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Lincoln's In

Cathedral and Bailgate

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
This area is crammed with ancient buildings and dominated by the world-renowned cathedral, completed in 1092. It didn’t have much luck in its first 200 years – it suffered a fire, an earthquake and the collapse of the central tower, replaced in 1311.

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.

Street in Lincoln

Go shopping in old England
The streets of Lincoln are narrow, cobbled and full of little shops that seem barely to have changed in centuries. Along the aptly-named Steep Hill, it’s possible to buy game or Lincolnshire sausage, choose sweets measured carefully from big glass jars, be tempted by the scents from a traditional bakery, and choose your cuppa from dozens of tins of loose tea that stand from floor to ceiling in an impossibly tiny shop.

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.

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