serves everything from homemade soup to sandwiches and veggies and vegans are very well catered for. Dogs have their own menu here too, with sausages, scrambled eggs and peanut butter cookies for just 75p each. And, if you happen to visit on a rainy day, towels are provided for wet and muddy paws.

Pets are also guaranteed a warm welcome at Plush Cafe, on Stonegate, where everything – including the food – is incredibly Instagrammable. There are three themed dining rooms at Plush and dogs are welcome in the Art Deco-inspired Neon Room. Whether you’re popping in for some breakfast pancakes or a pulled pork turnover, you won’t be disappointed. The 200 Degrees coffee shop on Low Petergate is also a great place to stop for a cappuccino and pastry. It has several other branches across the north of England.

Bedroom at Galtres Lodge, York
One of the traditional-style rooms at Galtres Lodge

Dog-friendly York: where to stay

You won’t find a more central place to stay than Galtres Lodge, on Low Petergate. This quirky independent hotel is ideally located for exploring York on foot and the staff love visiting dogs. Pets will receive their own welcome pack containing a bed, blanket, bowl and treat. They can also dine with their owners in the rustic Forest restaurant, which serves fabulously creative food. Be sure to say hello to reception dog, Toby. Trendy Moxy York, B+B York and the recently-refurbished Malmaison also welcome doggy guests.

If you’d prefer self-catering accommodation, there are a whole host of pet-friendly cottages and apartments in York. Courtyard Cottage, within easy walking distance of the city centre, has a lovely enclosed patio garden. And Darcy’s Cottages, on the outskirts of York, have three luxurious properties – with resident pigs! For more dog-friendly places to stay, check out Visit York’s dog-friendly directory or see the Stays York website.

York Minster
The stunning York Minster ©

How do I get to York?

York is located midway between the Scottish and English capitals of Edinburgh and London. It takes around four hours to drive the approximate 210-mile distance from either city. For the most direct route, take the M1, if travelling from the south, or the M62 from the north.

The city is also well served by train. There are regular LNER, Grand Central and TransPennine Express services from across the UK. National Express and Megabus coaches also call at York and the city is within easy reach of four international airports. These are Leeds Bradford, Manchester, Humberside and Doncaster Sheffield.

Where can I find out more?

Head to the Visit York website, which is packed full of suggestions for things to see and do. There is even a Dog Friendly section where you’ll find further recommendations for places that welcome four-legged friends.

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