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“Lancaster? I’ve never heard of it.”
When I told my friends and family I was visiting England for a weekend, they all assumed I was going to London. Inevitably, when I corrected them, this was their response.
But, one of my best friends from my teaching days in Abu Dhabi is from Lancaster (and more importantly, RyanAir tickets to get there were hella cheap) so I bought a flight to the nearby city of Manchester and spent the weekend in Rachel’s family home.
It was my first time in England and it. was. fantastic.
In fact, I loved the city so much I’m already trying to convince myself I can afford to spend six months in the UK next year, and reminiscing on everything we saw, ate, and did (but mostly ate) in Lancaster in this article is making a very persuasive argument…
Coastal sunset on the bay near Lancaster
Lancaster UK Travel Guide: Top Attractions in the City
Rachel completely planned out the weekend outlined below to ensure we only saw the best of the best and got a truly English experience along the way – yes, that includes a pub crawl and a lot of unhealthy food.
If you’re looking for a super cultural guide to Lancaster with lots of museums and historical sites, this may not be for you.
But if you want to experience a varied mix of food, drinks, and the top attractions, this Lancaster UK travel guide from a local has everything you need for a fabulous trip!
If you look closely, you can see the Ashton Memorial (with the pale green dome) in the distance.
1. Enjoy the view at Ashton Memorial in Williamson Park
Will you lose all trust in me if I tell you this was the one thing on our list we didn’t end up doing?
Ashton Memorial is located in Williamson Park and set high up on a hill overlooking Lancaster. You can see it from multiple points in the city.
Unfortunately, there was a weekend-long music festival in the park while we were there so we weren’t able to visit.
But, Rachel wanted to take us there (which is the spirit of this article, dammit) and lamented the fact and we all missed out on some expansive views of Lancaster from above.
Lancaster Castle near the center of the city
2. Visit the Lancaster Castle and Priory
While I did get a bit of culture visiting the Lancaster Castle and Priory, I didn’t actually take the castle tour (in my defense it was closed for a private event) but I can still give ya all the info you need to know to do it.
The Lancaster Castle is 1,000 years old and offers hour-long tours 8 gbp / 10 usd per person. They run from 9:30 am to 5 pm daily.
The Priory next door (which just means church if you’re an uncultured swine like me and have never head the word before) is open from 9:15 am to 4 pm every day and entrance is free.
Both are quite beautiful from the outside but I still recommend popping your head into the Priory when you’re passing by if you get the chance.
Consuming way too much food during afternoon tea at the Royal King’s Arms Hotel
3. Pig Out at Afternoon Tea
No Lancaster UK travel guide would be complete without afternoon tea, so we imbibed in the old English tradition at the Royal King’s Arms Hotel.
The serving size is large so I recommend splitting one order between two people.
Each ‘Edward VII’ tower of deliciousness came with smoked salmon, beef, ham, and cheese sandwiches, cheesecake, sponge cake, a scone with clotted cream and jam, and a mini donut. You can also opt for the less traditional ‘Dickens’ service which includes cheese, a scotch egg, a quiche, and a sausage roll as well.
Both come with a pot of tea and we opted to enjoy a cheeky glass of prosecco as well to truly feel like English royalty.
The total bill came out to 66 gbp / 83 usd for three, and you can see the full afternoon tea menu here to plan your trip.
I don’t have any photos from my pub crawl so enjoy this pic of the pretty streets of Lancaster instead.
4. Do a Pub Crawl
Old habits die hard. Rachel, Dan, and I drank a lot together when we lived in Abu Dhabi and I’m not ashamed to admit we drank our way through this town as well.
So, of course, my Lancaster UK travel guide includes a walking route for your very own pub crawl!
The city may not have as many attractions as London or Manchester but I’ll be damned if everyone we talked to didn’t have a different opinion on which pubs we should visit, and narrowing down the list for our bar crawl was a difficult endeavor.
In the end, it was still a bit ambitious, but this was our intended route through the city with the ones we actually reached in bold.
- Merchants 1688 (yes, that’s really the year it was founded)
- The Robert Gillow
- The Sun Hotel & Bar
- The Borough (housed in the old Mayors’ home and named the best pub in Lancaster in 2016)
- The White Cross
- Lancaster Brewery
Yeah, I know we only made it to three out of six and we’re pathetic but dammit we tried our best! If you think you can do better, take on the crawl in the order above for the best route through the city.
