Lancaster Castle

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Things to do


Date of travel

May, 2017

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Although I was born in Lancashire, it took me 55 years to visit the county town of Lancaster. I have driven by it countless times and wondered about it but just never made it there. Until this year, that is. I was visiting family in Southport and ventured there for the day by train via Wigan. Most of my time there was spent at the castle – a five minute walk up the hill from the station. You enter the castle through the Gatehouse and find yourself in the courtyard. To the right is a large café with small gift shop attached – the previous HM Prison visiting rooms. I had time for a lovely lunch before taking the 1:00 pm tour of the Shire Hall – a jacket potato with Lancashire cheese and lots of fresh, crisp salad (£6.50).

Parts of the existing castle date back to the 1100s and sit on old Roman forts though its origins date back to 1093 with a motte and bailey built by a cousin of William the Conqueror, Roger de Poitou. There have been numerous additions over the centuries: the Keep in the 1100s; The Witches’ Tower in the 1300s; and the Gatehouse in the 1400s. The castle is currently undergoing some restoration work. The castle has belonged to the crown since 1399 when Henry IV (Henry Bolingbroke, third Duke of Lancaster) took the crown from Richard II.

Our tour guide, Sarah, was very funny and informative. It was a lovely day so she spent as much time as she could talking to us outside before heading into the castle, which until recently (2011) was still used as a prison. Both male and female prisoners were held here; males since the 1790s and women since 1862. You’re not allowed to take pictures inside as the castle is still in use today for the law courts. The 90 minute tour cost me £8.00 (concessions £6.50) and was well worth the money. You’ll learn all about the Lancashire Witches and their trial in 1612 and see the old cells, new cells, Hadrian’s Tower and the courtrooms – we got to see both courts as neither were sitting on the day of my visit. We ran through a mock trial in one of the courtrooms. It was also interesting to hear stories from a previous maintenance technician who worked at the prison – a fellow visitor on the tour. Note: there are some steps and uneven ground.

The courtyard is a lovely suntrap and I ended my visit to Lancaster back here with a cool drink and slice of courgette and lime cake from the café while I waited for my train. The newly restored Victorian clock tower overlooks the patio to the café so I was able to keep an eye on the time. I wasn’t the only patron who had strolled in for an afternoon break. Shoppers and what looked like office workers were also enjoying the sunshine and refreshments.

“Lancaster Castle”:

Denise Bridge

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