When we were offered the opportunity to try out a family cycling holiday in York we jumped at the chance. We love York as a city and the idea of seeing its ancient alleyways from the seat of a bicycle really appealed.
Of course Evie, our six year old, was very excited about the bike aspect, as was Gabriel who’s two and a half but very definite about what he likes and doesn’t like. Once we’d assured him it wasn’t a motorbike he relaxed and was keen to get there and try it out.
As parents who’d not cycled with the kids before, we had a couple of reservations about riding on roads but were up for the challenge. We were comforted by the preparations of our hosts – Scoot Cycling Holidays – who requested all our inside leg measurements, and ages for the kids, beforehand to make sure we were provided with the right sized bikes and helmets.
Scoot Cycling Holidays offer long cycling adventures or short breaks that can be anything from a coast to coast weekend, to a historical city and battlefields tour to a journey tracing David Hockney’s inspirational early tours of Yorkshire. Family cycling holidays cater to the age and character of the children, so we were on the York based family holiday which gave us four nights in the centre of York.
We arrived at York rail station and made our way to the prearranged meeting point where we were welcomed by our Scoot representatives. We were introduced to our transport for the week and got lots of tips and advice on how best to start. Scoot provide everything you need for the bikes – helmets, bike locks, and repair kit (we didn’t need this by the way – the bikes were really sturdy and we had no problems at all there). Gabriel was with me on his attached rear seat. Dad was with Evie whose pedal power was attached to his bike via a tag along extension. This meant she could pedal herself and help to balance and control the contraption.
The Scoot team kindly suggested we start off on a soft route which avoided traffic along the river for us to get used to cycling with kids on board. After a wobbly start we soon got the upperhand and gained in confidence. Quickly we were on the road and negotiating traffic. This was the part we’d been worried about, but it was much less of a concern in practice.
The exchange at the station was really smooth. We swapped our luggage for the bikes, and our bags were driven to our accommodation by Scoot, so when we arrived it was all there for us. The apartment you get with the York Scoot holiday is perfect located right in the heart of medieval York. A National Trust property, it is actually situated above the National Trust shop immediately opposite York Minster. The apartment is fully equipped with three bedrooms and a great view down the historic tangle of streets. This was the first time we’d stayed within the walled centre of York, and it was a memorable experience. It really helps you get the atmosphere of the place, with all of the best and most characterful cafés, pubs and restaurants within walking or biking distance.
York is an extremely bike friendly city. There are plenty of dedicated bike lanes when you need them. Plus the cycling is flat, which was good for us! There are also loads of places to lock up your bike, mainly dedicated bike parks, and lots of other cyclists on the road. In York, the whole culture of getting around on bikes is well established which really helps. In fact it’s getting around by car that can be the real hassle in York, as we have found out on past trips. There lots of tiny roads and cul de sacs, a one way system to contend with, and parking can be a nightmare. We soon began to realise that being on a bike really frees you up. Once we were oriented and familiar with the lanes and traffic we found we could zip around York really speedily.
On our trusty steeds we got to visit many of the attractions that York has to offer. Top of the kid’s places to visit was Clifford’s Tower. They’ve been wanting to visit a castle for ages and so climbing to the top and looking out over York from the top of the walls ticked all their boxes. Right alongside the tower is York’s Castle Museum with its Victorian street where you can wander around and shops and bars of a recreated 19th century streets and sit in a recreated classroom. The police station and the prison cell proved to be a hit with Evie, although Gabriel wasn’t so sure about seeing his big sister behind bars.
Other stops within the city included DIG – the archaeological centre for kids, the new York Chocolate Story and of course, the unmissable largest gothic cathedral in northern Europe, York Minster. York is a great, child friendly city with absolutely loads of things to do. We didn’t have time to visit the Railway Museum and walk around the city walls this time. And of course Jorvik Viking Centre is a great place for kids too. We did take the chance to go on one of the famous York Ghost Walks which left from the end of the medieval Shambles. This was great fun, with our suitably dramatic guide dressed in Victorian garb guiding a gaggle of tourists and students through the streets stopping at notoriously haunted spots and telling their tales with suitably gothic, spooky humour. The York streets are great for wandering around with loads of interesting little shops and plenty of nooks and crannies to get lost in.
Another key part of enjoying this Scoot holiday takes place outside of the city itself. You are provided with a set of maps and guides to longer, bike friendly excursions that take you further afield to attractions in the surrounding countryside. You can choose from the flat routes off road in the Vale of York, or more challenging days out like taking a train ride followed by the longer cycle back into York via Castle Howard.
The award winning Yorkshire Lavender Farm looked like a good bet for us, but because of the time of year – it was March so not really Lavendar season we realised – we chose to venture out of the city to the Yorkshire Museum of Farming which combines with the Danelaw Centre for Living History. Using a mixture of the maps provided by Scoot and our mobile phone’s honing in system, we set out, quickly negotiating the city exit routes and hitting the disused railway path that took us most of the way. The final part of the trip took us along some minor country roads and within a pleasureable 40 minutes of setting off we were at our destination.
The Yorkshire Museum of Farming was a great hit with the kids, with mini tractors to ride on, a variety of animals from ponies to chickens to pigs to lambs (which the kids got to feed with bottles of milk). The Danelaw Centre houses a recreation Viking village which was actually really fascinating and more extensive than we were expecting. There is also a recreation tudor croft and Roman Fort (although we couldn’t go into the fort on the day we visited as it had been taken over by a school day out). We spent a really enjoyable three hours here, but we would recommend phoning ahead to check before you go as sometimes the Viking Village is also closed to visitors because of school activities. Also bring your lunch as there are only snacks available on site.
At the end of our Scoot holiday, the kids were understandably sad to see the bikes go. York is one of our favourite cities, and to experience it using cycle power was a great treat and one we’d definitely repeat. Scoot provide a brilliant, friendly service, and make everything really easy so you don’t have to worry about logistics like luggage and maps. If you’ve thought about a cycling holiday with the kids we’d say give it a try. The kids – and us for that matter – absolutely loved it and this trip with Scoot comes highly recommended.
To find out about family cycling holidays with Scoot see www.scootcyclingholidays.co.uk