LINCOLNSHIRE

Humber Bridge flickr Jam AdamsA largely rural and agricultural county in the east of England, Lincolnshire is not often top priority for tourists. However, its slower, more relaxed pace of life compared to other parts of the country can come as a refreshing change. The attractions of Lincolnshire can be unexpectedly varied. The county capital, Lincoln, will charm with its juxtaposition of quaint cobbled streets and contemporary shopping and nightlife. The county’s eastern coast offers typical English seaside-resort activities as well as the natural beauty of an unspoilt coastal environment. The Lincolnshire Wolds, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is a stunning landscape of rolling hills and verdant countryside dotted with rural towns. The area runs inland, roughly parallel to the coast. In the southeast, the Lincolnshire Fens, a captivating flatland area and one of the county’s most popular destinations, are where visitors are spoilt for choice with activities like walking, cycling, fishing and cruising along 200 miles of waterways. Romantic windmills provide the backdrop for a perfect relaxing day out.

Sights
The 225km-long Viking Way stretches from the Humber Bridge in Yorkshire, across the Lincolnshire Wolds, to Oakham in Rutland. An ancient walking route, as its name suggests, the area along the route has been populated since Viking times, supported by archaeological evidence. The route is marked by a yellow marker with a symbol representing a Viking helmet, and walking and cycle maps can be downloaded online or obtained from tourist offices in the area.

Reminiscent more of the Low Countries than a part of England, the Lincolnshire Fens is an area made up of scenic waterways along which you can take a leisurely stroll or enjoy a cruise. Boston, a town of great of importance during medieval times, could be worth a short visit for its atmosphere quite unique in England. In the area also stand many mills and windmills, some of which are open to visitors.

 


Lincoln Old TownLincoln (pop. 65,600)  is the county town of Lincolnshire, and is steeped in centuries of rich history. Its cobbled streets and ancient architecture still stand as testimony to its heritage, and although tourists do not usually linger more than a day or so, the city is still worth stopping by to take in that quaint atmosphere.  The main draws of the city are its impressive cathedral, Norman castle, and the shops on the aptly named Steep Hill. Down the hill lies the more modern part of town, with its university and waterfront bars and pubs. Its unique mixture of history, modernity and culture will make Lincoln a truly worthwhile stop on your trip.

History
With its unique topography – a hill with commanding views over the surrounding countryside, and a natural lake situated along a river – it is not surprising that the site’s defensive value was recognised very early on, since Roman colonisation in the 1st century A.D. The city’s current name is believed to be a shortening of the Roman settlement’s name, Lindum Colonia. Soon after the Norman Conquest in 1066, the castle was built in 1068 for control over the same transport route that the Romans had used earlier. During the middle ages, Lincoln was one of the wealthiest towns in England, and a favourite of several kings.

However, its fortunes began to decline in the 14th century, and the town’s profile remained low for several centuries to follow. The English Civil War left Lincoln pitifully scarred, as control of the town swung back and forth between the two sides. Lincoln was thus reduced to a backwater by the 1700’s, left behind while the rest of the county progressed.

It was only during the Industrial Revolution that Lincoln rose to prominence again, with the establishment of several companies specialising in heavy engineering and machinery. The development of this industry led to the design and manufacture of the world’s first tank, used during World War I. This helped to create many jobs and was a major boon to the economy. Although heavy industry started to decline post-World War II, it is still a major employer today. Lincoln is also moving towards developing commerce, retail and tourism. 

Layout
Lincoln’s distinctive landmark is the imposing cathedral standing on top of the hill. At the top of this hill you will also find the old city with its ancient architecture and quaint cobbled streets. Down the hill, to the south, is the new town as well as the train and bus stations. This topographical divide between the historical part of the city and the more modern part is referred to by locals as “uphill” and “downhill” respectively, and the two parts are connected by the infamous Steep Hill – visit it and you will immediately see why it is so named.

Sights
Lincoln CathedralLincoln Cathedral
[Minster Yard, +44 1522 544544, ad/ch £6.00/1.00, Concession: £4.75].  Lincoln’s most visible landmark, standing majestically on top of a hill, can be seen 25 miles (40 km) away. At night, the cathedral is illuminated, forming a mesmerising backdrop to the city. Lincoln cathedral is the third largest cathedral in England, with only York Minster and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London surpassing it in size. However, size is not the only thing that matters – this cathedral’s numerous treasures are enough to astound on their own merit. 

The awe-inspiring, intricately carved West Front greets you as you enter. Inside, the nave and the choir hold gems from the cathedral’s medieval history, and the stained glass windows are not to be missed. Free guided floor tours take place at least twice daily, apart from Sundays. Tours of the roof can be pre-booked at the entry desk in advance or on the day itself.

The cathedral has been through its fair share of trials and tribulations, having survived a fire and an earthquake in the 12th century, a collapse of its central tower in 1237, and again in 1549 when the tower had reputedly stood at a whopping 160m high.

The Lincoln Cathedral most recently garnered international fame when it was chosen as the location for shooting the film The Da Vinci Code in 2005.
 
