Lancaster – City Guide
Hi, I’m Alice, a first-year English Literature and Creative Writing student at Lancaster University. If you’re looking for a suntan, Lancaster is probably not the city for you. But if you want to study at a small city packed with entertainment, history and culture, it’s the perfect place for you to come to university.
Williamson Park is the most picturesque spot in town, its impressive Ashton Memorial visible from all over town. You can go simply to eat a picnic and admire the view, or to visit the butterfly house, reptile house, animal garden and aviary, look inside the Memorial building, and have afternoon tea at the greenhouse Pavilion café. You might catch The Dukes’s ‘Incredible Moving Picturehouse’ while it shows classic films at the bottom of the park. The park hosts special events all year round, including its Christmas Carol Concert, Meet the Animal Keeper days and Art in the Park shows.
The Dukes is Lancaster’s culture hotspot. Next to the town hall, it hosts a cinema, a theatre, and an art gallery. The cinema is always showing a mixture of blockbuster new releases such as the much-awaited ‘Brooklyn’, and ‘Star Wars’, seasonal classics like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and ‘A Muppet Christmas Carol’, as well as a host of black and white and animated oldies. In the 2016 Redbananallama will be putting on a crazy performance of Beauty and the Beast as a cabaret.
Lancaster Grand theatre may be an old-fashioned treasure, but contrary to what you may expect it hosts great and acclaimed comics, music acts, plays and musicals. Josh Widdicome, Heather Small, Lee Nelson, the Vienna Festival Ballet’s Swan Lake, Julian Clary, Romesh Ranganathan, and Gareth Gates’s Mad About the Musicals are all coming to this tiny theatre in the next 6 months.
Privately hiring one of Budgie Transport’s barges for a day with friends or family on the canal is one of the best ways to get to know the city and its surrounding villages. If you prefer a faster pace you might want to try the Way of the Roses cycle route, starting in Morecambe and passing through Lancaster’s Lune Millenium Bridge.
Lancaster is only an hour away from gorgeous, picturesque villages like Windermere and Bowness in the Lake District, as well as Morecambe and Kirkby Lonsdale, which are full of pretty boutiques and independent cafés. These places are part of the whole experience of coming to Lancaster, and they’re the perfect place to spend a day relaxing and getting away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
The highlight of most Lancaster students’ Wednesdays and Saturdays is heading to the Charter Market in the centre of town. Whether it be the Veggie Man’s wraps, Dolly’s Delicious Donuts, the Yummy Cupcake Company’s sweet treats, Supper by Sanah’s Indian curries and snacks, Holland House waffles, Fleetwood Fresh Fish or the wide range of other stalls selling fresh global cuisine, no one will walk away from the market with an empty stomach.
As well as plenty of branded café chains, Lancaster offers a multitude of (often well-hidden) unique places to eat and drink. Bibbi’s, Vincenzo’s, The Old Bell Coffee House and Roots vegetarian café are just some of the tastiest and most popular.
After pre-drinks on (if you really wanted to!) every night of the week, Lancaster’s a fairly small but perfect place to go on a night out. By the end of Freshers’ week most students are surprised by how diverse and vibrant the night-life of Lancaster really is.
If you pick up a Purple card or some other form of student ID, you’ll find two-for-one and cheap shot drinks deals all over town. Start your night out at one of Lancaster’s two Wetherspoons pubs (The Sir Richard Owen or The Green Ayre) or The Sun Hotel. Bars like Mint, Apothecary, Dalton Rooms and Oscar’s offer popular music and a more relaxed atmosphere- you could even come to these for a more chilled out, classy cocktail evening. Then the end of your night will most likely be spent in Lancaster’s clubs like Glow Rooms, Hustle, the lesser-known Bentley’s and newly-opened Mojo, and of course Sugarhouse.
Sugar is Lancaster’s student-only club. It often hosts featured artists, such as Sigma playing throughout the upcoming grad ball season. Whether it’s Old’s Cool retro nights or the electro Saturday Takeover, there’s something for everyone. The free Sugar bus from campus and back is a massive plus in terms of staying safe and spending less!
If you prefer a quiet meal on an evening, your Purple card will get you and your friends loads of great deals. The Plough pub is an absolute favourite with arguably the friendliest service for students and locals alike in Lancaster. In summer especially, there’s nothing better than a drink outside one of the many canalside pubs such as The Three Mariners, The White Cross and The Water Witch. If you prefer restaurant food to pub grub, Casa Rastelli Italian pizzas and pastas are delicious. 1725 serves amazing tapas and Spanish platters and Church Street Chop House is the perfect place to indulge yourself.
If you’d rather stay on campus and order a takeaway to your door, Bombay Balti or Delhicious are the student favourites and offer great discounted deals as well as gorgeous food.
One of the most important things to consider is where your visiting family and friends will stay, especially if you’ve left your student accommodation in a state not fit for company! Lancaster House Hotel, Crows Hotel and Penny Street Bridge B&B offer great prices for those staying with students, often as much as 15% off room rates.
Next 6 Months: What’s On…
Throughout the next 6 months and beyond in Lancaster and the surrounding district, you can look forward to a whole host of exciting events to satisfy all your varied interests. Just some examples:
- The Bolshoi Ballet is putting on a dramatic dance adaptation of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew at The Dukes in January.
- In February Lancaster will be commemorating the First World War centenary with musical and theatrical tributes.
- Lancaster Literature Festival will take place in March, full of poetry slams, workshops, open mic nights and special guest speakers.
- July through to August, The Dukes will be putting on their annual Play in the Park, this year an exciting walkabout rendition of The Hobbit.
- In October Lancaster’s free music festival will return, an exciting week of folk, choral, rock and jazz performances in the city’s pubs, parks and even the castle.
- Bonfire night is celebrated by the Light Up Lancaster event, a spectacular show of LED light displays perfect for all the family and not to be missed.
My overall advice for making the most of your time at Lancaster would be to get yourself a Purple card so you don’t miss out on student deals, to make an effort to visit the more picturesque parts of the district, and to listen out for the less-heard-about events which are always happening around this vibrant city.