When people are asked about their favourite places on earth, the answers are fairly predictable – London, New York, Paris.
But step away from the glitz, glamour and flashing lights, and you find a hidden gem with the history and beauty to stake its claim as number one.
Lincoln shines bright as its own entity – steeped in history and elegance around every corner.
Recently, the city has been compared to Amsterdam in the Netherlands for its historical architecture moulded around stunning beds of water – and it’s not hard to see why such praise has been bestowed.
Lincoln is a testament to history and modernity not being mutually exclusive in a 21st century city. We took a scenic walk around the area to showcase just how wonderful it is, for those who somehow are yet to be convinced.
Where better to start than uphill? The cobbled streets of Lincoln’s Cathedral Quarter and Bailgate have become synonymous with the city, almost as much as the two incredible monuments which serve as beacons for the area.
Lincoln Cathedral, founded in the early 11th century as a regular parish church, has evolved into one of the country’s most impressive buildings in the centuries since its inception.
In fact, following the 1311 completion of the central spire, Lincoln Cathedral was the tallest building in the world – a title it would have held for some 238 years before the spire collapsed in 1548.
To this day it serves as a vital source of inspiration for faith, art and history alike – looking down fondly on the local community for hundreds of years.
A similar sense of pride can be felt in Lincoln Castle, which stands across the cobbles of Exchequergate and offers the best view of Lincoln Cathedral from atop its historic Roman fortress walls.
Now a council-owned scheduled monument, Lincoln Castle is its own interactive history lesson, with tourists able to explore stories of the past while taking in the scenery of the city in its modern form. It’s like a time machine where you don’t really move anywhere.
Tales of William the Conqueror and Henry III can be heard on tours of the medieval walls, which are one of Lincoln’s primary tourist attractions.
Elsewhere in the uphill area of Lincoln, you have Bailgate and the famous Newport Arch – the oldest arch to still be used by traffic in the United Kingdom.
It is one of the few remaining visible memories of Roman Britain, and it opens up traffic to the stunning cobbled Bailgate, a street where desirable pubs, restaurants, hotels and local businesses stand.
The appeal of the Bailgate is its surroundings of our medieval past, offering people not just a unique shopping experience but also a chance to find hidden remains still present from the Roman times.
Westgate Water Tower
A swift turn from Newport Arch brings you up to Westgate Water Tower – a century-old building commissioned to combat an outbreak of typhoid in the city in the early 20th century.
Inside you would find a cylindrical tank that holds 300,000 gallons of water at any one time, supplying itself from piping at a reservoir in Nottinghamshire.
It is still in use today, under the control of Anglian Water, and often lights up in different colours to mark numerous occasions in the city.
Then you have Steep Hill, the street with a very self-explanatory name. You feel like you need a pair of hiking boots to conquer the cobbles on a warm day, but it is an unmissable aspect of your Lincoln experience.
Steep Hill was named Britain’s Great Street winner in 2012, and it is the beating heart of local independent businesses in the city.
From cheese shops to ice cream parlours, gift shops to art galleries, it’s impossible to wander up Steep Hill and not be warmed by the community spirit of the local independent sector.
Stepping down from Steep Hill brings you out onto the High Street, which always sees large footfall for shoppers in the city with big clothing chains and cafes, but there is far more to it than just retail therapy.
Halfway down the pedestrianised High Street area you have the Guildhall and Stonebow, an impressive archway building that is Grade I listed and serves as the meeting place for City of Lincoln Council.
Mayors are sworn in here, civic awards are handed out inside, and historical importance is always keenly reminded to those who attend. It was the recipient of Visit England’s “Best Story Told” award in 2019.
It is this relationship with the past which makes Lincoln stand out so well. Lincolnshire is known as “Bomber County” given its history during World War Two – namely being the birthplace of the 617 Squadron, better known as the Dambusters.
Their lives are remembered and honoured at the International Bomber Command Centre in the city, and a poignant war memorial can also be found on the High Street – with poppy tributes and wreaths to pay respects and remembrance.
It isn’t all cobbles and old buildings, though. Lincoln is also blessed with gorgeous green spaces, and very few compare to the magic of a walk through the Arboretum off Lindum Terrace.
The 22-acre park has two ponds, water features, vast tree coverage, an independently run cafe and plenty of places to sit and soak up your surroundings.
It was designed by esteemed Victorian gardener Edward Milner in the early 1870s, and it maintains Green Flag status in these modern times. Be sure to check out the astounding lion sculpture in the heart of the Arboretum – which brings the whole area to life.
The waterfronts and Brayford
Hopping from green space to water now, Lincoln is blessed to have some of the most picturesque beds of water anywhere in the country.
The River Witham runs through our city, with the High Street held above the water by the almost-millennium-old High Bridge – the United Kingdom’s oldest bridge to still have buildings sat on it.
Boats often go through this stunning area out onto Brayford Pool – a remarkable waterfront space which was a port for the Romans, connecting it to the River Trent with the construction of the Foss Dyke in the 2nd century AD.
Nowadays it serves as a marina where boaters can stay, with a series of businesses and restaurants overlooking the waterfront to create a vibrant space nearby to the University of Lincoln campus – which has seen an influx of younger students welcomed and embraced into the city in recent years.
Brayford Pool is also where you are most likely to spot the stunning swans that have become embedded in Lincoln’s culture.
So that is Lincoln in all its glory. We’ve always been convinced it is the best city in the world – but after reading this, are you too?
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