Bishop’s Palace [Minster Yard, +44 1522 527468, ad/ch £4.20/2.10, Concession: £3.60] Just next to the cathedral lie the ruins of the medieval bishops’ palace, once one of the most important buildings in England. The bishops’ palace was first built in 1163. The grounds can be explored on an audio tour included in the admission price, and visitors are welcome to bring their picnic baskets.

Lincoln CastleLincoln Castle [Castle Hill, +44 1522 511068, ad/ch £5.00/3.30].  Soon after William the Conqueror established his rule in Lincoln, he lost no time in impressing his stamp upon the area by ordering the construction of a castle in 1068. Until the building of the cathedral later, the castle was the undisputed landmark dominating the skyline. Situated atop the hill over the River Witham, the castle occupied a formidable defensive position, standing as it was over the site of a former Roman fortress.

The castle’s notorious Cobb Hall, a 14th century addition, functioned as a court, prison and punishment ground where gruesome public executions were carried out. You can also view a grim Victorian prison chapel in which prisoners were locked into pews where they could not see each other. Many prisoners who passed through the castle were also sent on their way to the penal colonies in Australia.

Another important artifact housed in the castle is one of only four original copies of the Magna Carta signed in 1215. An accompanying exhibition puts the landmark document into historical perspective. Free guided tours of the castle take place twice daily in summer, and on weekends in winter.

The Collection and The Usher Gallery [Danes Terrace, +44 1522 530401, Free admission].  The county museum and art gallery for Lincolnshire was opened in 2005, and houses an abundance of artefacts and fine art pieces all on one site. In the museum section visitors will learn much about the archaeological history of Lincolnshire through a fascinating display covering a series of periods throughout geological time. Highlights of the museum’s collection include a Roman mosaic, Bronze and Iron Age artefacts, and a 4000-year-old skull discovered locally. Child-friendly exhibits, including the opportunity to dress up in period costumes, will have the young ones captivated.

Just next door stands the Usher Gallery, built in 1927. It houses a fine selection of portraits, and an extensive collection of works by Peter de Wint, who once lived in Lincoln. Also on display are works by Turner, Piper and Lowry.

 


Located on the Lincolnshire coast, about 12km east of Louth, the Saltfleetby-Theddlethorpe Dunes National Nature Reserve is an interesting landscape that can be explored any time of year. The dunes started forming in the 13th century, and are still constantly being shaped by the forces of the wind and tides today.  Several trails of differing length and difficulty are available for visitors of all inclinations and abilities. Visitors can explore those trails on their own, with printed guides available online. Natural England also organises free activities such as special interest walks and activities for children. A wide variety of wildlife can be seen in the nature reserve, including freshwater plants, insects, birds and seals.


Skegness donkeysPrior to the advent of the railway in 1875, Skegness (pop. 18,910) was a little fishing village of only around 400 residents. The town began to be marketed as a seaside resort, together with its now-famous mascot, in 1908. Originally a painting by illustrator John Hassall, a poster featuring the Jolly Fisherman was bought by Great Northern Railways, and is today thought of as one of the most iconic advertising mascots of all time. A statue of the Jolly Fisherman now stands at the train station, welcoming visitors to Skegness.

Soon after the opening of the railway, organised rail excursions from London brought increasing numbers of holidaymakers to Skegness for a seaside getaway. Early attractions included donkey races and sea water baths. Today Skegness has grown to be the largest seaside resort on the Lincolnshire coast. The Skegness donkeys are still a recognisable sight on the beach, giving rides to tourists.

Skegness has all your typical English seaside resort attractions – gaudy lights, fish and chip shops, arcades, fairground rides, cabarets… the list goes on. The Skegness Pier is where you will find most of the attractions, including ten pin bowling and Laserquest. This grand old pier was first built in 1880-81, at which time it was the fourth longest pier in England. However, refurbishments after a schooner crashed into the pier in 1919, and again after severe gale damage in 1978, have considerably shortened the pier that stands today. The Embassy Centre, practically synonymous with cabaret in Skegness, puts on comedy, music and cabaret shows all year round. Animal lovers or those with children might enjoy a visit to Natureland Seal Sanctuary [ad/ch £6.80/4.40]. Children can watch the seals and penguins being fed, while learning about the conservation work that the sanctuary is actively involved in.

 


The Boston Stump  Wikipedia Martin ClarkAlthough this is the “original” Boston (pop. 85,600) , this town today lies mostly in the shadow of the city which shares its name in Massachusetts, U.S.A. Ironically, its much more well-known U.S. namesake was named after this once-bustling port town in the UK.

Situated near the southeast coast of Lincolnshire, along the River Haven, Boston was by medieval times a port of significant stature handling trade from around Europe. It was known especially for trading in wool, but also in lead, salt and grain. The other notable event in Boston’s history is the 1607 imprisonment of a group of Pilgrim Fathers from Nottinghamshire who were attempting to emigrate illegally to The Netherlands. They were charged in court at Boston and imprisoned for a year before managing to escape to Leiden in The Netherlands. Several pilgrims from this group were later among those who set sail for New England in the Mayflower, and the rest is history.

