A day trip from Edinburgh is totally doable but it is a long day since it is 2.5 hours each way on the train (maybe shorter if you bought a more expensive train ticket) but I spent 38 pound return and booked about a week in advance through Raileurope. I looked at a few different sites, including the train line itself but Rail Europe saved me 16 pound or so since it calculates this point to point pricing. Meaning, I had three tickets even though I only two took trains. On the way there I had to switch seats (a few rows back) on the same train since it was priced from Edinburgh- Alnmouth, Alnmouth-York and then on the way back with a different train line was York- Edinburgh.
I arrived in York just before 12:00 and my train departed at 1900. If I could change things, I would have arrived at 1030 or so and left at 18:00 since every shop seemed to close at 5pm. Once that time hit, I couldn’t wander around inside shops so I ended up going to the train station an hour early.
The first thing I did when I arrived was to go get myself some Yorkshire pudding at a pub called The Hole in the Wall. The pudding was delish: flaky, with great consistency the filling could have had slightly more umph to it, meat-wise, but it did come with a side of veg and potatoes for 10.95. I also ordered two ciders here because the free tour I wanted to take started at 13:15 and I had some time to kill. The tour was fantastic. David, the retired, volunteer guide who was adamant about not giving tips (swoon, I think I was in love) was informative and funny. Classic British humour. It was quite cold and there were only three of us so the tour finished after about 1.5 hours. Apparently, the day before there were 58 people for one tour guide so it took a while longer. Yikes.
York is fantastic. The Shambles is just yes. There are three Harry Potter stores, a cauldron store and a potion store all on the same street. It is also right next to a market. I went inside York Minister, it costs 11.50 for an adult but there are some free tours that you can catch once inside, just be wary of the time. The ticket is valid for a year, that is maybe why it is so expensive. Not saying I did, but I should have re-sold it. The tour inside was at 15:00 but I am not sure if they run every hour or what, so if you are wanted to get your money’s worth, plan wisely. The information was very architect-y and stained glass window-y so if that’s your thing, you’ll love it. I didn’t have time to go into the National Rail Museum but I also wasn’t super fussed about missing it.
The botanical gardens were free and that is where the remnants of St Mary’s Cathedral are. They are to your left after you cross the main bridge, into town, when coming by foot from the train station.
Definitely, a full day’s worth of stuff to see, if you wanted to go into all the cute- storefront shops and have a few meals of Yorkshire pudding, then you may need a second day (or at least a day in a half).