The South West of England: Pt 1 – Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire

This was the start of another epic trip as we embarked on our Summer Holidays for 2014 with Gemma’s parents, which would take us through 5 Counties, 5 Cities, and Land’s End itself. We charged down the M6/M5 towards our first port of call, the town of Weston-super-Mare in Somerset, via the quaint town of Tewkesbury…


Status: Tewkesbury District, Gloucestershire, Town, England

Date: 06/08/2014

Travel: Car

Eating & Sleeping: N/A

Attractions: River Avon, Tewkesbury Abbey, War Memorial, Historic Tudor Buildings, Countryside Museum, Methodist Church, Touching Souls Sculpture, Royal British Legion Club, River Severn, Out of the Hat Visitor Centre etc

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We pulled up in a small car park to the rear of Tewkesbury’s most famous landmark, the stunning Abbey. There are two entrances into the well kept grounds of the building, one from the car park and one round at the front, so we took the back entrance and walked through the trees, marvelling at the stonework, before exploring the inner depths of the Abbey. (I shall cover the interior in a new edition of Faith & The British, coming soon!)

The buildings construction started in 1102, 15 years after the Abbey was founded by Robert FitzHamon (1045 – 1107, a Norman who took control of Glamorgan in Wales and became its Lord). The main part of the building was consecrated in 1121 and various Chapels were then added throughout the 14th Century. The building was a grand affair which included outer buildings for the Benedictine monks who inhabited it. The Tower was the largest Norman Tower in the World, standing an impressive 148 feet tall and originally was created as a Lantern Tower to let light into the building below, but was later clad in stone in the 14th century. It had a wooden spire atop it when it was built, but it fell down in 1559 and the tower was left as it is now.  A special chapel for the body of Robert was created in 1395, a worthy honour for the Abbeys founder.

As was the fate of most Abbey’s of the time, its story almost came to an end after King Henry VIII (1491 – 1547) disbanded the Monasteries between 1536 and 1541. This was essentially aimed at the old Catholic Institutions, as Henry had recently separated from the Pope in Rome and created the Church of England in 1531. He feared that the old monastic religions would stay loyal to the Pope and ignore his new Church.

Tewkesbury Abbey was taken in 1540, but happily the building survived as the local townspeople bought the building for the grand sum of £453 so that they could use it as a Parish Church, and many of the furnishings inside were changed to reflect this. Some of the outer buildings used by the Monks were demolished, including the Lady Chapel, but the main Church building survives. Interestingly the building is larger than 14 Cathedrals across England, which shows the scale such buildings were built on, and many of them predate the ancient Cathedrals of England too.

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The main entrance to the Abbey Gardens comes out onto the main road, Church Street, through a set of ornate, wrought iron gates. They are thought to date back to circa 1750, as there are records to indicate they were given by Lord Gage (1702 – 1754, MP for Tewkesbury) around this time. The gates lead towards the North Porch of the Abbey, where a cross commemorating the consecration of the building back in 1121 is featured.

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To the right of the gates (looking out of the Abbey grounds) is a volunteer run tea room called the Touching Souls tea room. In a small courtyard outside that is the above statue, also called “Touching Souls” and created by an artist called Mico Kaufman in 1999. The statue represents relationship, and respecting others around you. It’s an interesting piece, and fits in rather well with its surroundings.

The rest of the grounds are full of well cut lawns and stunning trees, but this is but a small part of Tewkesbury, and as we exited the Abbey grounds onto the high street, the calibre of the buildings here hit us…

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Our first stop was the National School building, just to the left of the Touching Souls tea room looking from across the road. This is one of the newer buildings in the area, and was built in 1817, after the institution itself was founded 4 years earlier. The whole building was enlarged in 1842, and it remains in good condition. Medieval flags fly from most of the buildings in the town, so see how many you can spot as we go through Tewkesbury.

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Directly to the left of the National School is the Royal British Legion Club, built in the 15th Century as an Inn called the Mason’s Arms. It was later converted into the Club building in the 19th Century, with various modifications taking place inside, presumably to reduce the number of rooms into a series of larger internal spaces. Its a stunning example of the architecture in the town, and one of many.

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We kept moving, and reached the intersection of Church Street and Gander Lane, and stopped to look back at the imposing tower of the Abbey, sat behind the beautiful Abbey Lawn Cottages. Again 15th Century, the Cottages make up a quaint row of terraced houses, which were restored in 1967, although happily they still look in the condition they would have been 500 years ago.

To the right of the Cottages, past the small brick building, is number 40 Church Street, another 15th Century building which has a new Victorian front from the 19th. It also contains the John Moore Countryside Museum, with a row of Cottages on the far side of it similar to those in the foreground which make up the rest of the premises. The museum is named after John Moore (1907 – 1967) who was a well known writer and conservationist born in the town. He spoke out for conservation and also played an important part of preserving the heritage of the town and its buildings.

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Whilst Tewkesbury is quite far inland, there are a number of waterways around the town so we came off the main street to search for one of them, and walked up St Mary’s Lane. This street has an incredible collection of buildings on it, and four of them are listed:

1) At the far end of the street where it joins Church Street, are numbers 91/92 from the early 17th Century, with the oldest section of the buildings, the rear wing, dating back to 1564.

