Plaque in Library Square, Museum Street, YO1 7DS

The Association of Voluntary Guides to the City of York (AVG) was formed in 1951 as a part of the city’s contribution to the celebration of the Festival of Britain. Although the main site of the Festival was in London, at a site on the South Bank, the festival was a nationwide affair with exhibitions in many towns and cities throughout Britain. The City of York Council’s librarian suggested the idea of using knowledgeable citizens to show both the people of York and visitors around their historic city. This idea was quickly supported by the council and a public meeting called to promote the idea. A group was formed at the very first meeting and a walking tour devised.

The plaque is to the left York Library’s entrance in Library Square

Over the years, as more and more tourists began to arrive, so more and more walks were planned, until now there are between 80 and 90 voluntary guides, mostly retired people, with a detailed knowledge of the city. In 2017 the Association guided 13,300 visitors to the city around their tour which has remained virtually unaltered since 1951. The AVG trains its own guides following a five-day course culminating in an oral exam. There are tours of the city every day of the year except Christmas Day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, with a third on summer evenings. They all leave from outside York Art Gallery in Exhibition Square, last two to two and a half hours and are free of charge. The standard tour starts from Exhibition Square and ends in the Shambles, looking on the way at Roman fortifications, St Mary’s Abbey, King’s Manor, Bootham and Monk Bars, the Treasurer’s House and St William’s College. The AVG tours do not include the Minster which has its own guides.

For more information visit

Our sincere thanks to Barrie Ferguson, Secretary of AVG, for information about the voluntary guides.

Photos by Rachel Semlyen

© Dinah Tyszka