One of England's greatest heritage treasures, guided tours and free general access.
Open but Under Renovation
2017, the Castle is open but undergoing a significant (£3m) programme of remedial and renovation works designed to protect the fabric of the Castle. After years serving in part as a prison a team of heritage architects, archeological specialists, structural engineers and conservationists will work to make the structure sound.
However there are not to be missed guided tours showing visitors the fascinating interior of the castle, around ancient and the former working prison cells - including some ancient cells, the Crown court steeped in history and the Criminal court, plus chambers and rooms containing some gruesome objects of history and punishment. Castle tours are run and managed by Lancashire County Council.
Unless you take a guided tour of the interior of the castle you will be missing the majority of the attraction, that sid, visitors can still enjoy the courtyard spaces, external views of the historic building(s), and use the excellent and large cafe and gift shop without charge.
Tour ticket prices (2016): Adults £8, Concessions £6.50, Family £20
So, what else do you do with a huge castle in the center of a city!
Periodically the castle host numerous events, some in-house, for example:
- Prison Life - a new exhibition set up in the ground-floor cells of A-Wing
- Harry Potter - School of Wizardry - August 2016 - An interactive film experience
- Witches in the Well - August 2016 - A commemoration of the world-famous Pendle witches
- Lancaster Music Festival - October 2016 - multi-venue extravaganza of live music throughout the streets, pubs and spaces of Lancaster
- Christmas at the Castle - December 2016 - festive Christmas market, music programme, carol-singing, food and wine, Santa's Grotto and guided tours
Check the official website news section for upcoming events.
Lancaster Castle, is undoubtedly one of England's greatest heritage treasures and is steeped in English history dating from medieval times and before to the current day as a court and until 2011 a place or incarceration.
Particularly interesting is the 18th Century Crown Court room and the Shire Hall - a splendid ten-sided semi-circular room with Gothic pillars and arches and wood panelled walls displaying over 650 shields bearing the arms of every English monarch from Richard The Lionheart to date, plus those of all the Constables of Lancaster Castle and High Sheriffs of Lancashire. Your guide will point out the humorous such one that has four dice on the shield for that namesake.
Lancaster Castle is owned by the The Duchy of Lancaster (HRH) and is in the privileged position of having detailed documentary records that chart the development and use of the castle and buildings since medieval times. See: lancastercastle.com "The Castle Today" for detailed plan (PDF) and details of the buildings and their history.
Impressively, the tour provides detailed personal stories of some of those tried and incarcerated, deported or hanged at the castle for minor or unusual crimes.
Channel 5 documentary
For an excellent documentary by Channel 5 see Secrets of Great British Castles - Lancaster Castle
"This week's programme is on Lancaster Castle and its pivotal role over the centuries, from the days of King John, through the Lancashire Witch Trials in 1612 and right up to the present day. It highlights the Castle's rich history as a court, as a prison and as a centre of justice for almost 800 years and includes an interview with a direct descendant of a sheep-rustler sentenced to transportation from the court room which is still in service today."
Being a historic building there are accessibility issues and we would recommend contacting the castle directly. Examples of accessibility issues include a castle entrance that is sloping and is cobbled, the cafe is up a moderate ramp and the interior of the castle is multi-level and has stairs.