2) Just to the left of that is the shorter number 2, St Marys Lane, a house from the 16th Century, with large timber frames and 2 storeys.

3) The 2nd to last building on the picture, coming towards the left, is number 6 St Marys Lane which is also from the 16th Century, with a tiled roof, similar to a lot of buildings in the town.

4) The final listed building on the street is number 7 St Marys Lane, at the far left of the picture. There are two dates given for the building, the 16th Century and 18th Century so it may have been built in two sections which were later put together to create one larger building.

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At the end of the street, we reached one of the many rivers that runs either through or around the town. This particular one is called the Avon, which begins its journey in the county of Northamptonshire, and then runs through Leicestershire, Warwickshire and into Gloucestershire, where it joins with the River Severn to the South of the town centre, back past the Abbey. The Severn then flows on through the city of Gloucester and out into the Bristol Channel, between England and Wales near Bristol.

Other waterways around the town include the Tirle Brook, and various other smaller brooks.

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This is a view up the main high street approaching the intersection of Tewkesbury’s main streets. You can see how interesting and varied the buildings here are, with many of them fine Tudor examples. Let’s start with the “Royal Hop Pole” which is the first building at the front of the picture on the left. This fine Tudor building was built near the end of the 15th Century, and stood alone until a Coaching Inn was built in the 18th Century to the left of it. Today they have been made into one large building, and a new front was added to unify the two. The building consists of a large hotel and a Wetherspoons Pub on the ground floor.

Directly opposite the “Royal Hop Pole” are numbers 15/16 Church Street, at the front right of the picture. This set of two houses were built around the same time as the “Royal Hop Pole” and had another floor added in the 17th Century. To the left is the brick front of number 14 Church Street, which was built out of timber sometime prior to the 18th Century, when it had the brick front installed. A fire in 1987 destroyed much of the historic interior, but a few sections survived, such as the joists on the first floor. To the left of number 14 is number 13 Church Street, the front of which was built in the 17th Century, although the fabric of the building itself may be even older. Another fire in 1985 resulted in the front being rebuilt, but it has kept its Tudor charm.

This to me embodies THE typical English town, as when a lot of people think of “Ye Olde England” Tudor architecture comes to mind, and Tewkesbury ranks alongside other well known places like Chester for it’s beauty. Of course Tudor architecture is just one part of the town and there are many older buildings which include the Abbey, but I always think the Tudors had a great flare for design and they just look incredible. All around the town there is an incredible collection of literally hundreds of Listed Buildings, and if you look on the page for Tewkesbury on the British Listed Buildings site here you will see what I mean, as the main streets are covered in dots as almost every building in the town centre is Listed.

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In the very centre of town, where the main streets of Church Street, High Street and Barton Road meet, is a small roundabout made up of the Tewkesbury War Memorial. It was created out of limestone around 1920 after the end of World War I and stands as a memorial to all the soldiers from the town who died in the conflict, whose names are listed on 6 large bronze plaques around the memorial. A medieval cross previously stood on the spot until 1650, and after that a Market Hall was built and noted as the way of traffic in the town on this spot. This was later demolished, and a new Town Hall was built on the High Street in 1788, the road leading off to the left just out of shot. Sadly we didn’t have time to wander down to it as we had a long journey yet to Somerset, but I have seen picture of the building, which has a lovely stone front with statues and a clock at the top.You can see a picture courtesy of the BBC here.

Behind the War Memorial, to the right, is the Tewkesbury Methodist Church, a Victorian Chapel from 1878.

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We kept exploring the immediate area and eventually ended up back on Church Street as we made our way back to the car. We soon spotted the Tourist Information Office, which is part of the “Out of the Hat” Heritage & Visitor Centre. Together they are all housed in a 17th Century building, which has been lovingly restored inside so you can experience what life was like in the town a few hundred years ago. You can find out more about the Heritage Centre by visiting its official website here.

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Between the various streets full of the old timber framed buildings, are an assortment of narrow alleyways criss crossing between them, and its incredible how close the buildings were built all those years ago. This alley comes off Church Street, and contains some pleasant old houses, tucked away out of sight.

Tewkesbury is a beautiful place and one of the best preserved medieval towns we have visited. The town was supposedly founded in the 7th Century, by a Saxon man named Theoc. Theoc eventually evolved into the modern name of Tewkesbury today.

The town has good onward travel connections, with the M5 Motorway (for Birmingham, Bristol, Exeter and South) running around the town. The nearest train connection is at Ashchurch, 2 miles outside of the town, with the station being called “Ashchurch for Tewkesbury”. Regular trains between Bristol and Worcester call here, calling at Gloucester. Other services run on to Weymouth in Dorset, and Brighton in Sussex, as well as direct services between Cardiff and Nottingham via Tewkesbury and Birmingham. One train a day also runs on to London Paddington. Bristol, Cardiff and Birmingham Airports are also reasonably close to the town and offer local flights as well as international ones.

