Lancaster Castle

Polly Checkland Harding
Lancaster Castle Lancashire
Lancaster Castle - Gidzy

Occupying a hilltop position at the centre of Lancaster, the Grade I listed Lancaster Castle dates back almost 1,000 years. This was the strategic site of three successive Roman forts – once a bastion against the ancient Picts and Scots tribes. Recognised by English Heritage for its full documentary record and the extremely rare survival of so much of the medieval fabric of the castle’s buildings, Lancaster Castle also offers a fascinating insight into the history of the judiciary and penal reform in England.

In fact, the site was a fully functioning HM Prison until 2011, and continues to operate as a Crown Court today – reputedly the longest continually sitting in the country. Still displayed at the dock, although thankfully out of use since 1811, is the branding iron once used to burn the letter ‘M’ for ‘malefactor’ onto convicted criminals’ hands. Lancaster Castle was also formerly home to an unusual set of treadwheels, powered by the prisoners themselves for ten hours at a stretch and used to drive calico looms as well as drawing water from the well. Prisoners were only allowed breaks every 20 minutes and were allocated to partitioned spaces in order to interrupt communication between them.

Famous visitors to the castle over its history included Roberth Bruce, John of Gaunt and Napoleon – today, visitors can arrive without pomp and pageantry to explore the castle grounds for free, taking in the 20m high towers at the gatehouse and the nearly 3m thick walls of the keep and Hadrian’s Tower, which was built in 1210, from the outside. Guided tours are the only way of accessing the interiors of the buildings, to see highlights such as the 650 shields on display in the Shire Hall, which bear the arms of every English monarch since Richard the Lionheart. There’s also a café run by Atkinsons Coffee Roasters, housed in what was once the prison kitchen – a part of the castle that wasn’t previously open to the public in living memory.

The courtyards of Lancaster Castle are open to the visiting public. Please note that access inside the buildings is only available as part of a guided tour. However, due to ongoing works to the Shire Hall complex, tours are not expected to resume until Spring 2021.

Castle ParadeLancasterLA1 1YJ View map
Telephone: 01524 64998 Visit Now

Opening Hours

  • Monday9:30am - 5:00pm
  • Tuesday9:30am - 5:00pm
  • Wednesday9:30am - 5:00pm
  • Thursday9:30am - 5:00pm
  • Friday9:30am - 5:00pm
  • Saturday9:30am - 5:00pm
  • Sunday9:30am - 5:00pm

Always double check opening hours with the venue before making a special visit.

What's on near Lancaster Castle

Ian Humphreys
LiteratureWest Yorkshire
Poetry at the Dusty Miller

Poetry at the Dusty Miller is a brand-new night with invited readers, organised by Carcanet-published Carola Luther and Judith Willson in the Coiners’ Room in the Mytholmroyd pub.

free entry

Where to go near Lancaster Castle

The Music Room from Atkinsons Coffee Roasters Lancaster
Café or Coffee Shop
The Music Room

The Music Room from Atkinsons Coffee Roasters is a cafe situated on a Grade II listed Georgian pavilion with sun trap outside seating.

Lancaster Library

Sitting in the heart of Lancaster is the Lancaster Library. When not serving its usual function, this beautiful space is occasionally transformed into an unlikely gig venue.

Castle View contemporary cottage, Lancaster
Castle View

Right in the heart of Lancaster, this contemporary cottage with one bedroom and a double sofa bed, a huge copper bath and a wood burner is situated in a peaceful walled oasis.

Event venue
The Storey Creative Industries Centre

Multi-purpose venue comprising an auditorium and lecture theatre, gallery space, café bar, Visitor Information Centre, hireable meeting rooms and conference/events spaces and private offices.

An interior shot of the arches within Lancaster Priory
Lancaster Priory

Lancaster Priory Church is a vibrant, open and inclusive church at the heart of Lancaster. Music, education and community are at the heart of their mission.

Judge’s Lodgings, Lancaster, Lancashire
Judges’ Lodgings

The Judges’ Lodgings is the oldest town house in Lancaster, whose exhibitions and events bring the stories of the city to life.

Filbert's Baker artisan bread in Lancaster
Filbert’s Bakery

Filbert’s bakery is a family owned bakery that provides delicious fresh bread every morning along with breakfast goods, cakes and savouries.

Bar or Pub
The Stonewell Tap

The Stonewell Tap is a lively craft beer bar on Church Street, Lancaster, which boasts 16 craft beer taps and 4 real hand-pulled ale pumps.

The Herbarium

This plant-based cafe and bar serves delicious vegan breakfasts and coffees in the day, before transforming into a fantastic dinner venue in ‘Herb after Dark’.

The Grand Theatre in Lancaster
The Grand Theatre, Lancaster

First opened in 1782, the theatre is now host to amateur drama, music and dance and professional touring companies. Tours of the historic building are available

Bar or Pub
Aquila Pizza

You can order online or over the phone to get your pizza fix. With regular deals on multiple pizzas and breads available for delivery and collection across Lancaster and Morecambe mid-week and weekends then keep your eyes on Aquila’s website and social channels.

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