Commissioned by William the Conqueror and consecrated in 1092, the huge gothic towers of Lincoln Cathedral have been dominating the city’s skyline for nearly a thousand years. Take a guided tour to learn more about the architecture and rich history.
Durham Castle and Cathedral
In this itinerary, visit historic cities all with a unique story to tell, such as York, Durham, Lincoln and Edinburgh. With a BritRail GB Pass, you can enjoy unlimited train journeys and explore these historic cities and more if time allow for a price that can’t be matched.
Britain is a fascinating place with a history that goes back centuries. Our 5-day railway itinerary takes you on a whistle-stop tour of some of the country’s historical highlights, from the spectacular Norman relics of Lincoln to the Viking heritage of York and all the way north to the medieval gems of Edinburgh.
One of the easiest and most relaxing ways to explore Britain's heritage cities is with a BritRail train ticket, a rail pass that allows you unlimited journeys, giving you the freedom to explore at your own pace. For shorter trips, you can book your individual rail tickets in advance through the Trainline, ACP Rail, International Rail and Rail Europe.
Start your journey
The first destination on our Heritage cities tour is Lincoln in the East Midlands. Just 2 hours north of London by train, there’s a regular service from London’s Kings Cross station via Peterborough or Newark North Gate.
Day 1: Lincoln
A mighty cathedral, an ancient castle and a warren of medieval streets make up the hilltop city of Lincoln. Small with a village feel, Lincoln boasts a wealth of historic treasures mingled amid quaint tea rooms, excellent restaurants and independent shops.
Avoid the hilly climb up to the Cathedral by taking the Steep Hill Shuttle Bus from the station.
Things to do in Lincoln
It’s a short stroll from the cathedral across the cobbles to the towering entrance of Lincoln Castle. Home to an original copy of the Magna Carta, don’t miss the chance to see one of the world’s most important documents first-hand.
A privately owned Elizabethan Mansion with stunning gardens, Doddington Hall was built in 1600 and is unique in that it has never been sold or cleared out since. The Hall is a 15-minute taxi ride from Lincoln centre. Please see website for opening days.
Day 2: York
A place of extraordinary cultural and historical wealth, York is a must-visit. Seemingly unchanged for centuries, the modestly sized city is packed with attractions: meander along the narrow cobbles of The Shambles, wonder at the dramatic architecture of York Minster and relax in the rolling countryside that surrounds Castle Howard.
A York Pass is a great idea to save money if you are planning on visiting multiple attractions.
Visit the Castle Howard website for more information on getting there by public transport.
Things to do in York
Truly awe-inspiring, York Minster is one of the most beautiful gothic cathedrals in the world and one of the largest examples of medieval architecture in Northern Europe. After you’ve marvelled at the stunning stained glass on display, climb the steps of the central tower to get a bird’s eye view of the city.
A gem amongst English stately homes, Castle Howard is a majestic pile surrounded by lush gardens. Splendidly maintained, the house’s ornate rooms are filled with antiques and offer stunning vistas of the surrounding countryside. A bus runs direct from York city to Castle Howard.
Like stepping back into the Middle Ages, The Shambles’ overhanging timber-framed houses and traditional shopfronts makes it one of the UK’s most historic (and picturesque) streets. Spend some time wandering along its cobbles, now dotted with lovely souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants.
Day 3: Durham
The third destination on the trail is beautiful riverside Durham City, 45 minutes north of York by rail. As your train pulls into town, you’ll be greeted by its hilltop famous landmarks, Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle, which together make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And while heritage and history are around every corner in Durham, the young university population ensures a sense of youthful vibrancy in the city’s many cafes and pubs.
The Cathedral bus connects the train station and bus station with the Castle and Cathedral Square.
Things to do in Durham
Raised up above the city on a rocky promontory, the Norman church is a sight to behold. Founded in 1093, the building has seen hundreds of years of political, social and religious intrigue, and more recently found fame when the cloisters doubled as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. Entry to the cathedral is free.
Standing side by side with the cathedral, the ancient castle forms the other part of this unique and fascinating World Heritage Site. Now home to University of Durham students, you can explore the grand site on a guided tour.
Just a short walk from the bustling market, the medieval Crook Hall dates back to the 13th century. A place of ‘history, romance and beauty’, spend some time exploring the rooms of the house and the idyllic gardens before stopping for cream tea in the courtyard café. Crook Hall is closed on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Day 4-5: Edinburgh
The ancient Scottish capital is a fitting final stop on our history tour. A scenic 2-hour train journey from Durham, Edinburgh’s rich heritage is evident the moment you step off the train. From the many medieval charms of the Old Town to the elegant Georgian facades of Princes Street and the New Town, there’s a wonderful array of history, culture, art and Scottish eccentricities to discover.
If you are planning to spend some time exploring Scotland, an Explorer Pass will give you great-value access to 77 historic sites.
Things to do in Edinburgh
Presiding over the city from its lofty seat atop a rocky cliff, Edinburgh Castle is the city’s most iconic attraction, wowing visitors with its impressive views, legendary 1 o’clock gun salute and dazzling display of Scottish Crown jewels.
Newly refurbished, this grand Victorian museum's marvellous displays encompass everything from nature to science and Scottish history throughout the ages. Once you’ve filled up on culture, treat yourself to a giant scone in the museum’s Balcony Café. Entry to the museum is free.
Don’t miss the chance to nose around the yacht that was used by the Queen and the Royal family for state visits and holidays for more than 40 years. Now berthed in the harbour of Leith, you can get there on the no. 22 bus from Princes St.