Planning a cottage holiday in Lincolnshire? The county's capital has one of Europe's finest cathedrals, fabulous food shops and 2,000 years of history – some of it really rather gruesome, says Alexandra Pratt
Explore the Cathedral Quarter
Behind the cathedral is the Bishop’s Palace, built in the 12th century. Henry VIII stayed here with Catherine Howard, who is said to have been caught with her lover during their visit – for which she paid the ultimate price.
Facing the cathedral is the even older Lincoln Castle. There has been fortification on this site for 2,000 years. An excellent guided tour includes the Lucy Tower, built by a descendant of Lady Godiva, who ran the castle administration in her husband’s name. More grisly is Cobb Hall, a 13th century tower and dungeon where the graffiti of prisoners shackled in the semi-darkness can still be seen. On the roof are metal fixings for the gallows used for public hangings – they attracted up to 20,000 people – in the 19th century.
'The streets of Lincoln are narrow, cobbled and full of wonderful little shops'
Inside the castle grounds, stands the Regency magistrates court, which is still in use, and the grim gaol, built in 1787 and now open to the public. In the later Victorian era, a cruel ‘separate system’ denied prisoners human contact, driving many insane. In the same building you can see an original copy – one of only four that exist – of the 1215 Magna Carta.
Go shopping in old England
When all this has become too much, relax in one of Lincoln’s friendly traditional teashops, where the local delicacy is plumbread with cheese – surprisingly good. Try Pimento’s, where the combined scents of cinnamon, ginger and Earl Grey may go to your head. If you want lunch, stay on the ground floor. It’s tea and cakes only upstairs, with views over the jumbled roofs of the old town.