Founded in Saxon times, Stamford was already a prosperous centre by the early 1300s thanks to the export of wool and cloth, attracting religious orders and academics. Today there is an engaging mix of buildings, from medieval churches and almshouses through to fine Georgian town houses and public buildings like the theatre, assembly rooms and library.
Perhaps because Stamford was bypassed by the railway and spared from World War II bombing it has escaped unsightly modern development, so much so that in 1967 the town was designated Britain’s first Conservation Area. It has over 600 listed buildings, which accounts for roughly half of all the listed buildings in Lincolnshire. The low, balanced skyline is punctuated by church spires and clumps of trees, and because most of the town’s foremost buildings are made from locally quarried limestone they exude a natural mellow colour complemented by the famous Collyweston roof slates, each size still bearing a different name. Stamford’s well-preserved streets have been used in several period TV productions, including the BBC adaptation of George Eliot’s Middlemarch.
A stagecoach stop-off
Among Stamford’s most historic buildings is The George Hotel, a famous old coaching inn which stands on the former Great North Road (the equivalent of today’s M1 or A1). It reflects the town’s renaissance in the late 18th to early 19th century as a stop-off point on the main stagecoach route between London and York. Passengers waited in the oakpanelled London Room near the entrance and, as the sign proudly declares, at least three kings and many other famous travellers have stayed here over the years. The gallows or scaffold sign that spans the road outside The George is one of only a handful still remaining in the country, and was occasionally used as a gibbet for luckless highway robbers.
Stamford’s spires and towers
When you reach Red Lion Square early on in the walk you are likely to be struck by the large number of churches dotted around the relatively small town centre. At Red Lion Square is the Church of St John the Baptist, whose nave and chancel roof are lined with rows of carved wooden angels. Across the square is the equally imposing All Saints, described as ‘the hub of Stamford’ by Nikolaus Pevsner, the earliest part of which dates from the 13th century. It contains memorials to some of the wealthy wool merchants who helped fund its later expansion. Near The George Hotel you pass St Martin’s, while St George’s is tucked away near the Arts Centre towards the end of the route. You might also notice St Michaels, opposite the library at the start, which sadly closed some years ago and is now used for retail purposes. For more information about these and other notable buildings around the town visit the tourist information centre.
The walk starts at Stamford Library, resplendent with its grand Tuscan columns, located at the eastern end of the pedestrianised High Street in the town centre. Go through a narrow alleyway (initially covered) called Goldsmiths Lane, to the left of the library. At the end turn left and walk along Broad Street. Ahead, across the road, is Browne’s Hospital, established as an almshouse in the late 15th century by a wealthy local wool merchant. Turn left down Ironmonger Street, then right, back into High Street, and walk past the shops and along to Red Lion Square.
Turn right and walk on to and up the cobbled All Saints Place, with All Saints Church on your immediate left. Continue up Barn Hill, passing a number of impressive town houses, including one that was home to the antiquarian William Stukeley. At the end bear round to the left to emerge on Scotgate.
Turn left opposite the pointed gables and terracotta of Truesdale Hospital to return to Red Lion Square. Turn right and into All Saints’ Street, past Melbourn Bros’ All Saints Brewery, established in 1825 and now using restored antique steam brewing equipment to make a range of handcrafted organic fruit beers. Cross the road to turn left down the cobbles of Kings Mill Lane, coming out into Bath Row at the bottom by the river.
Just past the former public bathhouse turn right for a popular surfaced path (Vence Walk) that crosses The Meadows, a grassy strip by the River Welland. If you fancy stretching your legs a little further, a public footpath provides a riverside route upstream for 1 mile (1.6km) or so.
On the far side of the second footbridge turn left into Station Road and, passing the Burghley Almshouses, turn right into High Street St Martin’s by the George Hotel. Go underneath the old coaching inn’s famous gallows or scaffold sign and cross over to turn left into Barnack Road. Walk ahead until you draw level with the pedestrian entrance to Burghley Park. Here turn left and walk down Water Street and, after rounding the corner by the grand former station building, cross the river on your right via Albert Bridge.
Go along Albert Road, then cross Wharf Road via the zebra crossing to go half left into Blackfriars Street in order to reach St George’s Square. At the far side Stamford Arts Centre incorporates the tourist information centre, cafe and toilets. Turn right and go up Maiden Lane to emerge opposite the library and the start of the walk.
Surfaced paths and pavement throughout
Churches and squares, narrow alleyways and streets
On lead on streets, off lead in The Meadows
OS Explorer 234 Rutland Water
Town centre car parks, including North Street (pay-and-display)
Red Lion Square and Stamford Arts Centre
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
Much of the fenland around the Wash has been drained of its marshes and reclaimed as highly productive farmland. Further north, the coastline, with its sandy beaches, has been developed to accommodate the holiday industry, with caravans, campsites and the usual seaside paraphernalia. The main resorts are Skegness, Mablethorpe, Cleethorpes and Ingoldmells. Inland, the chalky margin of the Lincolnshire Wolds offers an undulating landscape of hills and valleys, designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Lincoln, the county town, is dominated by its magnificent cathedral. Most of interest in the city is in the uphill area, Steep Hill, ascending from the River Witham; the Bailgate spanned by the Newport Arch, and the Minster Yard with its medieval and Georgian architecture. Boston, on the banks of Witham, was England’s second biggest seaport in the 13th and 14th centuries, when the wool trade was at its height. There are market towns all over the county still holding weekly markets, including Barton-upon-Humber, Boston, Bourne, Brigg, Crowland, Gainsborough, Grantham, Great Grimsby, Holbeach, Horncastle, Long Sutton, Louth, Market Rasen, Scunthorpe, Sleaford, Spalding (the centre of the flower industry), and the elegant Edwardian spa resort of Woodhall Spa.
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