Visitors who enjoy a walk and have a couple of hours to spare can get one of the best views of the city by strolling along the city's medieval walls.

Even if you cannot afford the time to complete the entire two-hour circular tour of the walls, you can join them at numerous points to enjoy at least a short walk and see some panoramic views over the rooftops of York.

And the walls make for handy stopping off points for many of York's attractions, some of which are very close to or even part of the walls.

One of the best sections of the wall runs behind the Minster and gives a splendid view over Minster Gardens, the attractive Minster library and the ancient Treasurer's House.

One of the best places to climb the wall is at Bootham Bar, at the end of High Petergate, close to the Theatre Royal and York City Art Gallery.

Bootham Bar marks the northern entrance to the city, on the Great North Road.

It is the only gate that still stands on the site of a previous Roman one and parts of its structure date from the 12th century.

Two upper storeys were added in the 14th century and, in the late 19th century, public access to the walls was provided.

The Bar was threatened with total demolition in 1832 but saved by public outcry, although it lost its barbican (a walled enclosure to an outer gate). Micklegate Bar and Monk Bar barbicans were also demolished at this time.

Bootham was originally a squalid street separated from the city by Bootham Bar and shut off from the graceful St Mary's Abbey by the Abbey walls.

Walking clockwise around the walls, behind the Minster and past the Deanery Gardens and the library, which was once the chapel for the former Archbishop's Palace, you reach Monk Bar, which is host to the Richard III museum.

Monk Bar was built in the 14th century and is the tallest gateway, with a portcullis still in working order.

Look for the threatening stone figures warning enemies to keep well away from the city.

Once again the wall here ran along the line of the wall of Roman York and just past the Bar you can see the remains of a Roman corner tower.

Another fascinating building close to Monk Bar is the Ice House, a small igloo of brick built just outside the city walls on the bank that led down to the moat.

It was used in the days before refrigerators and freezers to keep food cool and store ice blocks gathered in winter.

At Layerthorpe Postern you will have to descend the walls. Cross the River Foss, turn right and walk along Foss Islands Road until you reach the resumption of the walls at the Red Tower.

The area between Layerthorpe Postern and the Red Tower needed no wall because it was a large area of water and marshy land known as the King's Fishpool of Fosse, which was mentioned in the Domesday Book. The large pond not only provided fresh fish for the city markets but also helped keep the moat around the walls filled with water.

The Red Tower itself was built in 1490 but was decaying badly by the early 18th century and subsequently patched up for use as a stable. This is the only tower built of brick (stone was too heavy for the marshy ground) and its walls are four feet thick in places.

The walk along the walls from the Red Tower leads to Walmgate Bar, the only one to be complete with barbican, portcullis, inner oak gates and wicket. On the inside wall is an Elizabethan house.

This bar was extensively damaged by fire during a rebellion in 1489 and suffered again during the Civil War.

Bullet holes inflicted by Parliament's troops after the Battle of Marston Moor in 1644 can reputedly still be seen in the stonework.

The arch was built in the 12th century but the rest of it was rebuilt over the following centuries; the two upper storeys and the barbican were added in the next two centuries and other additions were made in the 16th and 19th century.

The next bar at Fishergate is now a minor gateway but once it had a superstructure, portcullis and possibly a barbican. It was damaged by rioters in 1489 and for the next four centuries it was blocked up.

Nearby Fishergate Tower and Postern date from around 1500 and replaced an earlier structure which stood at the mouth of the River Foss.

The wall breaks again at this point but can be picked up again at Baile Hill. You need to cross two rivers, the Foss via Castle Mills Bridge, which starts at the foot of Fishergate Postern, and then, by bearing left, Skeldergate Bridge across the River Ouse. Baile Hill was the site of the northern tower, twin to Clifford's Tower.

Today it is just a grassy mound among the trees. From here the walls pass Sadler Tower and the minor Victoria Bar, a simple gateway built in 1878.

Micklegate Bar was the most important of the four main gates. It marked the approach to the city from London and was the bar used by kings and nobles visiting the city.

You can still see the ancient battle scars on the wall and the places where the decapitated heads of criminals and traitors used to be placed on show as a warning to others.

The Micklegate Museum is open daily from 9am til dusk in summer and is full of models, paintings, sculptures and story boards showing the history of the Royal Bar through the years.

Close to the bar is the Bar Covent Museum, dedicated to the history of Christianity in the area.

Last run of the wall is on past the Tower of Tofts, past the burial ground opposite the Royal York Hotel and on to Barker Tower on the banks of the River Ouse at Lendal Bridge.

From here, you cross the Ouse again and turn left at the traffic lights and into Exhibition Square and your starting point.

Or alternatively, you could turn left after Lendal Bridge into the Museum Gardens to see St Mary's Abbey and The Multangular Tower. The tower was built by the Romans in the fourth century as part of the city's fortifications.

The seventh century Anglian Tower, also situated in this section of the Roman wall along with the remains of a Roman fortress, ran on a slightly different line here from the medieval wall.

The Museum Gardens contain plenty to visit, and are worth spending several hours in on their own. If you leave though the walkway to the left of St Mary's Abbey and past the well-preserved gatehouse and Abbot's quarters, it brings you out on Marygate.

Turning right and walking next to Abbey walls to the end of the street brings you back out on Bootham. Turning right again round St Mary's Tower will bring Bootham Bar into view at the end of the street.

Further details:

Open: 8am to dusk.

Admission: Free.

Facilities: Richard III Museum in Monk Bar, museum in Micklegate Bar, toilets at foot of Bootham Bar, lots of cafes, tea rooms close by.

Disabled access: No.

Contact: Tourist Information Centre (01904) 550 099.