Tewkesbury is one of our favourite towns, in the heart of Gloucestershire, with amazing views on either side, and a plethora of history to discover, so it was the perfect place to start our adventure. We carried on, to the town of Weston-super-Mare in Somerset…

Lowther Castle, Cumbria, England

In the picturesque countryside of the county of Cumbria, not far outside the town of Penrith, is Lowther Castle, a stunning landmark from the 19th century…

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Lowther Castle

This beautiful country home has been the home of the Earl of Lonsdale since its construction, between 1806 and 1814. The incumbent Earl has always been a member of the Lowther Family, starting with William Lowther (1757 – 1844, Tory Politician), who, along with his wife, Augusta Lowther (died 1838) became the 1st Earl and Countess of Lonsdale. Robert Smirke (1780 – 1867, English architect) built the building for William, replacing Lowther Hall, which had been rebuilt in the 17th century by John Lowther (1655 – 1700).

(The title of Earl of Lonsdale had previously existed as William was the 3rd cousin once removed of James Lowther, the original 1st Earl of Lonsdale (1736 – 1802) and the title died out as he had no proper ancestors. William recreated the title and became the new 1st Earl)

It was first called a Castle when the present incarnation was finished in 1814, thanks to its stunning appearance. It remained the home of the Lowther family through the following centuries, including:

William Lowther2nd Earl (1787 – 1872)

Henry Lowther3rd Earl (1818 – 1878) and sadly he only owned the property for 4 years as he died of pneumonia at the age of 58.

St George Lowther4th Earl (1855 – 1882) and also died of pneumonia, but after just 3 years in charge of the estate, at the tender age of 26.

Hugh Cecil Lowther5th Earl (1857 – 1944) who was forced to move out of the Castle in 1937 due to his extravagant spending habits, and he could no longer afford to upkeep the property.

Lancelot Lowther6th Earl (1867 – 1953) although he didn’t actually live here. The debts were left behind from his brother Hugh, and a lot of the treasures in the property were sold off at auction in 1947. Lancelot died 6 years later and the Castle passed to James, his grandson. During this time World War II broke out (1939 – 1945) and a tank regiment occupied the Castle for training purposes.

James Hugh William Lowther7th Earl (1922 – 2006) who again didn’t reside in the Castle. The roof was removed from the building in 1957, and still hasn’t been replaced as you can see from the above picture.

Hugh Clayton Lowther8th Earl (Born 1949) Hugh is the current Earl, and was the man who sold the mountain Blencathra in the Lake District in 2014.

William James Lowther9th Earl (Heir Presumptive) (Born 1957). William, Hugh’s son is the presumed heir of the title Earl of Lonsdale, and will become the 9th Earl.

The property remains a shell, after James was forced to demolish most of it, after an offer to give it to the local authorities was rejected. There were once stunning gardens around the Castle but their upkeep ceased in 1935, and they have long since gone for other developments. Today the area is owned by the Lowther Estate, who along with English Heritage are undertaking a restoration of the Gardens, which is slowly taking shape and is open to the public. Another restoration on the building itself is also underway, as the walls and towers are being rebuilt, and the old stables area is now a cafe, shop and museum, which we had a look at during our visit.

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This is the old stables yard, which is located to the left of the main Castle building, with the entrance to the garden through the arch at the right of the picture. Its a large area, with the cafe directly opposite as you enter. The rest of the courtyard buildings house the shop and the museum, and has all been beautifully restored. It gives you a good idea of what the Castle itself must have looked like when it was whole.

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One last part of the original structure survives, in the form of the outer walls of the estate round at the front of the Castle. What looks like the original entrance gate is opposite the main part of the Castle, and attached to it on either side are the Castle outer walls. The Gate and the Walls date from the Castles completion in 1814, as they are described in a book about England written at the time.

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The walls are in turn connected to small fortifications, and I think that the walls were more for show than any practical usage, going off their size, and the fact that I have found some older pictures showing them at their present height. They are a great feature however and add to the medieval aesthetics of the site.

Its quite eery seeing the hollow shell of the main Castle building, and the empty ground walls. It’s easy to imagine what it must have been like at it’s prime, and it’s a real shame that it’s ended up in this state. Even so, its an incredible place to visit, and its certainly worth the trip. The Castle is located close to Junction 40 (Penrith) of the M6 Motorway from Birmingham to Gretna. You can find out more about upcoming events at the Castle by visiting their official website here.

Lancashire Duck Trail

All over the county recently, there have been animal trails, usually concentrated around a town or city, such as the Gromits in Bristol, Gorilla’s in Norwich, Superlambanana’s in Liverpool, or the penguins in St Helens. Now a new one has emerged, but instead of being focused on one place, they are spread out across the county of Lancashire…


There are 20 of these striking figures all over the county, and we found this one in the St George’s Shopping Centre in the city of Preston. They all have different designs, from a Superman Duck to a Bolton Wanderers Duck. This one is a Music Duck, and the whole collection will be auctioned off in a few months time to raise money for Charities that help Cancer Patients and their families.

The Trail was organised by “AquaDucked” and you can buy collectable ducks from them, and find out more about the various events they will have on over the next few months, by visiting their website here.

Above is a map detailing the locations of all the Ducks, from Martin Mere to Leighton Hall. All these locations are open to the public, so come on down and see how many Ducks you can find before they are auctioned off in October!

