Lancaster Castle

Lancaster Castle

Dominating the local skyline, Lancaster Castle is one of England's best preserved castles. The castle is owned by Her Majesty the Queen, who is the Duke of Lancaster. The castle offers a glimpse into England’s often dark past through tours and special events enjoyed by modern day visitors of all ages. Until 2011 it was a fully functioning HM Prison and was also Europe’s longest-serving prison. 

Its courtrooms have witnessed many famous and infamous trials over the centuries, including those of the Lancashire Witches who were convicted and sentenced to death in 1612. Between 1800 and 1865 only the judges at the Old Bailey in London sentenced more people to death than those who sat at Lancaster Castle.

Photo gallery

Lancaster Castle

Plan your visit

Lancaster Castle is open for pre-booked visits.

It will open daily with visits available from 10.30 am until Tuesday 27 July when it will open at 10amEach visit lasts around fifty minutes and accommodates up to six people. Availability is limited. We strongly advise booking ahead. 

We will re-allocate your place on the tour to other members of the public if you do not arrive within 10 minutes of the tour start time.

Please read the guidelines carefully before booking your visit.

Find out more and book your visit

Admission charges

To celebrate the reopening of the Castle courtrooms to visitors, tours will be free for a limited time.

How to find us

The Shire Hall
Lancaster Castle
Castle Parade
Lancaster
LA1 1YJ

The castle is located near to Lancaster city centre and is sign-posted from junctions 33 and 34 of the M6 motorway.  The site is a five-minute walk from the railway station; the bus station is a ten to fifteen-minute walk. Plan your journey and view bus timetables for your area and train times (external site).

 

 

Facilities, access and contact details

Facilities

  • Free public access to the courtyard area
  • Car parking available for blue badge holders by prior arrangement, please contact the castle before your visit
  • Assistance dogs welcome
  • Part disabled access
  • Baby changing facilities
  • Cafe in the Kitchen courtyard (external link). 
  • We have a number of areas licensed to host civil ceremonies and civil partnerships. Our venue offers a unique setting as a wedding venue (external link) and our friendly staff will be on hand to assist you every step of the way.

Access

Lancaster Castle is located on top of a hill and that approaches from all directions are steep. The visitor entrance is the main gateway to the castle at the front of the building (the John O’Gaunt gate).

The tour route is not suitable for pushchairs or buggies. If your infant is able to walk, or you are able to carry your infant for the duration of the tour, there is a place part-way round the route where buggies can be left, on request, at your own risk. The tour route is also not suitable for wheelchairs. Visitors with limited mobility are asked to please call ahead to speak directly to our tour guides.

See the access statement (PDF 390KB) for more detail or please ring us if you have any questions.

Contact us 

Tel: 01524 64998 

Email: lancastercastle@lancashire.gov.uk

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Discover more of Lancashire's diverse history and visit one of our other Lancashire Museums. Which of our museums will you visit next?

Things to see and do

Hear the castle stories of those who have passed through its gates, from royal visitors, to witches and martyrs imprisoned here. Experience the chilling dungeons and the Drop Room where the condemned were led to the gallows.

The Shire Hall houses a magnificent display of more than 650 heraldic shields. The Crown Court dock still has the branding iron which was used on 'malefactors' until 1811. You can also experience briefly what it’s like to be locked up in one of our 18th century cells, an unforgettable experience. Our usual guided tours also include some areas of the former prison.

Entry to the castle interiors which are open to the public is by guided tour only (guided tours are currently suspended until Spring 2021).

Extensive conservation and restoration works have opened up the historic kitchen courtyard and access to the King’s Evidence and Male Felons Towers beyond the world-famous Well Tower in which the Lancashire Witches were incarcerated while awaiting trial. Part of the curtain wall has been lowered to restore the original sightlines to the Priory and a new covered cloister walk uncovered. A new teaching suite and gallery space have also been created together with a sweeping new piazza in the lower courtyard.

Here's what some of our visitors had to say:

"Excellent tour, great guide."

"Fantastic, very informative and thoroughly enjoyable."

"Fabulous tour."

"Best castle ever."

Media

This highly decorative ten-sided room is Joseph Gandy’s masterpiece. Completed in 1802, its semi-circle of Gothic pillars carry not only the arches which support the timber ceiling over the main part of the court room but also the arches of the plaster vault over the surrounding aisle. Still used as a working courtroom on rare occasions, today the Shire Hall is also the centrepiece for one the UK’s finest displays of heraldic shields. 

Media

If you've visited us, what was your favourite thing you learnt about the castle? Let us know by sharing your experiences on Twitter using #LancasterCastle and don't forget to tag in @LancsMuseums on Twitter and @LancsMuseums on Facebook.

What's on: events and exhibitions

We look forward to welcoming everyone back for a full events programme as soon as we safely can.

Usually we offer a range of events including theatrical and musical events and our annual 'Christmas at the castle' markets. We apologise for any inconvenience caused and look forward to welcoming everyone back as soon as we can.

Shire Hall exterior
Events and exhibitions at Lancaster Castle 

We look forward to welcoming everyone back for a full events programme in 2021.

School visits

We are happy to receive enquiries from schools throughout the year. Our guided tours offer students the opportunity the see one of the last working castles in the country, learn about the administration of the law through the last 1,000 years, and experience for themselves what it meant to be imprisoned here. Find more information about our group visits.