Getting out of London for a weekend in the countryside is exactly what the Doctor ordered over the first May Bank Holiday! I used my Two Together Railcard and headed up north for a 2.5 hour train journey from London Euston to the medieval town of Lancaster in Lancashire for a cheap weekend away. Lancaster is the perfect destination to base yourself out of for quick and easy access to the Lake District in Cumbria, as well as taking in historical tours of the City Centre’s Castle and parks. Let me tell you how to spend the perfect weekend away up north in Lancaster.
Where to Stay
This trip, I stayed with friends just outside the city centre but from a quick scan, there’s a lot of great hotel options on Expedia for all budget types. Public transportation is pretty good with the central train station stopping right in the middle of the town. Bus routes are popular but there wasn’t many taxi’s available (keep in mind I was there during the Bank Hols which probably affected that).
What to Do
One of the main attractions and distinctive features of Lancaster is the massive Lancaster Castle that sits overtop of the hill looking onto the River Lune. The Castle’s history encompasses crime, punishment, witches and more and dates back to Roman times. What I found to be the most interesting fact is that up until 2011 it was still used as a fully functioning jail and to this day is one of the oldest working crown courts in the country. It was also home to the famous Lancashire Witch Trails in 1612, where 13 people were sentenced to death by hanging for ‘witchcraft’! Witches get stitchez.
The castle tour takes you behind the scenes into some of the Crown Courts, showing you hundreds of family crests from past Sherifs of Lancaster, into old jail cells, and explains the history of being ‘sworn in’ in court – watch out for the trap doors!!
DYK: The Monarch is always the Duke of Lancaster, meaning right now Queen Elizabeth is the Duke, and also owns the city of Lancaster? Cool!
The Castle is open 7 days a week from 9:30am – 5pm and hour-long guided tours run throughout the day. Entrance costs £8 for adults. Note: because it’s still a working crown court, photographs aren’t permitted in some of the rooms. Don’t be that person who ‘sneaks’ a photo because you will literally be jailed – one person was sent down for 4 months for snapping a pic on site! Ruh Roh!
When coming into the city, you can’t help buy notice the giant dome building up on the hilltop. Reminiscent of Sacre Coeur in Paris, the Ashton Memorial in Williamson Park is a 150 foot tall building built in 1909 by Lord Ashton as tribute to his wife. Can I also just say, why the HELL do men not build massive buildings for their women these days?!?! Men: be a little more Lord Ashton plz. To get to the Park it’s a short/long 10 minute walk from the centre of town straight up the hill, past the Lancaster Royal Grammar School all the way to the top.
Once you get to the giant dome, you can climb up to the top for incred views over the city. But, of course, we missed the opening times by a hot minute – god damn. So instead, here’s a photo of what the building looks like: visualise the views.
The park is 54 acres of nature and includes a Butterfly House and a ‘mini beasts’ room (aka tiny zoo). The Butterfly House costs £4 entry and has the most amazing blue, orange and velvet black coloured beauties flying around. The mini beasts section weirdly has a shit ton of meerkats, and when you say ‘treat’ they all come running towards you and stand up on their hind legs! (Confession: I don’t know if they’re trained to do that or if it was just some weird coincidence that when I said it they came a runnnnin’. Try it for yourself and let me know in the comments below!!)
Where to Eat/Drink
Out of all the pubs I visited on this weekend away, The Borough was by far my favourite. Not only was it my first encounter of £3.20 pints of beer (remind me why I live in London), but they also have a fantastic back garden and live music playing. I was walking through the streets and was serenaded through the stone back wall by the soothing voice of this guy with the most amazing waist-length hair, massive wide-leg pants and a Metallica t-shirt on. He was basically the pied piper. He was playing the types of songs that are common for pubs back home in Halifax, NS and I was.in.my.element. They also have a really good pub food menu and loads of beers on tap, including some local favs.
Located a 3 minute walk to the Lancaster train station, Merchants 1688 is tucked away behind vines and in a 300-year-old wine merchant cellar. It’s a place to go and take some ‘grams. It’s one of the more expensive places I visited to buy a pint but at £3.40, it’s honestly not going to break the bank. On Saturday nights they have live music and Sunday’s have roasts and pub quiz. Note, this place is a family atmosphere so if you’re coming to Lancaster for a stag/hen-do, this pub isn’t for you.
This pub is in a beautiful Georgian building in the heart of historic Lancaster and is also a 4* luxury hotel. The Sun has a really nice beer garden but unfortunately the sunsets on the wrong side so you lose some of the light. The building has original stone walls, floorboards, windows and ceiling beams which gives it a nice ye olde feel. Once you grab a cold one, head towards the back to get to the garden but stop before you go outside and head into the little dining room on the left. You’ll notice on the floor there’s a circular piece of glass on the floor – look down into it and you’re starring at an old well which has lush green plants growing up the shaft! The pints here are reasonably priced and the food looked really delicious!
This is the first City Guide I’ve put together and I’d love your thoughts! Am I missing anything? Is there some things you want to learn more or less about? Tell me in the comments below! I want to make sure that I’m serving you content that you’ll enjoy to help unleash your wanderlust!
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