Train Travels: Volume 20 – Edinburgh Trams

There has been a recent addition to Edinburgh City Centre, the Capital City of Scotland. It takes the form of a Tramline that runs between York Place in the centre, and the Airport on the edge of the city, and we decided to make a special visit to the city to check them out…

Airport – York Place

Calling at:

  • Airport
  • Ingliston
  • Gogarburn, Gyle Centre
  • Edinburgh Park Central
  • Edinburgh Park
  • Bankhead, Saughton
  • Balgreen, Murrayfield Stadium
  • Haymarket
  • West End, Princes Street
  • St Andrew Square
  • York Place

The stops are split into two zones, with the City Zone covering all stops except the Airport, which is in its own zone. Fares rise if you are travelling to the Airport, but if you are going around the city zone you can get an all day ticket which is also valid on all buses in the city. The service is great value for money especially with the addition of bus travel, so you can explore the city all day. Ticket machines are located on the platforms.

There is a fleet of 27 trams in service, built by CAF:

1) Urbos 3 Tram

Ed Tram

The trams used on the network originate from Beasain in Spain, and were built by Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF). An order for 27 was put in , and they were built between 200 and 2011, and were ready in plenty of time for the line to open on the 31st May 2014. The trams have space for 170 standing passengers, and 78 seated one, and include luxurious seats which are incredibly comfortable. All of the trams are bi-directional, so they feature a cab at each end and save having to turn them round at the end of the line.

To help them blend into everyday life in the city, they were painted in the same livery as the Lothian Buses used throughout the city, the colours of which were introduced in 2010. There is a large tram depot at Gogar, which features an extra stop on the line not shown on the tram line map, as it is only for use by staff.

There are various extensions planned for the route, however the first stage went far over budget, and construction time overran considerably, so extensions are no longer a certainty. The main line is shown in Red, and is called 1a, from the Airport round to York Place via Princes Street. The Trams stop at St Andrew Square, Haymarket and Edinburgh Park Stadium, where you can change for mainline train stations and local bus services.

Below is a selection of pictures I took from the tram as we travelled through the city:

They include:

1) Edinburgh Castle, sat high above the city on a large rocky outcrop.

2) Church of St Johns down Princes Street.

3) St Georges West Church.

4) Murrayfield Stadium, largest Stadium in Scotland (4th in the UK) and the home of the Scottish Rugby League.

5) Gogar Tram Depot where the rest of the fleet is stored.

6) Edinburgh Airport in the distance, with the well known main Control Tower.

Edinburgh View

I’ll leave you with a panoramic picture I took looking out over the City Centre, taken from North Bridge, a road bridge which runs over Edinburgh Waverley Station. The City Centre here is divided into 3 parts, with the new town on the right, the old town on the left, and in the centre a large trench that was originally a large lake, or loch as they are known in Scotland. It was eventually drained and three stations built by rival companies were built here. These were eventually all merged and demolished, allowing for the construction of the present station, called Edinburgh Waverley, in 1866. The large glass roof you can see above covers the station, and continues on over the other side of this bridge.

There are so many landmarks visible from here, starting with Princes street, the road on the left above the station. The Trams run up here so you can easily transit from the airport to the City Centre. Also on the left is the tall spire of the Scott Monument, dedicated to Sir Walter Scott (1771 – 1832, Scottish Poet) with the Ferris Wheel behind it. Also part of Waverley Station is the Princes Street Mall, which fills the gap between the station roof and the pavement. At the front left of the picture is the beautiful Waverley Hotel, built as the North British Hotel in 1902. Most mainline stations had a large hotel built next to them so travellers had somewhere to stay, and although out of shot, there is a Clock Tower that stands on top of the building, and is visible from all over the city.

Directly in front of us here, past the station, are the Princes Street Gardens, a stunning array of landscaped gardens available for use by the public. Just past that is the light brown form of the Scottish National Gallery. THe railway line runs underneath it and re-emerges on the other side, running through the next section of the gardens, until a tunnel carries the line towards the next major station, Edinburgh Haymarket.

At the back right of the picture is Edinburgh Castle which overlooks the train line, and is sat at the top of the historical Royal Mile which runs from the Castle down to Holyrood Palace. The Old Town itself is incredible to look out, built on a hill the old buildings have been here for centuries, and it is one of Scotlands most well known landmarks.

Edinburgh is an incredible city, and aside from a great public transport network, there are a plethora of landmarks to explore, which you can read all about in my dedicated post here.

View From Railway Bridge, Lancaster

As trains travel through the city of Lancaster towards Cumbria, they pass over a bridge called Carlisle Bridge, which gives one of the best views in not just the city, but the county as a whole…

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Carlisle Bridge, Lancaster

Carlisle Bridge spans the River Lune, and was built between 1844 and 1846, to carry the new Lancaster & Carlisle Railway (L&CR) which today is part of the West Coast Main Line between London Euston and Glasgow Central. The L&CR opened in two phases, Carlisle to Oxenholme in 1846, and then on to Lancaster in 1847. The engineer on this epic project was Joseph Locke (1805 – 1860, English Civil Engineer). This then linked up with the Lancaster & Preston Junction Railway south of Lancaster, which had opened 7 years prior. In the North trains ran into the Citadel Station in Carlisle, now the only remaining station in the city. This was all part of efforts to reach Glasgow from London, as there was already a section from London to Birmingham, and this was extended on to Warrington, and then Preston and Lancaster. The new L&CR section brought the railway to Carlisle, and 2 years later in 1849 the Caledonian Railway from Carlisle to Glasgow opened, completing the line. The sections from Carlisle to Glasgow, and Birmingham to Warrington were also completed by Locke, after he proved more efficient than George Stephenson (1781 – 1848, builder of the world’s first steam locomotive powered inter city passenger railway, between Liverpool and Manchester) who was originally selected for the project.

