Enjoy the Roman charm of Caistor

Words by:
Andrew Vaux
Featured in:
March 2024

Andrew Vaux looks at the attractions of this popular historic location.

Nestled on a hillside at the northern edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds lies the ever-popular town of Caistor with its marketplace fringed by quirky independent shops and cafés.

Just a 40-minute drive from the county town of Lincoln, Caistor was a hill fort of the early Britons who called it Caer-Egarry. It was developed into a stronghold, and named after the Latin ‘castra,’ meaning ‘camp.’

The Roman camp was encircled by a massive wall – part of which is still visible on the southern boundary of the Parish Church of St Peter & St Paul, and the area occupied by the fortress is now a scheduled ancient monument.

The Romans occupied Lincolnshire for over three centuries and built many forts across the county including at Ancaster, Caistor, Lincoln, Louth, Stamford and Tattershall. In 2010, the remains of a 4th-century Roman cemetery were found during the development of a new Co-operative supermarket.

Caistor’s market square lies at the heart of a conservation area that contains 56 – mainly Grade II – listed buildings, making it one of Lincolnshire’s most important conservation areas. 

The imposing Georgian houses were built when Caistor was a major centre for the wool trade and hosted large sheep markets.

Trading thrived in the 19th century, with sheep, cattle and horse fairs taking place in the town, as well as craftsmen making furniture for local inns. Indeed, the 1858 sheep fair was the largest in England at the time.

So, what’s on offer for visitors to Caistor? Its location makes it an ideal base for anyone wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of modern-day life.

Lovers of the great outdoors can enjoy Lincolnshire’s scenic route along the Viking Way. This long-distance walking route is so named as it traverses the area occupied by Norse invaders in the 9th century – naming the region Danelaw. Many remains from this period have been found in the area that the Viking Way passes through, and villages and towns today still bear its influence in their names ending with ‘by’, meaning village, and ‘thorp’, meaning hamlet.

From the River Humber banks, the route crosses the Lincolnshire Wolds – past Caistor and Horncastle – and into the Witham Valley, crossing flat fenland to Lincoln. The route follows a path into the Lincoln Cathedral grounds from the north, down Steep Hill and High Street, and out the city past South Common.

From Lincoln, the route enters North Kesteven and takes field-paths and lanes past Greetham, Exton and Rutland Water. The trail ends at Oakham where it links with the Macmillan Way and the Hereward Way.

Shoppers can enjoy the town’s weekly market held every Saturday from 9.30am to 12noon in Market Place. Traders offer fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, bread and home-made bakes.

Meanwhile, Cornhill offers a truly local shopping experience. Recent work has allowed shoppers to discover some hidden gems. It’s home to some fabulous local businesses run by local people, giving you a warm welcome and a real ‘shop local’ feature. The area offers a café, sweet shop, and cocktail bar; as well as a vintage shop and bridal boutique. These include:

• The family-run Ted’s Coffee Shop which offers a vast selection of food and drink, and a tempting range of homemade cakes and treats. Open Tuesday to Friday, 8.30am to 4.30pm, and Saturdays from 10am to 3pm.

• Originally trading at the weekly market, Sweetie Belles now sells a wide range of tasty treats that will give a trip down memory lane. Open Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm, and Saturdays from 9am to 3pm.

• The Side by Side is a modern and stylish cocktail, wine and gin bar. Co-owned by local brother and sister Barney and Erin, they pride themselves on good quality cocktails and great atmosphere. There’s also beer and cider on draught, making it the ideal location for large parties for any occasion. Their cocktail menu consists of a selection of signature and classic cocktails which can be paired with one of their delicious sharing platters or bottomless brunch. Open Thursdays, 2pm to 11.30pm; Friday and Saturday, 2pm to 12.30am; and Sundays from 2pm to 10.30pm.

• Uncover a whole host of treasures in Drake’s Drum selling a range of antiques including furniture and art as well as lighting and collectables. They also stock a delightful range of homeware and gifts.

• Experience top level customer service whilst you shop for the dress of your dreams. Bridal Reloved specialises in top quality, reloved, sample and new designer wedding gowns without the designer price tag. Open for private appointments for brides and their tribe. Open Wednesday to Saturday, 10am to 4.30pm and all other times by appointment.

Caistor is also a firm favourite with people looking for a rural retreat in which to relax and unwind. A popular visitor attraction is Caistor Arts and Heritage Centre – a beautiful conversion of a former Methodist chapel. Delicious cakes, afternoon tea, snacks, and lunches are served in the café and on a sunny terrace.

