Lancaster Music Festival

How many music festivals can host acts playing sounds as diverse as medieval hip-hop, death metal and Brazilian jazz? We suggest very few – in fact there may be just one: the Lancaster Music Festival. Never has the term ‘something for everyone’ been more apt. 

This award-winning free festival takes place over a four-day weekend and features a staggering 200 acts at venues all around Lancaster. The pretty city really comes alive with this celebration of music and if Kate Bush flash mobs, didgeridoo pop-rock or retro Hammond organ acts aren’t your thing, you can bet there’ll be plenty more that is.

The vast majority of the acts are Lancastrian, though there are performers from further afield too – Bolton, Kendal and Ghana to name a few – making it both a tribute to local talent and a cosmopolitan affair all at once. So much so that the organisers claim that if you can’t find something you like at the festival, you don’t like music.

Don’t like music? Not a problem, both of Lancaster’s two city breweries and a host of smaller beer-makers will be on hand to offer refreshments. And with 50 venues around the city – including the beautiful castle and Ashton Memorial – hosting musical acts, it’s a great opportunity to see Lancaster at its best.

The Ladykillers at Lancaster Grand Theatre

A bank robbery, a case full of money, and a gang of criminals – with only one sweet little old lady to thwart them. What could possibly go wrong? This theatrical adaptation of classic Ealing comedy The Ladykillers is written by Graham Linehan of Father Ted fame and, as you would expect, it certainly retains the laughs of the film version – and adds a few new ones.

Watch for a hilarious ‘avant-garde’ musical performance, an unlikely collection of ruffians and wrong-uns and an inspired gag involving a cupboard. We can’t divulge trade secrets though – you’ll have to pop along to the Grand Theatre to learn more.

This production is being staged by the Lancaster Footlights, a thriving amateur company that has been playing in the beautiful Grand Theatre for almost 100 years and has owned the building since 1951. The theatre is the third oldest in Britain and dates from the 18th century, so catching a show here is a real slice of history. If you’re planning to be in town on 17th October, there are guided tours of the venerable building.

With this award-winning play – and the warm feeling supplied by knowing you’re helping keep this ancient auditorium up and running – you can’t really beat a night at the theatre.

The Meeting House

Lancaster is in perfect striking distance of so many stunning local food sources that it should come as no surprise it plays host to a wide range of top-notch eateries. Chief among them is The Meeting House, a family-run restaurant sourcing meat, fish and vegetables from the region and translating them into a menu full of old favourites and seasonal dishes.

This intimate bistro has a range of British classics on offer, with local lamb, beef and chicken alongside catches of the day and a good selection for vegetarians. Seasonal specials change every week, so there’s every reason to go back for a repeat visit.

There are two- and three-course deals available if you’re counting the pennies, and plenty of homemade desserts if you’re not counting the calories. The Meeting House is closed on Sundays and Mondays and booking is advised - make sure you keep your eyes peeled too as the restaurant is hidden behind a rather unassuming frontage, just a short walk from Lancaster train station. Fear not though: behind it there’s a little gem of a restaurant.


Bargain hunting in the Old Town

Scarborough’s maritime past can still be glimpsed in the historic Old Town – once a place of fishermen’s cottages and shipyards. But sails have given way to sales as the roads are now dotted with independent shops, galleries and cafés that wind all the way down to the harbour.

As befits a seaside town, you won’t be hard-pressed to find chip shops or sweet shops, but push a little deeper into Scarborough and there are boutiques, antique shops, flea markets and more besides. Try Eastborough for artist and craft studios, discounted clothes and a model-train shop – what resort would be without one?

A treasure trove awaits at the top of the road if you hang a right onto St Helen’s Square: Scarborough’s Market Vaults, in the basement of a bonded warehouse, is a labyrinth of stalls selling books, records, vintage clothing and trinkets. And above you can restock with a grocer’s market selling fresh, local goods.

Bar Street, Huntriss Row and their surroundings offer an authentic seaside town feel: these tiny cobbled streets boast book shops, music stores, tailors, craft shops and plenty of cafés. Summer at the seaside may be gone for now, but what better way to while away an autumnal day at the seaside?

Scarborough Castle

There can’t be many better vantage points from which to survey the ruggedly beautiful north-east coast than Scarborough Castle. Largely in ruins since the English Civil War, the castle remains packed full of history while purpose-built viewing platforms offer spectacular vistas of Scarborough, Filey and Flamborough Head.

