No need to risk queues and cancellations in search of summer warmth this year, just visit Lincolnshire, where it’s sometimes hotter than the Sahara – only with more to see. On 19 July, Coningsby in Lincolnshire, already famous for having the world’s largest single-handed clock face, recorded Britain’s highest ever temperature of 40.3 C (104.5 F).
Lincolnshire, England’s second largest county, is used to breaking records. For over 200 years from 1311 to 1548, Lincoln Cathedral, ‘the most precious piece of architecture in England’ according to John Ruskin, was the tallest building in the world, with a central spire 525 feet high (160m) – the first structure in 4,000 years to top of the great pyramid. Alas, the spire blew down in a storm.
Near the cathedral stands a third-century Roman arch, the oldest in Britain still in use by traffic, while the aptly named Steep Hill, a winding cobbled street lined with houses dating back to the Normans, leads from the cathedral down to commercial Lincoln, is the fourth steepest street in England.
Elegant Louth, in the Lincolnshire Wolds, is the most northerly town on the Prime Meridian, and has the tallest church tower in England, 295 feet high. That honor used to belong to Grantham, where the tower of St Wulfram’s reached 281 feet (86m) in the 13th century, the first church tower in Britain to top 250 feet (76m).
Grantham was the birthplace of Margaret Thatcher in 1925, while a few miles to the west is Woolsthorpe Manor, a 17th-century manor house which was the birthplace of Isaac Newton on Christmas Day 1643. It was at Woolsthorpe that he observed an apple fall from a tree in the orchard and thus discovered gravity, and if you visit at the right time of year, you can also see an apple fall from the same tree.
The tower of St Botolph’s in Boston, Boston Stump, is the tallest medieval church tower in Britain, at 272 feet (83m) and a prominent landmark for sailors on the Wash. It would have been a familiar sight to the Pilgrim Fathers for it was from Boston, in 1607, that religious separatists William Brewster and William Bradford and their followers first attempted to sail away to the Netherlands to escape persecution. A lone memorial marks the spot beside Scotia Creek south of the city where they were captured, after being betrayed by the ship’s captain, and the prison cells in the Boston Guildhall where they were held awaiting trial can still be seen.
The following year the same Pilgrims managed to escape, this time in the north of the county, from Immingham on the Humber Estuary. Immingham was a small village then, but has since grown to become one of the UK’s largest cargo ports.
To the west, old meets new in Barton-upon-Humber, the oldest port on the estuary, where St Peter’s Church, boasting the finest 11th-century Saxon tower in Britain, slumbers in the shadow of the Humber Bridge. With a central span of 4,630 feet (1,410 m), this was the longest suspension bridge in the world when it opened in 1981.
Beyond Immingham to the east lies the ancient fishing port of Grimsby, England’s oldest chartered town (since 1201). Once the largest fishing port in the world, its Victorian docklands are now a dystopian mix of modern warehouses and derelict infrastructure, including the stark remains of the world’s oldest and largest ice factory, desperately awaiting rescue from vandalism and decay. Viewed from the water’s edge is a small glimpse of Italy, the most distinctive landmark on Britain’s east coast, the 200ft (61m) Grimsby Dock Tower, once filled with 30,000 liters of water to provide hydraulic power to operate the harbor gates and disguised to look like Torre del Mangia in Siena.
Lincolnshire’s coast begins east of Grimsby at Cleethorpes, where you can find the world’s largest fish and chip shop, Papa’s, on the pier. From here, 50 miles of glorious coastline run south to the Wash.
Mablethorpe, where the poet Lord Tennyson used to wander among the dunes, offers miles of sandy beach, Ingoldmells, where the first Butlins opened in 1936, now boasts the world’s highest hanging loop roller coaster, the Jubilee Odyssey, and in Skegness the town’s iconic Jolly Fisherman, the star of early 19th-century railway posters, still skips along the seafront of one of Britain’s most traditional resorts.
Inland, the Lincolnshire Wolds, 216 square kilometers of gently rolling chalk hills, secret valleys, babbling brooks and rolling barley fields dotted with bright red wild poppies, constitute an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and belie the county’s reputation as flat. Wolds Top, 551ft (168m) high, is the highest point between Yorkshire and Kent and commands spectacular views from the Humber to the Wash.
The small southern Woldian village of Somersby was the birthplace in 1809 of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Nearby, the glorious 17th-century red brick Harrington Hall, where the poet invited his daughter to the house of “Come into the garden, Maud…”, Gunby Hall, Massingberd’s 17th-century home, described by Tennyson as “the haunt of ” of ancient peace’, and the ruins of Bolingbroke Castle, where Henry IV was born in 1367.
In the south of the county, elegant Stamford, with its five churches and wealth of Georgian streets, was England’s first designated conservation area and provides a popular location for period films and dramas. Britain’s first tomatoes were grown just outside the city in the conservatories of Elizabethan Burghley House, built for Sir William Cecil in 1555.
Crowland, 15 miles to the east, is home to Britain’s only three-way triangular bridge, constructed in the 14th century with three converging steps and left high and dry when the River Welland changed course. Grand Crowland Abbey claims to be the first church in England to have a ring of bells, installed in the 9th century, and the current bells were the first ever to be recorded on radio, by the BBC in 1925. The bell ropes, 90 feet (27m) in length, are the longest in the country.
Perhaps the coolest place of all in our warmest county is the small fen village of Bourne, where smart houses and beautiful streets gather around a magnificent abbey church. A monk called Robert of Bourne, who taught here in the early 14th century, was the first person to write a book entirely in English, The Handling of Synne, using the colloquial speech of the local Lincolnshire people and effectively standardizing the Lincolnshire dialect into a form of national English that is still recognizable today.
Where you will live
The Rest in Lincoln is a boutique hotel in a spectacular location close to the cathedral. Apartments on a B&B basis from £69.
The Crown Hotel in Stamford is a blend of stylish modern decor and traditional charm in the heart of Stamford. Doubles from £130.
The Old Granary, Owmby, has clean and comfortable self-catering apartments conveniently located in the beautiful Lincolnshire Wolds. Doubles from £90.
For more accommodation, check out the best hotels in Lincolnshire.