Visit to Lincoln December 2009
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Was drawn to Lincoln by the noted Christmas Market but decided to stay a few days to explore the city as it was somewhere we had never been before. In retrospect this was a good decision, the Market although interesting and possessing a good atmosphere was like a giant game of sardines - or how many people can you squash into one small space at the same time, so had we visited just for that it may have been a disappointment.
We arrived in Lincoln on the afternoon of Tuesday 1st December and booked into our hotel before heading into the city centre. First impressions were good, looking for something to eat we made our way to the Brayford Wharf, alongside the canal which runs through the city centre. This area has quite a cosmopolitan feel with plenty of bars and restaurants and although most of the eateries along here are part of national chains such as Ask and Wetherspoons it was possible to get a decent meal and all the restaurants have a great view. This part of the city is dominated by the modern buildings of the city's university on the opposite side of the canal, but the Brayford pool still has an attractive appearance and there appeared to be hundreds of swans floating by. The rest of the afternoon was spent shopping in the High Street, this again was a good experience, like most places many of the shops are chain stores but the fact that they are located in a high street rather than a shopping centre and that this High Street has a medieval building/arch called the Stonebow intersecting it gives shopping a special charm.
Wednesday was spent visiting the Cathedral Quarter as it is known and I can honestly say that this area rivals any tourist town or city in the country. Lincoln Castle is well worth a visit and gives a good insight into the penal system as it was in days gone by, there is a stunning view of the city from the castle walls and the opportunity to see a copy of one of the most important documents in English history the Magna Carta signed by King John himself. Even the Tourist Information Centre is worth a visit being a medieval lath and plaster building and the whole area around Castle Square and the Bailgate with its Roman Arches is very attractive and worth a visit. The Cathedral itself is magnificent. There is an entry fee to enter the building which given the cost of the upkeep of the cathedral is fair but I must say it was a little disconcerting to enter this wonderful building and find a couple of tills that looked like a supermarket exit - maybe they could handle things a little more discretely. The entry fee was worth it though as the building is magnificent and we spent nearly two hours exploring, probably half that time looking for the elusive Lincoln Imp - found him eventually though. The area around the Cathedral, Minster Yard and the Roman Arches is almost equally as impressive as the building itself. After a superb lunch at Cafe Zoot on the Bailgate we made our way down the very aptly named Steep Hill, this is an amazing winding cobbled street on a steep incline with a variety of historic buildings, most of which house interesting shops, on either side for someone like me who adores second hand bookshops it was a dream and there are several of these on the hill, unfortunately not all of them were open.
Half way down the hill a signpost led us to The Collection Museum which houses archaeological finds from around Lincolnshire and has good displays on the Anglo Saxons, Vikings and Romans amongst other things. Entry to the museum is free and it is again well worth a visit.
The following day we headed out of Lincoln and visited the market town of Horncastle - wow what a place absolutely full of antique and junk shops and you can browse to your heart's content - returning to Lincoln in the evening for the start of the Christmas market. The market certainly provides the visitor with a superb Christmas atmosphere but is so busy that visitors have to follow a strict one way system just to be able to get around. Visiting some stalls is difficult because of the volume of people and many of the stalls sell the same things - there seemed to be hundreds of scandinavian hats and mulled wine stalls to name but a few. We attempted a second visit to the marked on the Friday but the crowds were even worse causing to head away from the main market area, this had its advantages though as it led us to the ruins of the Bishops Palace and the Usher Gallery as well as to discovering a wonderful green area called the Arboretum.
This was our first ever visit to Lincoln but it will definitely not be our last. I want to return in the summer and among other things take a boat trip down the Brayford and go on the Lincoln Ghost Walk which we missed but which I am told is excellent as it contains much local history and information as well as scary stories.
Overall, Lincoln is a very attractive and laid back city with a wealth of history and some fantastic old buildings.