Originally the bridge had wooden spans, but these were eventually replaced with Iron Girders in 1866. This had always been planned for, and the wood was temporary to allow the bridge to open sooner rather than later, and generate an income from the passenger and freight trains using it.

We have been over this bridge literally hundreds of times on the train, but today we thought we would try something different. A footpaths runs along this side of the bridge, accessible via a set of steps at either end. We decided to climb up and enjoy the view we have seen fleetingly so many times. By Mary 1974 the whole route between London and Glasgow had been electrified, allowing new, faster trains to run along the line.

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So this is the view you get if you climb up onto the footpath section of the bridge, and cross to the North end. It’s a stunning view, made even more the better thanks to the sunshine.

Lancaster is the historic county town of Lancashire, and the County Council used to meet here, before transferring their base of operations to the newly built County Hall in Preston, in 1882. The City has a long history spanning centuries, back to the Roman Fort established here around 60 AD, which also gave the city its name. Lancaster is recorded as Loncastre in the Domesday Book from 1086, and the name comes from two origins. The first is “Lon” which means river, and the second is “Castre” which derives from the old Latin world Castrum, meaning Fort. Therefore the name was given thanks to the position of the fort next to the river, so Lancaster literally translates as River Fort.

By 1193 the City was granted a charter, and became an important town. It soon made a name for itself thanks to its unique history tied with that of the British Monarchy. Lancaster is part of the Royal Duchy of Lancaster, an area of land that takes in all of Historic Lancashire, as well as other parts of the country, and is part of a trust owned by the Monarch, Elizabeth II, who holds the title of Duke of Lancaster.

This stems from the Lancaster “County Palatine”, an area of land run by a nobleman with a title, such as a Duke. The areas comprising Historic Lancashire were officially made a County Palatine in 1351, by King Edward III (1312 – 1377) and the nobleman was the Duke of Lancaster. It eventually passed through various hands until it was granted to John of Gaunt (1340 – 1399, youngest son of Edward III). He had a son called Henry Bolingbroke (1367 – 1413), but he was exiled by King Richard II (1367 – 1400) who also ensured that he wouldn’t automatically inherit his fathers lands. It would be 10 years before he returned to England, and he took England and had Richard imprisoned. Henry took the throne and the Duchy, under the name Henry IV. As his father had already passed away, Henry did indeed inherit the Duchy, thus it passed to the Monarchy, and Henry VI ordered it be kept separate from other crown possessions, and it is automatically inherited by each new Monarch.

You can see most of the major landmarks of the city from here, so I will break each section down and talk you through the many fabulous sights you can see. On this picture you get a great view of St George’s Quay, down on the far right. Opened in 1750, it became the one of the busiest ports in the UK, and had major trade in Sugar, Rum, Cotton, and also sadly the Slave Trade, and a memorial commemorating the victims of the trade stands by the river. The river eventually silted up, and the dock closed.

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One of the major parts of the view is the City Centre, and there are a number of landmarks easily visible. The most prominent has to be the Millennium Bridge, built in 2000 to commemorate the Millennium year. The towers stand a staggering 130 feet tall, and hold up the rest of the structure using strong cables. There are actually 3 sections to the bridge, with the central section leading from the left of the picture to the towers, and from there it branches off in two directions towards the main City Centre. The bridge is for pedestrians and cyclists only, so its a great way to explore the riverside without the noise of traffic around you.

To the right of the Millennium Bridge is the spire of Lancaster Cathedral, a beautiful building overlooking the Lancaster Canal which runs from Preston towards Kendal in Cumbria. The Cathedral (1857 – 1901) serves the Roman Catholic population, and began life as a Parish Church in 1859, before being elevated to Cathedral status in 1994. If you are ever in Lancaster I recommend you visit the Cathedral, the interior is simply stunning.

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High on a hill overlooking the whole city is the famous Ashton Memorial, which is also visible from the M6 Motorway as it passes around Lancaster. It was built in 1907, by James Williamson, the 1st Baron of Ashton (1842 – 1930) in memory of Jessie, his 2nd wife, who sadly passed away. It is one of the great buildings in the North, and stands 150 feet tall, and due to its position on the hill you can see across most of Lancashire from here, across Morecambe Bay and to the Furness Peninsula. It is open to the public, and you can climb the top of the monument, and gaze up into the copper dome. The main structure is built out of Portland stone, with granite steps. We have been meaning to visit the memorial for a while, and its on the list for next time we visit Lancaster.

