History comes alive at Lincoln Castle

Lincoln castle walls
Lincoln castle walls
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TRISH TAKES FIVE: By Trish Burgess

I’d like to begin by saying a big thank you to everyone who buys National Lottery tickets. Since 1994 every time you’ve popped into a newsagent to pick up the daily paper and a couple of lucky dips on the side, you have contributed to a whole host of good causes: organisations large and small have benefited from lottery money.

Last week I visited Lincoln Castle which has undergone a £22m restoration. £12m came from the Heritage Lottery Fund; the rest from private donations, David Ross Foundation, Lincolnshire County Council and the European Regional Development Fund.

If you haven’t visited since the renovations, it’s definitely worth a trip. The castle is a fantastic day out for all ages.

One of the main structural improvements to the castle is the stone curtain wall which can now be walked around in full. For the first time, visitors can see a superb view of Lincoln Cathedral from the castle’s east wall battlements.

Take an audio guide with you or read the plaques positioned on the route, to learn about the history of the castle including the grisly public hangings at Cobb Hall. At the Observatory Tower you can climb even higher: pick a clear day for magnificent views in every direction.

The Victorian prison only existed for 30 years at Lincoln Castle. It used a ‘separate system’ with individual cells and a regime of keeping prisoners apart. The restoration funding has now made this a fascinating place to visit and it’s even been used as a film location for Downton Abbey and Call The Midwife. The chapel was particularly disturbing and the stories of prisoners, told in each cell via audio-visual presentations, were thought-provoking.

Lincoln Castle is the only place in the world where you can see an original 1215 Magna Carta together with a 1217 Charter of the Forest (an updated version of Magna Carta which included many of the original clauses). In a new vault, carefully designed to protect them against further deterioration, visitors are invited to look at these 800 year old historical documents. There’s also a huge wraparound screen cinema with 3D sound, explaining the significance of the charters.

Another addition is a lovely cafe, Langton’s, which had excellent pastries and sandwiches plus there was plenty of seating, inside and out. You don’t have to buy a castle ticket to enjoy the cafe or sit in the grounds: ideal if you’re pushed for time or just want to have a coffee in historical surroundings.

If you plan to visit, there are a number of options with a 10% discount if you book online. I paid £12 for an all-inclusive castle ticket which gives access to the prison, the walk around the walls and Magna Carta. It also allows you a free return visit within six months.

King John spent several days at Lincoln in 1216 shortly before he lost his jewels and baggage somewhere in The Wash. Living in Holbeach, I’ll make sure I have a good look for them before I go back for my second visit.

You can follow Trish on Twitter @mumsgoneto and read her blog at www.mumsgoneto.co.uk