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Timber-framed house and Lincoln Cathedral (© Mark Richardson |


Observatory Tower, Lincoln Castle (photo by Brian - Creative Commons Licence)

Lincoln (pronounced "Lin-kun"; pop. 86,000) is the county town of Lincolnshire. Renowned for its gothic cathedral and medieval castle, Lincoln was built on a lone (though steep) hill overlooking the surrounding plains.

Its distance from other touristic places means that most visitors do not bother to come here, although it is a satisfying stop on the way from London to York via Nottingham.

England's oldest canal, the Foss Dyke, which was dug up by the Romans around 120 CE, connects Lincoln to the River Trent 18 km (11 miles) away. Lincoln is also home to the oldest bridge with houses on it, known as the High Bridge (built in 1160), and two of the oldest residential town houses in the country, the Jew's House and Norman House, both located on Steep Hill and both dating from the 12th century. The Jew's House is now a restaurant, while Norman House has become a tea shop.


Lincoln was founded by the Romans as Lindum (coming from the Celtic term Lindu, meaning 'Dark Pool') shortly after the conquest of Britain, and was given the status of chartered town ("colonia") soon after, in 71 AD.

Lindum Colonia stood at the northern extremity of Fosse Way, a Roman road linking present-day Exeter to Lincoln, via Bath. Lindum flourished as a settlement for retired legionnaires, with several public buildings, but was eventually abandoned when the Romans left Britannia.

Lincoln remained a backwater for a few centuries until the Vikings came and established the Dane Law in 886. Lincoln then became one of five boroughs in the East Midlands.

After the Norman Conquest, William I ordered the construction of a castle (in 1068) and a cathedral (in 1072), both on top of the hill. In the 12th century, wool and weaving made of Lincoln of one wealthiest town in England, reputed for its fine dyed "scarlet" and "green". Robin Hood is even said to have worn "Lincoln Green".

Lincoln's fortune deteriorated sharply in the following centuries, hit by floods, plagues, ravaged during the English Civil War, badly situated for trade and left with no major industry. In the early 18th century, Lincoln had dwindled to a "one street" town.

However, the Agrarian Revolution of the Georgian era allowed it to prosper again as an agricultural centre. In the 19th century, railway further improved Lincoln's economy. The Industrial Revolution brought complex engineering to the city, and the world's first tank was designed and constructed by William Foster in Lincoln.

Lincoln Cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral is not just any cathedral. Dominating the landscape from miles away, this building was the tallest building in the world (160m), and the first in history to exceed the Great Pyramid of Giza (146m) in heights when it was completed in 1280. It remained the tallest building ever errected until as late as 1884, when the Washington Monument was built in the USA.

However, the wooden spire collapsed in a storm in 1549, leaving the present building standing at 81m - still the highest cathedral tower in Britain today without a spire. Even rivaling with spires, only those of Salisbury Cathedral (123m) and Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral (101m) manage to surpass Lincoln Cathedral.

Historically, the first cathedral was built between 1072 and 1092, but was destroyed by a fire 50 years later. It was repaired and expanded, but was destroyed again in 1185 by an earthquake. Bishop Hugh of Avalon started the present cathedral, which was built in the 12th and 13th centuries.

The cathedral is open from 7:15am to 8pm (until 5pm from Sept. to May). Admission is 3.50. There are also free guided tours (1h) everyday starting from 11am, 1pm and 3pm.

A short walk South of the cathedral, the Bishop's Palace, also built in the 12 and 13th centuries, now lays in ruins, but once was the most important building in town. Its walled terrace garden is worth a look.

Stained glass window dedicated to George Boole, Lincoln Cathedral
Lincoln Cathedral
Nave of Lincoln Cathedral (photo by TTaylor - Creative Commons Licence)

Lincoln Castle

The castle was built by William the Conqueror on the ruins of the Roman town and incorporated some Roman walls.

Apart from being one of the most impressive Norman castle in England, Lincoln Castle is famous for having one of the only four surviving originals of the Magna Carta sealed by King John in 1215.

The castle is open from 9:30am to 5:30pm (from 11am on Sundays, and until 4pm from October to March). Entry is 2.50 for adults and 1 for children.


How to get there

Lincoln is not on the main train line between London and Northern England, which means people coming from London (1h50min to 3h30min, 32) must change train at Newark, Peterborough or somewhere else. Coming from York (1h30min to 2h10min, 19), there is a change at Doncaster, Sheffield, Retford or Newark. Trains from Manchester (2h25min, 20.50) go via Sheffield. There are direct trains to Nottingham (55min, 6.90).

National Express buses connect Lincoln to London (4h30min, 17.50), Birmingham (2h45min, 10.75) and Glasgow (9h, 38.50).


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