Travel with kids: Lincoln, the best kept secret in England 

A new day trip experience by train has just been launched by London North Eastern Railway (LNER) to take travel-hungry Brits from King’s Cross to Lincoln in less than two hours. I was lucky enough to be one of the very first passengers to board this train full of surprises. 
 
If you want to escape the hectic life of the British Capital, Lincoln is the ideal town and has lots of history and fun activities for the whole family. When I was asked to visit Lincoln, I had to check the geographic location on the map. I am embarrassed to say that after 23 years living in Britain, I haven’t yet explored enough of my host country. Going to a new city tour without expectations is probably the best way to have a good time. Coming out of lockdown, Lincoln has been my first travel outside London in a very long time and a great surprise. 

 
A new nationwide survey commissioned by LNER has found that 87 per cent of us are planning an old-fashioned day trip this summer, with almost half (47 per cent) admitting we are desperate to get out to explore the UK again. 

As well as experiencing the comfort and speed of LNER’s new Azuma trains, I got the chance to explore Lincoln’s history and culture with its Cathedral and neighbouring Castle among the jewels in the crown.

When booked direct with LNER at lner.co.uk, advance fares in Standard start from £28.00 return. A Family Return ticket in either direction between London King’s Cross and Lincoln is £79.00 for up to two adults and four children. First Class fares start from: £65.20 return. This is affordable and a great escape from the Big Smoke. 

The Lincoln Experience also aims to promote the area’s local producers and attractions and it coincides with launch of the renowned Lincoln Imp Trail, which takes visitors on a tour to find a series of imp statues on display. Imps have become a legendary symbol for Lincoln with the mythical creatures found in many places across the city, including the stonework of the Cathedral.

On the 3rd July – the day I arrived in Lincoln – 30 colourful sculptures designed by local and national artists just populated the old town. They add colour to the city centre and will stay put until 9th September to raise money for St Barnabas Lincolnshire Hospice. They help children following the trail through an app and / or a brochure handed at the Tourist Office near the Castle to learn more about the origins of the Imp, mascot of Lincoln. 

During the train trip, I chatted to Charlotte Goy, Chief Executive at Visit Lincoln, who told me that “Lincoln is the ideal city break destination, for a day trip or short break. It’s one of England’s finest heritage cities.” Cities such as Lincoln are where tourism is an integral part of the economy, worth £216m to the city and supporting thousands of jobs across the region. 

Charlotte outlined a programme of investments planned for the city: “The LNER Lincoln Experience is a huge part of our recovery programme after Covid. We want to welcome people back to the city. We have invested in the city. There is a fantastic offer here, so for us, it means an enormous amount to welcome people back to Lincoln and to know they are having a good time.”

The unforgettable experience started when I boarded the 08:06 LNER Azuma service from London King’s Cross to Lincoln on 3 July, complete with Lincolnshire-themed goodie bags, including guides showcasing the city, famed for its Castle and Cathedral, along with many treats including the Lincolnshire plum loaf. The LNER Hero Chef created a delicious English breakfast.

After arriving in Lincoln, I felt a proper day tripper keen to make memories. The railway station is in the heart of the city, and as you step off the train all main attractions are at walking distance, although be aware that the old city is at the top of the hill and with young children you need to be prepared to bring strollers with robust wheels before facing the Steep made of cobbled pavement. 

My daycation started with a visit to Lincoln Cathedral. Its mediaeval architectural wonder dominates the skyline and is home to the mysterious city symbol, the Lincoln Imp. I had a behind the scenes tour of the new £16m redevelopment project ‘Cathedral Connected’ and found out all secrets of the 1000-year old Norman facade, the gothic details, the differences between the original glass windows and the Victorian ones, the grotesque imps decorating the church. 

After lunch at the Cathedral cafe, I visited the iconic Castle. Dating back to 1068, Lincoln Castle offers its visitors an interactive discovery of British history over the past millennia. I explored the Castle Walls and the Georgian and Victorian prison, all whilst imagining what life was like during these eras. The castle grounds are free to enter, with family tickets to see the Mediaeval Wall Walk, Victorian Prison and Magna Carta available for £37.00. 

During my walk on the castle walls, I felt like the Queen of the Castle. From the top, you get the sense of the structure of this Roman city, then Norman. A city that has so much history and preserves one of the original Magna Carta. I love this document that has set a stepping stone to world’s democracy. The Magna Carta is a charter of liberties signed by King John of England in 1215 that influenced the development of many important modern legal and constitutional principles. I was slightly emotional at the sight of the Magna Carta kept in a purpose-built vault. 

Families could take the Tour Lincoln Open Top Sight Seeing Bus that runs hourly from 10.30am to 3.30pm. This is a 1hr guided tour around Lincoln, taking in the historic uphill area, Brayford Waterfront and new University Development. The perfect way to explore the city in under an hour and rest the feet. 

I loved everything about Lincoln: I equally enjoyed the Cathedral tour, the Castle walk on the walls and even the Victorian prison (located inside the Castle walls). On the way down to the Brayford Waterfront at the end of the day, I went into a Cancer Research Charity Shop – the only retail still open at 5,40pm –  and I bought two absolute gems: a pair of brand new golden dancing shoes for my ballroom and Latin dance classes  for £5 (normally £50) as well a make-up lit-mirror for £4.

Eventually I had dinner at Wagamama before heading back to the train station nearby. An intense day but enjoyable. 

During the day, I talked to so many locals who were kind and resourceful – a far cry from time-deprived Londoners who barely raise their heads from their phone when they are on the go. 

George Tomlinson of the Redhill Farm Shop in the Bail  and supplier of sausages in the LNER Hero Chef Lincolnshire menu offered me shelter during a 10 minute rain pour and told me that his family has become the official pork pie supplier to Lord’s Cricket Ground, Wimbledon, Silverstone Drivers Lounge, British Master Golf and other iconic British Sporting and Cultural events for hospitality and retail.

He gifted me with a pork pie which I scoffed in a few days. What a treat! 

I also entered The Pot Shop to buy a fridge magnet made of ceramics and met the owner Andrew MacDonald who so kindly gifted me with an autographed lovely coaster. He pointed out that the peculiarity of Lincoln are its original shops full of creative objects and fashion items. 

Lincoln is a vibrant city that wants to re-surge after the pandemic and is giving its best to visitors. 

 

Reasons to go back to Lincoln

In Lincoln there’s a club where firemen go to dance salsa to keep fit. Apparently they throw women up in the air. So they are not just ordinary men, but FIREMEN with serious dancing skills. This is totally right up my street, considering there are barely any men dancing in London.  Here’s a good reason to go back to Lincoln soon. I am also making an appeal to the firemen’s club in Lincoln: the ballroom and Latin females of London would very much like to organise regular dancing meet-ups with them. 
 
 
Do more shopping. There are lots of independent boutiques and artisan shops that I wanted to visit but could not because I had a schedule of activities planned. 
 
Get another pork pie from Redhill farm. 
 
NORMANBY HALL PARTY IN THE PARK (23-25 July 2021): This music festival returns featuring an exciting line-up of acts, a great selection of local food and drink and live entertainment. 
 
EAST KIRKBY AIR SHOW (7 August 2021): Lincolnshire’s biggest Independent air show. 
 
My next destinations?
I might venture out to Scotland one day, as the comfortable Azuma trains get there fast. LNER currently has tickets on sale for journeys on the East Coast route as far ahead as September with great savings available when booking online at lner.co.uk or via the LNER App.

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