Interestingly, it is stood almost exactly on the mathematical centre point of the UK, as measured from the top of Scotland down to the South of England, and taking into account Northern Ireland’s position to the West. There are various centre points in the country, including the centre points of each of the 4 countries in the UK such as Lindley Hall in Leicestershire for England and an area in Ceredigion in Wales. The centre point of Great Britain on its own is also in Lancashire, near to the Forest of Bowland.


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The final landmarks visible are Lancaster Priory and Castle, sat on a large hill overlooking the Station and the railway line that runs over the bridge. The Priory is older of the two buildings, with the original incarnation of the present building dating back to 1094 when it was built as part of a Priory. It became a Parish Church in 1540 following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539, with various enlargements since. A new tower was built in 1759, and an Organ installed in 1811.

The Castle behind it is slightly newer, built in the 11th century, and seeing battle through the centuries particularly against the Scottish in 1322 and 1389. It still stands proud today, and after use as a Prison in the 20th Century, it is now open as a tourist attraction and guided tours are available. You can find out more in my dedicated post here, as we visited the Castle not long after the Prison closed and it became open to the public. The location of the Castle up on the hill reminds me of Edinburgh, where there is also a large Castle on top of the hill overlooking the railway line.

You can explore the beautiful city of Lancaster in my dedicated post here, from the Victorian Town Hall, through the Market Square towards the Castle and beyond.

View From Preston Bus Station

Preston Bus Station is a landmark building in the city, and was once the largest Bus Station in the world. Above the main concourse are 8 floors that make up the Car Park, and the view from the top floor is outstanding…


Preston Bus Station (I borrowed the above picture from the Preston Bus website as mine was too dark last time I visited but I shall update this post as soon as I can with my own picture, all credit to Preston Bus)

The Bus Station was built between 1968 and 1969, by Ove Arup & Partners, a firm from London. In keeping with the types of building all over the country built at that time, it was built with a brutalist design. With space for 80 buses, 40 along each side, it became the largest in the world, and today is claimed to be one of the largest in Europe still. Above the main concourse are the rows of car parking spaces, which four on this side, and four in between these on the other side. The building is linked to Preston Guildhall by a covered walkway, making it the unofficial Guildhall Car Park.

Recent plans to demolish the building were thankfully fought off, and it has now been given protected Grade II Listed Status, and is going to be revamped as part of a wider plan for Preston.

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This is a panoramic I took looking South across Preston City Centre, and a number of landmarks are visible from here. Starting at the far left, the spire just past the rectangular building is that of Preston Minster, dedicated St John the Evangelist, which is located on Fishergate, the main shopping street in the city. Built between 1853 and 1855, it replaced a long line of Churches on the site, with only the base of the tower surviving from the previous incarnation from 1814. The Church was upgraded to Minster Status in 2003, 3 years after Preston itself was granted City Status, and this marked the new status. Whilst it is technically still a Parish Church and performs as such, it is officially title as a Minster, which is an honorific title.

To the right of the Spire is Preston Guildhall, which is comprised of both sections between the Spire and the rectangular brown tower to the right. It opened in 1973, and is a major destination in the city for performances, theatre productions and much more. The University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) also holds their Graduations there, and I am happy to say that a few weeks before writing this I graduation with my Foundation Degree in Computer Aided Engineering in the main hall inside the Guild Hall, and hopefully I shall be there again next year when I receive my Bachelors Degree. A millionaire invest has recently bought the Guild Hall and plans to modernise it and make it one of the standout attractions of the city, and I can’t wait to see the results.

The square brown tower is the top of the Harris Museum, one of my favourite buildings in Preston. It sits in a large square which includes the old Market, and the Preston Cenotaph. The Museum opened in 1893, and houses the Library, Art Gallery and Museum for the city. These features had long been a wish for the people of Preston, and in 1877 Edmund Robert Harris (1804 – 1877, Preston Lawyer) left £300,000 to the city to build them. A Library was set up in the Town Hall in 1879, and a Museum on an adjacent street in 1880. Due to their popularity it was decided to build a purpose built building for all the features together, and the Harris Museum was the result.

Directly to the right of the Harris Museum, with the slim brown tower,  is Sessions House (1900 – 1903), a Grade II Listed Building that contains the city courts. The next building along on that row is Preston Town Hall (home to Preston City Council), a newer building that replaces the original Victorian Town Hall of 1862 that sadly burnt down in 1947. If you look between the Harris Museum tower and the Sessions House tower, you can see an office block, which sits on the site of the original Town Hall.

To the left of the tall office block at the front on the right of the picture is the St John’s Shopping Centre, one of three in the city, the other two being the Fishergate Centre opposite the station, and the St Georges Centre coming off Fishergate Street.

Bus 2

On the left of this picture is a large Premier Inn, the large brick building located on the Preston inner ring road. Just to the right and behind it, is Lancashire County Hall, the home of Lancashire County Council. It opened in 1882, and was the new home of the County Council after they moved from their former home in Lancaster. Preston was chosen as the new location due to its central location within Lancashire, so the Council were closer to the main communities.

The main train station is located out of shot behind Premier Inn, to the left of County Hall, and trains running West and North run directly past County Hall which sits overlooking the train line. If you look at the centre of County Hall, there is a small grey tower in front of it, this is the top of the Corn Exchange, a Public Hall built in 1822 as a place for local tradesmen to meet.

