TRAVEL: Enjoy the many Lincs to the past

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From heavenly architecture to horrible histories...

A short walk through the cobbled streets of Lincoln between the Cathedral and castle provides a world of difference.

If you’re interested in history and culture, there’s plenty to see and do over a weekend.

A good way to get a feel of the city is from the open top Tour Lincoln bus, on which local history experts give a running commentary and recount a wealth of anecdotes.

I learned why Lincoln residents are referred to as ‘yellow bellies’ (due to an outbreak of malaria, the colour of a Stagecoach or lapels on local soldiers’ tunics), how children were paid a penny to hang off condemned men’s legs while on the gallows to hasten their demise, and of Winston Churchill being pelted with tomatoes while giving a speech.

The bus journey shows remains of the old Roman Wall, including the Newport Arch which is still intact, the old hanging ditch, plus places of interest in the more modern city at the bottom of the hill.

Here are most of the shops, the medieval Guildhall (built over the main High Street shopping area) and the charming High Bridge over the canal - the only one left in Britain still with buildings on it, in this case a wattle and daub cafe.

Brayford Waterfront has bars and restaurants, and is a base for boat trips along the Fossdyke canal.

No visit to Lincoln would be complete without exploring the majestic cathedral.

The limestone landmark is 280ft high – but until the 19th century it was even higher with spires on its towers.

The cathedral’s central tower was another 220 ft taller, making it the highest building in the world, overtaking the great pyramid of Giza.

It is worth having a guide to take you around, in our case retired DCI and historian Brian Taylor.

He explained the stories behind different aspects of the building – which doubled as Westminster Abbey in the Da Vinci Code film - bringing its history to life.

For instance, pilgrims entered via the left arch of the cathedral gate then the left door, where carvings in the stonework include demons and serpents, and depict sins.

People then exited, souls cleansed, via the right door and arch where there was a gift shop.

Brian showed how stonemasons have replaced worn-away gargoyles with modern creations depicting moments such as the fox hunting ban and the financial crisis.

He told how the facade of the original Norman church – destroyed by fire – was incorporated in its 12th century reconstruction, explaining why there are both rounded, Norman arches and semi-triangular medieval arches.

Inside, he told why the stained glass Dean’s Eye window faces north (to keep out the devil) and showed the location of the Lincoln Imp, which gives the city’s football team its nickname - tucked away on a pillar.

A hidden attraction is the cathedral library, which has a medieval section and another part built by Sir Christopher Wren.

Nearby at the castle, tour guides have tales of bloody sieges and battles from the middle ages – followed by gruesome stories of hangings from after the castle became a prison.

Up to 20,000 people would gather in Victorian times to watch, some coming from miles around on special trains.

The castle is currently undergoing a £20 million restoration, which will enable visitors to walk the entire way around the walls.

A new visitor centre is also being created inside for Lincoln’s copy of Magna Carta – one of only four originals in existence.

The castle hosts regular events including jousting, battle re-enactments plus the annual Lincoln Christmas Market – which was one of the first in Britain.

For a contrast, Doddington Hall and Gardens is a short drive away.

The Elizabethan manor, which has stayed in the same family for all of its existence and is still lived in, has a wealth of furniture, paintings, textiles and ceramics on display.

The grounds have a riot of colourful flowers from Spring to Autumn. Have fun navigating the grass maze and see awesome, gnarled old trees with enormous, contorted trunks.

There is also a two-acre kitchen garden which supplies the award-winning farm shop and cafe with organic produce.

Doddington hosts food fairs, a craft fair in November and Christmas events.

Don’t miss one of the very generous slices of home-made cake in the cafe – or a meal in the restaurant before you leave.

Numerous event days are held at the hall - one coming up is a visit by an expert giving the history of its Tent Room, a former bedroom filled by a spectacular Egyptian tent.

We stayed at The Lincoln hotel, right behind the Cathedral and which has the foundations of the Roman East Gate in its front garden.

The recently-modernised, three-star hotel has a splendid view of the cathedral from its front door.

The best rooms are on the front, which have balconies, and accommodation is spacious with trendy modern bathrooms, cushions galore to relax in comfort after a day’s sightseeing, plus mod cons.

Places to eat and drink range from sampling local produce at the hotel restaurant to the good value Roman’s Place Italian beside the castle walls.

There is also the Wig and Mitre at the top of Steep Hill, where stars ate when the Da Vinci Code was being filmed.

Pubs range from historic inns to trendy bars.

For a treat on a warm day, head to Dennett’s Ice Cream Parlour and Tea Room on Bailgate where there’s a wealth of home-made flavours.

Travel facts:

Accommodation: The Lincoln Hotel, Eastgate, Lincoln, currently has a special deal of £120 night dinner, bed and breakfast for two on Sunday nights, in rooms with views of the cathedral. Visit www.thelincolnhotel.com or call 01522 520348 for information.

Tours: Tour Lincoln bus tickets cost £10 per adult and accompanying children under 16 go free (maximum of two per adult). Bus tickets give discounts on souvenirs at the Visitor Information Centre, on guided tours, boat trips on the Brayford Belle and on entry at Doddington Hall.

Pass: A Visit Lincoln pass costs £12 for adults and £35 for a family ticket for two adults and three children. Gives three days of unlimited entry to the cathedral, castle, Museum of Lincolnshire Life, The Collection gallery, Ellis Mill windmill, Guildhall and medieval Bishop’s Palace. Available from the Visitor Information Centre, Castle Hill, or online at Lincoln Pass

Sights: Doddington Hall is on the B1190 four miles west of Lincoln. The farm shop and cafe are open daily all year round, while the house is open Wednesdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays until the end of September. There are later pre-Christmas weekends when the house and garden are open. Visit www.doddingtonhall.com or call 01522 694308 for information. Adult admission is £5 for gardens or £9.50 for house and gardens. Discounted and group rates are available.

Tours: Lincoln guided walking tours take about one hour and a half, starting from the Visitor Information Centre at 11am every day in July and August and on weekends in June, September and October. Places cost £4 each - or £3 with a Visit Lincoln pass, and under 12s are free. Call 01522521256 or email brian@lincolnguidedtours.co.uk for information.

Lincoln Castle: For details visit Lincolnshire