Lancaster - The City
Once a thriving Georgian port at the centre of trade with the West Indies, Lancaster and its fascinating history sit alongside culture, knowledge and commerce.
Lancaster's city centre is small enough to explore on foot and there are regular bus services linking it with the campus. It was designated as a Cycling Town in 2005 and so benefits from a network of linked cycle tracks both in the city centre and around the local area - so you can even be green whilst you explore!
Lancaster has both the beautiful River Lune and the Lancaster Canal running through its city centre - so you can combine shopping or lunch with friends with a meander along the towpath too!
Small and welcoming, Lancaster has friendly museums to celebrate the past. The City Museum traces the history of Lancaster and Morecambe, the Old Cells in Lancaster Castle show a taste of life as a prisoner, the Regency Period rooms of the Judges' Lodgings house exquisite Gillow furniture and the 18th Century Custom House on the River Lune hosts the Lancaster Maritime Museum.
The landmark Ashton Memorial, often referred to as the 'Taj Mahal of the North', was commissioned by Lord Ashton as a tribute to his second wife and sits within the beautiful 54-acre Williamson Park that is just a stone's throw from the city centre.
There's a great annual Heritage Event 'Lancaster Unlocked' where you can visit parts of buildings that are not normally accessible by the public, an annual Music Festival and a Fireworks spectacular in November 2012 marks 400 years of the Pendle Witches, so expect some suitably themed celebrations!
Nightlife involves live music at many local pubs including the Yorkshire House, The Bobbin, The Golden Lion, Stonewell Tavern and The Penny Bank, The John O'Gaunt and The Robert Gillow also play host to regular bands. The University's own nightclub, The Sugarhouse, is located centrally near to other venues including Elements, Hustle, Toast, Revolution and The Lounge. The Dukes theatre runs a programme of contemporary plays which alternate with film screenings in a cosy cinema where you can sip your favourite tipple as you watch. The film line-up often includes selected National Theatre screenings by satellite. The Grand Theatre is one of the oldest theatres in England and combines local amateur productions with touring professional shows and celebrity acts (recent guests have included Lee Evans, Michael McIntyre, Jack Dee, Eddie Izzard and Alan Carr). Minutes out of the town, the Gregson Community and Arts Centre provides nourishment, entertainment and good company by a roaring fire on those cold winter evenings.
On a budget, but love eating out? Many eateries offer discounts for early diners - Marco's presents a Taste of Italy, there's a great two course 'School Dinners' menu at The Borough, and a 'Beat the Clock' main course treat at Quite Simply Food. If you're more of a soup devotee, try Soupanova for warming broth and chunky bread. Other foodie delights include the great Lancaster institutions of Pizza Margherita and Etna, seasonal offerings at Simply French on the quayside, a Japanese theatrical treat at Miyabi and modern British cuisine at Bistro 26. For vegetarians, the imaginative and wholesome home-cooked delights at The Whale Tail are second to none! Click here for a full list of eateries.
Lancaster is brimming with independent coffee shops so skip the usual Costa, Starbucks and Caffè Neros and instead try The Old Bell (hidden in the quaintly named Bashful Alley), Sunbury Coffee House (a traditional tea room located in Sun Square), The Sun Café, The Music Room and, more recently, the Novel Café where you can borrow a book whilst you sup! Smoothies and milkshakes are a speciality at the students' favourite, The Juicafe, and NICE at The Storey offers a refuge of squashy sofas and speciality coffees. There is an abundance of pubs as befits any student town and whilst you will quickly find your favourite, here are just a few to start you off:
The Waterwitch with its prime canalside location is the obvious choice for a sunny day, the Golden Lion is reputed to be where the Pendle Witches stopped for their last drink before they met their death and The Sun lays claim to being the oldest bar in Lancaster with its vast selection of ales and wines. More recent additions include The Friary, The Dalton Rooms, Yates's and Mint as alternatives to old favourites such as the Ring O' Bells and John O' Gaunt which would still be familiar names to older alumni.
Independent and individual shops define Lancaster and they sit alongside a multitude of renowned retail names. Coffee lovers revel in the sights and smells of the 110 year-old Atkinsons Coffee Shop that boasts its own café, The Music Room, across the street in Sun Square. The wholefood co-operative, Single Step (founded in 1976), provides organic, vegetarian, vegan and fairtrade food. Locally-owned Asian supermarket Mung Mee Foods sells Thai, Japanese and Chinese products and boasts a great Thai restaurant next door. Majae Stores on Blade Street, just out of the town centre, sells a range of halal meat, oriental spices and exotic fruit and vegetables. Lancaster's twice-weekly Charter Market in Market Square is complemented by a very popular Farmers' Market every second Saturday in the month selling fruit and vegetables and meat and fish, much of it locally grown or organically produced.
The Assembly rooms is an Aladdin's cave of period and retro clothing, antiques and collectibles whilst up-to-date fashion tastes for women are catered for at the likes of Renes Lapelle, Room 12, Waterhouse and Sienna - whilst men's options include Joseph & Co and Lapel.
Mum and Dad coming to stay? If student rooms cramp their style (or yours!) then there are some great places to bed down ranging from the stylish 5 star opulence of The Ashton, the contemporary Lancaster House Hotel alongside the university (complete with log fire), city-based Penny Street Bridge and Sun Hotel, the Holiday Inn and the recently opened Travelodge. For a whole host of options, visit the local tourism website.
And there's more...
For more retail therapy, Preston is a mere twenty minute train journey away and boasts an eclectic mix of chain stores, a large market and other independent outlets. Savouring a frothy coffee at Brucciani's or a light lunch of homemade tapas at Deli Med refreshes the weary shopper, whilst the Harris Museum provides a cultural diversion with its collections of fine and decorative art set in a Grade 1 listed building.
For information about all places to visit, stay, shop and eat visit www.visitlancaster.co.uk
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