Boston is today still a functioning port, dealing mostly with steel for the car industry. There is probably not too much to keep tourists in town for more than a short stop, but the town’s Tudor atmosphere still lingers and is pleasant enough. With its windmills and low-lying fenland, it also looks uncannily like a snapshot of The Netherlands – Boston was apparently used to film scenes set in The Netherlands when filming in the actual location was not possible during World War II.

Sights
St. Botolph’s Church
[+44 1205 362864] otherwise known as The Stump, is one of the most prominent landmarks in Boston. Its 88-metre tall tower can be ascended, and from the top it is possible to see all the way to Lincoln 32 miles (51km) away if the weather is good. The present church was constructed in the 14th century, although an earlier church had stood at the site since Norman times. The Stump is inextricably linked with the history of the Pilgrim Fathers who went on to found Boston, Massachusetts. The pulpit dating from the 17th century is the same one from which vicar John Cotton delivered his sermons encouraging his flock to take the example of the Pilgrim Fathers in the 1630s.

Boston Guildhall [2 South Street, +44 1205 365954, ad/ch £3.10/1.60, Concessions: £2.60] After having been closed for renovation for six years, the Boston Guildhall re-opened in March 2008. The Guildhall today houses a museum that tells the interesting story of the building, which started out in medieval times as the home of the powerful Guild of St. Mary. Here you can also see the cells that were used to hold the Pilgrim Fathers when they were tried in 1607, and even get a feel of what it would be like being in one of them! The building functioned as a restaurant during World War II, which you can also find out more about in the exhibition.

Maud Foster Windmill [Willoughby Road, +44 1205 352188] This seven-storey high windmill is located close to the town centre and is the tallest working windmill in England. It is open to visitors on certain days each week – check the website for details if you would like to climb the mill and see for yourself how a traditional mill functions. On site is also a shop where you can get organic products, and a tearoom serving home-baked goodies, with a wide selection for vegetarians. Again, check the website for opening days and times before you visit.

 


Sir Isaac Newton  Wikipedia LuestlingA pleasant red-brick town located approximately 25 miles (40 km) south of Lincoln, Grantham ( pop. 34,600) has several claims to fame. It was here that Sir Isaac Newton went to school; his link with the town is memorialised in a statue in front of the guildhall. The other famous personality from Grantham is Margaret Thatcher, who was born here. Her birthplace at 2 North Parade is marked by a plaque on the building. Grantham is also known for being the first town in the UK to employ female police officers. The town’s economy is mainly driven by industry, especially manufacturing and food.

Sights
St. Wulfram’s Church [Church Street, +44 1476 561342] The steeple of Grantham’s parish church stands proudly over the town. It is one of the tallest spires in the country on a parish church, and the church itself is one of the largest, able to accommodate about 700 people. The Francis Trigge Chained Library contains rare books still chained to the shelves, to guard against theft. It only opens during limited hours in summer, however, so call ahead or check the website before you visit. A visitor centre equipped with touch screens will provide you with information to enhance your visit, as well as equip you with audio guides.

Guildhall [St Peters Hill, +44 1476 406158] Built originally as the town’s second guildhall and jail in 1867-69, this Victorian Gothic building now houses a bustling arts centre which includes a 210-seat theatre and a ballroom that can hold 200 people. The centre’s box office also serves as a tourist information centre, where you can make enquiries, book accommodation and shop for souvenirs. Interestingly, the coffee house is located where the jail used to be, and its kitchen is still called “the back cell.”

Grantham Museum [St Peters Hill, +44 1476 568783, free] In this museum you will find much Margaret Thatcher memorabilia, including her evening gowns and handbags, many of which were donated to the museum by Mrs. Thatcher herself. The museum also displays exhibits on the social and archaeological history of the area.

Belton House [Belton, +44 1476 566116, ad/ch £9.50/5.50] The quintessential “dream” English country house, Belton house is a sought-after location for filming period dramas, including the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice. Built for Sir John Brownlow in 1685-89, it has the distinction of being designed by Sir Christopher Wren. Its rooms are open to the public, who can admire the exquisite wood carvings by Dutch carver Grinling Gibbons. You can complete your visit with a romp in the mansion’s own deer park and formal gardens.


 

Burghley House  Wikipedia Anthony MasiThe pretty town of Stamford (pop. 19,600) is notable for having more than 600 listed buildings, which alone accounts for over half the number of listed buildings in all of Lincolnshire. Walking through the town you will find a mixture of medieval, Jacobean and Georgian architecture – unlike other towns in the county, Stamford’s buildings were relatively unscathed by the Industrial Revolution. This picturesque town has been used as the filming location for numerous television shows and films, including the 2005 Pride and Prejudice film, and The Da Vinci Code.

Sights
The Stamford Museum [Broad Street, +44 1780 766317, free] displays exhibits on the town’s history and archaeology. It also organises an annual series of public lectures. The popular Stamford Shakespeare Festival takes place every June-August at Tolethorpe Hall, 2 miles (3.2km) north of Stamford. Tickets can be obtained through the Stamford Arts Centre [27 St. Mary’s Street, +44 01780 763203]. The Stamford Arts Centre also houses the tourist information centre, where you can get your questions answered and book tours and accommodation.