Lancaster Castle

Lancaster Castle

Lancaster Castle

Shire Hall update

Please note the Shire Hall is currently not accessible for tours while work is undertaken on the upgrade of the fire alarm. We will be running limited tours which only cover the external courtyards and one of the prison buildings. The tours will last approximately 30 minutes and will run regularly throughout each day. We don't currently have a date for when this work will be completed. 

Dominating the local skyline, Lancaster Castle is one of England's best-preserved castles. The castle is owned by His Majesty the King, 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

Daily tours

From January 6 2023

The Shire Hall is currently not accessible for tours while work is undertaken on the upgrade of the fire alarm. We will be running limited tours which only cover the external courtyards and one of the prison buildings.  The tours will last approximately 30 minutes and will run regularly throughout each day. 

Monday to Friday - 10:00am,  10:45am,  11:30am,  12:15pm,  1:00pm,  1:45pm,  2:30pm,  3:15pm  and  4:00pm

Saturday and Sunday - First tour at 10am, then throughout the day at intervals of no more than 45 minutes until the last tour at 4pm.

Temporary Admission charges

  • Adults £2.50
  • Concessions £1.50 (over 65, people with a disability, unwaged and students)
  • Children £1.50 (under 5s free)
  • Families £6.50 - Two full price and 1 or 2 concessions/children; 1 full price and 3 concessions/children; 4 concessions/children (one of whom must be over 16 years)
  • Carers accompanying visitors with a disability - free
  • For group bookings or guided tours please contact us to discuss your needs

Opening times

Please note that tour times can be subject to change. Private group bookings and other events/circumstances mean that tours do not always operate at the times listed below and the tour coverage may be altered (with the charge being reduced, as appropriate). Visitors are welcome to call the Castle on 01524 64998 to check tour times for a specific date.

Day Times
Monday 10am - 4pm
Tuesday 10am - 4pm
Wednesday 10am - 4pm
Thursday 10am - 4pm
Friday 10am - 4pm
Saturday 10am - 4pm
Sunday 10am - 4pm

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). 

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

Find us on TripAdvisor

 

If you've visited us recently, don't forget to leave us a TripAdvisor review.

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 old cells 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. 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. 

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

Search for the latest events at Lancaster Castle. If there are no current events listed check back for new events soon. We look forward to seeing you.

Find events at Lancaster Castle

Previous events include theatrical and musical events and our annual 'Christmas at the castle' markets. 

Schools

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 1000 years, and experience for themselves what it meant to be imprisoned here. 

Find more information about our group visits.

Learn about the administration of the law through the last 1000 years and experience what it meant to be imprisoned here.

 

Museum loan boxes

Loan box example - brownie camera and case

Our museum loan boxes contain a wide range of historical artefacts, replica objects and useful resources loan boxes are a great way of bringing a little bit of the museum into your classroom.

Learn more about loan boxes.