Hiking Through York’s Ice Trail

Not all hikes have to take you through the countryside.

Although I prefer to hike during the summer (like most hikers I surmise!), I also enjoy a brisk winter walk, especially if there’s an exciting cultural event to take in. York is a city that I’ve grown very fond of over the years. It’s a city with a proud historical heritage that is evident wherever you look. Much like Bath, another small city that put its history front and centre, York is full of gorgeous historical buildings and is blessedly free of the typical eyesores that plague other northern cities. I first visited this charming city with my Dad whilst we were on a whistle-stop tour of the north, my memories of that trip are jumbled in my mind now, but I still remember arguably York’s most beloved sights: The Shambles.

20 years later (give or take) I returned to The Shambles, although I feel like this visit will likely stick in my mind a little more…

I’d been looking for an excuse to return to York for a while, so when I saw photos of last year’s spectacular York Ice Trail, I realised that I’d found one!

Previously known as ‘The Festival of Angels’, the more secular title is a better representation of the sculptures on display this year. Throughout one winter weekend each year 50 ice sculptures are erected in the city, laid out in a trail that visitors can easily follow (maps are also freely available for newcomers to the city). But where do the sculptures comes from? Each of the ice sculptures is hand-carved to order by Glacial Art, a specialist ice sculpting company that operates out of a warehouse in Liverpool. Believe it or not, all 50 of these sculptures are carved months in advance and stored in their huge walk-in freezers. Months later they are brought out of deep freeze and then transported to their positions in York.

Each day of the festival brings 25 sculptures to various spots around the city and visitors come in their droves to check them out. Whilst rambling around the city, taking the sights in, I got chatting to a few locals who were unanimous in their agreement that this was the best ice trail yet and, although I’d not seen any of the previous ones, it wasn’t hard to see why. The level of detail and artistry on hand was truly impressive, and the joy that it brought to people of all ages was also a pleasure to behold.

The sculptures were all sponsored by local businesses (who no doubt get a healthy boost whilst the event is on) who put forward an idea based of a theme. This year the theme was ‘Myths and Legends’, so in response we saw sculptures based on legendary pop culture characters (such as the Cookie Monster, Iron Man and Jack-Jack, fromĀ The Incredibles) as well as mythical beasts including a glorious pegasus, mermaid and dragon. In addition to the sculptures there was also a chance to see live ice sculpting and even have a go at doing it yourself.

Whilst I don’t remember much of my first visit to York, this second visit is sure to be one that I remember fora long time to come.

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