Upstairs you’ll discover local history displays, exhibitions and a well-stocked public library. The Centre is open Monday to Saturday 9.30am to 4pm; and Sundays (March to October) and Bank Holidays 10am to 3pm.

The town even has its own riding school – Caistor Equestrian Centre. This is a beautiful purpose-built establishment sitting in more than 30 acres of grounds, and specialising in all aspects of equestrian including competitions, training and horse care, and a quality livery service.

The school’s horses and ponies have been selected to accommodate a wide range of abilities from beginner to more accomplished riders, including those with special needs.

The town also boasts two top holiday parks offering five-star accommodation, and everything you need to enjoy a staycation without having to leave the site.

Caistor Lakes Leisure Park and Restaurant in Brigg Road seems to have achieved a perfect balance between five-star luxury and simple countryside staycation. The park offers a choice of 28 hard-standing touring pitches, a multi-award-winning restaurant, and six lodges situated on three well-stocked fishing lakes.

The lakes are designed to suit everyone’s needs.

The 1.5-acre Foundry Pool has been created for match fishing, corporate events, coaching days and day ticket fishing. Heavily stocked with ide, bream, tench, perch, roach, barble, crucian, chub and carp up to 10lb, it’s ideal for the angler wanting to hone his fishing skills and catch a large mixed bag of coarse fish.

The Heron Pool is the pleasure pool designed for the angler wanting to relax, unwind and enjoy a day of leisurely fishing; while Arthur’s Lake is the specimen lake designed for the more experienced anglers.

Meanwhile, Wolds View Country Park on Brigg Road, awarded five-star status by Visit England, offers tranquil touring and luxurious glamping. The site’s range of facilities include underfloor heated washrooms, heated outdoor taps and the latest washer/dryers, as well as an on-site coffee house.

There are nine luxurious glamping pods with three dog-friendly and one fully wheelchair accessible, all featuring double or twin beds, Freeview TV, Wi-Fi access, a barbecue and more.

It also offers a range of spacious pitches on grass or hard-standing, each with its own 16-amp electric hook-up point and easy access to fresh water.

Councillor Owen Bierley (Caistor & Yarborough), who says: “Caistor’s heritage, location and community make it a very special place.”

As the handiwork of the Caistor in Bloom volunteers bursts into life this spring, there has never been a better time to explore this charming market town.

It may be a picture-perfect backdrop, but at Caistor’s heart lies a thriving, creative business community, spearheaded by a collective of driven and diverse female founders.

The Little Gift House, Harry & The Beagle, Caistor Arts & Heritage Centre, STALF Studio, Hell’s Kitchen, Mother Architects, the soon to be arriving YM Bakery… the list of female-run enterprises in the heart of this somewhat subdued and easy-going town on the edge of the Wolds is growing – and rapidly.

For The Little Gift House, Caistor and its community have been a constant support. Having begun life trading on market stalls in the town, the founders and sisters, Lisa and Kirsty, and their cousin Jemma, soon took up residence in the Cornhill.

Opening the doors with seven vendors, The Little Gift House now showcases close to 20 in its new premises – nestled underneath STALF Studio – in the marketplace’s prominent, pretty pink building.

From homewares and house plants to stunning silver jewellery courtesy of Fred & Emily, multicoloured bracelets, hair accessories, bath products, macrame, hats and scarves, this family business flies the flag for Lincolnshire entrepreneurs and delivers an accessible path into the retail environment.

Inspiration hub
Mere seconds away, behind a dark green frontage that can be spied from The Little Gift House’s pink windows, sits Harry & The Beagle. A one-stop shop for those who are renovating, reimagining and redesigning, this interiors and inspiration hub is the proud creation of Jo Lacy.

Founded in 2018, originally around the island in her kitchen and two young children, Jo soon expanded into a workshop near Keelby. The last few months have seen her settle into 13 Market Place – absolutely a Mecca for the eagle-eyed design-lovers out there.

Working collaboratively with other local businesses, Jo alongside her curtain specialist Lucy, creates and stocks unique window dressings, furniture, paint (including Fusion Mineral Paint and Little Greene), wall dressings, and hardware – the only thing missing is floor coverings, for now at least.

The variety and ingenuity of businesses arriving in Caistor has also brought with it the arrival of creative support, in the shape of Knapton Wright, a creative digital agency that has recently relocated to the area.

For more information about Knapton Wright visit www.knaptonwright.co.uk

Photographs: Mick Fox

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