Lincoln is a city that often flies under the radar. It doesn’t seem to get the attention that it deserves so I’m here to change that with my local’s guide to the historic city of Lincoln.
Situated almost in the geographical centre of its namesake county, Lincoln is a historic and quaint cathedral city in the East Midlands. There is no doubt that Lincoln flies under the radar and is often bypassed altogether for bigger cities nearby such as Nottingham or Sheffield or even York. I think that that means there are many people who don’t realise just how much they are missing out.
Whilst the city of Lincoln is small (read: walkable), it is steeped in history. ‘Lindum’ was one of the largest settlements in Britain during the Roman times. The castle was built shortly after the Norman conquest by William the Conqueror and the gothic cathedral’s construction dates back to 1072.
I’m very proud to say that I moved to Lincoln back in 2002 at the tender age of 12. I studied for my law degree at the University before moving further north for work. My family still live in the city so I’m regularly back visiting. I know the city like the back of my hand; I’ve drank on its streets, I’ve written songs about it and I’ve met my wife in its lecture theatres. It feels only right that I finally share the love of my hometown with the world. We could debate whether I’m officially still a local anymore but come on, I’m here to share some great tips about visiting Lincoln so let’s just forget about that!
From the cobbled streets of The Strait and Steep Hill to the transformed Cornhill Quarter, from independent cafes to 16th century pubs to vintage clothing stores to high quality eateries, there’s something for everyone here.
Hopefully I’ve done enough in this guide to the historic city of Lincoln to convince you to visit whether its for the first time or tenth time. It’s even convinced me that I need to spend more time as a tourist when I visit.
THE PERFECT GUIDE TO THE HISTORIC CITY OF LINCOLN
Once the tallest building in the world, Lincoln Cathedral proudly and confidently announces itself to all who visit with it being visible from miles away no matter from which direction you arrive in the city. The majestic cathedral dominates the city skyline (sitting 83 metres tall on top of a 50 metre ridge) and serves as ‘the north star’; you can’t get lost if you can see the cathedral.
This has to be without doubt one of the most beautiful and breathtaking cathedrals in all of the United Kingdom. Important restoration and conservation work has finally come to an end on the cathedral’s West Front (and most impressive face) so you can now see the cathedral without scaffolding for the first time since 2016. There’s a brand new visitor centre to take advantage of and you can visit the main areas of the cathedral without charge though donations are welcome and encouraged.
To explore the cathedral properly and to take part in a guided floor tour, the admission fee for adults is £9.
Opposite the cathedral, through Exchequer Gate and across Castle Hill lies, you guessed it, Lincoln Castle. As with the cathedral, the castle imposes itself high above the city and I couldn’t think of a better location for William the Conqueror’s castle. Construction began in 1068 as a means to control the north of the Norman Kingdom and to prevent any rebellions.
Lincoln Castle has witnessed so much across almost 1,000 years and it’s even home to one of only four surviving copies of the Magna Carta. After a five year, £22m restoration project, the castle is a must-visit on any trip to Lincoln. The castle has to be one of the best preserved in the country. You must walk along the medieval walls, see the Victorian Prison, climb to the top of the observatory tower and relax in the castle gardens.
An adult day ticket (which includes the wall walk) costs £15 and is well-worth it.
The Bailgate area of Lincoln is my favourite. It’s full of lovely hotels (White Hart), locally run shops (bookshops, bakers, butchers & antiques) plus plenty of independent pubs and cafes. I could easily spend an entire day wandering around the streets of Bailgate; it’s picture perfect.
The fourth steepest street in England is right here. Steep Hill (no prize for the person who named it) connects the historic uphill area of Lincoln with the modern high street below. The street is full of tea rooms, pubs, independent stores and even a restaurant dedicated to pies. It’s a hard walk up but you will be more than rewarded.
Take a little detour partly down Michaelgate (another steep cobbled hill), turn around and admire the crooked Tudor building with the cathedral in the background.
