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Lincoln Castle (Lincoln)
Member Name: helencb
Lincoln Castle (Lincoln)
Advantages: Steeped in History, Affordable
Castle entry is an affordable £3.80 for Adults with concessions and family tickets available for less than £10 for a family of five, making this a very affordable day out.
Lincoln Castle is a Motte and Bailey construction and is one of only two Castles in the country with two Mottes. The magnificent castle walls and neatly lawned Castle Bailey make this a great location for all kinds of activities in the summer including archery, jousting, and even outdoor concerts and events. On a perfect summer's day, it is easy to spend most of the day in the Castle, taking a leisurely stroll around the gardens and different features of the castle as well as picnicking on the lawn and strolling among the paths, plants and small gardens areas which line the inner walls.
Entry to the Castle is typically via the Eastgate, directly opposite the Cathedral although there was also a pay booth on the West Gate entrance. The Castle shop is situated at the East Gate and while you will be given a small leaflet outlining the major points of interest around the walls, it is definitely worth investing in the wonderful official Tour guide entitled "Lincoln Castle History and Tour" for £4.50. There is a display copy, and the book is beautifully presented and packed full of information.
Only the cobblestone stone circles just outside the Eastgate give away the site of the Barbican where approaching soldiers could be trapped and killed if they dared storm the castle walls. This remained in place until the late 18th century.
Indeed none of the buildings which were inside the bailey walls, survive, but these walls would have housed stables, offices, and kitchens. The courthouse is still housed within the walls, and this site has been used as a prison and courthouse for 900 years.
Once inside the Eastgate, it is worthwhile finding your bearings with the aide of the site map provided. There are a number of different buildings housed within the castle walls themselves, and both the buildings and the walls are impressive in their own right. While the walls were probably timber originally, the herringbone Norman stonework can be traced back to 1115AD which is almost as old as the castle itself.
The "Friends of Lincoln Castle" group give regular free tours around the castle itself taking around 1.25 hours and you are invited to join at any point you wish. Unfortunately I did not see a tour taking place on my visit, but this is a great opportunity to get more insight into the castle than a mere pamphlet can provide.
The Magna Carta Exhibition
My first stop was to the Exhibition leading to the Lincoln Magna Carta, one of only four original Magna Cartas remaining in England (the other three being at the British Museum and at Salisbury Cathedral). This exhibition was a reasonable size, and it was possible to wander through within about 10-15 minutes, with the finale being the Magna Carta kept under glass in conditions to preserve it. The Magna Carta, signed at Runnymede, is said to be a constitutional set of documents which has influenced the world over, and this exhibition was extremely interesting even in its own right. There were in fact over 40 copies of the Magna Carta and this copy has been documented to be in Lincoln since that time of King John.
My second and more unplanned Gaol tour of the month is that of Lincoln Prison, which dates back to 1787 although Lincoln was the home of prisoners taken from the Battle of Culloden some forty years earlier. Most of the prison, including the dingy cells where prisoners were kept before being shipped to Australia, is not part of the tour, but it is possible to see inside the Prison Chapel. This is a fascinating small semi circular chapel and is most noted for its individual cubicles, to which prisoners were marched and forced to listen to the service for several hours, housed in cubicles which forbid them any contact with fellow prisoners, as part of the "separate regime" which was based on punishment rather than rehabilitation.
It is also possible to see parts of the women's gaol and peer inside cells, which were positively luxurious by Alcatraz standards. In fact many prisoners of the time were better off in jail, as they would be more likely to be better fed, and would even commit crime to be imprisoned!
Although the prison was used for less than 100 years, there were plenty of executions including 73 murderers but almost half that number was executed for stealing livestock!
A short walk along the castle wall across Eastgate or from the Bailey and you arrive at Cobb Hall. This was a 13th century addition and a prime defence point as can be seen by the slits for the bowmen in the construction across the levels. The upper level of the Cobb Hall gives access to the castle walls along the West, although originally it was also a place for executions, with the condemned's final view being that of the majestic Lincoln Cathedral a short walk away.
I entered Cobb Hall on the middle level from the bailey and gardens. It is a steep curved staircase of approximately 30 steps to the upper level, and there is also a tight ladder access to the lower level, where prisoners were chained to iron rings in the walls, and engraved graffiti in the walls.
It is possible to wander along the walls for quite a distance, past the Bath-house and over the Westgate, passing the Courthouse, however it isn't possible to walk all the way around to the Lucy Tower and Graveyard or Observatory, and you will find yourself backtracking to find a staircase to descend to the bailey once again. Nevertheless you should not miss the wall walks, as the views are amazing across Lincolnshire and the Trent Valley area.
Lucy Tower and the Observatory Tower
Lucy Tower is on the South Wall of the castle, behind the gaol and can be accessed by yet more steep steps up the motte. While the keep on the motte will have dated since the time the castle was built, the tower has been used in more recent history as an unconsecrated burial ground for those executed prisoners. A sycamore tree grows within the keep, providing shade.
The Observatory Tower is the highest point around the Castle Walls, although this is due to the addition of the tower onto the Eastern Keep on the second Motte just under 200 years ago. This motte is closest to the entrance at Eastgate and is worth attempting first, due to the steps to the top!
Overall, I think Lincoln Castle, and indeed Lincoln itself represent a great day or two out. The entry fee to the castle is affordable for adults, and the family ticket represents great value for money. There is also a Lincoln Pass, for those with more time on their hands for sightseeing, or staying in the area for several days. I loved visiting the castle and taking in its vast grounds. You could probably see the majority of attractions within 2 hours, but to take them in properly but I would recommend that 3-4 hours is given, to allow time to either sample the reasonably priced café snacks or to enjoy a simple picnic on the lawn. As it is a mere 35 minute drive for me, I am sure I will be back again and again.
Summary: A great Family day out, and very affordable
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