Posted by Claire Wade
Recently my hubby took me on a weekend trip to York. Now there are plenty of things to do in York, including the Minster, various museums, theatres, boat trips, ghost walks plus a variety of historical buildings and streets to look at. There is also an amazing variety of restaurants and cafes offering authentic cuisines from all over the globe. We only scratched the surface in this one weekend!
One of the most well known streets in York is the Shambles which is an old pedestrianised street with overhanging timber-framed buildings, some dating back as far as the fourteenth century. Walking along it, we came across a shop called York Glass Ltd, the ‘home of York Lucky Cats’. Being a cat lover, I had to step inside and bought myself a cute little glass cat. The proprietor asked me if I had a leaflet on the Fabulous York Cat Trail and I was quickly intrigued.
According to the leaflet, cats have played a part in York’s history and luck has been linked to them since records began. As a result, there are cat statues placed on various buildings around the centre of York (I believe that there are more outside the centre too). The cats have been placed on the buildings for at least two centuries, although it is thought that there were originally far older statues from medieval times that have since rotted or been removed.
The reason for the placement of the cats was to frighten away rats and mice that would carry the plague and thus bring illness and death. The cats were also thought to bring good luck and health to the citizens, warding away any nasty wandering spirits.
The leaflet that I was given had a map of York, showing roughly where the cats were placed (although it is by no means exact!) with a list of clues of how to spot the cats – they are all above ground floor level; some are on the roof. The clues are listed in a suggested order to follow them, but I chose my own path so that it fitted in with other places I wanted to see. I reckon finding all 21 cats could be done in a day, but I still had a couple to find on the Sunday.
Above is a photo of Glyn holding the map. If you are in York and would like to follow the trail yourself, click here to go to the York Lucky Cats website where they have a downloadable version of the map. Or alternatively, go to York Glass Ltd, 34 The Shambles in York and get a free leaflet. The cats are numbered on the leaflet and I shall give them the corresponding numbers below. I would also recomend bringing a zoom lens if you have one. So without further ado, here are the cats!!
The first cat I found was Number 8 and on the outside of the York Glass building. This was pretty easy to find.
Cat Number 21 is directly opposite Cat 8, so also easy to locate, and quite a different cat. When I found her, she was chatting with a friendly pigeon.
Next we headed down the Shambles and over the road to The Golden Fleece which is one of York’s most haunted pubs. Cat Number 1 lives here and is easy to spot. If you have already worked up a thirst, I would recommend this friendly old pub. You can stay there, but upon reading some of the ghost stories on the wall, I’m not sure if I’m brave enough!!
Heading up Colliargate, I found cat 2 at Barnitts Emporium.
And also at Barnitts (it’s a long building), further along the road, Cat 3 was heading up towards a clock. Maybe he was chasing that famous mouse that ran up it first?
Cat 4 in Kings Square took a while to find, he’s right up there on a rooftop, stalking a pigeon. If you are struggling to find him, he is on a roof between Colliargate and the Shambles.
Cat 5 was crawling up the side of a wall at number 1/2 St Andrew’s Gate. No that isn’t a typo, there really is a number 1/2!
Cat 6 was perched on some balcony railings.
We then headed down Bartle Garth and up Goodramgate to find Cat 7 outside a Veggie cafe. At a distance I couldn’t see what was on his head and wondered if he’d had a falling out with a pigeon. On close inspection of the photo, it’s actually a flower.
At this point, I veered from the cat trail and spent a couple of hours in the York Minster. But there were no sign of any cats there, so I got back on the trail before I missed any!
Cat 18 was a short walk away down Gillygate, I found her hanging out by an old lamp above the Cactus Trading Post.
Cat 17 was a bit of a walk away, near the Museum Gardens and his name is Chambers, just like the building he lives upon.
Walking down Coney Street, I found Cat 16 skulking over Clinton’s Cards.
Now Cat 13 appears to be near Cat 16 on the map – and he is – only on the other side of the building. so to find him, I had to stand on the bridge at Low Ousegate and look along the river. On my left was the Park Inn, CAt 16 is directly opposite on the roof top. Even with my zoom lens he was far away.By coincidence, we took a boat trip the next day and went right past him, so the photo on the right was taken from the boat.
I then headed down to the South Esplanade, not realising that I was walking straight past two cats. This is where the map was rather incorrect and I spent a lot of time looking in the wrong place for them!
Anyway, Cats 14 and 15 were very close to each other, overlooking the River Ouse.
Cat 15 stalks Cat 14
Cat 10 was at the Three Tuns on Coppergate, I didn’t go in this pub, but the security guy outseide was very friendly and guessed that we were cat-hunting. (many of the pubs and bars in York have security on the door as it’s a popular night spot, especially for stag and hen dos).
According to the map, Cats 11 and 12 are on High Ousegate and a lot of time was spent walking up and down looking for them. After googling on smartphones, we discovered that they were actually on Low Ousegate.This has to be the most ferocious looking cat of the lot! I’m sure the rats were terrified!
Cats 11 and 12 are the oldest of the cats, residing on a building that once was a grocers and there had originally been nine of them. These cats date back from the 19th century.
Cat 19 is called Gordon and lives above a doorway in Stonegate. He looks a little sad!
Cat 18 lives at the Cat Gallery on Low Petergate, so you can imagine she’s got lots of feline friends to hang out with all day. Check out the cheeky one on the other side of the window!
Cat 9 was my final cat and had a horse for company at a bistro on Walmgate.
I had an excellent time on this cat treasure hunt and would recommend it to anyone, even if they are not a big cat lover as it gets you hunting around York – and it’s free!
Not surprisingly, York does have other attractions apart from cat statues! If you are interested in reading about what else we did in York, please look at my Travel Blog.