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Perched high up above the canal, river and pool that once made Lincoln one of England’s most important inland ports, the city’s cathedral quarter enjoys a breathtaking location. Literally breathtaking if, like me, you arrive by train in the lower part of the city and struggle up the ominously-named Steep Hill to get to it. But the delights that await you at the top make the climb well worthwhile. With its compact streets, magnificent cathedral and rather menacing castle, the area has an almost theatrical feel to it, especially at night, and the first view of the cathedral’s west front as you pass through the 14th-century Exchequer Gate into Minster Yard is unforgettable.
Lincoln also boasts some of the best Roman remains in the country. The advantages of the site – easily defensible but with good river communications – was not lost on the Romans who built a fort here in about AD 60. Thirty years later they converted it into a colonia –a settlement for retired legionaries. Formally known as Colonia Lindensium, it was usually referred to as Lindum Colonia, a name that was later shortened by English speakers to Lincoln. At its height it may have had as many as 10,000 inhabitants and stretched down to Brayford Pool at the foot of the hill.
Lincoln was later to thrive as one of the five boroughs of Danish Mercia but it was following the Norman Conquest that it again began to grow in prosperity and importance. In 1068, the Normans built a castle inside the old Roman walls; 166 Saxon dwellings were demolished to make room for it. Four years later, after the establishment of the new diocese of Lincoln, Bishop Remigius began the construction of a new cathedral. Lincoln thus became an important military, religious and administrative centre but soon it was also flexing its commercial muscles as a centre of the wool and cloth trades. By the 13th century, it was the third largest city in England.
The 20th century saw Lincoln grow in different directions, notably as a centre for heavy industry – the first tanks were manufactured here in 1915 and an early model is displayed in the Lincolnshire Life Museum in Burton Road – and more recently as a university city and tourist attraction. Its Christmas market is the largest in Europe.
Lincoln is off the A46 and A15, 140 miles north of London and 75 miles south-east of York.
Lincoln Tourist Information:
Tel: 01522 873256
Tel: 01522 561600
Medieval Bishop’s Palace:
Tel 01522 527468
Some car parking is available near the cathedral quarter while a ‘walk and ride’ bus shuttle service linking ‘uphill’ and ‘downhill’ Lincoln runs every 20 minutes. Join it at Silver Street near the Stonebow.
Please check opening times and admission prices before making a special journey.