Growing up, my parents took my brothers and I on holidays across the UK, but one particular attraction was always a must on the itinerary, castles. I’ve almost definitely seen keeps, bridges and moats in their hundreds, but when Visit Lincoln invited Kasha and I to experience this fairy tale city I found one castle I hadn’t yet conquered.
Already intrigued by the prospect of a new fortress to tick off my list, I learned that this unassuming medieval city hides a lot more beneath the surface. From hosting one of Europe’s biggest Christmas markets to its hidden Roman history and whispers that the castle guards one the most important document in British history; Lincoln is a city that needs to be unravelled and explored.
Experience the Brand New Medieval Wall Walk
One of the best preserved castles in the whole country, the mighty stone fortress of Lincoln Castle was built by the great Norman King William the Conqueror to demonstrate his power. Since its medieval construction, the grounds have been made use of in a startling variety of ways, acting as everything from execution ground, prison, law court, museum and most recently a skills centre where you can learn traditional crafts like stone masonry and stained glass window painting.
The new walkway was completed in 2015, a multi-million-pound renovation over a decade in the making. It offers visitors a spectacular view of the skyline, countryside and the majestic spires of the cathedral. It might not seem it, but the walkway in a third of a mile long! Take your time to wander around, for me this was one of the highlights of the trip, a magical vantage point that can’t be missed.
Get Locked in a Victorian Prison
Ok, ok you can’t get locked in the prison, but you can definitely explore this creepy lockup in its entirety. Located within the castle grounds, this Victorian made jail had a revolutionary concept for helping trouble-makers reform their ways, total segregation. All prisoners were kept in separate cells, ate separately, exercised separately and if you thought going to church meant you could have a sneaky chinwag during the sermon, think again. While its blindingly obvious that the dozen or so cells might fill up pretty quickly and be expensive to run, the Victorians took 30 years until they admitted it probably wasn’t fit for purpose anymore and packed it in.
The prison is set up so you can learn more about the inmates through interactive exhibits in each cell and hear real convict’s stories which were meticulously recorded by the prisons chaplain. For a bit of fun, you can also dress up as a matron, or a prison warden or try imagine the feeling of being confined in the dark, cold prison all alone. Highlights here include the beautiful atrium, the bizarre segregated chapel and the astonishing finds from a recent excavation under the prison grounds which vary from a sarcophagus to Roman gaming dice.
See a Document That Changed the World
Also inside the prison is a special room devoted to a hallowed piece of parchment that is easily one of the world’s most important documents. The Magna Carta, or Great Charter, hailed the beginning of fundamental human right, something that has been referenced by everyone from Ghandi to Martin Luther King; an enduring, international symbol of liberty.
2015 marked the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta and you can gaze in wonder on one of the last remaining copies of this ancient charter in Lincoln Castle. For those (like me) who were unsure of what it all meant, the widescreen 210-degree wraparound screen cinema helps to teach you all you need to know.
See One of Britain’s Greatest Treasures
Arriving in Lincoln by train, you can see the spires of the great Lincoln Cathedral towering above the low lying surrounds. Instantly it sent a shiver down my spine, thinking of the millions who must have gazed upon it for the first time and felt a similar awe. Once the tallest building in the world, this Gothic edifice is a breathtaking masterpiece.
The interior and exterior is embellished with incredibly intricate detail, and considering the construction was commissioned by William the Conqueror, you can tell they spared no expense. The cathedral has served as the backdrop for movies like the Da Vinci Code, our guide shared with us the titbit that all the women of Lincoln waited outside in the hope of catching a glimpse of Tom Hanks (and who can blame them right?). The bone like vaults on the roof are particularly impressive, as is the two rose windows. Make sure to keep an eye out for the mischievous stone imp, one of the many peculiar medieval stories of this city.
Eat Phenomenal British Grub
Embarrassingly as travel bloggers, we ate only in the area known as the Cathedral Quarter. In our defence, the food was bloody amazing. While there are plenty of dining spots along the High Street and dozens of eateries along the Brayford Waterfront, the incredible food we had at the top of Steep Hill is hard to beat. We started our morning off with a naughty stop at Roly’s Fudge Pantry, where the scent of freshly made hot fudge wafts unforgivingly into the street. Needless to say the maple and walnut flavour we tasted was inhaled rather than eaten.
After much exploring, we needed a pick-me-up, which came in the form of Bunty’s Tea Room. Aside from having quite a funny name, the generous slices of cake and selection of fine tea make the reputation of this cafe well deserved.
For dinner, I wholeheartedly recommend Wig and Mitre. This Tardis like old pub is full of locals taking advantage of the fine-dining pub food. Our meal consisted of a rich cheese soufflé, perfectly seasoned ham hock and black pudding terrine, a literally mouth-watering slow cooked lamb shoulder and peanut butter cheesecake that I wish I could marry (sorry Kasha).
Stay in an 800-Year-Old Hotel
Dating back to 1213, the Cathedral View Guesthouse is the perfect place to spoil yourself with on a weekend stay in Lincoln. Situated just a few minutes from, and with a view of, the cathedral, you’d be hard pressed to find somewhere quite so well located. Impeccably restored by the latest owners in 2011, this charming B&B gave us the best night sleep we could have hoped for and the helpful staff gave us some great recommendations for things to do around town.
We were lucky enough to stay in a room that spread across the top floor, an invitingly comfortable room with a king-sized bed, sofa and original exposed beam vaulted ceiling (which I made sure to bang my head on a few times). I love quirky accommodation (like windmills and converted prisons) and this peaceful retreat was so plush that after each day we both secretly looked forward to coming back and sleeping on the uber-soft bed. Each morning they also put on a fabulous breakfast spread including a full English complete with Lincolnshire sausages; top marks in my book.
Lincoln is perfect for history lovers, foodies or anyone with an appreciation for a slower pace of life. I’m not ashamed to admit I steamed up a few estate agent’s windows as I checked out the cost of a house nearby. The magical feel of this special city is something you need to experience, if only for a blissful weekend.
*Pin me for later*
If you enjoyed that, why not check out my new favourite city in France, Le Havre.