- Take a guided tour around one of Lancashire's oldest and most famous landmarks.
- Learn about the gory history of the Castle and those who were imprisoned there.
- Visit the Witches’ Tower, used to house the Lancashire Witches in the early 17th century.
- Explore the dungeons of the Castle and walk in the steps of those who stayed there.
- Check out the magnificent Shire Hall, and visit the Crown Court that is still in use today.
Situated in the very heart of the historic city of Lancaster in northern Lancashire, you can find the famous Lancaster Castle. Originally built in medieval times, the Castle has a colourful history as a fort and prison, and remained a functioning prison until 2011. Now, the Castle is open to the public for guided tours, and when it stopped its role as a prison, ownership passed to the Duchy of Lancaster. If you are planning a trip to the North West or Lake District, we recommend you take a trip to see this amazing historical relic before you leave. With plenty to do for all members of the family, Lancaster Castle is a great way to spend a day in the quiet city of Lancaster.
So, when was Lancaster Castle built? The oldest part of the castle is the keep, which was built in the 11th century to house the lord of the Castle. However, there was a Roman Fort located on the hill as early as 60AD, which then influenced the development of the town. As the oldest building in the whole of Lancaster, Lancaster Castle is a key landmark of the area and is known by many for its past as a prison. Throughout the years, the Castle was used as a fort and a residence, and following the Civil War, it became an important prison. As well as being the location of Catholic priest's imprisonment at the command of Elizabeth I, the famous Pendle Witch trials took place at the Castle. One of the most famous local tales, the Pendle Witches, were a group of 12 women who were accused of witchcraft and tried at the Castle in 1612. As one of the most famous witch trials in UK history, there is lots to learn about this particular topic at the Castle.
A guided tour is a fantastic way to explore the fascinating history of the Castle, with tours available daily. From the grand 10-sided Shire Hall to the John O’ Gaunt Gatehouse and medieval cells, there is much to see and discover. For kids who love knights and castles, Lancaster Castle is a fantastic place to visit and is sure to inspire imaginations. The tours are suitable for all members of the family, with a special Bear Hunt activity provided for kids on their way around the Castle. The tours aren't long, roughly an hour, meaning there is plenty of time to visit the gift shop and explore the surrounding area. The Crown Court, designed alongside the Shire Hall by Thomas Harrison, is one of the oldest in the country and is still used by Lancashire County Council as a courtroom to this day. As a result, you may not be allowed view the Crown Court area if the court is in progress, and some of the parking spots might be taken by Lancashire County Council members, or those attending court.
While there is lots to see on the guided tours, the city of Lancaster itself is also a great place to visit. Once you've had a look around Lancaster Castle, wander down Castle Parade and turn left. As you walk past Waterstones bookshop, continue straight into the centre of town where you'll find lots of local shops, cafes and restaurants. If you're looking for something quick, head to Greenhalgh's Craft Bakery for a pasty, or the Sun Café for cake and a coffee. Alternatively, the 'school dinners' menu at The Borough in Dalton Square is perfect for a high-quality pub lunch, or check out The Whale Tail Café on Penny Street or The Herbarium on Great John Street for some tasty veggie food. You can also find a great selection of shops and other attractions such as the Queen Victoria statue in Dalton Square and the famous Ashton Memorial at Williamson's Park, the perfect spot for a picnic (and don't forget to check out the Butterfly House!) There are also lots of great local places to stay, from The Sun Hotel to Crows Hotel, all a short walk from Lancaster Castle.
If you and your family enjoyed your day at Lancaster Castle and are looking for more fantastic historical days out, make sure to add Astley Hall in Chorley to your list. Or, take a short trip north to the beautiful town of Cockermouth in Cumbria to visit Wordsworth House and Garden.
What to know before you go
- Lancaster Castle opening times are from 9:30am-5pm daily.
- Unfortunately, because Lancaster Castle is such an old building, wheelchair access is limited. For those unable to take part in a guided tour, there is an interactive kiosk in the gift shop where you can experience a virtual guided tour of the castle. This also means that the Castle is unfortunately unsuitable for buggies. Buggies can be left in a designated spot while you take the guided tour but at the owner's risk. Baggage or any other items cannot be left.
- Registered carers enter free.
- Please note that floors throughout the building are uneven so care should be taken as you walk around.
- The Crown Court is still active, so please note this might affect the route of the tours on your visit.
- There are toilets available on site, with accessible toilets in the former prison area of the Castle, through the gatehouse.
- For those arriving by car, Lancaster Castle is easy to access by following the one-way system around Lancaster, then turning off for the train station. The Castle can be seen on the right.
- Lancaster Castle car park is located behind the castle, with limited spaces. You can also find pay and display parking spaces in front of the Castle. Alternatively, there are multiple car parks around Lancaster city centre, just a short walk from the Castle.
- Lancaster Castle is just a 10-minute walk from Lancaster's main bus station, where there are buses to the surrounding areas of Lancashire and the Lake District.
- The closest train station is Lancaster Train Station, located behind the Castle. The station is well-connected to Edinburgh and Glasgow in the north, all the way to London Euston, which is just a 2.5-hour train journey away.
- There are plenty of places nearby to lock your bike if you choose to cycle.
- Taxi ranks can be found at Lancaster Bus Station, on Mary Street and Church Street.