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Lancaster hotspot: Enjoy a break in the stylish city full of shops, fine dining and gin


ARRIVING by train in Lancaster, the rain was so heavy, it might have been the heaviest downpour I’ve ever seen. It was bouncing down and then some.

So we tried to get a taxi. Along with what felt like 300 other people. And we couldn’t.

We ended up walking to our hotel and, by the time we arrived, we were cold and soaked through.

Staycations, eh? Sometimes they aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Thankfully, the rain soon lifted and so did our mood.

Lancaster is a great wee city for a short break. It feels compact – we realised that on our walk to our hotel.

Even in the pouring rain we figured out that it has a lot going for it.

Oh, look, a bookshop. Look at that vintage shop selling knick-knacks and trinkets. Now, there’s a nice wee cafe. Bet you get great cake in there.

Lancaster punches above its weight when it comes to places to eat and drink, where to stay and things to do.

We stayed at the Toll House Inn. The staff won me over right away when they offered us fresh milk for a nice cuppa in our room on arrival.

Such a simple gesture, but one that made us feel at home. We soon decided, though, that something stronger than tea was needed after our (OK, not very) gruelling walk from the station, and headed to the bar.

We liked it so much we ended up having our evening meal there, too.

Maybe it was down to the barman who knew his stuff and made me a superb Whitley Neill rhubarb and ginger gin with tonic.

If you like gin, it’s one to try. Team it with Fever-Tree aromatic tonic – you’ll love it.

Oh, and the food wasn’t half bad, either. Given it was cold night, hearty pies seemed a good choice.

There’s so much history to enjoy in Lancaster, and the markets are worth a look, too.

I love cheese, so Lancashire cheese and onion pie, buttered greens, thick cut chips and root vegetable gravy was a joy.

My other half’s steak and kidney pudding wasn’t half bad, either. The desserts looked great, but we just couldn’t manage them.

I’m lying. Of course we did. Sticky toffee pudding? Don’t mind if I do.

Out and about the next day, we were refreshed and raring to go.

Long ago, Lancaster was known as “the hanging town” because so many witches were executed here in the 16th Century.

Thankfully, those days are well and truly behind Lancaster now, and the city was buzzing with life on the Saturday morning we headed out to explore.

There are two shopping centres in Lancaster, St Nicholas Arcades and Marketgate. Both offer the usual array of high street shops but if you fancy seeing some true Lancaster characters, head to a market.

We checked out the Charter Market, where you’ll find everything from food to flowers – and banter a-plenty.

Lancaster has a decent selection of independent shops, too, but as the sun came out we chose to head to the Ashton Memorial in Williamson Park.

It’s a bit of a climb, but you’re rewarded with views across Lancaster and beyond which is absolutely lovely.

The memorial has interesting guide boards, too, so if you like to learn a bit about a place’s local history when you stay, it’s worth a visit.

After all that walking we’d worked up a bit of an appetite, so stopped off at the Pavilion Cafe for coffee and cake. Great cake, but there was a relaxed attitude to service – if you’re in a hurry, go to McDonald’s.

Heading out on Saturday night, the city centre was jumping. There’s a great selection of pubs and restaurants all fairly close.

Some of the pubs have live music, but if you’re just looking for a quiet drink and enjoy real ale and quality gins, you’ll be spoiled for choice.

It’s fair to say Lancaster isn’t top of most people’s list when they’re thinking about a city break. It’s a shame, because it has a lot to offer.

It’s easy to reach by road or rail, too and once you’re there, you’ll find a warm welcome.

The city itself is great, but the surrounding area also has many options, especially if you like walking or climbing.

It was our first visit to lovely Lancaster, but I’m sure it won’t be our last.


You can travel direct by train from both Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley to Lancaster.

Book well in advance online and you should get a good deal. We travelled from Waverley in just over two hours and paid £39.30 each for return tickets.