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This is the view from the Bus Station looking South. Preston is surrounding by the Lancashire Hills on all sides, so it’s almost in a flat valley between them. Rural Lancashire is well known for it’s hills, which lead into the Pennines, part of the Highland Region across North Wales and North West England/Yorkshire.

There are a few things to see from this angle, most notably St Pauls Church, which you can see over the road just next to the Green Bush at the far left. This was originally the Anglican Parish Church for this part of Preston, built between 1823 and 1825. The Architects for the project were Henry Hutchinson (1800 – 1831, English Architect) and Thomas Rickman (1776 – 1841, English Architect from Berkshire), who were working in partnership together. The building was later extended, with the addition of a Chancel and Baptistry in 1882. Sadly it is now redundant and hasn’t been in use as a Church since 1979. In 1981 Red Rose Radio bought the building, and today two other stations operate from here, called 97.4 Rock FM and Magic 999.

Bus 4

Next, if you look at the Chimney in the centre of the picture, there are 2 small towers to the right of it. To the right of the 2nd and taller tower is a squat rectangular building, which has 5 rectangular windows across the top floor at the front. This is the Museum of Lancashire, and the buildings to the left of it, although many are obscured by the tree line, make up HMP (Her Majestys Prison) Preston. The Museum is located in the old Courthouse, called Sessions House as is the modern one I mentioned earlier. Designed by Thomas Rickman again, it was completed around 1825, and is one of the oldest buildings in the whole city. I am unsure when the Museum actually moved into the building, but as the new Courthouse in the City Centre was in use by 1903 it must have been around then or later. There are many fascinating exhibits inside showing local history, people and even a Victorian Classroom. On the top floor is a courtroom where you can even don a judges wig and gown and sentence a fellow visitor!

Towns in Lancashire from Oldham to Wigan were also at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution, and Manchester became the worlds first industrialised city by the 1830’s. Preston soon followed, and there are a number of Chimneys surviving, as it was once a major producer of Cotton, with widespread factories.

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To Football Fans, this is an important landmark, to the North East of the Bus Station. Deepdale Stadium is home to Preston North End, the local Football Team, since 1878. It was also previously the home of the National Football Museum, however that has now moved to the Urbis building in Manchester city centre. Preston North End (PNE) are notable as they were one of the founding teams of the Football League, first team to win the League and the FA Cup, and they were also the first team to survive a full season unbeaten, between 1888 and 1889.

The Stadium can hold 24,500 spectators, and has a statue of Sir Tom Finney (1922 – 2014) outside, one of the teams best players who also played for the England National Team.

In the foreground is a building called Deepdale Hale, which was formerly the West Wing of the Preston Royal Infirmary, built between 1869 and 1870.  The building has a crown spire on the central tower, and metal spires at each corner on the tops of the others.Next to that directly to the right and behind it, is Deepdale Hall. It was originally built between 1829 and 1833, with enlargements around 1926. It formed the main part of the Infirmary, but today both buildings are residential complexes, after the hospital closed in 1987. A new hospital called the Royal Preston Hospital was opened in 1983 by Princess Diana (1961 – 1997, late Wife of Princes Charles, heir to the British Throne), at the far North of the city, near where the M55 (for Blackpool) and the M6 (For Scotland, Lancaster and North, Birmingham and South) meet.

Preston is a fascinating city with lots of history, and if I have piqued your interest,  check out my dedicated post on the city of Preston here, and the stunning riverbank walks in the city here.

View From Civic Centre, Carlisle City Council

The tallest building in the city of Carlisle is the much debated Civic Centre Tower, headquarters of Carlisle City Council. It is located just down the road from the Castle, on the edge of the famous roundabout called Hardwick Circus. Few people get to visit the top of the tower, but I decided to email the City Council to see if it would be possible as I suspected the view would be worth seeing. They granted my request, and the next day Gemma and I ascended to the roof of the building to look out across the city…

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Civic Centre, Carlisle

The tower is one of the defining landmarks of the city, and it is a rather divisive building as well. Many residents hate it, many think its its iconic, but new proposals mean it’s future is in doubt. The latest plans suggest demolishing it the complex and building shops and restaurants in it’s place, so it spurred me on to get to the top whilst I still can. Many people are not aware that you can actually visit the top, all you have to do is ask, so if you contact the City Council then they should be able to arrange it for you.

The Civic Centre was built in 1964, and stands an impressive 135 feet tall. Three lifts can transport you to the roof section, but they require a special key to get this far up.  It takes but a matter of seconds to pass through the 10 floors to get to the top, and it has been the home of the Council since it was built. The most well known section is the tower, but the rotunda and rectangular section at the bottom is still part of the overall development.

At the time Carlisle was the county town of Cumberland, which was merged with Westmorland and the far North of Lancashire to create Cumbria. When this happened the Carlisle County Borough merged with other local parishes to create the present day City of Carlisle District.

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This is one of the many stunning views available from the roof, looking West through to South West. At the far right of the picture is Carlisle Castle, with it’s might stone outer walls making it an impenetrable fortress. The main stone sections, the Keep, walls and Central Tower date from just after 1122, when Henry I (1068 – 1135) gave the order to build a stone Castle here, to replace the previous wooden version built by William II (1056 – 1100). This was due to the threat of attack from the Scottish as Carlisle is only 10 miles away from the Anglo-Scottish Border.

