John Halewood-Dodd column

Lancaster Castle.
Lancaster Castle.

Last weekend, finding ourselves at a loose end, and with the weather being so abysmal, I asked my kids for ideas as to what we could do.

Having ruled out their initial suggestions of catching River Monsters on the Amazon, or doing the luge at the Olympics (they watch a lot of television), I explained that I was thinking of something a bit closer to home.

Without any sensible proposals I suggested we visit Lancaster Castle and take the guided tour.

“Boring!” was the response from all except Harry, my youngest son, who could hardly hide his excitement.

Even though it might be a slight busman’s holiday I have to confess that I was quite looking forward to it myself.

The tour began and our guide was amiable and extremely knowledgeable.

We were entertained with tales of the famous cases that have been heard at Lancaster and Harry was extremely impressed when told that there were more people sentenced to death at Lancaster than any other court outside of London. Indeed, he seemed quite proud of this fact.

As suggested, I found it something of a busman’s holiday, and as the tour ended we were taken into the cells that were still used to house modern day prisoners as recently as 2011.

I recognised a number of names of those who had decided to mark their period of incarceration by leaving graffiti on the cell walls.

Seeing “B****y ov Lancaster” indelibly carved into the masonry made me reflect on the irony of it all.

After all, I’m paid to do all I can to keep people out of prison and yet I had paid for the privilege of seeing where they spent their days if I had been unsuccessful.

That said both Harry and I found it great fun and he couldn’t wait to get home and tell his brothers all the gory details.

Roll on the next day of horrendous weather if this impromptu trip is the benchmark. Educational, fun, and real value for money.