It’s been a while since I visited the elegant old port town of Lancaster – former capital of the great county palatine of Lancashire and one of the pre-eminent English administrative centres of the north of England.
In its heyday, Lancaster was a thriving port, handling thousands of tonnes of cotton and grain from the mill towns of east Lancashire and the farmland of rural north Lancashire.
Today, with a thriving University bolstering its population, this elegant Georgian city has a bit of a buzz. The local authority has spent thousands on cycling infrastructure, so the newly established Morecambe Bay Cycleway links seamlessly to a dense network of traffic-free cyclepaths through the city and along the canal towpath.
Take your bike on the train and you can spend an afternoon meandering among the waterside cafes and bars along the canal, the converted dockside warehouses, the Georgian city facades and across the striking Millennium Bridge over the River Lune.
We covered around 20 miles along the coast and through the city – combining coastal cruising with a nice bit of Urb-Ex on a lovely late autumn Sunday. OK, so it wasn’t quite Northern California, but it felt like a more genteel British version.
And with the wide expanses of Morecambe Bay, the fells of the Lake District, The Forest of Bowland AONB and the gorgeous Lune Valley all on the doorstep, Lancaster has a legitimate claim to be the outdoor capital of northern England.