Hidden Destinations: Lancaster

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When you think of weekend break destinations, Lancaster probably doesn’t immediately spring to mind. But as a bustling market town with historical attractions, restaurants and shops to suit all pockets and easy access to the Lake District, it’s certainly worth considering.

Located in the north of Lancashire, Lancaster is easy to reach by road and train. Its compact size makes it ideal for exploring in a weekend, and its proximity to the beautiful Lake District makes a longer stay worthwhile. If you’re looking for a city centre base, the Travelodge Lancaster Central Hotel is a great-value option, close to key sights such as Lancaster Castle. A Grade I listed building that was also a fully-functioning prison until 2011, Lancaster Castle makes a good starting point for your explorations of the town. Take one of the tours and find out more about the building’s long history, which includes playing host to the trial of the famous Pendle Witches. Other key Lancaster sights include the Maritime Museum. Although Lancaster is inland, it has a significant maritime history thanks to its position on the River Lune, which was formerly a key goods route. Housed in eighteenth-century warehouse buildings, the museum is especially worth a visit for families, as there are plenty of interactive exhibits for kids to get involved with.

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If you prefer a more leisurely style of sightseeing (and the weather’s being kind), take a stroll in Williamson Park. For views of the park and the town beyond, you can climb the grand Ashton Memorial, a dome-topped folly visible for miles around. There’s also a butterfly house and mini zoo, and the park regularly hosts open-air concerts and plays during summer months.

Shopaholics will be pleased to hear that Lancaster can meet their retail needs, with both chain stores and independent boutiques lining its streets. St Nicholas Arcades is the main destination for high street shops, while the Assembly Rooms Market is the destination for vintage finds, jewellery and gifts.

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Visitors with keen tastebuds won’t be disappointed by a visit to Lancaster either. With a range of cafés, pubs and restaurants, there’s something for everyone – and for all budgets too. For lunch, try canalside pub The White Cross, which serves tasty classics at low prices. It also specializes in local ales. As a gastropub, The Borough is a cut above: dishes on offer range from the healthy (super food salad) to the hearty (steamed steak and ale pudding and Lancashire hotpot). The emphasis here is on local ingredients, so it’s a great choice for getting a taste of the region.

If you have time to venture further afield, Lancaster is the gateway to the Lake District. A short drive (or train ride) north of the city, you’ll find yourself in amongst the hills of the Lake District National Park. If you  want to explore the area but don’t want to pay the higher hotel prices, Lancaster makes a great base for exploring Kendal, Windermere and beyond.

Kate Turner

About Kate Turner

Kate Turner is an editor and writer. Currently based in Madrid, she has also lived in (and written about) Oxford, Seville and London. You can find her here