When planning days out in the UK- for foreign visitors and residents alike- Lincoln isn’t always top of the list. It’s a relatively small city, and the lack of a direct train connection to London probably doesn’t help. As part of a new resolution to get out more – and experience new things closer to home – we decided to make the trip. Thanks to a very active, hands-on dad, most weekends of my childhood were spent visiting interesting places all over the UK, but this trip to Lincoln was a first. The city was chocolate-box pretty, and with its massive cathedral and Roman history, it reminded me very much of a smaller York.
The first stop (after a cream tea in Stokes, the impossibly quaint Tudor tea room next to the High Bridge) was Lincoln Cathedral. Built in 1092, or 400 years before Christopher Columbus even dreamed of crossing the Atlantic, the cathedral is a feat of medieval devotion and engineering. Ever budget-conscious, we found the £8 per person admission charge a little high, and just made the most of the free “preview”- you can still step inside and take a photo of the impressive interior and visit a small side chapel without buying a ticket. The cathedral’s website also notes that if you come before 9am or after 4.30pm and are unable to pay (I’m not sure I’d have the brazenness to try that) you can enter for free. Signs in the entranceway also indicate that all visitors can enter without charge on Sundays, and if you do buy a ticket, it’s valid for a full year.
For me, the star attraction of Lincoln was the castle- or more precisely, its medieval walls, from which the photo above was taken. The architecture here is just as impressive as the cathedral’s:
Maybe it’s the fact that I was dragged around too many castles on history trips as a kid, but I can’t ever ever seem to summon up much interest in them. They always seem so…lifeless. Cold and depressing. So rather than entering the castle, we paid just £5 each to walk the walls– and it was money well spent. The walk isn’t too long, 1/3 of a mile, but due to the castle’s elevated situation you have fantastic views of the whole city and countryside beyond. Things of interest regarding the castle’s long history are explained on small plaques, and an audioguide is available, although we didn’t use this. You’re also able to climb a very narrow watchtower via a twisting staircase for an even better view of the cathedral and the city spread out before you.
Due to weekend lethargy on our part, we didn’t arrive in Lincoln until early afternoon, and we were slightly disappointed to find that all the main sights (as well as Tourist Information, the markets, etc.) closed at 5pm. We didn’t really want to shop, and it was too early to eat, so we went on a brief self-guided tour of some of Lincoln’s Roman remains, before walking through the modern part of the city and getting a drink. There is a signposted trail for people who are interested in the Romans’ influence here (I plan to bring an old friend, a Classics teacher, who’s hoping to visit the UK this summer). If opening hours had been a little longer, we would also have liked to have visited some of the museums or galleries in the city’s Cultural Quarter.
My lasting impression of Lincoln is that it’s a pretty little place- and definitely worth a day trip. On a more critical note, despite being a city, it has a small population and a slightly staid small-town feel, which isn’t helped by its isolated location and slow train connections. Outside of the Cathedral Quarter, Lincoln also had a faded, down-at-heel atmosphere, and a lack of non-chain bars, so we ended up in a Wetherspoon’s before heading home.
Final thoughts? Although we weren’t there for shopping, Lincoln has a modern shopping centre in the middle with the usual chains, as well as lots of cute boutiques, jewellery shops, and secondhand/antique book stores and stalls in the older part of the city. If you’re looking for souvenirs or unusual gifts, and wanting to support small local businesses, Lincoln seems especially blessed in this area- among the delis, vintage clothing shops, and wine cellars, I even spotted a shop dedicated to Russian dolls.