Two of England's Best Cathedrals: Norwich and Lincoln

posted September 23, 2010 by Holly Hayes part of trip: UK + Western Europe 2010

Yesterday morning in Cambridge, we got up at 6am, David made another great cooked breakfast, and we got on the road by 7am. The 1.5-hour drive was fairly good but there was a lot more traffic than we expected.

Our first stop was Norwich. What we saw of the town wasn't very special, but its cathedral is wonderful and was one of our most enjoyable cathedral visits so far. We arrived around 9am and were the only visitors for quite some time, which always makes us happy. And the sky was hazy in a good way, giving us nice diffused light for exterior photos.


About a half-hour in, we were approached by an volunteer cathedral guide who was enthusiastic, friendly, and not clingy (he kept saying we could tell him to go away anytime we get bored).

The cathedral guide leading a group later in our visit

He showed us a lot of fun little details we wouldn't have noticed otherwise, like musket balls embedded in tombs from the Civil War (17th century).

He even let us go behind the roped-off choir stalls and flip up any of the seats to look at the carvings on the bench ends and under the seats (misericords), as long as we put them back down afterwards. Choir carvings are so fun - because they were fairly hidden, their subjects tended to be funny, irreverent, and often even vulgar. So I was thrilled with the opportunity, and I spent quite some time hunkered down between the stalls, sitting on the little kneeler benches to get the shot. The guide chatted with David nearby and I could regularly hear him asking, "Where did she go now?"

View from my privileged perch in the choir

Cute little man on a bench end

Misericord with "Green Man"

Slaying a devil bird

Norwich Cathedral is best known for its roof bosses (round pieces of stone that anchor the ribs on a vault and are sometimes carved and painted) and they didn't disappoint. They were also the first good test of my new camera-and-big-zoom-lens setup; I wondered if I could handle the weight for such an extensive photo project. Fortunately it was better than I expected, although I definitely had a sore neck and right hand by the time I was done!

Norwich Cathedral
Norwich Cathedral

After a good couple of hours of photography, we had a simple lunch in the cathedral's Refectory Cafe: tuna sandwich, egg sandwich, cheese scone and carrot cake to share. (We were hungry!) Then it was back to the car and on the road again for Lincoln.

One of the nicer sections of road from Norwich to Lincoln

It took 2.5 hours to drive to Lincoln but it was mostly a pleasant country drive. I've visited Lincoln before but David hasn't - I tagged along with him on a business trip to Leeds and took a train to see Lincoln while he was in meetings. I really loved it - the historic city center is quite nice and the cathedral is spectacular - so I was excited to share it with him. And he really loved it, too.


We stayed one night at the Lincoln Hotel, which is located right next to the cathedral and has amazing views of its north side (as seen in the last post). It's a good hotel, with modern decor and nice little touches everywhere. The only strike against it is that they charged us £11.99 for a connection to the internet! Grr.

After checking in, we spent about an hour in the cathedral until it closed at 6, then had a very nice dinner just down the road.

I had cornfed chicken breast with morel mushrooms, leeks, spinach and potatoes. All was good, but the potatoes were like magic.

David had chicken stroganoff with rice

We both ordered sides of veggies, which were delicious (because of butter, I presume)

Chocolate brownie for David

Rhubard crumble for me - not much to see here, but it was absolutely fantastic. Very real and fresh and not very sweet.

After dinner we relaxed for only a little bit before it was time to go out and try to get some photos of the cathedral illuminated at the "blue hour" right after sunset. Sadly, we didn't hurry enough and mostly missed it, but it was fun and good practice. In person, the cathedral was spectacular after dark, made extra moody by a mist rolling in.

This morning we had a nice breakfast buffet at the hotel (with the first sighting of black pudding - we must be in the north now!), then did another hour or so of photography at the cathedral before packing up and heading out. We also loitered for nearly a half an hour in some windy weather, hoping the sun would appear, and thankfully it finally did.

So here are some highlights of the glorious Lincoln Cathedral from both days:

Hard to miss as we drove into town - wow!

David climbed a grassy knoll and got burs all over his shoes to get this view

From outside the cathedral gate by night

North side at the tail end of the "blue hour"

The incredibly massive west facade

At night

From east this morning, when the sun finally came out

South side this morning

Fog and full moon on the south side last night

Carved details on main doorway


Transept (cross-arm)

Exterior view of the transept

The famous "Lincoln Imp," who is part of our hotel's logo

Toothy fellow on the choir screen

Stained glass

Quitting time after a good morning's work - leaving the cathedral precincts through Priory Gate.

And tonight we are in Beverley, in Yorkshire, where we will stay for just one night before moving on to Durham.

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