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Lincolnshire family holidays and breaks

Beach hutsBeach huts© VisitBritain
View from Lincoln CastleView from Lincoln Castle© VisitBritain
LincolnLincoln© VisitBritain
Cathedral, LincolnCathedral, Lincoln© VisitBritain
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Today

Overview

Lincolnshire isn’t one of the UK’s holiday big-hitters – it’s too rural and remote. Yet it has everything you need for cracking family holidays: a coastline of almost comically traditional seaside resorts backed by the timelessly undulating countryside of the Wolds, a string of attractive villages and market towns stiff with history, the atmospheric, flat-as-a-pancake Fens, and the beautiful and historic city of Lincoln itself.

Things to do with kids in Lincolnshire

Visit some of the family-friendly resorts that line Lincolnshire’s North Sea coast, from Skegness in the south to Cleethorpes in the north. You can spend family holidays on some of the best beaches in Great Britain, as well as enjoy seaside amusements galore at Butlins, and Button’s Pleasure Beach in Skegness, Fantasy Island in Ingoldmells, the Dunes Leisure fairground in Mablethorpe, and Pleasure Island Theme Park in Cleethorpes.

Explore the Wolds – a pocket of retro England that is too small to have attracted major development and is one of England’s 37 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. As such, it has avoided death by international hotel and Ye Olde Tea Shoppe. Unspoilt and slightly old-fashioned, this area is associated with the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, who was born and spent his early years here, and with the World War II era Royal Air Force. A whole slew of RAF stations in the area are open to the public, including the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Centre at Coningsby, Thorpe Camp Visitors Centre at Woodhall Spa and, our favourite, the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre at East Kirkby.

Take a look at the Fens. If Yorkshire is the new ‘garden of England’, the Fens are its vegetable patch (though to be fair, they grow a lot of flowers here as well). Not, at first glance, ‘pretty’, they’re something of an acquired taste. But get off the main roads, away from the traffic and the agri-industry, and suddenly you experience peace and quiet, the lapping of water, the singing of skylarks and huge, dramatic skies. There are ample opportunities for walking and cycling (pick up the free ‘Walking and Cycling in the Fens’ from tourist offices), while the RSPB’s three reserves are great for bird-watching. Look out, too, for boat trips, fishing opportunities, and the ever-present windmills.

Spend a day at the Butterfly and Wildlife Park at the edge of the village of Long Sutton, consisting of a walk-through tropical house containing hundreds of butterflies and birds, a superb birds-of-prey centre, an animal centre with water buffalo, llamas, wallabies, possums, pigs, goats, miniature ponies and much more, an ant room and a reptile room. There’s also a terrific adventure playground, an activity castle and a mini-tractor track.

Discover Lincolnshire’s wealth of villages and market towns, chief among them Boston, a seaport that fell on hard times but was revived as an agricultural market town. The growth of the EU has since given the docks a boost. The town is most famous for St Botolph’s Church and its massive tower, dubbed the ‘Boston Stump’. At one time doubling as a lighthouse, the church also has a strong connection with the USA: its puritan vicar encouraged dissidents to set out for New England, hence the Pilgrim Fathers memorial in the docks. It’s worth coming for the local markets (Wednesday and Saturday), the open-air auction (Wednesday) and the farmers’ market (3rd Wednesday of the month).

Crowland is stunningly picturesque, with many thatched cottages and an original horse-mounting stone. It’s best famous for the ruins of Crowland Abbey, one of Britain’s most important Benedictine monasteries, and for its Trinity (or Triangular) Bridge. Grantham, meanwhile, is the birthplace of celebrities as diverse as Sir Isaac Newton, Margaret Thatcher and Nicholas Parsons, while Louth is a fine Georgian town that makes much of its position astride the Greenwich Meridian – where it’s marked, you can stand with one foot in the eastern and one in the western half of the world!

Spalding is famous for its flowers and bulbs is but also home to Fenscape (in the Springfields Centre outlet shopping mall, which also has a Play Barn), a terrific (and free) introduction not only to the physical reality of the Fens but also to their wildlife, traditions and folklore through interactive displays, sculptures, theatrical sets and more. Spalding is also home to the unique Gordon Boswell Romany Museum, with the world’s biggest collection of Romany artefacts, including horse-drawn vardos (caravans) and a fortune-telling tent.

Finally, spend time in the beautiful city of Lincoln, built on and around that Lincolnshire rarity, a substantial hill, and so in two parts – on the summit is the magnificent cathedral and castle; at the bottom, on either side of the river, is the modern city of chain stores and shopping malls. Both areas are well endowed with pubs and restaurants, while the lung-burstingly steep hill itself is lined with tiny shops and restaurants.

Eat

Lincolnshire produces a fifth of all Britain’s food, so fresh ingredients are abundant. Look for the ‘Tastes of Lincolnshire’ logo, a guarantee that the food in guesthouses, hotels, shops, restaurants, cafés, pubs and so on is locally sourced. Specialities include Lincolnshire sausages, stuffed chine (pork with herbs), plum-bread and even fresh ostrich.

Plenty of farm shops across the county sell fresh produce, from roadside stands to palatial emporia – see Lincolnshire Farm Attractions for inspiration for family holidays.

When to go to Lincolnshire

The short answer is: whenever you like. Lincolnshire isn’t even on the radar for the majority of UK holidaymakers, and still less for foreign visitors, so it’s never crowded enough to put you off – not for nothing is its tourist board strap-line: ‘Space to breathe, time to have fun’. Still, for family holidays it’d probably be wise to book ahead for school-holiday periods, especially in the big east coast resorts.

Cost

Lincolnshire is a great-value destination for family holidays and breaks by virtue of its being off the tourist trail.

By Jos Simon

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