If you can’t revel in York’s darker side at Halloween, when can you? And goodness knows there’s a lot to revel in, with links to some of history’s most dastardly dudes, from Guy Fawkes to Dick Turpin. Of course you could find out about them by trawling from one landmark to the next, but trawling anywhere with children in tow can be more trouble than it’s worth. Besides, the best way to bring York’s history to life is by joining one of the many tours.
After a summer of watching Horrible Histories avidly, we decided that it was about time to take the kids along to The Bloody Tour of York, the Visit York Tourism Award-winning tour run by Mad Alice. We won’t give away Mad Alice’s real identity, but suffice it to say that she’s York born and bred, and there’s nothing she doesn’t know about the city’s plague-ridden, baddie-infested history.
The tour begins at St William’s College, just behind York Minster and is a 90-minute deep-dive into York’s macabre, funny and downright ridiculous past. Our group was a mixture of visitors and locals, among them an older couple from as far away as California and a father and son from the wrong side of the Pennines. Just as impressive as Mad Alice’s ability to bring the tales to life is her ability to remember everyone’s names (seriously, how does she do that?!) and to tailor the tour to the group. No-one is singled out but everyone feels included, and our kids appreciated it when some of the sillier parts of the tour were aimed squarely at them. Mad Alice is a natural performer who lives and breathes the role, bringing a huge amount of entertainment to stories that could be killed by a dry re-telling.
I worried that our four-year-old might be worried by the more gruesome parts – like the various stages of hanging – she was fine. Perhaps it was all those episodes of Horrible Histories, or perhaps it was the friendly and light-hearted tone. Who knows? But what we do know is that The Bloody Tour of York is a brilliant way for the whole family to discover York’s horrible history.