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Exploring Lancaster and its Countryside - Parks, Gardens, and Castle Turrets

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With its museums, castle, and nearby coast, Lancaster is gem of Northern England set in wild, atmospheric landscapes. You can walk or cycle out into the country along the Lune Valley, with its stunning views of the Yorkshire Dales. The Crook O’Lune, a couple of miles north of the city, is a mesmerizing kink in the River Lune that inspired the romantic spirit of poet William Wordsworth.

Williamson Park

 

The iconic Ashton Memorial crowns this expansive parkland, and can be seen from all over the city. From the viewing balcony atop the green-domed memorial, you get unbeatable views of Morecambe Bay and the base of the Lakeland fells. Rolling open grasslands and woods full of wildlife are crisscrossed by scenic paths and dotted with rocky outcrops and hidden follies. There’s an Edwardian-era butterfly house, mini-zoo, and children’s playground, as well as a café for tasty refreshments. Every summer, the Play in the Park outdoor walkabout-theatre performance uses this natural landscape for its backdrops.

 

  • Williamson Park, Quernmore Road, Lancaster, Lancashire LA1 1UX; Tel: +44 1524 33318; Website: Williamson Park

Lancaster Castle

 

The murky history of Lancaster Castle goes back to 1093, and passing through the twin-towered John O’Gaunt Gatehouse sends a shiver down the spine. You’ll hear the lives - and deaths - of the Pendle Witches and Lancaster Martyrs described in gory detail on a guided tour. Until 2011, the castle was a fully functioning prison, and trips finish with a look into inmates' cells. The café in the former visiting room serves delicious Lancashire favorites, plus there’s a well-stocked gift shop. Nearby remains of a Roman bathhouse and fort wall were uncovered in the 1970s.

 

  • Lancaster Castle, Castle Parade, Lancaster, Lancashire LA1 1YJ; Tel: +44 1524 64998; Website: Lancaster Castle

 

Cycling for all-comers

 

Lancaster's urban centres and surrounding countryside are a joy to explore by bike, with a network of safe trails that attract both competitive racers and casual cyclists. Flat routes link the estuary, canal paths, and coastal areas, while more challenging rides tackle the scenic Trough of Bowland or Harris End Fell. Morecambe is the start of the Way of the Roses, a coast-to-coast route that runs through Lancaster and the Lune Valley to finish 170 miles later on the Yorkshire coast. Lancaster, Morecambe, and Silverdale have bike-hire outlets, and the Lancashire tourism website provides free maps to download.

 

Gresgarth Hall Gardens

 

Gresgarth Hall opens its terraced grounds to the public for only 10 Sundays each year, between March and November. Its vivid herbaceous borders are themed according to colour, and the geometric kitchen garden has vegetable patches that stand as works of art. In winter you can admire a magnificent snowdrop display, while fall sees a riot of seasonal hues. The lake is fringed with water gardens, and a wander takes you through bluebell wood, rhododendron slopes, orchard and nuttery, then onward along a serpentine walk. Horticulturalists will be in heaven, but even indoor types are wowed by this well-tended landscape.

 

  • Gresgarth Hall Gardens, Gresgarth Hall, Caton, Lancaster, Lancashire LA2 9NB; Tel: +44 1524 771838; Website: Gresgarth Hall Gardens

 

Cross Bay Walks

 

Morecambe Bay is a vast estuary, with huge sweeps of sand alive adventure sports, and mudflats teeming with birdlife. An exciting and challenging experience is the Cross Bay Walk, over the sands when the tide is out. Walkers usually set off from Arnside to finish at Kent’s Bank, a 6- to 8-mile route that takes 3 to 4 hours. It involves wading through the Kent River channels and can only be done with a qualified guide, as the tide comes in faster than you can run. For centuries, local guides appointed by royal command have lead visitors safely across the bay.