Lincoln is a historic city located in the East Midlands and conveniently situated for travel from most parts of the United Kingdom. Recently, LNER began operating AZUMA rail services direct from London King’s Cross station with a journey time of just under two hours making the city even more accessible and perfect for a weekend break.
Lincoln might not be as well known as perhaps Bath, York or Winchester when it comes to historic cities, but we’d heard about how beautiful it was, so decided to spend a weekend there and take a look for ourselves.
Arriving into Lincoln Central station on a recent Friday lunchtime I followed signposts through the modern part of town and up towards the historic quarter. Our first impressions were good as we strolled along the pedestrianised high street with its mix of independent stores and national brands.
Soon, we arrived at the Stonebow arch and Guildhall which connects the more modern part of the city with the historic Quarter. The second floor of the Guildhall is home to City Council meetings and has been in use since its construction in 1520. In case you are eagle eyed and wondering about the time, the clock was not working during our visit and it was actually later than the time shown!
As we reached Steep Hill, a wonderful old cobbled street, the road narrowed and became steeper as we continued uphill. On the steepest section there are handrails to help you on your way, as it’s not called Steep Hill for nothing! We managed the walk with ease, taking no more than 20 minutes from the station but don’t be put off by the climb as help is at hand with a regular ‘Walk and Ride’ shuttle bus operating from the station to the Cathedral Quarter every 20 minutes (Monday-Saturday).
Located at the top of the hill and overlooking Lincoln Cathedral is the White Hart Hotel, a former coaching inn where we had arranged to stay. As expected, we were too early to check-in but were able to drop off our bags and after a short rest in the lounge on one of the comfy sofas we were ready to start exploring.
Our visit started in style as at 1.30 p.m. we were collected by Stephen, our very own chauffeur for the afternoon from White7 Lincoln which was an absolute treat. Talk about travelling in style, we felt like royalty as Stephen, dressed in full chauffeur’s uniform complete with hat and gloves opened the doors of his sparkling white BMW for us, even passing us the seatbelts. The car is equipped with a tablet between the seats and its screen displayed the message ‘Welcome to Lincoln – Marion & Mark’, how lovely was that!
Our journey to the International Bomber Command Centre (IBCC) on the outskirts of the city only took about 15 minutes but we were in seventh heaven the entire time enjoying the unique experience.
Safely deposited outside the entrance to IBCC we were met by one of the volunteer tour guides offering free guided tours around the Peace Gardens, Memorial Spire and Walls of Names. The IBCC recognises the efforts of Bomber Command during World War II. Lincolnshire is the main county associated with Bomber Command because of the large number of airfields located there.
Our guide was very knowledgeable and friendly as we wandered around the 10 acre park. The setting for the memorial is on a hilltop at Canwick Hill with views across the rooftops of Lincoln and to its magnificent Cathedral which was used as a reference point to guide air crews returning to Lincolnshire.
We learnt that the Memorial Spire was unveiled in October 2015 and is made from Corten, a weathering steel with a rust like appearance. At 102ft (31.09m) high, it is the wingspan of the Avro Lancaster Bomber.
The Walls of Names surround the Memorial Spire in a series of circles with names etched onto them of almost 58,000 men and women who lost their lives serving or supporting Bomber Command during World War II. The IBCC in Lincoln is the only place in the world where all these losses are commemorated and it was poignant to read that every life lost was equal in sacrifice. For this reason, the Walls of Names do not recognise rank or medals awarded.
After completing our tour of the Peace Gardens we continued our visit indoors to view the exhibition (standard adult admission £8.20 or £7.20 if booked on-line). The exhibition is arranged over two floors and relates stories of some of those who suffered as a result of bombing campaigns and of those who were saved by humanitarian operations.
From information boards and interactive displays we learnt that during the Second World War over a million men and women served or supported Bomber Command from 62 nations, united in their efforts to protect the freedom we enjoy today. The galleries acknowledge the efforts, sacrifices and commitment of the 57,861 people who gave their lives supporting Bomber Command with stories of those who suffered as a result of the bombing campaigns. Bomber Command suffered the highest losses of any unit with the average age at death being only 23.
Personal experiences have been gathered together from letters, diaries and memories and we felt that the exhibition was a splendid tribute to the bravery of the Bomber Command air crews and acts as a learning resource for those of us too young to have lived through the horrors of war. If you are interested in history I recommend visiting Bomber Command. It’s located just off the A15, 2.6 miles south of Lincoln close to the village of Canwick and is open daily except Monday.
Our chauffeured limousine was waiting to take us back to our hotel and after thanking Stephen for such a memorable experience, we checked into our spacious hotel room which had some spectacular views of Lincoln Cathedral from our windows.
The magnificent cathedral was actually where we were heading next, to listen to the choir sing Evensong. Lincoln Cathedral is one of Europe’s most celebrated medieval buildings and was once the tallest building in the world. As it’s located just around the corner from the hotel we arrived slightly early, giving us ample time to learn about a £12.4m Heritage Lottery funded restoration and renovation project which is nearing completion. In April, a new Visitor Centre, shop and larger cafe will open together with an Interpretation Centre to display some of the Cathedral’s hidden treasures.
Whilst finding out about the Cathedral’s exciting developments we could hear the awe-inspiring sounds of the choir practising before the service was due to begin so we followed the melodic music to our seats in St. Hugh’s Choir with its exquisite carpentry and candlelit choir stalls. The Evensong service lasts 45 minutes and was such a memorable experience and a wonderful place for quiet contemplation. There have been choristers in Lincoln since the Middle Ages and the current choir is comprised of lay vicars, choral scholars and a team of approximately 40 boys and girls.
The choir sings Evensong every day except Wednesday alternating between boys and girls. The talented choir also perform concerts throughout the year and out of term time take part in overseas tours with visiting choirs invited to temporarily take their place in Lincoln. There is no charge to enter the Cathedral if attending a service and if you get the chance, I’d recommend taking a pew for Evensong.
To round off our first evening in Lincoln we decided to eat dinner nearby at The Wig and Mitre at the top of Steep Hill. The pub is located in a quaint building reminiscent of an old cottage and entering the bar, it had a cosy atmosphere with its feature fireplace and framed newspaper clippings adorning the walls. Even though it was still early evening the bar was already bustling with activity and obviously popular with locals as well as visitors to the city.
Bar snacks and full meals are served in both the bar and the upstairs oak beamed restaurant where we were shown to a table. Decorated in traditional style befitting of its age with green painted walls, it had a relaxed, informal feel. The varied menu is based on locally sourced seasonally available ingredients offering a taste of the best of Lincolnshire. We were tempted by the specials board and both our seafood bake and Moroccan spiced sweet potato tagine with almond and apricot couscous were delicious. To accompany our meal I opted for a glass of house wine whilst across the table my son was happily sipping his glass of locally brewed beer.
We couldn’t resist the temptation of a dessert but as we’d been active all afternoon, we thought we deserved it. Our bread and butter pudding and chocolate ganache were both so flavoursome that we savoured every single spoonful, not having a single thought for all those calories.
Leaving the pub, it was just a short walk out in the cold night air back to our warm room at the White Hart, and with illuminated views of the magnificent cathedral from our windows, we were soon fast asleep and looking forward to exploring more of Lincoln the next day.
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