Lincoln: A city on top of the world

Dominating the landscape for miles around, Lincoln has long been famed for its Gothic cathedral. But it has much more to offer, says Nick Lloyd Jones – a modern infrastructure, a university and great links to London
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Lincolnshire is often criticised for being flat and boring, but nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to its capital – the historic cathedral city of Lincoln, which perches on top of a massive limestone escarpment.

The Romans first established a settlement on the rock by building a garrison fortress there. Fragments of this survive, as do various other Roman artefacts, such as the remarkably intact Newport Arch.

Lincoln has a strong medieval heritage, too. William the Conqueror also recognised its strategic importance and in the 11th century built a new castle on the site of the old Roman fortress at the crossroads of Fosse Way and Ermine Street. This has since served a number of purposes: it was the site of a particularly grim prison in Victorian times, but nowadays is principally famed for housing one of only four surviving copies of the Magna Carta and for staging open-air summer concerts.

William was also responsible for bequeathing the city its magnificent Gothic cathedral – the third largest in the country after St Paul's and York Minster. It is constructed from giant slabs of local limestone and 1,000-year-old timbers originally sourced from Sherwood Forest. Yet another of the city's medieval masterpieces are the ruins of the Bishop's Palace just below the cathedral.

Strolling around the ramparts of the city's distinctive curtain-style city walls, meanwhile, affords beautiful views across vast tracts of emerald-green countryside towards Nottinghamshire and the Trent Valley to the west and the Wolds to the north east.

Lincoln is a wonderfully compact city: its crowning plateau occupies scarcely more than a square mile in all, and the quiet and picturesque cobbled streets are lined with Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian houses. This area, known locally as Uphill, is chic and upmarket – there's no shortage of antique shops, designer boutiques and quality pubs and restaurants among its warren of steep lanes and alleys.

Property, however, doesn't come cheap. While prices in some of the city's prettier outlying villages have been rising steadily in recent years, it is the value of properties in the Uphill area that have witnessed the most substantial hikes.

"Properties in the Uphill area are much sought after," confirms Dan Waller of local estate agent Savills. "It's steeped in Roman and medieval history and is a lovingly preserved conservation area. It's also built on a human scale and is totally unspoilt. First-time visitors are always surprised that it is so picturesque and sedate. It's a bit like a mini-York but without all the tourists."

However, there is another side to Lincoln. The new Lincoln, clinging to the skirts of the old, is a bustling and vibrant metropolis complete with shopping centres, entertainment complexes, restaurants and bars. It is also home to a relatively new university – a waterside development on the edge of town at Brayford where the Rivers Witham and Till meet.

A further attraction is the city's good transport links. Newark, with its direct trains to London, is a 10-minute drive away, while Doncaster and Nottingham can both be reached in little more than 45 minutes.

It is this winning combination of old world charm and modern infrastructure that is making Lincoln such an attractive proposition to buyers. Dan Waller of Savills has noticed a marked increase in the number of people moving into the city. "I'd say that 60 to 70 per cent of my buyers are newcomers into the area, many from the South," he says. "They are not frightened off by the relatively high prices and they regard moving to Lincoln as a way of enhancing their quality of life."

The facts

Cost of living: One-bedroom flat in cathedral quarter from £150,000; two-bed cottage from £250,000; three-bed town apartment/house from £325,000; four-bed house from £410,000; five-bed house from £ 530,000; six-bed period houses in outlying villages from £600,000.

Attractions: 11th-century cathedral, castle and city walls; magnificent views; a fascinating patchwork of architectural styles, ranging from Roman and medieval through to Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian; restaurants and bars including the Old Bakery, Brown's Pie Shop and the Wig & Mitre gastropub on Steep Hill; Uphill's antique and second-hand bookshops; boating on the River Witham; nine-screen cinema at Brayford; glorious countryside.

How to get there: Trains from Lincoln to Newark North Gate take about 25 minutes, where connections to London King's Cross take about a further 90 minutes.

Downside: The steep streets are matched by equally steep property prices.

USP: Unspoilt tranquillity of the old town.