The main A595 road, also known as Castle Way, runs in front of the Castle, and further up the road past the Castle is a modern suspension bridge for pedestrians to cross the road. A pedestrian underpass runs underneath the road and also gives access to the Castle. Moving left across the picture we reach Dixon’s Chimney, part of Shaddon Mill, which was built in 1836. It opened as a Cotton Factory, and at the time was the largest in England. It became a Woolen mill in 1883 after the Cotton company, Peter Dixon & Sons Ltd went into administration. Today it is inhabited by apartments and the University of Cumbria, after it was converted in 2005. The original height of the chimney was 305 feet, but it was cut down to 209 feet in 1950. It’s grand height was necessary to keep the smog from drifting down into the city itself, and was instead released into the air high above the city.

Next to that is Carlisle Cathedral, one of the dominating features in the city. Although as you explore the city street it looks like its on flat ground, it is on a hill high above the rest of the buildings, and often the first city centre building you see as you drive into Carlisle, particular if you are coming from the Northern end of the city. Construction began the same year as the Castle, and operated as an Augustinian Church for 10 years, before it became a Cathedral in 1233. Find out more in my special Carlisle Cathedral post here.

In the foreground of the picture at the far left is Carlisle Market Hall, one of the few remaining Victorian Covered Market Halls left in the country. It was built between 1887 and 1889, and contains around 100 stores. The stonework blends in brilliantly with the other old buildings around the city, and it looks even more impressive from above.

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Looking South to South East, the view from the Cathedral and the Market Hall continues, through to the large Debenhams store at the North end of the Lanes Shopping Centre, which originated as narrow housing streets built in medieval times. These were converted in the 1980’s into shops and became the Shopping Centre in 1986, with a roof added over the top. The rest of the shopping streets are pedestrianised, including the main street which runs between Debenhams and the Market Hall. If you head up this road you will reach the central square of the pedestrianised streets, where the old Town Hall and Tourist Information Office are located. The Market is one of the main bus stops in the city, with various services calling here.

At the far right of the picture is the Carlisle Magistrates Court, directly across the road from the Civic Centre.

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Directly to the North of the Civic Centre is Hardwick Circus, shown above. It’s a large roundabout that has a park inside, and you really don’t get a sense of the scale of the place from the ground. It looks incredible from this height, and three walkways run under the road so you can easily cross the roundabout. Behind the roundabout is the Sands Centre, the local theatre and exhibition space where various acts perform each week.

Even further beyond the Sands Centre the hills of the Lowlands of Scotland in the Dumfries & Galloway area are visible, and even the chimneys of Chapel Cross, a decommission power station just outside the town of Annan, also in Scotland can be made out, but sadly they didn’t stand out well enough to make it onto the picture. Built in 1959, it was decommissioned in 2004 and the cooling towers were demolished in 2007.

You can’t actually tell on this picture, but the road leading North away from Hardwick Circus and the Sands Centre is actually being carried by the Eden Bridge, which carries the A7 towards Scotland, over the river Eden which flows beneath it. Built in 1815, it was was widened in 1932 so two lanes now run both North and South. It consists of five large arches supported by pillars in the centre of the river.

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The area to the left of Hardwick Circus is called Bitts Park, and connects Hardwick Circus with the large stone walls of the Castle. It contains a hedge maze, various leisure facilities, and a statue of Queen Victoria in the centre, shown above, surrounded by neat flower beds. The Eden flows around the Northern edge of the park, and meets with the river Caldew to form one river which then runs out to the Solway Firth near Gretna.

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The top of Debenhams is visible at the very front of this picture, and if you look up the road to the left (called Lowther Street) you will see two circular figures of the Citadel Towers at the end of the road. These identical towers were built between 1810  and 1811, and were designed by Thomas Telford (1757 – 1834, famous Scottish Civil Engineer) although the designs were finished off by Sir Robert Smirke (1780 – 1867, English Architect). The road that leads up to, and through the gap between the towers is called Botchergate and the original gate that guarded the city was located at the South End of the street. This was superseded by a 16th century gate built by Stephan von Haschenperg (circa 1540’s) an architect from Moravia, a historic country that now forms part of the Czech Republic. He was employed by Henry VIII (1491 – 1547) to create the gate. This in turn preceded the present Citadel, which houses courts and a prison, although the towers are mainly used as offices for Cumbria County Council today. The East Tower (the one in full view) has some original 16th century foundations remaining.

Just to the right of the West Tower, but out of shot, is the Citadel Station, the only station in Carlisle, located on the West Coast Main Line between London and Glasgow/Edinburgh, with local services all over Cumbria, as well as regional destinations including Newcastle, Preston and Birmingham.

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The crowning glory for the fantastic views of Carlisle has to be the hills of the Lake District, visible in the distance to the South of the city. They provide a great backdrop for one of the North’s most historic cities, and who knows what adventures await us on the horizon. I hope you are intrigued enough to check out my dedicated post on the city of Carlisle, and it’s many treasures, which you can find here.