When visiting York, most people make a beeline for the Minster Cathedral, York Castle, or the winding cobbled streets full of boutiques. However, tucked away in a residential street not far from the centre is an imposing reminder of Britain’s Cold War legacy.
Originally built back in 1961, the York Cold War Bunker was one of 30 built around the country to monitor nuclear explosions and fallout in the event of a nuclear war. The building was used throughout its operational existence as the regional headquarters and control centre for the York Division of the Royal Observer Corps (ROC): a group of volunteers that met for weekly training scenarios ensuring that they could pinpoint the location and scale of any nuclear detonation in the county.
In the event of a nuclear strike on Britain, the building was intended to support 60 members of the ROC each working eight hour shifts for a 30-day period before water supplies would have ran out. It was only fully staffed during the Cuban missile crisis, the rest of the time it was used to train local volunteers.
The fully restored building contains an air filtration system, sewage treatment, kitchen and canteen facilities, dormitories, communication equipment, explosion / radiation detectors and in the control room, and one of two remaining AWDREY supercomputers in the world.
Decommissioned at the end of the Cold War in 1991, the bunker gained Scheduled Monument status in 2006 when English Heritage opened it as a tourist attraction.
Know Before You Go
There is parking directly outside the bunker, although much of the surrounding parking is for residents only. Access is by tour only. The site may not be suitable for those with mobility issues, as there are several staircases and high steps to navigate.
The bunker is around 30 minutes walk from the city centre but you can get the Number 1 or 412 buses from the train station that drop you off on Acomb Road.