Clifford's Tower, York

Things to see and do

Exterior view of Clifford's Tower, York

Tour the Tower

Scale the steep steps of the ancient mound to enter the forebuilding of the castle. Here centuries of visitors have waited to be called in to the main tower.  Begin your self-guided tour on the ground floor, which at one time housed the royal exchequer and treasury.

The stone tower which you are in today was built in the reign of Henry II. There is a fascinating tactile model in the courtyard, showing how the site once looked. The four-lobed design of the tower is very unusual and may be French in origin.

The first floor was used as private apartments and includes a richly decorated chapel.

A mother and son enjoy the views from the top of Clifford's Tower

Wall Walk and Views

Climb right to the top of the tower to reach the open-air wall walk, once used as a vantage point for castle guards.  Imagine who they were on the look-out for and how they would have raised the alarm when they saw enemies approaching.

Now it provides wonderful panoramic views over the city of York, including the majestic York Minster. It is also the best place to see the layout of the medieval castle.

From the wall walk you can see the 18th century buildings that form the 'Eye of York'. These are the Assize Courts, the Female Prison and Debtors' Prison. The two prison buildings now form the Castle Museum.

Children in costume playing with swords at Clifford's Tower

Discover Famous Connections

Built by William the Conqueror to strengthen his military grip on the north, the mound of Clifford's Tower is all that remains of his original castle. It was one of the two motte and bailey castles he built in York in 1068-69. The mound of the second, now known as the 'Old Baile', can be seen across the river from the tower.

The tower housed some famous prisoners during its time as a gaol. George Fox, founder of the Society of Friends, or Quakers, was held here for two nights in 1665.

Also imprisoned in the tower was the notorious highwayman, Dick Turpin, captured under the alias 'Palmer'. However a letter he wrote from the tower allowed his true identity to be revealed, through his handwriting, and he was executed in York on 7 April 1739.

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