Before we move on, as I take you around the city of Lincoln, it would be amiss of me not to talk about quite possibly the best Christmas Market in the entire country. The Lincoln Christmas Market is situated in the Bailgate and Uphill area of the city and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. The market is only on from Thursday to Sunday on the first weekend of December so, as you can imagine, it gets extremely busy .
I can’t say anything other than I would recommend every one visits Lincoln Christmas Market at least once in their lifetime. Buy some Lincolnshire Poacher Cheese, have a bratwurst and ride on the ferris wheel with views over the castle and the cathedral.
Take the time to wander towards the eastern end of Lincoln and you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful walk through the Arboretum; a fine example of a Victorian park. You’ll find a bandstand, lakes, fountains and a children’s play area.
The Collection & Usher Gallery
Long gone are the days where we, as young teenagers, may or may not have had a few beers on a Friday night outside the Usher Gallery. Now, both the Usher Gallery and the Collection are places that I, as a 30-something year old father, love to visit.
The Collection Museum is a great, free place to visit in Lincoln, with a focus on local archaeology. The Usher Gallery was opened back in 1927 and is all about art so a must-visit if that’s what you’re into.
Food & Drink
I should really create a separate post entirely focusing on the best places to eat and drink in Lincoln as honestly the scene is thriving at the moment. There are so many independent restaurants, pubs and coffee shops that deserve your attention but I couldn’t possibly cover them all here in my guide to the historic city of Lincoln.
For coffee, I’d recommend Stokes High Bridge Café (or within the Lawn at the top of Lincoln) and 200 Degrees. For beer, check out The Strait and Narrow, The Cardinal’s Hat and BeerHeadZ. I always like to visit Duke William too along the Bailgate for a few drinks and some food. As I said, there’s far too many good places to eat in the city but if I had to narrow it down I’d say you should visit Rising Café (a charity that offers help to people suffering with drug and alcohol addictions), Slow Rise (for great pizza), Olivares Tapas Bar and Brown’s Pie Shop.
International Bomber Command Centre
Lincolnshire is synonymous with the Royal Air Force both historically and presently with many RAF bases scattered across the county. With my Dad being in the RAF throughout my childhood, I’ve always had an interest in military history (more so when I was younger) so it’s great to visit the International Bomber Command Centre atop Canwick Hill.
The Spire is the focal point of the centre and serves as a memorial to Bomber Command who played such an important role in WWII. The Spire can be seen from within the city of Lincoln; it’s 102ft high (the wingspan of a Lancaster bomber) and 16ft wide at its base (the width of a Lancaster wing). You’ll also find the Wall of Names next to the Spire which carries the names of almost 58,000 people, both men and women, who lost their lives in Bomber Command.
Parking is £3 for the day and access to the Peace Gardens and Memorial is free of charge (this is the Spire and Wall of Names). If you want to access the exhibitions it’s £9.50 for an adult (save £1 by booking online in advance) and the centre is open six days per week, Tuesday to Sunday.
Hartsholme Country Park
Only a few miles south-west of the city centre, you’ll find Hartsholme Country Park with a beautiful reservoir to walk around. There are Victorian landscaped gardens, a cafe plus a campsite too. If you fancy walking a little further to stretch those legs you can wander through the Swanholme Lakes Nature Reserve.
On your way in or out of Lincoln, along the A57, you should plan a slight detour to the Pyewipe Inn situated on the banks of the Fossdyke canal (the canal dates back to the Roman times). On a hot summer’s day, there’s little place better to relax with a pint of beer with a great view back towards the cathedral. You can walk or cycle along the canal too all the way from the city by which point you’ll have definitely earned your lunch!
Last but by no means least, I would highly recommend a short drive out of Lincoln to Doddington Hall; a 16th century mansion with beautiful Elizabethan gardens, a farm shop, a cafe and a separate coffee shop within the Giant bike shop. There are plenty of walks too across the parkland where you’ll spot rare-breed red cattle and the Doddington Pyramid.
Well, there you go then, my guide to the historic city of Lincoln. What do you think? Can you see yourself putting Lincoln straight onto your list of places to visit? I know I will be arranging to visit again very soon!