"Preston is often pigeon-holed as the gateway to Lancashire, implying you pass through it on the way to somewhere more appealing. But the former textile town, now a city, has plenty more to offer."

Kick off your visit with a trip to the National Football Museum, located at Deepdale, home of Preston North End FC. The free museum offers a range of fascinating memorabilia, such as the ball from the 1966 World Cup Final. There's also the chance to get interactive and imitate legendary commentator John Motson.

After a few hours there, pop back into the city centre to pay homage to Preston's strong religious roots, with St Walburge's Church standing out as the most impressive example.

If you like to drink at a different altar, true pub-goers will love Ye Olde Blue Bell or the Black Horse Hotel, traditional inns serving real ales in vibrant Friargate, an area home to many of the city's 35,000-strong student population. Over-indulgence should be avoided, though, as the latter establishment has, rather uniquely, three different exits out onto three different streets, which can be rather confusing at the best of times.

Step back in time by riding a steam train at the Ribble Steam Railway Museum, which is close to Preston Marina, home to a multiplex cinema and numerous retail outlets.

The Harris Museum & Art Gallery is locally celebrated and is next door to the compact Miller Arcade, a Victorian shopping arcade complete with restored ornate brickwork and glass.

Preston has a vibrant nightlife and restaurant scene, and the diversity of food on offer has increased over the years. Foremost is chef and champion of regional food Paul Heathcote, who has two restaurants - the quirky Italian eatery Olive Press Pizzeria, Bar & Grill and the upmarket Grill Room at the Olive Press - both of which come highly recommended. And with trains to Preston offering great deals, it's never been easier.

By then, and only then, will it be time to close the gate behind you.

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