When, one Saturday morning, I suggested I take Mr MLLH to Horncastle in Lincolnshire, my proposal was met with resounding approval. Not wishing to paint my better half in such a puerile light but sometimes all it takes to convince him of anything is a casual reference to a school-boy gag. “HORNcastle? Point me in the direction!”. This is the guy who organised his best mates stag-do in the unsuspecting little village of ‘Glenridding’ in the Lake District just because, well, Glenn was getting married wasn’t he. Ridding/riding? Need I say more.
But he makes a good cuppa and seems to know that M&S flowers are better than Asda’s, so I think he’s a keeper. Anyway, in my opinion Horncastle is worth a visit so I was glad he complied because I knew he was going to love it there.
Horncastle isn’t too hot on promoting itself and to the undiscerning eye it may be seen as one of England’s insignificant towns. Afterall, its very own website starts its homepage with a paragraph about a nearby village : come on guys, if you want to get anywhere these days you’ve got to be willing to sell your soul with shameless marketing strategies – it’s dog eat dog out there!
But I knew differently, having visited before, so let me explain why you will love Horncastle…
What’s So Good About Horncastle?
An old Roman settlement, Horncastle was a fortified town away from any important Roman roads and mainly used the river as its point of access. The town’s public library was built on top of a part of the old Roman walls and a section of it can still be seen inside – you may feel the need to make audible oo’s and ah’s when you visit (although quietly – this is a library!) so as not to confuse any librarians as to the manner of your swing-by. Just how long you feel is polite to linger is entirely up to you, but 30 seconds is all it will take to read the wall-mounted info board.
Don’t feel bad that it’s almost impossible to unearth anything of significance about the history of Horncastle, just be happy that this little corner of England carried on for centuries undisturbed by consequential events and makes up for it nowadays in other ways.
What ways? Well, in case you hadn’t heard – Horncastle is the epicentre of the world for all things flotsam and jetsam. Only seeing is believing, and like one friend of mine put it – ‘when they ran out of skips, they invented Horncastle’. He’s just jealous of the amount of time his wife spends looking at china cups and saucers though. Horncastle is a centre for the antiques trade and has more than a handful of Aladdins Caves to explore. Each one has its own character and distinction and you must visit all of them before you leave! I particularly like 22 North Street for the in-house parrot and floor to ceiling stacking system – you wouldn’t dare remove a desirable treasure from some of the Jenga-like piles! And make sure you go all the way to the back of the store and outside just to see what would not be believed – just go!
Another amazing gem is the Trinity Antiques Centre in a former church on East Street – churches always fascinate me anyway so when you fill them will interesting stuff from bygone era’s you could lose me in here for days.
Alongside the Antique shops are a few well stocked book shops too – my favourite : Jabberwock Books. There is a semblance of order to this place, kind of, and the owner can put his finger on anything you ask for, which is quite astounding when you see how many books are in there.
Posh Coffee & Eateries…
Shopping can work up an appetite and thankfully Horncastle isn’t short of nice places to eat and drink. The pubs are traditional and one or two with lovely thatched roofs for extra authentic effect – they make the beers and pies taste better I find. Even the bakeries have beautiful window displays, enticing you in to buy a loaf of artisan dough.
The School House Coffee Bar on Church Lane dishes up deli-worthy sandwiches and homemade cakes on comfy leather sofas, and once you’re done you can browse the gift-shop shelves.
If it’s a sunny day in Lincolnshire then you can enjoy a scone or two in the courtyard behind The Old Stables on The Market Place and if the rain threatens play then pick a window seat in The Bridge – an old Georgian townhouse which overlooks the River Bain.
Failing all else, Horncastle is only a few miles from the East Coast so the fish and chip shops are also reliably good.
Nearby To Horncastle
After spending a morning marvelling at the treasure trove that is Horncastle, and snacking on a few cheeky pastries, we decided there should be another leg to our little day trip to Lincolnshire. When you look at a map of England there are several little green patches labelled AONB – Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Lincolnshire is the proud owner of one of these little badges. The Lincolnshire Wolds – AONB.
Until I moved to Nottingham I had never come across this term ‘wolds’, it means open high ground. Mr MLLH has even turned it into an adjective, meaning lumpy and bumpy like the wolds in Leicestershire near our home.
Nevertheless, as you drive the wolds of Lincolnshire, in your open top MG with a headscarf – you will get a sense of the kind of beautiful countryside I am talking about.
Apparently the history of the area is rich too, archaeological teams have unearthed plenty of evidence to show the mark that Scandinavian Vikings made on the wolds, and it may explain some of the unusual place names too.
We ate pie and drank beer at a proper country pub, picked up a few leaflets of local walks then with a loosening one notch of the belt decided that a leisurely drive upon the rolling hills was more our cup of tea. Here endeth a lovely day out in Lincolnshire and one that I can heartily recommend to you should you find yourself in the East of England.
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Carry on reading…