Don’t waste chance to enhance a landmark

Lancaster Castle
Lancaster Castle

Lancastrians are proud of their castle. Its dark, mossy walls and foreboding turrets are part of their heritage, and part of what makes them from Lancaster.

In many ways, it represents home; like its other neighbour on the skyline, the Ashton Memorial.

The underlying message being - mess with the castle at your peril.

Retired pensioner Peter Noble, 67, from Bowerham, said: “I would sooner keep it as an historical monument rather than a hotel. We’ve got plenty of hotels. The only problem with a tourist attraction is no parking space – where’s everyone going to park?”

Friend Patrick Trainor, 72, from Skerton, said: “The castle is an important place, and people who come here don’t even know it’s there sometimes – like Americans. I think they should leave it alone.”

Reuben Davenport, 50, runs Pickwick Fayre, the jacket potato stall in the city centre, and has done for 11 years.

From his pitch outside the St Nicholas Arcade, he can see the ebb and flow of seasonal shoppers, businesses come and go, and tourists too.

Mr Davenport said: “I think Lancaster is short of hotel bedrooms, with the uni and parents coming to visit. It’s also short of a proper destination hotel to attract tourists.

“They need to keep the character of the building, and do the bedrooms very tastefully for it to work properly. They will have to get every aspect of it right, and give it a real wow factor.”

Mr Davenport said he had visited Clontarf Castle in Dublin, which he said had been tastefully done, and if the investment was right, Lancaster Castle could have similar appeal.

He added: “You really would have to do it properly for it to work – offering things like helicopter flights to attract Americans. But if they don’t get it right, I’d rather they left it alone.”

Duncan Moore, 55, from Lancaster, believes the plans could represent what the city needs to give it a lift, a Lancashire version of Warwick Castle, perhaps.

“It would be a wasted opportunity if something wasn’t done,” said Mr Moore. “My feeling is that tourism is the way forward. That kind of landmark building needs to be accessible to everyone.”

Wife Wendy, a self-employed artist, said any scheme should not specialise in one single area, but should diversify.

“You can’t just play one tune all the time, or people will get tired of listening to it,” she said. “I think it needs to be of combined usage. Lancaster needs a large venue for things like events and festivals.”

Student Hannah Cowgill, 18, was against the idea. She said: “I would keep the castle. Lancaster doesn’t need a hotel, as it has loads already.”

Friend Katy Deakin, 18, agreed, saying: “People come to Lancaster to walk, not stay in a fancy hotel.” Keisha Griffiths, 19, added: “I don’t see the need for a hotel when there’s so many B&Bs.”

The last word went to Barbara Pearson, a visitor from Cumbria. She said: “As a hotel, you could do haunted weekends with the Lancaster Witches. I think it would put Lancaster on the map.”