A new visitor centre has artefacts from the castle and tells the story of the site’s 3,000-year history, which has touched on most pivotal points in Britain’s history, from Bronze Age to Roman, Norse and French invasions; civil wars and even WWI. And if all that history – not to mention the steep walk to the ruins – leaves you with a thirst, there’s a café on-site too. And if you reach the castle via St Mary’s Church, then you can also visit Anne Bronte’s grave along the way.

Entrance in October is 10am - 5pm for a small charge. 60-minute guided or audio tours of the castle really bring the site to life and are included in the entrance fee. Perfect for a bracing walk around the atmospheric grounds overlooking the North Sea, entertaining tours and that classic British staple: a cup of tea and cake in the warm.

Francis Tea Rooms

Imagine an art deco hairdresser’s that still boasts original wood-panelled booths, stained glass and mirrors. Add in some china tea services, linen cloths, cake stands and staff who look like they’ve walked out of Downton Abbey and the picture is complete.

Needless to say, a café wouldn’t be a café without tea – and Francis Tea Rooms has loads of the stuff. Choose from 16 loose-leaf teas, including Assam and Darjeeling to the more exotic Oolong or intriguing Russian Caravan. Pair it with slices of homemade cakes, dainty finger sandwiches or a classic cream tea – on tiered platters of course – and you have tea room nirvana. Savoury quiches, homemade soups and salads – all using local ingredients – are on offer if you need something more substantial.

If you can’t bear to leave it all behind, there’s a deli counter that will let you take some of Francis’s home-baked treats with you. We recommend booking – a seat in a private booth and cream tea platter is a wonderful treat.


Ride the Abbeydale Miniature Railway

How much more British can you get than a miniature railway? Time was that rail journeys were thought of as an exclusive leisure pursuit – a celebration of the freedom that travel allowed to people who had hardly ventured out of their home town before.

That spirit lingers on in our present day love of railways – old railways particularly. Hop off the train at Dore & Totley station – itself a step back in time – and just a short walk away is a track of a different kind. The 100-year-old Abbeydale Miniature Railway, hidden in a woodland setting, boasts two stations, a level crossing, raised track and a host of fun-sized engines. What’s more, you don’t just wave them on their way – kids and adults alike can ride the pint-sized trains.

There are only two remaining open days in October before the Santa Specials are stoked up for Christmas, so check details on the website and plan ahead. It’s as much a celebration of engineering as it is leisure – either way there’s something about the whiff of a steam engine and a hot drink on an autumn day that is quintessentially irresistible and typically British.

Step back in time with a visit to the Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet

Dore may now be a picturesque village perfect for walks and pub lunches, but for 200 years it was part of an industrial heartland running up and down the rivers of South Yorkshire.

Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet is one of the historic metalworks that made the cutlery for which Sheffield is world-famous, and is one of the best-preserved sites in the area. Following a recent £1 million restoration, this unrivalled collection of buildings has been transformed into an example of a working 18th-century town. You can tour the buildings, see the original works and even try your hand at blacksmithing and grinding.

Attractions include a regular series of events – including steam gatherings, antiques fairs and choir performances throughout October – and two ongoing exhibitions. Interactors dressed in period garb are on hand to guide visitors during the steam fair, but volunteers are always available too. Abbeydale has an on-site caf nestling next to the visitor’s centre and shop that sells wares from the on-site craftspeople.

Abbeydale’s working water wheels are the star exhibit though – to see this ancient site in action as it would have been centuries ago is a treat that takes you back to the heart of the industrial revolution.

Lauded local and seasonal cuisine at Peppercorn

If you’ve built up a hunger while in Dore then consider Peppercorn – a culinary beacon in a semi-rural setting that draws visitors from far and wide with its contemporary menu. A slimline food list of classic dishes serves up a selection of modern twists on English classics such as lamb three ways, ribeye steak and duck breast.

Head chef Charlie Curran worked under TV favourite Brian Turner, rising through the ranks to become head chef before striking out on his own, eventually opening Peppercorn in 2014.

Just yards from Dore & Totley station, Peppercorn occupies an unassuming building, but has high-class treats waiting inside. The owners have the confidence to serve unpretentious favourites such as classic prawn cocktail, while there are a number of special menus throughout the week, with Sundays getting a special roasts menu. Here the traditional mains are sandwiched between mouth-watering starters, such as Wensleydale parfait and desserts of warm crumbles.

Friday diners who order before 7.30pm can bag a bargain from the early-bird menu which costs £15 for two courses or £20 for three. Midweek offers and a Saturday lunch menu also go easy on your pocket but less so on your waistline.


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