We had the grandchildren for the day, as both parents were working. We have visited most of the places before that are within easy driving distance (sometimes several times) So we picked on Lancaster – a fascinating small historic city. We started off early to avoid the bank holiday traffic and stopped on the way at a small cafe about 3 miles south of the city. Apparently the village was so named as it stands for Gallows Gate, the last place which condemned people passed through before reaching Lancaster and their place of execution.
Executions certainly proliferated in Lancaster Castle and it had the reputation as the court that sentenced more people to death than any other in England. We booked on a guided tour. As concessions and children were both £6.50 each it made sense to buy a family ticket at £20. The tour took 75 minutes but there were places to sit on the way round. Being an ancient building, it was of course not wheelchair friendly – in fact you could say it was not a friendly building at all!! Our tour guide had an extraordinary amount of knowledge about all the facts and gory details (I would not spoil any visit you may make in the future to retell them here). We all found it absolutely fascinating (including the children, who were able to quote various facts to their mother when we returned home). Because the Courts are still being used for legal cases it is not allowed to take photographs anywhere inside the castle. Fortunately for us the courts were not in session during August, so we were able to see more of the complex than usual.
As we had paid for parking in the Parksafe car park nearby it made sense to visit other attractions in the immediate area. So our next stop was the Judges Lodgings in Castle Hill the oldest town house in Lancaster. There is evidence that visiting judges have used the building since 1635, but before that it was owned by Thomas Covell the keeper of Lancaster Castle. He was responsible for the atrocious conditions including the imprisonment and execution of many poor unfortunates including the Pendle Witches. The house is furnished with handsome Gillow furniture and many fine art paintings are on display. It was the Museum of Childhood on the top floor, which amused our two kids, as there was not only a display of old toys and games but also things to play with.
Our next stop was a complete contrast – the Cottage Museum also in Castle Hill. It only cost £1.50 admission altogether so was worth the visit. The tiny 18th century cottage is spread over 5 floors and contains all sorts of gadgets from a bygone age. We found the interior manageable but the stairs are narrow, uneven and with very low beams – so not for the disabled.
So now it was time for some refreshment, so we chose the quirky venue of J Atkinsons & Co – Tea and Coffee Specialists in China Street, which has been roasting coffee since 1837. The cakes and toasties were delicious and the coffee was superb.
There were two other museums, which we chose not to visit on this occasion – the City Museum and the Maritime Museum. Lancaster is certainly a good place to visit for all ages and we plan to return again with our friends at some time in the future.