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Exploring the North Coast 500 Part One: Planning Your Adventure 0 (0)

This is the first in what will be a long series of posts about Scotland’s North Coast 500 — an epic and memorable road trip (though I’d better write about it before I forget about it!) This post consists of an introduction and some tips and resources for trip planning. Future posts will comprise stops along the route and some other places in Scotland.

House with Waterwheel on Marie Antoinette's Farm

Marie Antoinette. Peasant. 0 (0)

On the grounds of Versailles, away from the palace, and away from her house on the grounds, Marie Antoinette had a rustic village and farm constructed where she could get away from palace life and pretend to be a peasant.

Here’s more about this interesting area of Versailles, that I actually enjoyed visiting more than the Hall of Mirrors.

Snickelways and Walls: Walking York’s Passages 0 (0)

When I was a kid, in the days when kids spent bored Summer days playing outside, I spent some time lurking in neighborhood alleyways. Inventing clubs, playing hide-and-seek, and sometimes being up to no good made long Summer days with nothing to do pass quickly. When I visited York, I imagined all of the mischief I could have managed there with York’s many snickelways as my stomping grounds.

What is a Snickelway?

What’s a snickelway? York’s medieval city layout means that many narrow passageways between the buildings exist. These became known as the Snickelways of York.

“Snickelway” sounds like it could be a charming Old English word or something from Harry Potter. And some of the Snickelways have names that tickle my muggle sense of humor (Nether Hornpot Lane, for one.) Therefore, I was a little disappointed to find that (at least according to the venerable Wikipedia,) author Mark W. Jones coined the word. And not in The Year of Our Lord 1600 but 1983 CE.

Nether Hornpot Lane is one of York's Snickelways

Jones’ book A Walk Around the Snickelways of York   (which seems to be out of print but is usually readily available on Amazon), is the definitive guide to “snickeling.” Jones explains that snickelways is a portmanteau word combining snicket (any relation to Lemony?), ginnel, and alleyway, all terms used to describe different types of passageways.

Jones’ book gives a walkthrough of the snickelways, which also turns out to be a great way to self-tour York.

A Snickelways Journey

When you walk York’s Snickelways, you might find your 3.5-mile walk turning into a daylong adventure. There’s plenty to get distracted by along the way. I gave up trying to record my walk and attempted to recreate the route later (see the map below.)

The map is a close approximation to the way described in the book, and the path I walked. However, a few shortcuts (like the in and outs in the Shambles,) were difficult to map.

If you want to walk all of the snickelways, your best bet is just to get the book. It’s the best available reference and includes handwritten print and delightful black and white sketches. It’s a keeper and, somehow, one I’ll keep looking through from time to time even if I never get back to York.

Image of a York Snickelways Route Map

Above is an image of a route map of the Snickelways. You can click here or on the map to get to the page with the interactive version.

Your Snickelways journey starts at the hole in the wall just past Bootham Bar (in York, the gates are bars, and the streets end with -gate.) It takes you past many (but not all) of the places I’ve listed in the Things to do in York post, including the ever-popular Shambles.

Above: Sketches from The Snickelways of York by Mark W. Jones match the view walking to York Minster from Precentor’s Court.

Walking York’s Walls

York's Walls

Walking York’s Walls

The Snickelways of York book   suggests that York’s biggest snickelways are its walls.

Other medieval cities like London, had walls, of course, but only fragments remain in most. In York, large sections of the medieval walls remain and are very walkable.

Walking York’s walls was my favorite way of getting around the city during my stay. My AirBNB in York, located near Mickelgate bar, was near a wall entrance, and I frequently walked the wall on my way into the central part of town.

York’s Wall Routes

York’s walls end in some places. Despite the signs around the route with handy QR codes, I got confused in spots and had to search for the next walkable portion of the wall. For the best experience, you might want to bring a guidebook. The Friends of York Walls website has maps and a handy guide for a thorough wall walk.

There’s also a written Walking Guide to York City Walls   available on Kindle or as a paperback.

Some parts of the wall have a safety fence on one side, and a few sections have a drop off with no barrier. Where I live, there would be fences and signs all around to prevent lawsuits injuries. But it seems York (fortunately) trusts in the common-sense of the visitor.

Walking the walls also made me feel a bit like a kid again — or a nosy neighbor. Some sections of wall adjoined homes and gave glimpses into some beautiful backyards. 

Have you walked York’s snickelways? Leave a comment!
Visiting the Paris Catacombs Skulls at the Paris Catacombs

Visiting the Paris Catacombs: A Labyrinth of Death Beneath the City of Light 0 (0)

Are the Paris Catacombs worth visiting? It depends on what you like. If you’re not somebody who enjoys visiting cemeteries when you travel, it might not be the place for you. But there aren’t too many other places quite like it and it has an interesting history.

Here’s a bit of the history of the Paris Catacombs, a few interesting facts and some tips for before you go and how to get there.

Here’s more about the catacombs, with some tips for visiting.

Kirkmichael Trust Cemetery Doorway Monument Top Detail Medieval tombstones Scottish Highland Cemeteries

Amidst Old Tombstones at Kirkmichael Trust Cemetery 0 (0)

The Kirkmichael Trust Cemetery in the Scottish highlands has done some serious restoration work, bringing old medieval tombstones into a restored church building for preservation and display. The stones outside, as well as the small mausoleum, are also worth a visit if you like old cemeteries — its just a bit off the main itinerary for your North Coast 500 road trip.

Arashiyama Kyoto Rilakkuma Bamboo Forest

A Day in Arashiyama 5 (1)

When you think of the Arashiyama area of Kyoto, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the Sagano Bamboo Forest. But there’s so much more to do in this beautiful area of Kyoto. Plan to spend at least a day here — here are some of the many things to do to make the most of your day in the area.

Zen Temples Kyoto Kinkakuji

Ten Zen: Temples in Kyoto 0 (0)

While I was visiting a temple in Kyoto, I heard someone repeating “this is the heart of Zen.” Kyoto is, at least, the center of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism and there were far more temples than I could visit during my time there. Here are ten that I visited from the highly touristed to the more remote.

View from San Giorgio in Venice Venice Trip Planning

A Few Venice Travel Tips for the First-Timer 0 (0)

Tourists outnumber residents in Venice, leading to CNN recently naming it as a destination to avoid in 2018. But if you plan to go anyway, here are some Venice travel tips for the first-timer. Not what to see or where to eat but some general advance planning advice such as when to go, how to get around, areas to stay in, accessibility, and how to hire a gondola when you do get there.

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