5. Recharge in the Coffee District
If you get a lil’ sleepy on the pub crawl, stop for a pick-me-up in Lancaster’s coffee district.
There are plenty of places to choose from around town, but we ultimately ended up at Atkinsons, which produces much of the coffee for the surrounding cafes and shops in the city.
It was just as hipster as you’d expect a coffee shop to be in 2019 and was a nice, bright, airy spot to grab an espresso before continuing on our very merry way.
Fish, chips, mushy peas, and gravy from the Arnside Chip Shop.
6. Round Out Your Night With Fish n’ Chips
Last but certainly not least on my Lancaster UK travel guide is a culinary staple in England – fish and chips.
Unsurprisingly, the best fish n’ chip spot in Lancaster isn’t even in the city proper. Instead, this hidden gem is on the coast but oh so worth the trek.
The Arnside Chip Shop (or chippy, as the locals call it) is a typical spot with a casual counter and a line out the door. Here, your patience will be rewarded with a box of piping fresh fish and chips just begging to be enjoyed on the outdoor picnic tables.
Of course, when at the chippy, do as the locals do.
Rachel instructed me to order fish, chips, mushy peas, gravy, and a battered sausage.
It was a ton of food (Dan and I at least split the sausage) but her recs were dead on – everything was freakin’ delicious. The gravy, in particular, is essential to a successful fish and chips experience and you should dip your fries in it for maximum enjoyment of the meal.
All in all Dan and I paid 21 gbp / $26.50 usd for two orders of fish n’ chips, two gravies, two mushy peas, a battered sausage, bottled water, and soda, so it was a pretty solid deal as well.
Church in Manchester, an easy day trip from Lancaster.
Bonus: 3 Lancaster, UK Day Trips
Lancaster has a great location in England near major cities, small towns coastal towns, and protected natural sites.
Use this Lancaster UK travel guide to visit all three on easy day trips from the city!
Coastal walk with the town of Heysham in the distance
Distance from Lancaster: 6 miles
How to get there: 2X bus toward Morecambe fro the Lancaster Bus Station (Stand 16) – click here for more details.
Heysham is such a cute little town and while it’s nice to wander around in, the main draw is the coastal walk. The 5 km / 3 mile / 1-hour walk along the water between Heysham and Morecambe is gorgeous and impeccably maintained.
After you complete it, reward yourself with afternoon tea in the conservatory at the Midlands Hotel (a local favorite in Morecambe) to immediately consume all of the calories you just burned.
Lakeside walk around Windemere Lake
2. Windemere (Lakes District)
Distance from Lancaster: 30 miles
How to get there: Direct trains run through Northern Rail and take 45 minutes. Tickets cost 15 gbp / 19 usd per person – click here for more details.
The town of Windemere has everything you didn’t know you needed in an English village – trendy restaurants, cute shops, lakeside trails, rocky beaches, bobbing sailboats, waterfront views – I mean, what more could you want?
If you drive to it you can continue on to more lakeside towns through the 912 square mile Lakes District National Park, but even if you come by train and Windemere is all you see, I know you’ll enjoy it.
Chetham’s Library, the oldest public library in the English speaking world
Distance from Lancaster: 55 miles
How to get there: Direct trains run through Northern Rail and take an hour and 15 minutes. Tickets cost 6.50 gbp / 8 usd and up – click here for more details.
I only spent a couple of hours in Manchester but that was enough to fall in love.
While here, walk down the pedestrian-only Market Street and visit the Manchester Cathedral before taking a free tour of Chetham’s Library.
For photographers and pop culture fans, this is where the restricted section of the library in Harry Potter was filmed. For historians, it’s also where Karl Marx penned the Communist Manifesto.
Afterward, grab a drink in the beer garden at Sinclair’s Oyster Bar, an old, picturesque black and white pub in the center of town.
If you still have time, take a walk through the trendy Northern Quarter before enjoying dinner at one of the best restaurants in Manchester. On the weekends, make sure to try the traditional Sunday roast before you go!
Pub in Manchester, UK
Ready to go?
Use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights to the UK and then explore accommodation like unique stays on Airbnb or the top-rated hotels on Booking.com to plan the perfect night, weekend, or long-term stay in the city.
If you’re still not sure about your UK travel plans, stick around to read the the England vs. Scotland country comparison to decide which one is right for you. Then, plan your trip with my tried and true packing list that fits in a carry on bag!
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